Ever wonder if you should separate your pet rats because of aggression, illness or age? There are times when separating one or more rats is the best thing thing you can do. However, there are also times when separation is NOT necessary and can even make situations worse. Because it can be confusing, here are guidelines for when to and not to separate.
When one of your rats bites or shows other signs of aggression toward humans but not towards other rats, keep your aggressive rat with your other rats. Being around your trusting, sweet-tempered rats can help your aggressive rat learn that humans are downright neighborly.
Besides keeping your human-aggressive rat housed with your other rats, experiment with the tips found in Transforming Your Rat: From Shy to Social Butterfly and Bonding with Your New Pet Rats in Three Easy Steps. It’s all about setting up your aggressive rat for success. Don’t give your biting rat a chance to even come close to biting you. Instead, create situations and brief interactions where your rat either won’t want to or won’t be able to chomp on you.
If your rats are fighting with one another and there’s danger of blood being shed— which often results in significant injuries—immediately isolate the aggressive rat.
Older rats most often need to live in one-story cages or, if they do live in a cage that’s two or more stories, all surfaces should be close to the ground to prevent injuries from falling. Ramps need to be adjusted so the grade isn’t too steep for them.
Since males and females have such different personalities, it’s a lot of fun to have both. Opposite sexes can live together as long as the males are neutered and/or the females are spayed. Spaying the females is preferable since it benefits them health-wise. Spayed females are less likely to develop mammary and pituitary tumors and are more likely to live longer. However, it’s not always easy to find a veterinarian who’s experienced and competent with rat spays. If you don’t have a veterinarian in your area who can perform rat spays, neutering your males is a great option.
Every situation is unique. Check with your veterinarian to make sure it’s okay for your rat to be housed with cagemates following a surgical procedure.
When a rat has had surgery and has sutures, an e-collar or anything else your other rats could chew on, it’s most often best to keep your recovering rat separate for at least the first twenty-four hours. This gives them time in which to heal before your other rats have a chance to interfere with (and possibly compromise) the benefits of the procedure.
If you can, keep your post-surgical rat nearby you for the first twenty-four hours in a small carrier (such as a cat carrier). This makes it much easier to keep a close eye on your rat. If you’re not able to remain in the same room, a webcam is a great way for you to observe as long as you’re able to go to your rat if any problems occur.
An example of a surgical procedure when you’d want to keep your rats separate for the first twenty-four hours is, in my opinion, after a spay. So far, I’ve had three rats spayed and each time, I’ve kept my girls with me for at least the first day and night. I’ve even slept with them tucked into my shirt, throughout the night. They seemed to welcome being with me. If they hadn’t acted comfortable being with me, I’d have placed them in a cat carrier set up with comfy bedding, food, water and a bathroom area, nearby to where I was sleeping. It’s a very individual decision, one which only you will know what’s best for you and your newly spayed female rat.
If your rat has had surgery and your veterinarian thinks your rat will be fine living with your other rats, you’ll still want to observe closely to make sure your other rats don’t harass her. If you’re not able to be nearby their cage for the entire first twenty-four hours or so, place all of your rats together just for the period of time in which you’re able to supervise. This can be while you’re sitting on the sofa with your rats or when they’re all in their cage. Oftentimes, shared activities keep rats from picking on one another. An example of a shared activity is to give them a dish of yummy food they can all enjoy.
For the first night, if you have any doubts about whether or not your rat is safe staying with your other rat(s), keep your recovering rat in a smaller, separate enclosure such as a cat carrier. Preferably, keep the carrier close by to where you’re sleeping.
In many cases, rats who’ve had surgery can be reunited with their roommates as soon as they return home from the veterinary hospital. After observing how they’re behaving for several hours, you’ll get a feel for whether or not they can remain together. If they’re all getting along fine, your recovering rat will be comforted while healing with his buddies by his side.
A pet rat who’s been diagnosed with respiratory disease does NOT need to be separated from your other rats. Any rats who’ve already been living with your recently diagnosed rat has already been exposed, so it’s too late to separate. Besides, almost every pet rat already has mycoplasma and this is true whether or not they show symptoms. Make sure your rat with respiratory disease symptoms is seen by a knowledgeable, experienced veterinarian who can prescribe any necessary medications and treatments.
If your rat is sick with other diseases such as a pituitary tumor or even with advanced respiratory disease, observe closely to see if your rat still benefits from interacting with his or her cagemates. If you find your other rats are stressing out your sick rat, it’s probably best to keep them separate.
Each situation is very individual. Some rats take care of one another while others will attack any rat that appears weak or sick. You’ll need to observe closely and intuitively decide for yourself what’s best for your sick rat. You know your rats better than anyone.