This article is from the Summer 2001 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Helen Pembrook
From Jessica Parkes, Greenfield, WI
Q Hi! I am 16 years old and I enjoy keeping rats as pets. Until yesterday I had two female rats, about 11 months old. Yesterday one of them died.
My remaining rat is very playful, lovable, and has a very nice disposition. But she seems to miss her cagemate. I’d like to get another female as a companion for her, one that is a little younger. I’d like to get a Rex breed.
I’m writing to inquire about whether it is okay to get another companion for my rat. Will this be okay? Will she accept another rat?
Also, do you know of any rat breeders in Wisconsin around the Milwaukee area? Any help you could offer would be very appreciated. I’d like to get a new rat from a good breeder to lessen the possibility of disease. Thanks!
A Getting a new rat friend for your other one is probably a good idea as rats are social and do get lonely. You should get one that is 5–8 weeks old so that there is no question about who the “top” rat is. This combination usually works out fine. When you first introduce your rats, you should do so in a neutral area so that your original animal does not feel threatened by a new rat “invading” her territory. The bathtub is a good place. There will usually be a little “dominance dance” where the older rat will pin the younger one down. The one that is pinned will usually make a squeaky whining sound that is saying “you are the boss,” then the two should get along fine after that. If they do start to fight for some reason with serious biting and blood, separate them immediately. Don’t get bit, even your old rat may bite you if she is too upset. If this happens, then your older rat may not want a friend so she is better off alone. When looking for a breeder, try to stay with one that is fairly small (less than 100 total animals, including babies). Check out the cages to make sure they are clean and the animals ALL look healthy, well kept, and not over crowded. Find out how long it has been since this breeder has brought any new rats into their rattery and if they quarantined them first. Most illnesses develop within a 2-week period so if it has been more that 2 or 3 weeks since a new rat was brought in and all the rats appear healthy, then everything should be okay. When you pick out your new rat and take it home, you should quarantine it for at least 2 weeks before introducing it to your other rat just to make sure it didn’t pick up anything at the last minute. If it develops any health problems, take it back to the breeder. For a breeder in your area check out the AFRMA web page at www.afrma.org/breederlist.htm or the The Ratster Rat Breeder Directory & Information Wiki.