Three weeks later the girls are picked up. Once home, they are placed into a section of the large rat cage. Twix is housed in the adjacent section. He immediately displays piloerection (raised fur) and starts teeth-chattering and “foofing” (huffing and puffing) and pushing at the closed door between the sections. The fur on his flanks is wet (note that this is the location of scent glands). To decrease Twix’s stress level, and to avoid a potential accident should he be able to open the door, the girls are shifted within the cage so that there is an empty section between them and Twix. This maneuver has the desired effect.
The next day a section of the large rat cage is cleared out to serve as introduction area: floor surface = 90x56cm, height = 56cm. Note that the “small quarters” introduction method is quite common among local rat rescues and rat keepers; however, it is generally performed in a hospital or carrier tank, with a smaller surface area than what is used here. All introductions must (initially) be supervised very closely and constantly, and the supervisor must have something on hand that allows her to separate fighting rats quickly (for example, a magazine or thick gloves).
Twix, Luna and her sister are placed inside the cage section. The girls are curious but cautious. Twix immediately displays piloerection and sidling (crab-walking), promptly followed by an attack. While the girls are briefly removed from the cage for an inspection for possible injuries, Twix visibly relaxes: his fur returns to its normal state and he starts eating. This process repeats itself a few times. The girls’ nervousness increases to the point where Luna’s sister starts screaming at the slightest touch. When the girls attempt to jump out of the (open) cage section, the doors are closed.
A few moments later, during another attack by Twix, Luna’s right leg is injured: she sustains an approximately 1cm long horizontal clean-cut wound across the back of her right calf. There is minimal bleeding and she does not appear to be in any discomfort.
Luna with leg injury
Despite Luna’s injury, the introduction is continued the next day, with three adjustments:
On day 3 the rats are free-ranging on separate couches, when Twix suddenly jumps to the girls’ couch. All goes well. When Twix becomes stressed/agitated, he returns to his couch, effectively creating his own time-out. During the next few days this process repeats itself several times.
From day 5 the introduction area is expanded with the cage, which is adjacent to the couches.
On day 8 the introduction is declared a success and the two newcomers are permanently housed with the resident rat.
Luna and Twix post completed introductions.
Posted on May 11, 2012, 20:31, Last updated on June 12, 2012, 16:30 | Figures