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Female rats fighting, do I need to separate?

(11 Posts)
BeYourselfUnlessUCanBeAUnicorn Fri 03-Jun-16 11:20:30

My rats are about 15 months old, they are sisters. There is definitely a dominant one. For a while I've noticed one has had some blood on her face, I thought she may be scratching herself. After I noticed she has a patch on her back and this week there was a smear of blood across her fur. I took her to the vets and she said they are fighting.

I asked if they need separate and at first she said yes but then later said no and I just need to keep an eye on them.

Problem is last night her face looked worse and I wasn't aware of fighting. Usually you can hear them having a tussle in the evening. They do sleep and cuddle up together a lot of time (sometimes they don't), groom each other and generally get on. I think they would be lost if they were separated but at the same time these patches are not getting any better so it's clearly an on going issue.

RattieOfCatan Sat 04-Jun-16 13:48:41

Have you seen any injuries? The "blood" could be porphyrin, which is very normal in rats and comes from the eyes and nose. It can be from stress and illness but season changes can trigger it too.

Usually the rule is no blood, no foul with rats. Dominance fighting is very normal and accidents can happen as well. It's also worth noting that you say they are sleeping together, that a good sign, rats who sleep together are generally happy together.

Our five girls squabble quite a bit, sometimes by watching you can work out triggers and remove/change them (our 'baby' likes to jump on alpha when she's drinking and try to take over the bottle, a second bottle semi-solved it!) And baby tries to dominance fight alpha often, so there have been a few minor injuries! But they heal very quickly and they are still snuggled up together at the end of the day! By patches do you mean bald patches? That could be barbering and needs keeping an eye on. Our old boy barbers himself and can get his skin really raw sometimes, coconut oil helps with that. Can you get a photo of the patches?

Mites trigger ours to fight more often too. They're tetchier when they have mites (understandably and even with us, when alpha starts giving us warning nips when we try to hold her we know to treat them! The others show no signs and whilst checking regularly it can go unnoticed for a little while!) It can cause patches of scratching/barbering too so it may be worth treating them for mites just in case. Beaphar has a good and simple to use mite treatment, you can buy it in pet shops but you have to get the right one for the weight of your rats, one of our girls needs the hamster one as she's so small!
Mites can come from anywhere so it's good practice to freeze food/substrate for 48hrs before use, though we still seem to get them occasionally despite doing that semi-reliably.

BeYourselfUnlessUCanBeAUnicorn Sat 04-Jun-16 19:26:07

It's definite injuries not just blood, she has wounds on her face in 2 places and a bit on her back under her fur, no bald patches. I'll see if I can get a picture later but she doesn't generally keep still so not sure how well it will come out. The one in her fur you can't even see unless you go looking for it, I only found it because there was blood smeared across her white fur. The ones on her face have been there for a little while and don't seem to heal properly before recurring. I did wonder if she was scratching herself but the vet said it was fighting marks. I'm not sure when the other one is attacking. I don't think it's when she's drinking but could try a second bottle and maybe a second food bowl as I was looking online and it said if the cage isn't huge, the dominant one can get a bit territorial over food or sleeping places.

I've been looking at bigger cages but they seem soooo expensive and I'm quite particular about what I want, coated bars, bars close together (a lot of the cages have too wide spaces between the bars and say not recommended for female rats), no wooden platforms, deepish base so cat litter can't fall out. Ones that fit this are over £200 which we can't afford. We have a luna something. I'm looked for second hand ones but haven't been able to find anything local.

They also seem to fight in the late evenings. If I hear them I'll go and intervene now, we have left them to it in the past.

Sometimes they sleep separately but most of the time they don't.

I worry about them getting bored but anything we have got them to play with in their cage, they ignore apart from chewing paper or carbor ad tubes and thats only to make their nests. What do yours like playing with/doing in their cage?

RattieOfCatan Sat 04-Jun-16 19:51:29

I'm on my phone so will respond later properly but re cages, an aviary is a good alternative with fleece on the bottom. Under £120 is the ferplast jenny (made for rats, fine for two to four rats) there are others that are cheaper. We have a Mamble 80cm cage as a holiday cage which is great and there is a bigger one too, that was between £40-£60. the 80 is as big if not bigger than one level of a fiesty ferret, our five girls are fine in it. They're in it at the moment actually as we just binned our second hand fiesty ferret.

RattieOfCatan Tue 07-Jun-16 11:50:44

Sorry, I didn't come back blush

What size is your current cage? They can get terretorial over small cages but I can't be sure how small yours is without knowing as the luna comes up as different sizes on different sites!

I have 5 girls in this at the moment:

It's not ideal, it's smaller than I'd like but it's their temporary/holiday cage that they stay in for short periods. We'll probably upgrade it now as we have five girls and we didn't the last time we needed to use it! According to this calculator it can hold up to 3 rats and it's £40:

The next size up of the mamble is the 100cm one, it's here:
That's £50 and it can hold up to 6 rats (and is probably the spare cage we'll upgrade too!). The mamble cages are really really good, the doors are massive, the trays are deep too. For two rats I wouldn't mind using it as a permenant cage, though the height isn't ideal.

The coco cages are also great:
We had our first two boys in one for a while but the corner bar spacing may be an issue. You can bend the wires easily with pliers if needed and unless your girls are small I'd say it'd be fine. Only one of mine would fit through the bars (1.2cm) and that's not the 4mo one, we have a very small girl who may be able to get through the side gaps, but I doubt it.

This is a great cage but you will need to use fleece in it:

We used fleece for the three cages we had until fairly recently as our original two boys were allergic to every substrate. Now we're back on substrate which is better for our girls as there are five of them, but but I'd happily put the boys back on fleece. We used to have the Hamberleys, one for my boys and one for my girls. They are wonderful and fleece will be easy to handle with just two rats (even up to four as long asyou change it every 3-5 days) especially with this cage as you can just slide the tray out. We didn't use the stand for ours and our only complaint was the floor space, which isn't an issue for healthy rats who will likely climb more. I regret getting rid of our two! It's been the easiest cage we've had.

Little pet warehouse is a good site to buy cages from, they're cheap, really efficient with delivery and customer service is great. They do label things as suitable for rats which aren't though so read the descriptions of everything.

The Jenny is supposed to be a great cage too but I've no personal experience of it!

RE shelves, we don't bother with shelves at all, gave up soon after getting rats! Hammocks are all they need! Lots and lots of hammocks and other cool things. We've never paid more than £80 for a cage, we will potentially be buying a furet tower later in the year and it's the most we'd ever have spent on a cage.

RE fighting again. You could consider scatter feeding, it would prevent fighting over food. How many hammocks do you have? Or hidey holes? Ideally you need at least one place per rat.

How often do they free range? They need a lot of time out, preferably at least an hour a day and not providing them this can/does cause fighting. My two big girls have been noticeably more bitchy this morning and last night and I'm certain it's because for the past two days we haven't been able to get them out much. I'm certain that they don't have mites now too but I'm still going to treat them preemptively.

Parrot toys are great for cage stimulation. We have a wheel for our girls but only one uses it really hmm You can make toys for rats quite easily, googling "homemade rat toys" or "homemade ferret toys" comes up with great results!
This site is a great one:

BeYourselfUnlessUCanBeAUnicorn Tue 07-Jun-16 14:52:15

On my phone so just quick reply until later. It's the line 200, dimensions are W 80cm x D 55cm x H 69cm.

Will go through proper reply later from my tablet.

RattieOfCatan Tue 07-Jun-16 19:52:41

That size is fine for two, ideally you could go higher but it's not really what I'd call small!

BeYourselfUnlessUCanBeAUnicorn Tue 07-Jun-16 20:23:52

Oh that's good. Didn't really want to fork out for a new cage. Can it take more than 2 as later on, when we don't have these ones, I said to DH I'll probably get more than 2?

I've tried various toys/stuff to keep them amused but they don't seem interested in any of it. Had various wooden hanging things, gets ignored and ends up stinking and being thrown away, had a rope ball, don't think they even touched it, they don't like the plastic house, they never used their wheel, had to throw away the first hammock as the chewed it down within 20 minutes, got a heavier duty one which they like sleeping in sometimes buts it's on its last legs as they have really chewed through it and chewed the fleece bit from the bottom so they can get inside it, they don't like the fleece bedding I put in, they don't like any petshop bedding that is rat friendly. The like cardboard tubes which they chew up into bedding and paper. That's it! They must be bored but I'm at a loss as to what else to put in there. I've wasted quite a lot of money on buying stuff for them. They just seem to like food and treats. A dog bone did go down quite well and kept them busy for a while. I gave them a plastic ball once when they were out of the cage and one took it apart in about 5 minutes.

I'll have a look through some of those links, especially the one about the homemade toys.

I've caught them fighting a couple of times and have got there in time. Her wounds haven't healed yet though. At the moment they aren't sleeping together. They seem to go through phases of this.

BeYourselfUnlessUCanBeAUnicorn Tue 07-Jun-16 20:39:40

They probably don't come out as much as they should as none of us like having to spend an hour sat on a bathroom floor every day, I have found a way to put them in there by themselves and open the door later whilst preventing them from escaping (although we had a close call last night!) So they are coming out more now and I think it has helped. We don't scatter their food, it goes in the bowl and one usually takes what she wants and goes away with it. Maybe we need to put it more than one place?

They tend to make their own nests. There is usually 1 hammock and I put a load of paper in and some small pieces of fleece and they usually chew up the paper and cardboard and make a bed where ever they want it at the time. They have a plastic house but they flip it over and ignore it although I have found them sleeping in it whilst it's upside down with paper or cardboard in it. They even put paper or cardboard in the hammock so it's definitely their choice of bedding. One likes yoghurt lids as bedding as well hmm grin, she licks it clean then grabs it from me and runs off with it.

RattieOfCatan Tue 07-Jun-16 22:21:35

Lots of hammocks. Ours like toys much either! But hammocks are key, we have a minimum of three in a cage at once for the girls! I think that they have three (including a three stacked one) and a Sputnik atm, I'm not home so can't check ;) They love hammocks and yes, they also destroy them! You can use old clothes and scraps of fabric as hammocks too. We tend to buy a massive lot of hammocks and then go 6+ months with those and old clothes, cheap jeans chopped up, old pillowcases, etc until we're literally down to scraps and then we start all over again! Buy a load of pear clips from eBay, once they chew them handles off you can cut the hammock and just use per clips, very cheap for a hundred of them. Baby rings are great in cages too for hanging things, I prefer them to pear clips and buy them from Amazon. The hammocks you buy from the pet shop are usually a bit crap tbh. When I get home tomorrow night I'll link you to somebody we used to get them from, our breeder sells them really cheaply so we tend to stock up at hers now!

Rats don't tend to be fans of wheels, we've only ever had a couple who seemed to actually enjoy it and we've spent a lot on wheels. We'd actually binned all of ours until recently and DH suggested getting one for our tiny hyper girl, she thinks it's the best thing ever and the others aren't allowed near it! She's on it most if the day!

I'd not put more than three in the cage you have I don't think, maybe four but space would have to be used very wisely ( lots of hammocks and a shelf maybe).

I free range mine in stints mostly, I'm pregnant now so can't get them from under the sofa anymore due to my size! so I'm only free ranging two or three at a time and usually for 20mins at a time. It helps to break it down a bit! When she is home all five girls have free reign over the main living space. Luckily DH has a soldering g iron as they go through cables and wires quickly I'd we aren't paying attention! [Grin]

RattieOfCatan Tue 07-Jun-16 22:27:06

I love seeing what they put in their nests grin it can be fun to out a toilet roll or kitchen roll near to/on top of the cage and leave them to it! Or a large scrap of fabric like an old T-shirt on top of the cage. They love to pull things into the cage! We had a rest who has a thing for labels. Labels from hammocks, labels from clothes we out in and even from our e-cloths she found if we left them out during free ranging time. She used to stash them! Ours like lids too!

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