Rats are Bastards
by Sylvia A. Winters
Male rat intros are hard. I’ve always just dumped new girls in the same carrier or small hamster cage as the residents and the most aggro I’ve ever had was from Ren, who looked annoyed and fluffy for an entire afternoon until she finally relented and accepted the new rats. A little bit of pushing and shoving, but nothing more than that. This is the first time I’ve ever had to introduce boys. I’ve read up on it, got advice from a few long time rat keepers, and thought I had found the best solution. They were getting on fine in a bathtub filled with an inch of water – Hati even seemed a little protective of Odin, one of my new babies. Odin kept squeaking and trying to jump out of the bath, and Hati took lead from him. So I moved them into a carrier thinking it would be fine, and after only a second there was squealing as Hati jumped on Odin. I fiddled with the latch of the carrier, grabbed Hati and shoved him straight back into his cage, but in the maybe twenty seconds it took me to do that, he’d torn a huge chunk out of Odin.
It was horrible, a big open wound and I’ve never seen anything like it before. Cue me crying down the phone to the emergency vet receptionist, who I called twice just to make sure I was doing the right things. She told me not to bring him in, just to keep an eye on him. It didn’t make me feel better, but it did save me spending the rest of my meagre savings. Apparently, according to my rat keeping friends, boys do this a lot. So I waited, and yesterday it was already healing, half of it closed up. Odin didn’t even flinch when I went to clean it. He just sat there and let me bathe it in a salt solution, which couldn’t have been comfortable. He’s only known me two weeks, but he seems to trust me already, even though in his mind I’ve tried to drown him several times and set a giant angry rat on him. I don’t know if I’ll keep going with this intro. I probably moved too fast with it, so I might, and take it extra slow, or I might neuter Hati and try again in 8 weeks. We’ll see. As lovely and cuddly as these boys are, I might stick to girls next time.
Luckily my own introduction to my new housemate was not quite so violent. It all seems to be going okay at the moment, and although we’re different in some ways we do have a fair bit in common. We went on a walk that I swear wasn’t meant to be six miles long but somehow ended up that way, checked out Cabot Tower to see Bristol from up high, the Bristol Suspension Bridge which was much nicer than it looks from below, and Ashton Court deer park. On the way home we stopped at VX, the best vegan junk food shop of all time, just before closing, and might have gotten the bus the rest of the way home because our legs wouldn’t work anymore.
Jay has now moved all her things out (except little things that I keep finding everywhere – mostly sewing needles that have embedded themselves into the carpet), but it’s been quite a gradual change, and not the dramatic ‘bye forever’ that was my last big move as she’s only moving a forty minute walk away (I’ll probably still catch the bus).
We’re starting to get the house more as we want it now. I’ve moved into the attic and the rats have their own little room which is an absolute godsend, as is their new two storey cage which is so much easier to clean. I spent three hours putting that thing together, and now I’ve realised I have to take half of it apart again to make it more secure for the girls (if I don’t, there’s a risk of them worming their way into the boys’ half of the cage, which would obviously not be good). It’ll be worth the effort though.