Q & A
From the Nov/Dec 1997 Rat & Mouse Gazette
Q. INTRODUCTIONSIs it normal for the introduction of a new rat to cause fighting among an established group of rats? Also, what is with the attempts to mate other males - is it some sort of display for the sake of the unfamiliar newcomer?
A.Yes, it is normal for fighting to break out in an established group of rats (males or females) when a new rat is introduced. It forces all of the members of the group, old and new, to fight for position all over again, so fighting may even break out between the best of buddies!
What you are witnessing when one of the males mounts another male is a display of dominance. Some males may even take it all the way to ejaculating in the other males coat. Itís disgusting, but really nothing to worry about.
When introducing new rats, as long as they are not inflicting great bodily harm on one another, let them work it out. Eventually, they'll figure out who is the alpha rat and the position of dominance each of them holds, and all will be well. This doesnít mean that there wonít be a periodic fight, or even attempts of a younger rat trying to become the alpha rat, but for the most part, they will coexist in peace.
Q. BREEDING THE BLUESI bred a Blue Hooded female with a Pink-Eyed White Rex male in an effort to get Blue Rex babies. What I ended up with appears to be Black Hooded and Black Berkshire babies. They are now four weeks old. Will their color change through molting or age, like a Siamese, or is this normal? What can you cross with a Blue to get at least some Blue babies?
A.Unless the Pink-Eyed White Rex male carried the Blue gene your litter would be completely normal, and, in fact, expected. Both parents must carry the Blue gene to get Blue offspring. Breeding a Blue rat to a rat who doesnít carry the Blue gene will always produce Black babies.
Also, breeding a Self rat (your Pink-Eyed White) to a Hooded rat will always produce Hoodeds and Berkshires (rats with varying degrees of white on their belly).
Q. TOILET TRAININGIs it normal for rats to set aside an area of their home as a toilet? My CoCo only defecates in one spot which I find makes keeping her home very sanitary. Is this normal behavior or is Coco just a cleanliness nut?
A.It is not extremely common for a rat to set aside and area of their cage as a toilet, but I have heard from a few people that their rats do. For the most part, rats do their business wherever they want to, including in their own bed. Some people have had success training their rats to use a litter box in the corner of the cage, or in the corner of a room, but Iím not sure that it is really a matter of training more than it is just the individual rats preference. There are some rats that, no matter how hard you try to train them, they will still urinate and defecate wherever they choose. If CoCo has decided she is a neat-nick, consider yourself lucky!
Q. SPECIAL REQUIREMENTSIím new to owning rats, and someone told me that I shouldnít feed them corn or chocolate. I know chocolate is bad, but is it true about the corn?
A.The Rat Health Care booklet, by Debbie Ducommun, reports that corn should be fed with caution due to high levels of nitrates and amines which can combine in the stomach to form nitrosamines which are carcinogenic, but you would have to feed your rat a diet almost entirely of corn for this to be a problem.
You donít want your rat to exist soley on any one type of food, but there really isnít a problem with corn, other than too much in the diet will make your rat fat. A well balanced diet containing corn in moderation is perfectly fine.
Chocolate is also fine in moderation. Itís the Theobromine in chocolate that can be dangerous for dogs, but rats do not have a problem with it. Again, moderation is the key or you will end up with a fat rat.
Donít freak out if your rat gets into your soda-pop, either. Although the Rat Health Care booklet reports that carbonated beverages should never be given to rats because "ratís canít burp, it can be fatal", this is simply not true.
Of course, you want your rat to have the healthiest diet possible, but there really are no foods that will harm or kill your rats, other than by making them fat, which is unhealthy and can lead to heart disease and other conditions. You must always remember, however, that any animal, including humans, may have an allergy to a certain food that could cause illness, or in a rare case, death.
Q. SWOLLEN LEGMy rat got his foot stuck in the wire on the bottom of his cage and now his whole leg is swollen. What should I do?
A.A trip to the vet for an injection of an anti-inflammatory drug such as Dexamethasone may speed the healing process, but it is imperative that you get the rat into a cage with a solid bottom. Injuries like these are very common in wire-bottomed cages which is one reason we do not recommend them at all (not to mention ulcerative pododermatitis, also known as Bumblefoot).
If the leg is just swollen and there is no breakage of the skin, the anti-inflammatory drug and rest may be all that are required for a quick recovery, but, if an open wound is present, you may need to have it cleaned out and have an antibiotic prescribed by your veterinarian as well.
We all try to keep our cages very clean, but the bacteria present on a wire floor from urine and feces will likely cause infection in an open wound if not disinfected and treated, either topically or systemically, with an oral antibiotic.
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