Using Baby Steps to Introduce Rats to Rats

Baby steps? What are baby steps and why might you want them?
Baby steps can be very important to successfully introduce new rats to current rats

The idea is not to just throw new rats in with current rats in a new neutral place like a bathtub, and expect that everything will work just fine between them. It may, or may not; and if there is going to be trouble, it can be terrible trouble: One rat can slice open another's insides in a blink of an eye. (Some people do successfully introduce rats quickly, but it's not clear why they are successful.)

To achieve a successful introduction - while avoiding disasters and keeping rats safe - let them prove to you over and over, in many different situations, that they can be nice to each other. Do this by (1) gradually adding one new element at a time, and (2) repeating the same session with the same element many times before proceeding to the next. This combination will provide the rats with an excellent learning environment.

Remember, introductions might be easy, but might not. Might be sweet, but might be violent. Might take days, but might take weeks or months. How it goes will depend on the rats (their history and disposition), you (your experience and calm state of mind), the environment, and the steps you take.

One extremely important factor in achieving success will be preventing the rats from becoming aggressive with each other. Yes, some wrestling is normal as they establish their hierarchy, but there will be lots of time for proper wrestling. Before that, wrestling can erupt into violence. Success will depend on your being able to prevent violence. Visit Techniques to Introduce Rats on JoinRats to view techniques to use gloves to prevent violence. Follow your rats around with one or two gloved hands, and as they interact with each other, you have the best chance to prevent lightning-fast attacks before they happen. Not only can you break up a clear fight, there is no shame in gently separating two rats who appear poofy, or who seem just remotely "off", to keep them safe. Observe Introducing Rats to Rats: Assessing Levels of Aggression, and become familiar with the behavioral cues that can signal impending aggression. Become comfortable just moving your gloved hand between the rats to separate them briefly. With all this safety, you will give the rats ample interactions that will be quite good enough for them to learn the good lessons.

While you are keeping the rats safe, here is a list of environmental situations you can set up for your rats, going from the earliest stage of "first contact", to a final big rat pile of happy rats. These situations require things you can scrounge up, like boxes, foods, and various kinds of cages. With some imagination and dedication to outsmart the rats, you can be on your way.

The videos and photographs currently available illustrate the concepts in action. Some of the earliest, first steps, need videos added to this gallery. They include:

- Dirty bedding swapping
- Hidey-box swapping
- Cage-swapping

Then, these videos are available for viewing now:
(A) Open Neutral Area - first meeting of two rats.
(B) Open Cage Base - without the bars
(C) [Not yet added] Add walls to neutral cage base.
(D) Add hammocks to neutral case base with walls.

Steps that will be added (LIST WILL BE EXPANDED):
- Sharing small transport-type cage
- Neutral area on couch with a strange table cloth and lots of yummy and messy food to distract them from each other.
- Add food to temporary cage in neutral area.
- Add food to small transport cage.
- Others to be added.
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