My pet rats stopped getting along and one is very aggressive towards the other. What can I do?

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TL;DR My pet rats went from best buds to mortal enemies. What gives?

I’m having a bit of a problem. I recently got two male rats from PetCo. I’m sure it would have been better to get one from a breeder, however there are very few breeders in the area and none of them had any available for quite some time. I picked two that were in the same cage and seemed to get along just fine. I waited about week before I actually got them and went back to look at them a couple of times. Each time they seemed ok and seemed to get along.

When I brought them home they looked like they were going to be best buds. They both would cuddle in their hut and groom each other. I started giving them treats and they both warmed up to me very quickly. I named them Frank and Fred. At first it looked as though Fred was the dominate rat, although he was never mean to Frank, he would push him out of the way when it came time for a treat. I always made sure they both received the same amount however.

Then one day out of the blue Frank and Fred began to fight viciously. All I saw was a ball of fur flying through there cage (big cage BTW) and heard tons of screeching. Not squeaking, screeching. I separated them for a while and let them cool off. I notice right away that Fred (the dominate) had a really chewed up tail. I cleaned it up and let them sit over night in separate cages.

I tried again to reintroduce them and they immediately began to fight. This time it was clear that Frank was the aggressor and he attacked Fred’s tail again, drawing blood. At this point i knew there was a problem. I bought another large cage for Frank to live in and I have kept them separately since for fear that Frank would kill Fred.

I waited a couple of weeks with just having their cages next to each other and tried to let them interact in a large play pen I constructed from cardboard boxes. I had a spray bottle handy just in case they started to fight. As soon as they got near each other Frank attacked Fred. So I sprayed him and he seemed to get the message. I sat and watched but in no time at all Frank was going back after Fred and would not be deterred by the spray bottle for more than a moment or two.

At this point I’m at a loss. I don’t understand why they went from getting along fine to hating/fearing each other. I don’t want to keep them separate because I understand they are social and need companionship when I’m not around to provide it. What can I do?

My only thought is that maybe I could try to have Frank fixed since he is clearly the aggressor. It is awfully expensive and risky however, and there is no way to know that it will be a solution.

Does anyone have any other suggestions at all?

One last detail, I’m not certain of there age other than that they are under 6 months old.

TL;DR My pet rats went from best buds to mortal enemies. What gives?

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3 Responses to “My pet rats stopped getting along and one is very aggressive towards the other. What can I do?”

  1. lizzy says:

    what you have to do is separate them for like 3 days having there cages side by side. then you swap them into each others cages leave there cages just the way they left it and put them into each others cage so they get use to each others scent. do that for another 3 days and leave them in there for a hour or so still keeping there cages side by side. then you have to introduce them to each other on some where they have not been eg the bathtub. introduce them to each other for a week or more in the bath tub until you feel 100% confident there getting along then clean out the the cage you want them including toys and everything. then put the rat that’s getting attacked in first and then the aggressor.

    you can also put vanilla eccesnce on both the rats near there neck and on the base of there tail. it will make them smell the same and it usually works.

    what i did with my rats was just put them in the cage with just food and water so they had nothing to fight over then i slowly added there toys in one by one i was adding there toys back in every 1 and a half and if they stated fighting i took it out. it worked and my rats are now happily in the same cage.

  2. Janice says:

    I haven’t ever had a problem like this out of my two female rats i had a few years back… but i would advise for you to read up on it and figure out if there might be a specific problem and a quick solution. but it sounds like you love them very much… but i really don’t agree with petco it’s a horrible company and they abuse most all of their animals because they are truly greedy bastards… so maybe that’s where their aggression comes from but you could put a divider in their cage. Just a mesh wire wall that divides the cage and they could still see each other and maybe if they were seperated just at a distance for a while they would forget their differences and warm up to each other again and you could let them be back together with no wall. I’ve read that’s a quick fix to problems with most rodents such as guinea pigs, hamsters, and rats

    p.s. love your username man ;D

  3. elizabeth says:

    Since Frank has drawn blood, at this point you need to keep them apart until he has been neutered and until he has calmed down some. It can take as little as a couple of weeks for the neuter to calm him but sometimes it will take a couple of months. It’s not ideal to keep rats alone but at this point, you have to consider Fred’s safety first. Do NOT just try to reintroduce them without having Frank neutered. This is hormonal aggression and simple introductions will NOT help. Also, DON’T use a divider as suggested either. Rats can attack through them (tails, feet, noses) and the divider could fall. Besides, if you have a proper wire cage for them, you wouldn’t be able to divide it in the way suggested – not that it would help anyway.

    The best option is a neuter. At around 5 to 6 months is when males go through a hormonal surge and can become very aggressive. Being a pet store rat, he wasn’t bred for temperament so it’s not much of a surprise that he has become so aggressive. As any surgery, it does have some risk but it’s pretty small if you go to a vet that has done many rat neuters successfully and make sure to get antibiotics for after the surgery (pain meds too). And be sure to NOT withhold food from him the night before the surgery, even if they tell you to; rats can’t vomit (why they tell you not to feed them) and have very fast metabolisms so withholding food isn’t safe for them. Call around to different vets in the area and see what their experience is and how much they charge. Many vets only charge $50 to $100 for a neuter, plus the cost of meds.

    Unfortunately, it’s not just a phase that will pass so you really do need to have him neutered as soon as possible; the sooner he gets neutered, the more likely it is to calm his aggression. Not getting him neutered means he would have to live alone (not good for rats) since it wouldn’t be safe for any other rats to live with him and he will likely only become more aggressive towards rats and even humans.

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