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Raising a Little Ruckus

What would it be like to have actual pet rodents, meaning rodents bred to be pets? Scribble probably was destined to be, unfortunately, snake food. She was not raised with human interaction initially. It was months of attention and work for her to be more comfortable around humans and become more responsive. What would the experience be like with a rodent that had been raised to be a pet and handled from birth? And it is very unlikely that I would ever have another opportunity for a pet woodrat.

Ruckus A group of rats is called a "mischief". Through contact with Ravencharm Rattery in Reno, and by rescuing one more little rodent who could have turned into snake food, three new young rats joined Scribble in October. Black and white with a blaze on her face, Mayhem is the oldest. Ruckus is a month younger than Mayhem and is soft grey Dumbo eared rat with cream colored belly and feet. Ruckus and Mayhem are half sisters from the rattery. And the youngest is the rescue rat, little Havoc, who is black and white in the traditional "hooded" pattern.

Having young rats resembles having puppies: They run about, chase each other, steal food from each other, squabble and then happily fall asleep together in a pile. Delightful! A mischief indeed.

Scribble was quite disgruntled at first. After all, she has been the sole occupant of the big cage for several years now, and, at 2 1/4 years, she is "old" in rat terms.

Pet rats show aggression by puffing up and approaching sideways. Scribble may have looked scary to the new little rodents, but to human eyes she looked most like a slow moving hilarious white puff ball. There were resulting squabbles, and, not wanting injuries, the new little girls were kept in a separate cage from Scribble for at least a month. The cages were inches apart - far enough that one rat could not grab another through the bars, but close enough that they could smell and see each other. Sometimes the rats traded cages for a day. Gradually Scribble would tolerate the others when all the rats were on my person, but she would still fight the little ones as soon as they played on their own. The final technique that completed the desensitization of Scribble to the little ones was to put her in a very small travel cage for a 15 minute "time out" each time she started showing aggression around them. Scribble did not like being in the little cage. She could still smell and see the others playing around her while she was confined to a tiny space. After about a week of daily playtime with time outs for aggressiveness, Scribble was finally able to live harmoniously with the new "kids". While she is not as spry and energetic as the young girls, as the largest she dominates cage life. And they all sleep together in happily in a pile - a happy mischief.

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Blog_post | by Dr. Radut