Many mammals are known to fight over territory and mates, especially if the animal is a male. If you have a male pet rat, you might be wondering whether rats deviate from the norm in this regard.
So, do male pet rats fight? Yes, male pet rats fight. Like most mammals, rats are territorial. Male rats will do their best to try and maintain dominance over other male rats living around them. So, it is only natural that male rats put together in a confined area will end up fighting. That is unless they are neutered.
In this article, we will look into how you can recognize that your pet male rats fighting (you may not be able to tell sometimes). We will then look into what you can do if you catch your male rats fighting. Finally, we will discuss some of the ways you can avoid a fight breaking out between your pet rats.
Are rats territorial?
Rats, like most mammals, are highly territorial. Male rats fight with other male rats to establish a hierarchy. And this is as true in the wild as it is in the cage.
Fighting in pet rats typically starts happening at the age of 5-6 months when they reach social maturity. This is the age when they graduate from harmless, playful fighting to more serious aggressive fighting. This fighting will go on until a hierarchy is well defined and set between the fighting rats (not unlike in other animals).
Male rats that have not been neutered will scent mark their territory with urine. The urines contain pheromones that help one rat inform other rats that this is their turf. With pet rats, some will scent mark their cages, while others will go about scent marking just about anything. And it’s when two scent-marking rats cross paths that a fight usually breaks out.
What does a rat fight look like?
It’s quite obvious when a rat fight begins to break out.
The first sign is fluffed up fur. Like most mammals, rats will fluff up their fur when they feel threatened or aggressive. This is a natural mechanism, intended to make the rat appear bigger than it is.
Most rats will absolutely avoid taking serious measures and risking injury when it comes to establishing hierarchy. Instead, they rely on exhibiting a variety of domineering behaviors. So the first signs of aggression that you might notice between your male pet rats include pushing, mounting, bum-barging, flipping, or pinning. These are all ways that one rat uses over another to show them who’s in charge. But occasionally these will lead to more serious fights.
When a serious fight breaks out, there’s a lot of squealing involved. Normally rats communicate at a range inaudible to human ears. But they will let out a sharp audible squeak when they are distressed or in panic. And there can be a lot of this when a fight is ongoing.
Rats will typically stand on their hind legs and push at each other with their forearms when the fight first breaks out. Within an established group, this is usually something that can be ignored as it seldom leads to something more serious. It’s more of a passing argument.
But if this happens between two rats that have just recently been introduced with one another, that could be a sign that a more serious fight is due. Another indicator is kick-boxing when one rat kicks the other with its two hind legs.
Finally, when things really get escalated, male rats will wrap around their arms and legs around each other, forming a tight ball, and then wrestle. They will roll around one another like a ball, all the while biting and trying to pin the other rat down.
It goes without saying that biting is the most serious form of fighting between rats. Their teeth are the sharpest parts of their body, and their jaws are specially designed to pierce the skin of whatever they bite into. If you notice teeth getting involved, you should separate the males immediately.
What should you do if your male pet rats start fighting?
Often as an owner of pet rats, it can be difficult to tell playful fighting from serious aggressive fighting. Like we’ve mentioned above, rats will mostly avoid serious injury-inducing fights and will instead resort to things like pushing, mounting, bum-barging, flipping, or pinning in order to show who’s in charge. And these tactics often work very well as serious fights are avoided.
- Pushing: This is one rat walking beside another while pushing against them—a clear sign of dominance.
- Mounting: Male rats will mount and even sometimes hump other male rats. But this has nothing to do with sexuality. It is just a sign of exerting dominance over the other rat.
- Bum-barging: This is when a rat walks back bum-first towards another rat and bashes it against them. Again, this isn’t something serious and is just to show who’s in charge.
- Flipping: This is when one rat grabs hold of another and flips them around, belly up. This, too, is a sign of dominance.
- Pinning: This is another typical sign of dominance where one rat grabs hold of another and pins them down. It can be followed by some sort of grooming.
But when serious fights do break out, what can you do as an owner?
Your first instinct might be to try and separate the fight. You don’t want your pet rats to get injured.
However, you shouldn’t do this. Rats live in hierarchical groups, and often, these hierarchies need to be sorted out. It is highly unlikely for two rats to repeatedly fight each other, but it does happen.
Your best course would be to separate the two rats by either putting a barrier between them in their cage or putting them in different cages altogether.
You should also avoid sticking your bare arm in order to separate a fight. If you do this, you will get bitten! If you really feel like a fight needs to be broken off, try wrapping some clothes around your hand and arm before sticking it in.
Once you separate them a couple of times, they will often calm down. But often, it is wise just to let the fight run its course as you want a clear hierarchy to be defined between your rats if you want them to coexist without fighting.
Male pet rats will fight against each other in order to establish hierarchy. With two rats that were raised together from a young age, this is incredibly rare as the hierarchy has most likely been established from all the playful fighting. But when two new male rats are put together, there is a greater chance of a fight breaking out.
The first range of tactics that a rat uses to establish dominance includes relatively harmless things like pushing, mounting, bum-barging, flipping, or pinning. These are just methods to show the other rat who’s in charge. And while it might seem logical for rat owners to discourage this, it is wiser to let this run its course as this way, more serious injuries can be avoided.
But if a serious fight does break out, often characterized by wrestling, biting, and shrieking, the owner should wrap a cloth around their arm and hand before sticking it in to break the fight. But once again, it would be best to let the fight run its course, and breaking it up could only lead to more confusion in the hierarchy and lead to more fights in the future.