Can Male And Female Rats Live Together? Is Rat Neutering The Solution Or Is There Another Way? Let’s Find Out!
If you are looking for a loving, smart, and playful pet, then rats are a great choice.
They can get a bad rap as dirty and vicious pests. But in reality, rats are incredibly clean, can be litter trained, and can even do tricks!
Rats bond with their owners and have an advanced capacity for episodic memory.
In other words, your rat will remember, recognize, and recall memories about you.
Since rats are extremely social animals, they do need to be housed together in pairs. Rats live in family groups in the wild and they crave interaction and socialization.
If you get two rats, then you may wonder if it is acceptable and wise for a male and female to live together.
This is quite the conundrum for some pet owners, and we explore just this situation in this article.
Can male and female rats live together? Let’s find out!
Can Male And Female Rats Live Together?
Your inquiry about pairing male and female rats together may revolve around safety and whether or not males and females will injure one another.
Certain male and female rodents, like squirrels, do not live peacefully together.
In fact, both genders of squirrels can become quite aggressive against one another when interacting.
Even rabbits show a great deal of dominance when it comes to mixed gender pairings.
And you may be well aware of aggression, dominance and social hierarchy in animals that live in groups.
The good news is that male and female rats are rarely aggressive towards one another, so there are few safety issues.
However, there are some issues with males and females living together.
The big one is the most obvious.
Can male and female rats live together…. Without…. You know!
Male and female rats will mate, and they will do a lot of mating.
There is no need to blush though (maybe just a little), since rodents have large numbers of offspring due to high death rates in the wild.
Female rats become receptive to mating every four to five days. The gestation period is only 23 days, and the baby rats or kittens will wean within about four weeks.
A typical birth will produce between 8 and 12 kittens and as many as 20 is possible.
Can male and female rats live together? Well, technically yes, but let’s do the math.
A male and female rat living together can create dozens of offspring within a very short period of time.
This means that a seemingly cute situation can turn into a disaster pretty quickly.
How To Tell If A Rat Is Male Or Female?
Mistakes do happen, but you can avoid an overwhelming “oops” pretty easily if you sex your rats before buying them.
Even an experienced pet store owner, breeder, or animal shelter can make sexing mistakes, so take a quick peak yourself.
There are a few ways to tell the difference between male and female rats. If the rats are juveniles, then look for the presence of nipples.
Nipples appear on female rats within 10 days. Male rats do not have any nipples.
You may need to move the fur from the underside of the rat, depending on age, to make an accurate identification. Do not worry, most rats like belly rubs and some will even roll over for some tummy scratches, just like dogs.
If you are uncertain about the presence of nipples or if you are uncomfortable about looking underneath the fur, then you can look at the distance between the anus and the urinary opening. The distance is longer in males and shorter in females.
While a simple eye measurement can help you with sexing, you may need to look at a few different rats to get an idea of the approximate appearance of the distances of both sexes.
Finally, you can typically tell a male from a female by feeling for testicles just at the base of the tail. They can be felt as small lumps along the underside of the rat.
Male Vs Female Rats
If you can take your pick from two female or two male rats, then there are a few things to consider.
If you are looking for a loving pet that wants all of the attention you have to give, then males are your best bet.
Male rats do have fur that is a bit more rough though, and you can expect the rodents to leave small trails of urine on items they deem as their property. Do not be surprised to find some wet spots on your clothing, because you just might be the property owned by your rat (oh, boy).
If urine marking leaves your feeling grossed out, then a pair of females is a great choice. If you want energetic, active, and inquisitive pets, then female rats will be right up your alley.
Females are a bit smaller and softer too, and they will definitely use you as a jungle gym, if you let them.
The choice is up to you, but you should always remember that each rat will have its own distinct personality, regardless of sex.
If you forgot to check the sex of your rats before adopting them, then do not panic. You should check as soon as you can though and separate the rodents right away if you have a male and a female.
You do need to make sure that each of your rats has an appropriate sized cage. According to the ASPCA rat care guide, a single pair of rats needs two square feet of space.
If you separate your rats, then each one will need a new friend.
According to research, rats have empathy and will bond and care for their cage mates. Separating rats can leave them upset, depressed and even vicious.
Of course, you should house your separated rats with a friend of the same sex.
Can Male and Female Rats Live Together If Neutered?
Rats can be spayed and neutered if you decide to keep a female and male rat together.
In fact, the operation can be beneficial to your rat, especially if you have a female. The procedure, which involves the removal of the ovaries and the uterus, can reduce the prevalence of mammary tumors.
According to one study, the operation can reduce tumors by over 40%.
When it comes to male rats, the ones that have been neutered are less likely to become aggressive, and cancer rates are reduced as well. The procedure can reduce marking issues too.
Neutering A Rat
If you have a male and female rat and decide to have one fixed while leaving the other intact, you may want to have the male fixed. The procedure is far less invasive.
While this is true, your rat should be completely healthy and must pass an evaluation before the operation occurs.
An exotic animal doctor who is experienced in rat surgeries should complete both the evaluation and the surgery.
Respiratory infections and heart disease are common ailments that can affect your rat. And both of these conditions can create complications during a surgical procedure.
If the vet gives your rat the all clear for surgery, then very little preparation is needed before the operation begins. Fasting is not necessary since rats cannot vomit.
This means that there is no risk of aspiration, so you can give your pet food and water beforehand.
Rat Neuter Risks
There are some risks with neutering your rat, as there are with any surgery. This can be worrisome to pet owners, since your animal is a part of your family. Knowing these risks can help you to make an informed decision on whether neutering is right for your animal.
One of the biggest concerns involves the anesthesia provided during the operation. Namely, there is a chance your rat will not wake up after receiving the anesthesia drugs.
It can be extremely difficult to provide small animals, like rats, with the correct amount of anesthesia. However, small and exotic animal veterinarians now use a comprehensive formula to determine anesthesia dosages.
While weight is considered, like past anesthesia techniques, age, health, and pre-operative blood tests are considered as well.
Both internal and external infections are also a concern, but issues can be prevented with antibiotic medication after the procedure. Internal bleeding can be problematic as well, and so can trauma due to the ripping of stitches along the surgical area.
If you want to understand the specific risks involved with neutering, speak with your veterinarian.
Animal doctors are just as concerned about the health and well-being of your pet as you are, so go ahead and prepare your questions and schedule a consultation.
Rat Neuter Cost
If you have decided to go all in, so to speak, when it comes to neutering, spaying, or both, then you may want to know about the cost of the procedure.
Costs will vary depending on the animal doctor and your location. However, the prices are typically quite low. Since neutering is a much simpler procedure, you can expect to pay less than $100.
Spaying will be a bit more and it can actually be two to three times the price. So, expect to pay $300 or $350 on the high end of the scale.
There are some veterinarians that charge under $100 for a spay procedure, but this may not be a common price point in some areas of the country.
Rehoming A Rat
If you simply do not have the funds to pay for a spay or neuter surgery and if you do not have the room to house four rats instead of two, then you may want to rehome one of your rodents.
Rehoming is a way to ensure that your loving rodent pal enjoys a happy and healthy life with a caring individual.
There are several ways that you can rehome rats. You can rehome by finding a suitable forever home through a classified advertisement service.
However, this can bring about some mixed results, including finding individuals who may not be willing to put in the time and energy to care for a rat properly.
You can also work with a rat rescue organization. There are many national rat rescues throughout the country.
The best rescues are ones that are designated non-profit organizations or charities. Make sure to ask if an organization is a 501(c)3 entity before working with them.
Most rescues will ask for a small fee or a donation, but the fees are usually only a few dollars, so be prepared for this. Keep in mind that you will need to fully surrender your animal to the rescue.
Paperwork will often need to be signed at the time of surrender that states this.
Can Male And Female Rats Live Together – Conclusion
Male and female rats can live together, but only if they are spayed and neutered. Spay and neuter surgeries do have some benefits and drawbacks that must be considered though, and you always have the option of separating your rats and finding new friends for each.
You have quite a few options if you happen to place a male and female rat together. If you are unsure about the best course of action, speak to your veterinarian who can walk you through all your choices, and of course the specifics of spaying and neutering as well.
Do you have a beloved pair of rats that are spayed and neutered, or have you had to separate your own rodents due to a sexing mix-up? Let us know in the comments below.
References and Further Reading
- Stephanie J. Babb, Jonathon D. Crystal. Episodic-like memory in the rat. Current biology : CB, Vol. 16, No. 13. (11 July 2006), pp. 1317-1321
- Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal David A Rodgers Maria Sol Bernardez Sarria Jean Decety Peggy Mason. Pro-social behavior in rats is modulated by social experience. eLife 2014;3:e01385
- Hotchkiss CE. Effect of surgical removal of subcutaneous tumors on survival of rats. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1995 May 15;206(10):1575-9.
- National Fancy Rat Society
- Einon, DF et al. 1978. Brief periods of socialization and later behavior in the rat. Developmental Psychobiology.
- Van Den Berg et al. 1999. Play is indispensible for an adequate development of coping with social challenges in the rat. Developmental Psychobiology.
- Ikemoto et al. 1992. Effects of early social isolation on the motivation for social play in juvenile rats. Developmental Psychobiology.