I have four rats - two girls and two boys - and am very interested in breeding them, as I have heard from several people that their females calmed down and were a lot less antsy after they had been bred. I have looked into the breeding and pregnancy a lot over the last few months and have thoroughly prepared myself for whats to come (I ALWAYS over-research when it comes to my animals!). However, I do still have a few questions that I cannot find answers to:
The first one is this: Has anyone else bred rats and had them calm down a bit afterwards? My females are perfectly happy and very well cared for but they are VERY skittish, even though they are well handled - much more skittish than any other female I've met. I've heard some people tell me about it but am just curious as to how many people have experienced it?
The second is: The two females are sisters, they are about 9 months old and live in a cage together and have done their entire lives. I read that you shouldn't have rat babies in a cage because they may get caught between the bars so I have other containers ready for that. I am wondering, however, do I keep the females separate? Each container is about the right size for a mother and her babies, but I could find an alternative if I should keep them together. I've read mixed reviews for this - do I keep them together for the duration of their pregnancy or do I separate them? Or do I do what I had planned to and separate them at about 19 or 20 days through the pregnancy, let them give birth and nurse and then put them back together after the babies are gone?
Also, will reintroducing the mothers be difficult?
I'd just like to add that because I'm really awful at summing up questions, this makes it seem like theres a lot I don't know! In truth, I could answer pretty much any other question thrown at me - diet, lifestyle, mating, pregnancy, the birth itself, caring for the babies, worst case after-birthing scenarios, possible illness etc but I've found it rather hard to answer the questions I'm posing to you guys now. I'd really appreciate your help :)
Thanks heaps! :D
Answer on Rat Pregnancy Question?
I have never really experienced change in my rats actual personality after they have been bred, but they are more tired after, just in general. They calm down a bit as they would if they have gotten older I think, like they aren't as energetic anymore, although some of mine that were already very calm didn't change at all after.
It is up to you whether you want to keep the two females together or not. Usually there isn't any problems with keeping two pregnant/nursing females together, and they raise all of the babies together as if they were just one big litter (if the mothers/fathers look similar though, you might not be able to differentiate between which babies are whose. The problems are usually more if one of the females has babies and the other doesn't, because sometimes they will fight over the babies (it isn't common, but it happens).
If you do separate them, reintroducing them shouldn't be a problem, but it is best if you let them see each other throughout so they still are used to interacting with each other on a regular basis. When the mothers aren't nursing let them see each other for five or ten minutes a day and you won't really have to introduce them again at all, they will still be used to each other.
Also, I'm not trying to tell you not to breed, but you should consider the personalities of your rats when you do. If you breed very skittish females, it is likely that the offspring will have similar personalities (in general), and you might not want such skittish rats. If you do want to breed your females, try finding males that are very calm to breed them with, don't just use your males because you already have them (unless you have a particularly calm male).