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Many Rats!
Saturday, chinders and I cleaned the rat cages and put all the rats in one cage. (This will save us future cleaning!) They are... mostly getting along. Calypso is continuing as normal -- she was the low-ranking rat anyway, and seems perfectly willing to respect the authority of anyone three times her size. Loki seems to be getting along with everyone, as he is clearly no threat. (Poor guy's pretty sick. Happy to cuddle, though; I've seen him sharing a hammock with each girl except Tethys.) Huginn, Muninn, and Odin are all being fairly laid back, with the occasional scuffle with a passing newly introduced female to figure out who's in charge here. Tethys was apparently in heat on Saturday (the boys are all neutered, but she doesn't care) and has since been working out that who's-in-charge thing in a casual way; seems to resolving in favor of the boys. Aphrodite, after a few instances of major puffiness, has mostly been busying herself down at the very bottom of the cage and avoiding everyone. I'm surprised; she's usually fairly aggressive, but she didn't even come up to the top for breakfast today. Thor and Hera, on the other hand, spent the entire morning having an Altercation.

I don't know who started it -- the first thing I saw was a bit of mutual threatening and a quick scuffle that ended with Hera on her back, squeaking, with a tuft of Thor's fur in her teeth. So that was inconclusive. She ran off and hid in the yellow thing, and he took up a post outside and hissed at her. The way the cage is set up right now, she could go around behind the yellow thing under a short ladder, or she could go down the ramp to the lower half of the cage, but she couldn't get to the ramp up without going past him. Hera spent an hour or so poking around under the ladder and around the front of the yellow thing, getting hissed at. Eventually she got bored, wandered down a level or two, groomed a bit, then strolled upstairs for a snack, ignoring Thor completely. I'm not sure if that counts as a win or a truce or what; I've not seen this blocking-into-a-corner behavior before.

Historically, among the females I've had, dominance goes not to the biggest or strongest rat, but rather to the most persistent rat. This would tend to weigh in Hera's favor. However, Thor is twice her size and since the stroke her grasp on the concept of "down" has been fuzzy, so she's very easy to knock over. (Oddly, she seems to have a pretty good grasp of using the terrain to her advantage, reaching down from above or into a hammock from a nice stable position so she can slap the boys around without much fear of retaliation.)

It's always interesting to watch the rats work out their social structure. Once they've got the hierarchy figured out, they won't test it much, so the only chance I have to see how it's going to work out is to watch while it's still unsettled. My current prediction:

1. Hera
2. Thor
3. Aphrodite?
4. Odin?
5. Huginn
6. Muninn
7. Tethys
8. Calypso
9. Loki

I'm really not sure where Aphrodite's going to fit in, because she's being a bit odd around the boys so she may wind up lower than I expect. Odin seems to have fairly strong feelings about whom he should be allowed to knock over (he was picking on Hera yesterday).

Perhaps I should establish a betting pool.

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It really is. This morning's episode:

When I went to give Hera her medication, she was sleeping in a paper bag with Odin, Muninn, and Loki. (I think it was Odin and Muninn -- the boys other than Loki are hard to tell apart from most angles, so I wasn't sure which rats I was looking at until they'd moved around a bit. I might have lost track of which one was where.) Calypso was in a nearby box, Aphrodite was hiding in the bottom of the cage, and Thor was in a hammock all by himself at the very top of the cage. I'm not sure where Tethys and Huginn were. It's amazing how thoroughly invisible a rat can be in that cage.

That's a lot of rats! I'm glad we only have the two birds to worry about, though their dominance issues are far from being settled.

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