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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-31-2010, 05:01 PM Thread Starter
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Question Need help with taming new male rats

The title of this thread is kind of a lie. I've had my two male rats for about a month now, so I guess they're not TECHNICALLY new to my home.

These two boys are my very first rats. I did loads of researching before I got these two rats, and I feel as if I'm doing everything right so far in regards to housing, diet, bedding, stuff like that. However, my main problem has been trying to play and socialize with these brothers. I'll list some of the things that they do and how I've tried to socialize with them.

I bought a nice sized folding table and draped a towel over it along with putting the cage on top of the towel. I leave the cage door open often when I'm trying to play with them and touch them so that they can explore the table surface and I can get more opportunities for interaction.
I leave their food dish OUTSIDE of the cage on the table so that they will come out for their food and I can attempt petting them and such while they're picking at their food.
I also will pick them up occasionally and plop them on my shoulder and walk about my apartment.

Now, let me explain some of the issues I'm having while I do some of these things. First off, whenever I try handling either of them, I immediately feel protest, and that usually ends with my hands/arms turning into a bloody mess (I'm not kidding, they really fight it), so I try not to do that unless I really need to. Whenever I try stroking them, they usually run to another part of the cage, or in the case of the oldest brother... I'll be bitten. Though there were times when I tried petting him and he just kind of winced lightly and slowly started hiding his back from me (So that he'd end up on his side with some of his belly showing), almost as if he's playing dead.
Another thing I should note is that neither of these guys will accept any kind of treat while I am handling them, nor if they are on my body.

The youngest rat is very curious and likes to come out of the cage often and will usually lick my fingers if I get them close to him (as if I'm made of ice cream or something O_o... he really gives me a licking!), and he's generally less flinchy and dodgy than his older brother.

I don't really know how old they are unfortunately... but I just consider the smaller boy the younger rat. A friend of mine came over and told me that they're still pretty young (apparently because they're pretty small. They measure about 7-8 inches from nose to the start of their tail). I've heard that younger rats can be tough to get to hold still and will be harder to handle since they tend to be very wiggly.


So, what can I start doing to get these guys to relax and start liking me more? It's already been a month and I haven't really noticed any kind of "adjustment" to my home... and I'm starting to worry that I'll never get to experience the love and affection that you guys get with your rats. :[

I also apologize that this post was so long... and I probably included a whole lot more info than was necessary. Any help will be greatly appreciated!

(P.S.: These rats were bought from a Pet Smart)
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-31-2010, 05:06 PM
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One of the more rat-experienced people will reply to this soon but I did want to say that where you got them is probably part of the problem. Rats from animal mills (like suppliers for PetsMart, PetCo, etc.) weren't really handled at birth and many are inbred (or just poorly bred) and prone to behavioral and medical problems. I'm sure you'll be able to work with them but it'll probably take them a while to warm up to you (compared to rats from a rescue or breeder). So I think patience is the key here (and I wouldn't be holding them at all if they're struggling that badly).




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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-31-2010, 05:10 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sasami View Post
One of the more rat-experienced people will reply to this soon but I did want to say that where you got them is probably part of the problem. Rats from animal mills (like suppliers for PetsMart, PetCo, etc.) weren't really handled at birth and many are inbred (or just poorly bred) and prone to behavioral and medical problems. I'm sure you'll be able to work with them but it'll probably take them a while to warm up to you (compared to rats from a rescue or breeder). So I think patience is the key here (and I wouldn't be holding them at all if they're struggling that badly).
Yeah, I've learned my lesson since I previously bought a fancy mouse from the same store that was shaking like a leaf when I brought it home and I had to return him (still alive but not well) to the store. I'm no longer going to purchase animals from that store, and I've since managed to make contact with a reputable rat breeder for future purchases.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-31-2010, 05:58 PM
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Yes, I agree with Sasami...it will take a gentle manner and lots of patience with your boys but that is not unheard of. You are trying your best and if you give your boys enough time to learn that you are safe and they are in a good home and protected, they will eventually relax more and learn that your voice and and your smell are a good thing and comforting to be around. It can take time, but you will be rewarded with loving rats if you are patient.

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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-31-2010, 06:15 PM Thread Starter
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I'm sure that if I'm patient with these boys, that they'll warm up to me. The problem I have is that I don't really know what to do in terms of practicing good interaction. What are some different things I can do to gently interact with them? (mostly to avoid the biting and scratching...)
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-31-2010, 06:22 PM
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Well, the basics for me with my two boys, was doing the initial action of laying my hand down, palm up, in their house, and letting them come over to smell and touch my hand. Also, to get them used to at least putting their forearms on my hand or to get part of their body onto my palm, I would take a plastic spoon with a bit of baby food in it (rats seem to LOVE baby food) like green peas, sweet potato, or whatever flavor they might like, and hold the spoon of baby food in my right palm with my left hand, so the spoon was right in the middle of my hand and the boys would have to come over and sort of put their front feet onto my hand to lick the baby food, compared to just having a treat there that they can take away and go eat. It was a good bonding routine to do with them and it got them to trust that touching me or being on my hand was safe and they got yummy baby food out of it too.

As far as handling them, if you are not at that stage yet and they are not ready to be picked up, that is okay. Just getting them used to you with some of those interaction techniques is a good start. There will hopefully be some other people on the forum who have some good advice on actually picking them up for the first few times but I was not sure if you are at that stage yet or not?

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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-31-2010, 06:28 PM
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P.S....two things I forgot to mention, but you probably already know if you were reading up on rats before you got your boys:

1. Make sure you always wash your hands before interacting with your boys. This way, you not only avoid giving them germs or bacteria but it also cleans off the smell of anything you may have been handling previously, like food, etc.

2. Remember that rats can nibble groom you, which is a GOOD thing, a sign of affection, that shows they are accepting you into their pack and they are trying to groom you by nibbling your skin or fingertips with their teeth. It is normally gentle and does not hurt, but you might mistake that for them trying to "bite" you, but believe me, if a rat really intended to bite you for real, it is a far cry from nibble grooming, which is gentle and meant to show affection. If you do find yourself getting your fingers or hand nibbled on, great, but if it is a bit too "hard" of a nibble and it hurts, you can make a "squeak!" noise and pull your finger back, which shows the rats that they are being a bit too strong with the nibbling and they will be a bit more gentle with their person grooming the next time. Happened with my boys. Rats are VERY intelligent! Love them!

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Last edited by Vladina; 10-31-2010 at 06:32 PM.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-31-2010, 06:32 PM Thread Starter
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I've attempted the spoon technique with some basic non-fat yogurt, and I couldn't really get them to taste it. Must not have smelled that good (I tried some myself... I don't really blame them now)... so I'll definitely have to go for the baby food!

I've had my hand in their cage before just sitting there, and I've had the youngest (We'll call him Smokey because I'm sick of typing "youngest") climb all over it and just lick it to smithereens! So I assume he'll be a whole lot easier to tame than Max, his older brother (the biter).

As for whether or not I've made it to the picking up stage... I have a really hard time coming up with an answer for that question. It really varies... but for the sake of practicality, I'll just go ahead and say that I'm not at that stage yet.

EDIT: In regards to your second post

The biting from Mr. Max is usually not loving. More like blood drawing. Lucky for me, I'm such a wuss that I'll yelp if he manages to break the skin... so I've got that part covered. >_>
I'm assuming that all the licking from Smokey has to do with either me handling treats or their food (I have to move things around a bit before I interact with them), or he's sincerely trying to groom me a bit. I'll have to experiment with him a bit.

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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-31-2010, 06:37 PM
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Smokey and Max sound like great names for two boys! I can't wait to see pictures of them. People on this forum LOVE to see pictures of each other's rat kids.

Yeah, no problem with not being at the pick up stage yet and it sounds like Smokey is the less scared of the two. What will happen is that Max will follow Smokey's lead...rats follow the behavior of their siblings quite a bit when it comes to "coming out of their shell" and the more Max sees Smokey coming over to smell you and eat baby food from your hand and so forth, Max will see that his brother is having a good time and he will probably follow his lead.

I think you will do fine! Also, always remember when you interact with them, to keep talking to them in a gentle voice so they associate these interactions with your voice. They will learn to love the sound of your voice and look forward to seeing and hearing you, I promise. There is a great saying on this forum..I don't know where it came from but it goes like this:

To the world, you are one person...to your rat, you are the world. Very true!

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Last edited by Vladina; 10-31-2010 at 06:39 PM.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-31-2010, 06:42 PM Thread Starter
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I have noticed Max assessing the situation from the cage side while Smokey is out and about with my hand. It's actually kind of funny to watch.

I'll be sure to bump this thread sometime soon with pictures, I'd be very happy to show them off to the community. Smokey is dark gray with white "boots" and underbelly while Max has a black hood and has some spots here and there. They're both very healthy looking and I'm sure they're going to keep getting bigger... Hopefully someone will be able to give me an estimate as to how old they are when I present a picture!

Thanks for all of the advice so far.
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-31-2010, 06:49 PM
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Aww, they sound so handsome! I think after a person has made 20 posts on the forum, it allows you to post photos, so that will be great. Yep, it sure does sound like Max is watching the situation closely with you and Smokey! I think you are doing great so far...one of our boys, Wolfgang, was the Smokey of the two, and Klausse, his bigger and fatter brother, was the cautious and shy one. Wolfgang took the lead and his brother watched, just like Max. Eventually, they both became the most loving and affection crazed boys. Just the sweetest things. It will happen with you too. And you are welcome! I am sure you will get more replies in the next day or so from others here too. Glad to have you on the forum!

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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-31-2010, 08:47 PM
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I found couple of sites with assorted techniques to try:

http://www.joinrats.com/ (This one has videos!)

http://www.sandyscrittercity.com/tra...bitingrats.htm


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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-31-2010, 11:58 PM
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Great links! I saw the awesome videos on the JoinRats.com site and they were terrific. Dr.Ben, you should check out the incredible one of Jared with Smokey, his blue rat, lounging in Jared's arms, wow. Looks like Smokey knows all about how to properly tame a human.

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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-01-2010, 07:59 AM
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Looks like everyone has it pretty much covered for you. You'll just need to take it very slowly with these boys. Also, try setting aside one old outfit (preferably sweatpants or old jeans and an old hooded sweatshirt) to wear EVERY time you interact with them. Since they are quite skittish, you'll do better if you smell the same to them each time you approach and interact with/near them. The hooded sweatshirt will also give them something to explore once they are a bit more comfortable with you--they can hide in the pouch if they get scared.

Try different treats--baby food is a good one. Try to get them to lick it off a spoon, then off your finger. Some rats love yogurt drops (mine don't, for some reason...), regular yogurt. You can even try a few cheerios or grain/wheat cereals. Speak to them every time you're with them, and this will get them used to your voice as well.

One thing I don't see mentioned is where you have the cage set up. I'd recommend putting it in the busiest room of the house. This will be best for two reasons: first, they will get used to you and your noises much faster, and also, they will have more things to watch and observe--and rats love this!


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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-01-2010, 03:05 PM
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Ahhh Breyer, as usual, you give such great advice! I am glad you showed up to post some stuff I knew I would forget! Great tips!

Using the same clothes every time so your smell does not change is a fantastic tip! I knew other posters would think of a million things I didn't think of.

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