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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-28-2012, 10:44 PM Thread Starter
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Rats Making Friends

I had the Ghost Girls out playing in their kitchen play pen. Some neighbor children came in, one of which had never held a rat and had been begging to meet mine. He was an animal loving little boy who had the sensitivity to learn about more intuitive aspects of animal 'whispering'. So I used his visit as a teachable moment for all in the room to explain about how xenophobic rats go through a ritualized process of trust testing a new thing/person/food before they finally commit and include said strange object into their circle of friendship.

It progressed something like this:

"Don't try to pet her or pick her up Bobby. She doesn't know you yet. Give her a chance to come to you instead and she'll actually become your friend so you won't have to chase or grab her."

"Rats are small and are always chased by big scary animals, so it takes them a while to decide to trust."

"It takes several times before she'll relax. First she'll walk by you. If you don't grab, she'll decide you're not scary, then she'll walk by again a little closer....see...look, she's walking by now."

"Ah, there, see how she touched you with her nose before running off? Bet she touches you with her paw next pass..."

"Ooh, see how she's climbing onto my son? He's already her friend, so she's using him to give her courage to get closer to your face. Watch how she sniffs you again before walking off..."

"When she gets in your lap, don't pet her the first time, just lay your hand where she can climb onto it if she chooses. No! Don't move, just wait..."

"There, see her settling down? Now gently scratch her by her cheek there..."

Etc...etc...etc....

I was snapping pictures as I talked and managed to get a pretty good play by play of the process.

My son is Mr. Curly Top here. Devon is totally comfortable crawling all over him. But she makes sure she stays away from the other strange kid in the room.


Next comes suspicious yet curious Aggie. She popped up on Son's shoulder to eyeball the new kid Bobby while she had Devon for back up. Bobby looks a bit unsure but like he is chomping at the bit for a little AggieLove doesn't he? LOL


Checkin' him out oh so carefully.


A little closer now. Tentative contact is made. Briefly.


After a lot of testing passes disguised as indifferent walkabouts by Aggie, she'd finally settled down for a good little scritch. While I missed those shots, soon Aggie was satisfied with her new friend and hopped off of him to explore for treats. Meanwhile, the rest of the horde were as far from our new little visitor as possible, intently watching to see if Take-One-for-the-Team Aggie got eaten by the new Kidmonster. As soon as Aggie vacated his lap, having proven he was Okay By Her, look what happens:


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Hanging out in the Land of New Feetsies:
Melon, Skinner, Black Pete, Zanna, Custard, Tucker, Jeffrey, Zmei, and Windham.

Last edited by Storyseeker; 08-28-2012 at 10:52 PM.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-29-2012, 01:26 AM
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WOW, incredible! Aggie the Brave, testing out the new KidMonster. Okay fellow ratties, he seems safe, c'mon out! Again, wow! Like a food taster, only with a new kid in their midst. That was awesome!!

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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-29-2012, 07:46 AM Thread Starter
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I read that wild rats will often hang back in new situations while one explores it (usually a younger more inexperienced noob I'd imagine). If the explorer doesn't get eaten/poisoned/catapulted/ or otherwise suffer curiosity regret, then the others will all move in to participate as well.

This is the first really clear time I've been able to observe it. It's both hysterical and an impressive statement of their intelligence.


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Hanging out in the Land of New Feetsies:
Melon, Skinner, Black Pete, Zanna, Custard, Tucker, Jeffrey, Zmei, and Windham.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-29-2012, 11:24 AM
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I've read about that behavior as well. It's why poisoning rarely takes care of a colony of rats. Anything new is checked by a single rat, and the others avoid it until that rat determines that it's safe. It's amazingly clever!
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-29-2012, 02:32 PM
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Agreed. A super example of the incredible intelligence of rats.

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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-29-2012, 06:33 PM
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Awww! So adorable! And I bet Bobby will NEVER forget it!!! (And perhaps he will be pestering mom and dad for some rats now, I suspect...hehehehe!) It's so great to let kids have experiences like this with rats. Every child who knows how great they are will help eradicate the unfortunate stigma they still have.


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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-29-2012, 08:11 PM
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I love that term you used - curiosity regret. I'm going to have to remember and adopt it.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-03-2012, 07:29 AM
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What a lovely story, the KidMonster looked pretty happy at the end of it and all those relaxed rattie eyes....haha I find it funny that Aggie was the Brave Explorer in this case LOL

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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-03-2012, 01:34 PM Thread Starter
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Aggie is proving to be quite a character. She will be first, foremost, and always, and everything is on her terms and no one else's. She is a cage tyrant.


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Hanging out in the Land of New Feetsies:
Melon, Skinner, Black Pete, Zanna, Custard, Tucker, Jeffrey, Zmei, and Windham.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-04-2012, 06:08 AM
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Wow, Story, somehow I missed part of the text on this post originally and I never saw your play by play of all the things you were saying to the kids about the slow and gentle process of letting a rat get to know you. That was just perfect! You are an excellent rat teacher for kids. I could not have said it better!

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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-04-2012, 06:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Storyseeker View Post
Aggie is proving to be quite a character. She will be first, foremost, and always, and everything is on her terms and no one else's. She is a cage tyrant.
"Tyrant"..."Special"...those are the same in my eyes...you won't forget her in a hurry

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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-09-2012, 10:33 AM
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We are very popular with the neighborhood kids ( im known as the "crazee rat lady" lol they love it when i bring Kiki out for a little fresh air,, she has her nose so far up sniffn to see what new smells there are,, all the kids come running up saying hello to Kiki. She is the best well behaved rat and she LOVES the kids and all the attention. she is one of our oldest , we resued her and her best friend from a petstore that someone braught back cuz thier cat didnt like them. we've had her for about a year now. she's almost a 1 pound rat and a lil chunk monster lol but we wouldnt have her anyother way! she loves to give everyone she meets kisses. and i think thats what makes the kids love her so much is the kisses she gives them and it makes my heart melt when they giggle! hope everyone has a very ratty day!!!
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-09-2012, 11:41 PM
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Awww, that is great that Kiki is such a friendly ambassador of goodwill for people that might not know much about how wonderful and loving rats are.

I love the fact of kids learning to respect rats and dispelling myths about rats that come from ignorance. Kiki sounds like she really enjoys herself too, which is most important. What a great thing to read!

Vlad

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