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Help taming new rats?

4107 Views 5 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  luvboyrats
I recently got two female rats from a pet store (5 days ago). I guess they're about a month or two old (still youngsters where their feet look huge in comparison to their body), and I have been spending about 30 minutes to an hour once or twice a day with them ever since i got them. They seem to be more used to their home now, and when i put my hand in they will usually come sniff it and lick my hand (probably smells yummy lol). They will also crawl around in my sweatshirt if i open my sleeve for them, but they won't really come out of their cage, and when i give them treats they immediately take them back into their house. Also, they seem to really stay in their house a lot... i have to REALLY bribe them with a spoon of yogurt to get them out sometimes. When I move my hand at all, they scurry off back into the house, and refuse to be picked up. Is this normal? What can I do to make them trust me more? Thanks! :)
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I'm actually in the same exact situation. We got our two girls from a breeder. Both are very nice, and will do just about everything you've stated. Both will try to scurry away though if we try to pet them or pick them up. When I changed their cage the other day I had to move both of them out of it and they squeaked a little in fight when i picked them up, and our white female rolled onto her back, but both were otherwise non aggressive. I love um to death, and really want them to trust me. I have the same questions as above, and also should I keep trying to pick them up?
Girl rats are going to be movers and explorers by nature anyway. Most of them just can't keep still. From everything I'm seeing twister, your rats are well on their way to being socialized. There are specific things you can do to enhance the process, but as long as you are patient, they'll get there. Some rats take a month or more of daily extended contact to be totally socialized.

Thero, it would depend on how you're picking them up I think? For example, rats are prey animals and anything swooping down from above to grab them is a terrifying predatory action to them. As is coming into the cage suddenly while they are sleeping. So the best way to pick up a rat is to let the rat see you coming in low and scooping under the rat from either side, smoothly and calmly, and talking to them the whole time. There's a bit of an art to it, as fearful rats can be dodgy. Don't chase them around the cage too much if the slip away and keep it low 'energy'. Usually gently scoop one hand around their bum to keep them from backing out of my hands, and the other supporting both under and to the other side. I will often use tunnels to pick them up rather than traumatize them by chasing them. Let them run into a tunnel in the cage and pick them up in the tunnel. If they're sleeping, I come to the cage and start talking to them until they are all awake, active and interested in what treats I'm bringing before I even open the door.

Here's some sites that give sound suggestions to both of you on rat socializing.

Here's a site that offers video instruction on how to work with rats. They use the 'forced' socialization technique, but be aware that there's nothing 'forced' about it. Some rat lovers don't advocate this kind of training, but say you should always let the rat choose to initiate contact (non-forced socialization). I say it depends on the rat and the situation. I think everyone should try extensive non-forced socialization first, but I also think that forced socialization has it's place: (This site is very nice. It criticises an unnamed rat site for suggesting forced contact. I'm pretty sure it's probably talking about the one above. Like I said, non-forced socialization is better to try first and often.).
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Yes, we didn't use forced socialization with our boys. We just stayed patient, let them take as much time as they needed to learn our voices, smells and so forth, and took it slow. They just need to learn that you are not a threat and nothing bad will happen to them. The spoon of yogurt or baby food is always a great tool of course. Talking in low, soothing tones to them is always great too. They get used to hearing you and learning the sound of your voice. Treats are always a great incentive with ratties too. Especially ones where they need to come to you to get the treat and stay there, like the spoon of yummies we already talked about. No worries...they just need time, love and patience!
Good posts by Storyseeker and Vlad! Just take it slowly, and work at it several times throughout the day for short periods of time, gradually building up the amount of time you spend with them in each sitting. Rats are generally easy to tame once they get used to you, but it does take persistence and patience if they haven't come pre-socialized. Hooded sweatshirts with a pouch in front are great to use, because they can hide in the pouch while also having physical contact with you. Once they are used to you enough for you to be able to pick them up fairly easily, that would be a great step. :)
The good news is with ratties, especially girls, curiosity wins out over fear eventually in the vast majority of cases. But you can actually slow down the process if you rush it or force it too much. If you talk to them frequently, offer them your hand in non-threatening way, leave the cage doors open so they can check you out at will, offer loads of treats, etc, they won't be able to resist. But every time you chase a nervous rat around its cage or pick it up and hold it when it's squeaking and trying to get loose you slow that process down because they perceive you as a threat.

My girl Lila was badly mistreated and didn't want any hands around her at all. She would even bite. Now if I approach the cage she wants to come to me, she'll let me rub her and sit in my hand and take treats from my hand, but she still doesn't want to be picked up or held down. She'd rather sit on me but still be loose. She may not ever be very comfortable with being man handled but it doesn't really affect our relationship. I'm fine with doing it on her terms.
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