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 Post subject: I thought rats were supposed to be good pets?
 Post Posted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 7:04 pm 
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Yet mine will absolutely under no circumstances tolerate being picked up or touched. They're only 4 months old. They were not abused. We've tried everything. Being gentle. Being forceful. Trying to build trust. Trying to coax with food. NOTHING WORKS.

What's the trick? Have I just been being lied about how great and social rats are?


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 Post subject: Re: I thought rats were supposed to be good pets?
 Post Posted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 7:32 pm 
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Joined: Sun Apr 09, 2017 7:26 pm
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Hello, this is Ghost Signal's wife :)

Here is some background info on our rats:
They are two boys, acquired from the Humane Society (they were born there). To my knowledge they were not socialized much as babies. We've had them for about 3 weeks. They don't bite, but they do squeak and try to get away when I've tried to pick them up.


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 Post subject: Re: I thought rats were supposed to be good pets?
 Post Posted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 8:52 pm 
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Joined: Sat Aug 13, 2011 1:39 pm
Posts: 437
Location: Leicestershire, UK
If they've not had any real human contact until three weeks ago, they will understandably be very wary of people - after all, they're naturally prey animals and we're enormous! My first rats came from a similar background, and it did take longer than usual to get them to come around - there were times when I genuinely thought it'd never happen, but we made it! (And one of them in particular turned out to be a real little daddy's girl :love: )

Rats are great pets and are generally very social, but you get back what you put in - and unfortunately you've been left with catching up on what other people should have put in earlier! It will take time and a lot of perseverance, but you can get them to come around :)

Since I'm not sure exactly what you have and haven't tried so far, the first thing I'd suggest is to remove anything from their cage that they could hide in or under - they can have these back later, but for now they need to be forced to engage with the outside world. Make sure the cage is somewhere where they'll see you frequently, and just by seeing you come and go through the day without harming them, it'll help them settle.

One way to get them used to being handled is to initially let them get used to your hand being around them - if you can just sit with your hand in the cage, they can get used to it being there, and get used to your scent etc and learn that it's not associated with danger.

If you're able to pick them up without chasing them round too much (which I assume is the case since you mentioned them squeaking and trying to get away?) then that's a good start - squeaking and squirming isn't unusual at all with nervous rats, and often can be overcome just with repeat handling. If possible, pick them up, hold them securely for a few seconds without letting them escape, then set them back down in the cage on your terms - they learn that being picked up isn't dangerous and that they just have to deal with it, and again, will get used to it. (Some rats will always be dramatic about being handled, but that's another thing altogether!)

Hiding them in a dressing gown or jumper that you're wearing is a good way to get them used to you too - they come to associate your smell with warm/dark/comfy/safe. If you can keep them in there for 20 minutes or so at a time then that's great - as a general rule, rats will stop fearing things within that time frame, and then they start having fun instead.

Some rats are just naturally more people-centric than others, so you'll get some that're cuddly and others that just want to explore, but they will all form a bond of one form or another with the people around them (some more easily than others). It's rotten luck if you've got a tougher start for your first time out, but I know from experience that with time and effort it can be done, and it's well worth it by the end of it~

Best of luck to the both of you, I'm sure others can give you more advice soon too! :luck:

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Boys: Badger and Casper

Gone but never forgotten: Twenty-two beautiful whiskery angels~


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 Post subject: Re: I thought rats were supposed to be good pets?
 Post Posted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 9:17 pm 
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Allegedly, at least one of them had been handled previous to us owning them, but since we didn't do the handling, we have only someone else's word to take on that point. If it's true, the previous handling by someone else has done nothing to help us be able to handle them.

The cage is in the middle of the room we inhabit, so they're constantly seeing us.

So we should remove everything from the cage? For how long? If this process can take considerable time, are we to leave them with a bare cage for months or however long the process takes?

We have both sat with our hand(s) in the cage for maybe up to 15 minutes at a time. Both will gladly touch us, but WILL NOT let us touch them. Even trying to lightly pet them with a finger results in them simply moving as far away from the hand as possible. They don't associate our hands with danger. They simply see them as things with interesting scents that they want no part of as soon as the hand moves.

Picking them up is out of the question. I've ready many posts about how they just have to get used to being held, but how do you get them used to something they absolutely refuse to do under any circumstances?

We can't put them in a piece of clothing that we're wearing because doing would require to be picked up, which is out of the question.

"Some rats are just naturally more people-centric than others, so you'll get some that're cuddly and others that just want to explore, but they will all form a bond of one form or another with the people around them (some more easily than others). It's rotten luck if you've got a tougher start for your first time out, but I know from experience that with time and effort it can be done, and it's well worth it by the end of it~"

This is a version of what I keep reading, but the question remains; how do you get a rat to do what it refuses to do?


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 Post subject: Re: I thought rats were supposed to be good pets?
 Post Posted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 8:53 am 
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I presume since you mention the Humane Society that you are in America, so I can't suggest asking if one of our members could pop round and help in person!

The cage doesn't need to be bare, just keep to open style furnishings - flat hammocks, open topped baskets, ropes, rather than closed ones - huts, tubes, multi-layer hammocks. This prevents them from hiding from you, and means that you can reach them wherever they are.

It doesn't sound as though yours are nervous though, just that they see no reason to seek you out, and choose therefore to avoid you.

You can encourage them to interact with you by offering something wet and tasty on your fingertip - yoghurt is usually popular, but a bit of fish paste would work too.

I do, however, think the method of keeping them on you for 20 minutes minimum is going to be the most useful for you. To get them out of the cage (an important process, even if it's just for cleaning out!), tempt them into a tube, box, or bag first, and then lift them out before transferring into your clothing. Move into a different part of your home so that the cage is not within reach, and you will then become their most familiar and therefore safe place to be. If you stand up or sit on a chair, then they will have no other places to aim for, and should begin to focus on how nice it is being with you. Take some treats, or just slip your hand in with them and snuggle it up to them with occasional strokes and massages, as though it were another rat. Don't forget to talk or sing to them while you're doing this, rats usually find human singing fascinating!

Do this at least once a day, and you should start to see some improvement after a week. :luck:

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Mary x

my websites: Cyber Rats (picture site) / Zephyr Stud (rattery site)


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 Post subject: Re: I thought rats were supposed to be good pets?
 Post Posted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 12:01 pm 
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Best of luck, let us know how you get on :luck:

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 Post subject: Re: I thought rats were supposed to be good pets?
 Post Posted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 12:16 pm 
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It has been a while since I had rats, but one of our boys was very timid of us. He had been well handled by the lady who rescued them. It turned out to be mostly our fault that made Mario timid of us. We were overly gentle and not confident in handling him ourselves (they were our first rats), because he squeaked when we tried to pick him up, we tended to over compensate with treats and going back steps and stopped trying to pick him up. After advice from the brilliant people on this forum, I just went and picked him up, despite his squeaks I just held him and gave him a treat. He stopped squeaking, soon after he was a big softy cuddly dope just like the rest of them. Rats are super intelligent and do pick up on your emotions. Keep trying and good luck x

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Dearly departed Mario and Taz, Luigi and Loki x forever in our hearts ratty babies x
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 Post subject: Re: I thought rats were supposed to be good pets?
 Post Posted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:12 pm 
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Location: Bristol, UK
As said, 20 minutes of being on you at least once a day is a great way to build trust. It will take time, maybe several months, for them to come around completely. It all depends on the rat. I've used this method though and it works well. I've had rats that I thought would NEVER come around, who eventually let me pick them up without much fuss. Giving them treats by hand is also a good way to build trust, as well as just stroking them gently. You will need patience, and to remain calm with them even if they're really getting on your nerves. They're still young, so you could have quite a long time with lovely, tame rats if you keep at it now.

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