Making the Best of a Bad Situation?

Topics on behaviour, taming, companionship, introductions, and training
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Making the Best of a Bad Situation?

Post by Aloobah » Fri Jul 28, 2017 12:46 pm

Hello everybody. I have 2 female rats that I have had for over a year now. I got them from a lady who had bought them from a pet shop for her two children. She told me they had kept rats before, however her children were not as interested in them as she had hoped and one of them was even scared of them.

A lot of this is my fault. Basically when I get an idea in my head I got for it. I'd had rats in the past and the most amazing pets. I hadn't had rats for about 7 years or so and I was ready to take on some more. I wanted to get some rats from someone who couldn't keep them anymore rather than buying from a pet shop. Mistake number 1.

So I get to this place and the lady tells me they haven't been handled much, but seem friendly. She tried to get one out and it was a struggle, but she finally managed and put the rat on my shoulder. I fell in love instantly, in hindsight I admit I was a bit caught up in the moment. I didn't take in any of the red flags that were coming up like how stressed out the rats were and how one of them was cowering in the corner after the lady attempted to get her out. This was mistake number 2.

So being caught up in the moment as I was, with this gorgeous grey and white female rat on my shoulder I said I'd take them. What could possibly go wrong? Sure they were a bit skittish, but all they'd need was a bit of persistence and tlc. Boy was I wrong.

Forward to today and my rats are unhandalable. Every time I have attempted to hold them I get bit quite badly. I've tried everything. They have no problems with being stroked at all. They are lovely little ratties, they just hate actually being picked up and held. Clearly they've had an extremely bad experience with it in the past. I don't know what happened to them before they got to me, but it can't be anything good.

So my first question is how do I make the best of this situation? I feel absolutely awful that I can't handle them. However, they clearly are a lot more comfortable this way. The only problem is boredom. They are clearly very bored because I can't interact with them hardly at all. I keep buying them toys and hanging treats and such, but they destroy them all in seconds. I give them little treats balls and puzzles and that works, but they can't have those every day. Does anyone have any ideas on how I could improve the quality of life for the ratties? I feel so terrible that they're so bored all the time.

My second question is how would they react if I got a couple of new rats? I was thinking boys, but would the boys become agitated being around girls? They'd be in separate cages of course, but they would be in the same room. Would it be better if I got girls instead? I do miss having ratty cuddles and play time and unfortunately that's not something that's going to happen with my current pair.

What does everyone think? Thank you in advance for any advice.

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Re: Making the Best of a Bad Situation?

Post by [cub] » Fri Jul 28, 2017 2:35 pm

First of all, not buying animals from a pet shop was definitely not a mistake. ;) Rats from pet shops will have a poor genetic background, since the breeders that supply them don't get any behavioural or health updates beyond a few weeks after purchase, and therefore will have great difficulty in breeding away from any such problems in their lines (if they even bother doing so). Often the rats aren't handled much either (and sometimes mishandled), so as well as poor genetics they're also likely to have a poor environmental start in life. Additionally, outbreaks of infectious diseases aren't uncommon in pet shops so not only do you risk buying ill rats, but if you already have rats and are adding to your colony, you risk infecting your original rats unless you can quarantine effectively. Here are some articles on sourcing rats responsibly:
Buying rats from petshops: ... f=111&t=76
Photos from a rodent farm: Note that this is likely to be one of the better farms, since it allowed visitors and photos.
Adopting from rescue: ... f=111&t=77
Buying from a breeder: ... f=111&t=50
More on buying from a breeder: ... ome-advice
More on sourcing rats:

If you post some photos of their cage, people can offer suggestions as to how to make it more interesting for them. Scatter feeding is the easiest way of enriching their lives, if you don't do that already.

Confident rat friends may help them become more human-sociable. If you want to switch to keeping boys then you'll need to think about what you'll do when one of your current girls dies: rats pretty much need company, so at that point you'll need to either rehome your remaining girl so she doesn't need to be alone, or borrow a friend or two for her to keep her company in her final days. Alternatively, if you adopt neutered boys (sometimes available in rescue, or you can adopt boys and have them neutered yourself) then you'll be able to introduce them to your girls 2 weeks after the op. Alternatively, you could have your current girls spayed, which as a bonus should reduce the likelihood that they'll develop mammary or pituitary tumours in future, and possibly has an outside chance of reducing their aggression.
Poo-shoveller to: Calyn, Din, and Zephyr Mick Jagger (Edgeworth).
Fondly remembering: Zephyr Donovan (Phoenix) the big dope, Xeltan, Lita (NLA32), Lia (NLA28), Zephyr Delanynder (NLA28), Falere (NLA36), Mirala (NLA36), Zephyr Opold, and Rila.

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