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Very skittish girls, am I doing something wrong?
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Author:  Onthewires [ Sun Jul 30, 2017 11:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Very skittish girls, am I doing something wrong?

I've had my new girls for 3-4 weeks now, and am a bit worried that I'm not really making much progress in taming/trust training them. I've been using the hoody technique and trying to feed soft foods, but they're still very nervous and jump at practically everything I do, even if they're in the cage. Jeely, the older of the 3 (about 4-6 months) was a rescue found in a coffee shop. I'm not sure how long she was loose for but she's very suspicious of me coming after her and shoots off if I so much as sigh. The younger two are 11 weeks, Aisling is okay being handled but still hides from me during free-range, and Pangur is probably the worst - she's extremely jumpy and really freaks out if I come anywhere near her. I also think I've traumatised her today after a long struggle trying to get her out from behind a bookcase, so I think it's almost back to square one with her.

They've been having a lot of free-range time, mainly because my older girl Bea is used to having the cage open all the time if I'm in the room, but they rarely come near me when they're out, food or not. I assumed that by now, they would have learnt that I'm not a threat and be a bit more curious to come to me on their own. Jeely, ironically, is the one who takes the most interest, but she has moments when she will absolutely won't come near me, even after seeming calm, sitting on my shoulder etc.

I don't know if I'm just being really impatient or if there's more that I could be doing, but I'm sort of at a loss. I don't know whether it's worth me starting entirely from scratch with them because they're all so distrusting. Would it be advised to stop letting them out until they're really comfortable with me? They seem to really enjoy their playtime (when I am sitting perfectly still), but there are lots of unavoidable hiding spots in my room that pose a real problem when trying to put them back.

Any advice would be really appreciated, I've not had rats take this long to warm up to me before and I'm worrried it's because of something I've done.

Author:  cyber ratty [ Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Very skittish girls, am I doing something wrong?

I think starting from scratch would help - they've presumably learned in their short lives that avoiding people is the safest option, so preventing them doing that is the best way for them to learn that you are different. Hopefully Bea will help them. :luck:

Author:  Onthewires [ Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Very skittish girls, am I doing something wrong?

Thanks for the reply. I will try to strip the cage back as well so they don't have as many hiding places. As for free range, should I sit in the bath with them or something like that? Because they know the layout of my room I worry that the second they get let out again they'll go back to their old habits

Author:  [cub] [ Mon Jul 31, 2017 9:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Very skittish girls, am I doing something wrong?

Free ranging skittish rats in a large area with lots of hidey-holes is never going to go well. :lol: I'd look into building a small playpen instead of sitting in the bath with them, unless you have an exceptionally deep bathtub; I would expect a scared rat to be able to easily clear the side of a normal bathtub. At a guess, I'd put nothing in the playpen except you and the rats, so that you're the only interesting thing in there for them to explore.

Author:  Onthewires [ Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Very skittish girls, am I doing something wrong?

Hmm, will give it a go, however my main issue is space, hence why they are allowed pretty much anywhere in the room - I've got about a 2x2 foot bit of floor space and the rest is all furniture. I had them out last night and really tried to reward them each time they came near me, and they got really confident, Jeely was actually jumping from the floor to my back and all 3 would let me stroke them. Still generally quite skittish of movement but less bothered by me. However when it came to the the I usually put them away, they all hid and freaked out if I went near them.

I don't think it's handling they're worried about, more being chased and cornered, I don't know how I can break this cycle without forcing it and freaking them out more.

Author:  cyber ratty [ Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Very skittish girls, am I doing something wrong?

Are they able to access their cage while free ranging? Could you get them used to a routine of putting food in when you're ready for them to go home?

Author:  Onthewires [ Tue Aug 01, 2017 2:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Very skittish girls, am I doing something wrong?

They do have access, but it's via my bed (the SRS style door has a shelf which leads to the bed when the door is open, and then they have a tuff tube from the bed to the floor). I am trying to do that sort of routine as it's what I'd always done with my boys (who came flooding back at the sound of the food tub being shaken), however they currently don't really pay much notice. At times when I've managed to catch them and put them back, they rarely go straight for the food and will instead try to get out of the cage again. Do you think if I made a more direct ramp from the floor to the cage it would make much difference? I suppose that way I could lure them directly into the cage with treats or something?

Author:  Onthewires [ Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Very skittish girls, am I doing something wrong?

Just a little update, we are making progress! After blocking off some of their most awkward hiding places and removing all enclosed beds and toys in the cage, they seem to be learning that I'm not out to get them. I've been free ranging as normal, but making an effort to position myself in their main routes through the room, and it seems to be working to make them more interested in my presence. I'm also routinely picking them up and putting them back in the open cage when they're calm, so that when it comes to the real thing, they don't panic.

We've still got a long way to go, but definitely looking up, especially now that they've learnt I can be used as a climbing frame to get to higher and more exciting places. I think part of the problem was me leaving it up to them to come to me, I'm hindsight they were obviously very cautious because I only moved to either try to touch them or shove food in their faces. Fingers crossed we'll keep on improving :D

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