Page 1 of 1

New babies - reassurance needed!

Posted: Tue Nov 27, 2018 9:02 pm
by Clickbeetle85
Hi all,

I’ve just welcomed 4 baby rats into our home. They are all males, approximately 8 weeks old, and they came from a pet shop that breeds their own rats. I specifically got them from this particular shop as they have a great reputation for breeding friendly, sociable animals.

I brought them home on Saturday evening (3 days ago) and left them to get accustomed to their new home. I didn’t attempt to open the cage until Sunday evening when they woke up to play.

As of today (Tuesday) 2 of the boys are being pretty confident - licking, nibbling and climbing on my hands. I can scoop them up for a quick cuddle, but they’re still pretty quick so sometimes scoot away before I scoop them!

Baby number 3 was initially terrified and would freeze whenever I came near. He will now come down to nibble my hands, although he’s a little more “bitey” that I would like. I’ve been ‘eeking’ when he bites too hard, but I don’t want to scare him away. He takes treats from my hands, but I cannot scoop him up - can’t even get close to it.

Baby number 4 is incredibly timid and easily spooked. He spends most of his time hiding when I’m around. He has been to take a treat from me a couple of times, but it takes him several attempts to build up the courage. If I move my hand even a tiny bit he dashes away from me. He has also not been handled since he arrived home.

I really need some reassurance from people who have been in similar situations with nervous rats! I’ve had male rats in the past - 4 boys in fact - and I can only remember the good times, with cuddly and sociable boys. I can’t remember how I got them to that stage and I’m already feeling deflated about the 2 nervous boys.

It’s only been 3 days, so I don’t want to rush into things with them if they’re not ready. I just don’t want to let things go so far that they end up never being handled.

I’ve read up on various techniques for socialisation, including forced socialisation and trust training. I’d rather go with trust training - but how long do you let it go on with a particularly timid rat?

I’m sorry for the waffling on. I’m just getting myself worried about the 2 timid ones and, to a lesser extent, the slightly harder biting of baby 3.

Any reassurance or advice would be appreciated.


Re: New babies - reassurance needed!

Posted: Tue Nov 27, 2018 9:22 pm
by ScissorCrow
I think it's too soon to worry, give them more time. Sounds like you're doing the right things, you can offer runny food (weetabix, yoghurt, babyfood) on a metal spoon to encourage them to sit and eat in your presence instead of dashing off and so they learn not to bite down too hard.

You say baby 4 hides a lot, now they're settled you could take the hiding places out so they have to be out in the open but learn nothing bad will happen. So no boxes, tubes or enclosed hammocks. Just sit by the cage do a quiet task (read, knit, draw, whatever) you can talk quietly to them if you want.

When I socialise newcomers I have a cage that the door can open straight onto my bed and then I sit and read (try not to look directly at them, they can tell and are more fearful) and they slowly advance out to explore, the more confident ones first but the others eventually follow too. Be prepared for them to climb up on to the cage though and possibly get stuck and need a hand down. A small space like a bed or sofa is better than a whole room at first, especially when you're trying to get the to go back in the cage.

With baby3 nibbling too hard try balling your fist and offering knuckle to investigate, hurts less there. Mine grew out of the nibbling stage in a week or two.

When you can scoop them up you can pop them in a hoody or dressing gown and they will feel safe in the dark and pick up your scent, when they're ready they'll venture out.

Keep being patient, hopefully you'll notice changes in the next week :luck:

Re: New babies - reassurance needed!

Posted: Wed Nov 28, 2018 8:34 am
by Clickbeetle85
Thanks for your quick reply, ScissorCrow, and for your words of reassurance!

I know full well it’s too soon to worry - I just can’t help myself! :D All I remember about my previous boys is how calm and relaxed they were (my brain has obviously filtered out the flighty baby stage!)

I offered yoghurt on a spoon last night, and baby 4 (Brian) took it well (with a full body stretch to reach it!)

We’ve made a bit of progress this morning. I’ve discovered that they love cheerios, so I’m going to use this to my advantage during the socialisation phase.

I rested my whole forearm along the entrance to the cage, and handed them a cheerio if they put their feet on me. It took a little while, but even Brian gingerly put his paws on me in order to get the treat!
Baby 2 (Eric) even climbed onto my shoulder without any encouragement- woohoo!
Bitey baby (Graham) had a little chew on my hand, but gave up when he realised he wasn’t getting a reaction.
And baby 1 (Douglas) - he’s just a friendly little peanut! I have no worries about him!

I’m feeling a little more relaxed. I can tell it’s going to be a slower path to cuddles with Brian and Graham, but I’m prepared to work at it!
The cage is massive (Furet Tower), and it’s pretty awkward to reach all the corners and tubes, so they can hide away from me if they like - can’t really do anything about that!! Might try taking a few boxes out tonight during playtime and see how they react.

Thank you again for your reassurance. You wouldn’t believe I’d done this twice before would you? I sound like a first time parent! :lol:

Re: New babies - reassurance needed!

Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 7:41 pm
by Clickbeetle85
Update -

We’re about 7 weeks down the line now, and we’ve made some progress with the babies, but there are still a few issues.
Doug is an absolute gem. He’s very sociable, happy to be scooped up and fussed, pretty much bomb-proof.

Eric tolerates being picked up and held, but he’d rather be free to roam! Not frightened of us at all.

Graham is happy to come out and play, but we haven’t been able to pick him up yet. He isn’t keen on being touched, but enjoys exploring all around and over you when you sit on the floor.

Brian is the most timid. He’s happy to come out and play with the others, but is incredibly skittish and runs away if you make any sort of move at all. There is no chance of trying to touch him or pick him up - he bolts as soon as he sniffs my hand! Funny thing is, he will happily climb up me to get into my hood, and I can put my cheek on him when he’s sat on my shoulder. What up with that??!

They will all take food from our hands, lick yoghurt from our fingers etc. But if I put my hand on the floor anywhere near Brian, he will come over to sniff it and then run away.

How can I get Brian and Graham to trust us? It breaks my heart to see Brian so frightened of us. I don’t want to get to the point where they can’t be tamed.


Re: New babies - reassurance needed!

Posted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 9:22 am
by cyber ratty
I would definitely advise the '20 minutes in your clothing' method - it's no good letting them get away with avoiding being handled. You really do need to take control and they will be much more relaxed once they know that you are in charge.

Browse recent threads for details on how the sessions work, it's a very common issue. :luck:

Re: New babies - reassurance needed!

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 7:54 am
by Clickbeetle85
Thanks for the reply! I’ve been debating whether or not to use this method having read mixed reviews.

I’ve tried this with Brian last night and this morning. He hates it!! He does nothing but try to get away from me - he seems absolutely terrified. I’m worried that this will just make him associate being picked up and held with being terrified.

It’s weird, because as I’m typing this he’s currently sitting in my hood having climbed up there all my himself. How can he be so comfortable climbing up me, but so terrified of me going near him???

Re: New babies - reassurance needed!

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 6:52 pm
by cyber ratty
Rats can only be terrified for 20 minutes maximum, they 'thaw' after that, and will start to realise nothing dreadful happens to them. :)

He may be still nervous after the first couple of sessions, but he should improve.

When he's content in your hood, speak gently or sing to him, pop your hand up into the hood with him and give him slow strokes/massages. You could also try grinding your teeth together to make a sound like a rat bruxxing which may help to reassure him. Also, try wearing your hoody back to front and see if he'll still climb into the hood where it'll be easier for you to interact with him.

Re: New babies - reassurance needed!

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 7:16 pm
by Clickbeetle85
Thanks for the help Mary. I just went to pick him up (scoop from either side, not a grab) and he jumped about a foot into the air!! Not great.
He has been happily licking some custard off my fingers just now, so he doesn’t completely hate me. 😫

I’ll try the backwards dressing gown tomorrow morning to see if he’ll get in the hood. They always seem to be more receptive to new things/ human interaction etc. in a morning, so I may have more success then.

He’s such a sweetheart, I just hate seeing him so frightened.
On a positive note, Graham has allowed him to scoop him up several times today - he was the one I was most worried about over the last few weeks!

I may be back for more advice........

Re: New babies - reassurance needed!

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:49 am
by cyber ratty
I have to say, if I want to pick a nervous rat up then I just use my thumb and fingers around their chest and under their armpits ('backpack' method), but I am confident and quick in doing so, so they have no choice in the matter! I don't have time for tentative and cautious scooping in that sort of case, I find it works better to get it over with. :geek: