I think I made my new rats hate me

Topics on behaviour, taming, companionship, introductions, and training
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I think I made my new rats hate me

Post by ratloid » Sat Aug 24, 2019 11:20 pm

Hello everyone. I'm a new rat owner, I got two boys a little less than a week ago. They were very fearful of me the first couple days but they started accepting treats i passed them through the bars and i even got them to lick yoghurt from my finger almost outside the cage, whenever i tried petting them they ran away. Their cage started smelling very bad so i decided i had to clean it, the only problem is that I had never picked up my rats and they were still very skittish. I managed to get them out by picking them up, I wasn't able to lure them onto my hand with a treat like in every video i watched, and put them in a box which i then placed in the play pen I had made for them before i got them; I got inside with them since for some play time. I had heard that rats feel more comfortable in a new fre roam area if you place them on your lap and cover it with a blanket; I did this and they were terrified, they pooped everywhere on the floor and my clothes; I let them go and they kept trying to escape. I had to pick them up to put them inside the cage and they squealed and tried to get away, inside the cage they just froze, now they won't take treats and run away from me, I'm really worried i undid all the progress I had made. What should I do?

tldr: have had skittish baby rats for 5 days , hate being picked up, hate free roam and being out of the cage. Did I move too fast trying to socialize with them? What do I do to make them comfortable with me again?

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Re: I think I made my new rats hate me

Post by [cub] » Sun Aug 25, 2019 11:19 am

I mean, I'm not sure what you expect from rats that: (i) are probably not from a good background, given how skittish they are; (ii) you've only had 5 days. :P Additionally, if you cleaned everything in their cage when you cleaned them out, it will have smelled significantly different afterwards, so that would explain why they were so nervous in it afterwards. I spot clean my rat cage every day: I don't do much, just wipe anything that needs wiping and change anything that needs changing, but the fact that I'm doing a little each day rather than a whole lot at once means that nothing gets disgusting, but the cage still smells adequately of its occupants for them to feel at home.

Step 1, reconsider your cage layout. Take out any enclosed accessories: no enclosed beds, tunnels, or huts; nothing they can hide away in and that it'd be hard to get them out of. Replace them with open toys: ropes, hanging ladders, flat hammocks. Don't make the layout too empty and exposed, since rats are prey animals and generally feel anxious if they haven't got some cover. But make sure you can easily access all areas of the cage and that they can't completely hide themselves away from you.

Step 2, make sure the cage is somewhere that you spend a lot of time in. You don't have to spend time interacting with the rats, just being in the same room, wandering around and doing your own thing will get them used to you.

Step 3, get a carrier if you haven't got one already, and put the rats in that when you need to clean them out. As previously noted, rats tend to get anxious in open spaces like playpens. Additionally, if they're not used to being handled by you, they'll also be difficult to catch in a big space like a playpen. So of course their free range experience is going to be terrifying because they're in a big open space that they're not comfortable with, and then because a strange human they don't know is chasing them around trying to catch them afterwards. You need to get them comfortable with their new home and with their new human before you start free ranging them.

When you need pick them up, go in quickly and without hesitation. The more polite and cautious you are, the more likely it is to turn into a big chase around the cage, which is actually more stressful for them than a quick matter-of-fact grab.

Beyond that, there are various approaches to socialising your rats. You can go for a more laid back approach like this one: http://www.isamurats.co.uk/patience-method.html

Or you can go for a more direct method like this one:

There's a playlist of socialisation tips here, including this good introductory video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fnml_eA ... z2&index=4

But for now I'd just focus on sorting out the cage layout and getting the rats used to their new home and human. It helps if you have a routine: if they're always fed at certain times of day, etc, so they know what to expect from their new lifestyle.
Poo-shoveller to: Calyn (NLA32), Zephyr Nyahir, Zephyr Zymandis, Zephyr Blasto.
Fondly remembering: Zephyr Mick Jagger (Edgeworth), Din (NLA28), Zephyr Donovan (Phoenix), Xeltan, Lita (NLA32), Lia (NLA28), Zephyr Delanynder (NLA28), Falere (NLA36), Mirala (NLA36), Zephyr Opold, and Rila.

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