Beginner owner in need of help

dmc0811

New Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
Messages
3
Location
florida
I posted this on Reddit but thought I should share on here as well.

I got my first rats (2 males) after a long time of researching and saving up! According to the breeder, they were about 1.5 months old when I got them. Sunday will be 2 weeks since I’ve had them and they’ve settled in for the most part, but they’re still so scared of me :(

I did a bathtub bonding session for the first time last night which went okay, nothing monumental happened, but today they woke up terrified of me curling up in the corner of the cage? Some days they’re friendly and other days they act like that.. is that normal?

They don’t use any toys, hammocks, or ropes i got them unless treats are involved (with the hammocks). They’re not very interested in anything besides hiding. Hell, they’re not even eating their Oxbow food which according to everyone is the best. I’m trying to wean them off of Mazuri which is what they ate with the breeder and they only eat the Oxbow once they run out of the Mazuri blocks.

When cage cleaning day comes around I put them in my bathtub. I have the You and Me Rat Manor if that helps with context and tips. For now I’m too scared to let them free roam my bedroom just in case they hide and never come out.

I don’t know how well they were socialized, if at all, before I got them. I assumed they were used to people and were okay with being held, but again, I don’t know how they were treated before I got them.

I really want to be able to hold them, cuddle them, pet them, play with them, etc. with ease but everyday seems like 1 step forward and 2 steps back. How do I get them to love me and not associate me with fear?
Does anyone have any tips on socializing shy rats, what I’m doing wrong, what I should be doing etc.??

EDIT: more info:
sometimes even if i look at them they’ll run :(
i try to baby talk them and just talk to them in general, i put my hand in they cage and they’ll smell and nibble sometimes, but eye contact freaks them out!!
 

Kye

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2019
Messages
138
Location
Maine
Alright well first thing, I wouldn't get anymore rats from that person. As for bonding sit by the cage and just talk to them ! Literally talk about anything so they get used to your voice and smell. If you want to you can try to sit with just your hands and wrist inside the cage while you chatter, you can even hold their favorite treats to try and convince them to come out. Some rats are just jumpy but that sounds extreme, I personally wouldn't take them out of the cage unless you're cleaning so they can feel comfortable and I'd also try to add quite a few ground hiding spots for them in the mean time maybe even make a 'tunnel' close to the cage door so they can feel protected while also figuring you out
 

dmc0811

New Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
Messages
3
Location
florida
Alright well first thing, I wouldn't get anymore rats from that person. As for bonding sit by the cage and just talk to them ! Literally talk about anything so they get used to your voice and smell. If you want to you can try to sit with just your hands and wrist inside the cage while you chatter, you can even hold their favorite treats to try and convince them to come out. Some rats are just jumpy but that sounds extreme, I personally wouldn't take them out of the cage unless you're cleaning so they can feel comfortable and I'd also try to add quite a few ground hiding spots for them in the mean time maybe even make a 'tunnel' close to the cage door so they can feel protected while also figuring you out
thanks for the advice. i took them out while cleaning their cage in the (rat-proofed) bathroom today and they were running through my legs and feet but when i’d look at them they’d go to hide so idk if they knew the legs and feet were mine haha. i’m in the process of making a makeshift playpen and figuring out area that u don’t have to move them to. i’m also trying to figure out what treats would be irresistible to them because the ones i have now store bought and yogurt and fruit are only taken when they’re in a more optimistic mood.
 

Rattdad

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2019
Messages
36
Location
Rhode Island
Just take things slow and be patient. I would continue to take them out if I were you, in a safe, fun room (perhaps with a few healthy treats--you can hide them around some boxes so they can look for them, then they'll associate playtime with the treats); after some time, they'll get used to them. They may just be freaking out because they were taken away from what they knew as their home. If you're a good pet owner, they'll come to associate you with fun, comfort, food, etc. The best advice I can give you is, do your best to try to see the world as they see it. Like a lot of animals, rats don't gaze lovingly into the eyes of humans; they may perceive you looking at them as challenging or frightening (which is what dogs do). Another example--for a person, it's easiest to pick up a rat by just grabbing it around it's body, but this is scary for most rats (at least until they trust you). They are much more comfortable being picked up by having you gently cup your hands and picking them up that way. So part of earning their trust is you learning to respect the way they see the world and adjusting your behavior accordingly.
 

Rattdad

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2019
Messages
36
Location
Rhode Island
By the way, it's always tricky to socialize rats, but the ones I had that were most like the ones you're describing were my daughter's first ones, also from a breeder. (All of my others, about ten over the years, have been from a rescue.) I went to the breeder's house, and the rat room seemed like a crazy, dirty, chaotic hell hole, to be honest with you. But to the three rats that we took home, it was probably very pleasant to be surrounded by lots of other rats. They spent the first two weeks terrified of us and huddled in the corner of their cage. The breeder told us to handle them a lot and they would come around--and they did.
 

dmc0811

New Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
Messages
3
Location
florida
By the way, it's always tricky to socialize rats, but the ones I had that were most like the ones you're describing were my daughter's first ones, also from a breeder. (All of my others, about ten over the years, have been from a rescue.) I went to the breeder's house, and the rat room seemed like a crazy, dirty, chaotic hell hole, to be honest with you. But to the three rats that we took home, it was probably very pleasant to be surrounded by lots of other rats. They spent the first two weeks terrified of us and huddled in the corner of their cage. The breeder told us to handle them a lot and they would come around--and they did.
thank you for all the info and encouragement! it’s been almost a month and still dont like being handled, pet, and takes them a little push to get them to come out and play but i feel like slowly but surely they’re coming around :)
 

madinaholic

Member
Joined
Nov 23, 2020
Messages
22
Location
Sheffield, UK
It took me quite a while to socialise my two girls. They were terrified of me at first and I don’t think they’d been socialised at all beforehand. I spent lots of time sat by their cage, put lickable treats like baby food and soy milk on my hands so they would have to interact with me and start to associate me with good things, and put an old item of clothing of mine in their cage so they would get used to my scent. After they got somewhat used to me and were no longer terrified, it was a case of handling them gently a lot even when it seemed like they didn’t like it, but being sure to not push them too far and only for short periods at a time. Rattdad’s point about picking then up by cupping them is a good tip as mine still don’t like being picked up around their entire body but will happily let me cup them or they’ll climb into my hands.

The real turning point for me was letting them climb inside my sweatshirt - they LOVE running around inside my sleeves and this helps them to associate your scent with safety and fun. They also love running around on my bed under my blankets for the same reason. You can try picking them up and putting them down while they’re still under the blanket so it’s less frightening for them. You can also try coaxing them into a box to get them into a rat-proofed area to play/socialise to avoid excessive handling or try petting them briefly while they’re sleepy as they’re less likely to run away but will soon learn it’s not a threat.

Glad to see your boys are doing better though! They just need lots of patience and lots of treats and I’m sure you’ll have them fully socialised in no time :) Mine LOVE Cheerios and cornflakes (sugar free) and you can break these up into smaller pieces to avoid giving them too much food but still be able to give them lots of treats to reinforce positive association.
 

Pepper_rat

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 9, 2020
Messages
106
Location
New York
My shy rats have taught me so much patience! It has taken me over a year to be able to handle my PEW girl Mac who came from a rat mill and was mistreated for the first 4 or so months of her life. Your boys will come around and realize that you are kind and just want to be their friend. It sounds like you’re off to a good start! I recommend liquid treats like baby food or malt paste (my girls are obsessed with malt paste) as they are forced to stay near you and lick it off your finger or a spoon. I also spent a lot of time just sitting with Mac. No eye contact, and only slow movements and just softly talking to her, showing her that I’m not going to hurt her. We have had regressions as with all my shy girls but I think once they trust you, you can work through that pretty quickly. Just give them time to trust you. In terms of breeders that’s been a hit or miss for me. I’ve gotten pretty much a 50/50 split of great rats and shy rats from breeders but the nice thing about breeder rats is at least I know they’re going to have pretty stable personalities. Rat mill rats like Mac have random genetics and it definitely shows as she’s a lot more changeable and less stable than my other girls.
I hope all goes well with your boys!
 

Latest posts

Top