First time with antisocial rats, HELP!


New Member
Jun 4, 2019
Düsseldorf, Deutschland
Hi everyone, I really need your help with my rats. I really don't know what else I can do with them.
Two weeks ago I got my rats from a breeder (my boyfriend got them for me as a surprise and he didn't have any idea that these rats almost don't have human socialization)
At first they were scared, like any other rat in a new environment.
A short time later I realized that these rats have no interaction with humans. They were terrified of being touched and of course being lifted up. I bought snacks for them, but they're not interested in food at all. Shortly after, the oldest one "Bam Bam" got a little bit used to me, and she got snacks from my hand. The smaller "Bambina" is completely terrified of me, she is not interested at all in food or cuddles or anything. Both are females. They have a big cage, with hammocks, toys, balls, platforms, everything, but everytime they're inside of the cage they get crazy, biting the bars for like 30 mins. They are out of the cage practically all day, Bam Bam likes to explore a little bit, but Bambina just wants to find a place to hide, and stays there for hours!
They don't have any interest in playing with me or their toys. I know they have a lot of energy (both are female) but what can I do if they just want to hide?
I wouldn't have any problem to have them outside all day and night if they want, but they urinate and defecate everywhere. I really don't know what to do, I have tried everything so far, they just want to escape and not being touched, that's all. It's the first time I got rats so I don't know what I should do. Everyone has told me to leave them in a shelter but I don't want to give up on them. Please help us :(


New Member
Jun 4, 2019
Bath, UK
There are lots of things you could try. I suggest keeping them in their cage for a while until they know you. The first thing they will get to know is your hands and your voice. Talk to them a lot, you can just waffle on about anything but in a soothing voice. Put something yummy on your fingers - yoghurt, chocolate sauce, peanut butter, honey, hummus, and let them lick it off. If they accidentally bite you say "no" in a stern voice, and maybe move your fingers away. ( You might do that automatically anyway!) After a while they should learn that your voice and fingers equate tasty treats. You can simply leave your hand in the cage for a while so they get to know it. Put your hand in their bed and let it snuggle with them for a bit perhaps.

You can then start stroking them a little with your fingers and playing with them. Rats like rough and tumble: turn your hand into a rat and play. When rats play they fight for dominance by trying to get their opponent on its back. If they are now playing try that. It will mean you are the boss.

Rats like having their heads stroked, especially cheeks and behind the ears. See if they will go for that. See if you can pick up a rat, then put it straight back down. Keep doing that.
mDo not let them free range yet. Wait until you are in the pack. More than that: you need to end up rat god.

If you can contain them carry them about on you. A snuggly fleece is good for that ( weather dependent), a large cotton scarf around your neck will help protect your delicate skin as they sit there. Maybe one rat at a time until you are sure they won't get down, and keep standing up to start with. They need to learn that you are the safe place, not the enemy. Stroke the rat while it rides on you. If you can sit with the rat without it doing a runner cuddle it if it will let you. Keep talking to them, by name. Put them back in the cage. Play. Offer them sweet stuff to lick off your fingers.

Eventually you should be able to give them snacks at the door of the cage. Cornflakes or some such small easy to come by cereal. Get them to come when you call their names maybe. I work up to the rats jumping out onto me when I call, then they get a snack. Currently I have one who clearly thinks that is ridiculous and isn't having any of it, but the others enjoy the game. Some will sit on me expecting an endless supply of cornflakes for being there, others will jump back into the cage to eat, then jump back out for the next snack. When I get them out to play they will readily jump onto me when I call - apart from the one who won't... It will take ages for this to happen. Be patient.

Don't let the rats out to play at all during this process. You are becoming their entertainment. you are teaching them to play. Later you can teach them how to play outside their cage because they will trust you and be prepared to come back to you. Start with a small area to play in, if you can contain them. In the past I've used a connecting corridor with all the doors shut and some empty boxes. Rats like chasing sticks, rub the end on the floor so it makes a noise. some will move on to chasing your finger on the floor. Or wrestle them. Call them for treats. For soppy rats just the sofa - took them ages to work out how to get down - I'm talking months, and it's comfy for humans!

I give my rats torn up kitchen roll every day that they drag into their nest to make a bed. I take it out the next day and they do it again. It's rat behaviour, give them that option.

I fully concede that this might not work at all with your rats, each rat has its own personality. It has worked for me with reluctant rats I have known. Good luck.


Well-Known Member
Jan 28, 2019
Minnesota, USA
First off, I'd like to say, welcome to the forum! I'm sad to hear that the girls are scared, but I've had some experience with scared or shy rats. The one thing I will always recommend-- never force a relationship on the animal. I know having our small companions is supposed to mean a rewarding, loving relationship, but not all rats like this. Let the rat come to you. Be patient. I had a rat, who used to bite me all the time, suddenly change his mind and decide that he wanted me. Now, my Grumpy gives me kisses at every turn and wants to help me with everything. I had one before him who, shortly after losing his littermate, started seeking me out for comfort, after being a rat who enjoyed his own space and very rarely came to me for anything besides food. Losing Amun was incredibly difficult on my sweet Maddox. It's feels like that rats sometimes just wake up and think, "I want that human. I want their kisses and cuddles."

I generally offer a treat, see that they don't want it, drop a few on the ground in front of them, and then retreat. It takes a while, but a number of my untrusting boys are now trusting of me. I generally go through a week or two just talking to them, and then starting physical contact. For some rats (such as my two newest, extremely friendly boys), I can speed this process up. For most rescues, this usually goes on longer than one or two weeks. I have one boy who, after nearly a year of having him, is just starting to warm up to me. Is it necessarily going to take a year for you? No. He just took it very slowly and required more time to himself.

I would also like to iterate-- rats will sometimes mistakenly bite your fingers. Rats have poor eyesight to begin with, but ruby/red/scarlet/whatever shade of red you want to call it-eyed rats have even worse eyesight. Rats follow their noses. They may accidentally bite your fingers thinking its food. People use the word "no" or they do a sharp noise such a squeak or for me, I do a stern "Uh-uh." Rat learn over time what they can and can't bite. My older rats, when they're unsure of what's in front of them, will gently put their teeth on it (sometimes my fingers) and quickly figure out that's not food and let go and then go for the treats. Also, jerking away your hand immediately after a bite, just teaches a fear-based aggressive rat to learn that biting means that they'll be left alone. It hurts, trust me, but then figuring out that biting isn't going to work is sometimes a godsend.

I've heard of some not recommending wrestling with the rats or allowing them to chase your finger, sometimes this can cause aggression issues. When I first got my rats, there were often a lot of misunderstandings between my rats and I if I was playing or if I was trying to wrestle for dominance. I was mistakenly bitten a few times because I crossed the line, got too rough, or they were just confused about my intentions. However, I did have one boy who loved to wrestle with my hand. It's up to you to gauge your rats' reaction. Since your two girls don't trust you right now, I would recommend against wrestling with them or allowing them to chase your finger.

However, scratching the floor, letting them chase things, etc. is a great form of entertainment for you and the rats involved.

As for handling, I will just just transport my rats between their cage and a safe space (bathroom, playpen, etc.) and just let them explore without me. They can come to me when they want to, but they can play and explore without me bugging them. I'm right there to make sure they don't get into trouble, though. As for putting them on your shoulder or in a little bag, that may be progressing just a little too fast. Again, it's up to you.

I hope this helps! Good luck! Remember, patience with scared rats is the best method. If you can't hold them, talk to them and just gently set treat down in front of them.


Loving rats since 2002.
Staff member
Jul 21, 2007
Northeastern Ontario
I agree with keeping them more in the cage might be better. Rats being a prey animal are usually not that comfortable in wide open spaces. Let them get used to you, their home and as they develop more confidence give them more space to play in. When taking them out to play, sit on your bed, have a big sheet, place over them and you and just talk soothingly with them which they cuddle and hide. They need to smell you while feeling comfort. Soon enough, they will relate your smell with comfort, food and love.
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