Help with a Scared Rescue Rat (won't leave cage)

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by bobatea, Aug 20, 2019.

Help Support Rat Shack Forum by donating:

  1. Aug 20, 2019 #1

    bobatea

    bobatea

    bobatea

    New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2019
    Messages:
    0
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Hawaii
    Hello!
    Just joined this forum in my search for help with my old girl, Boba! I've had rescue rats before but she just takes the cake! She is over one year old and I got her from a vet tech who rescued her from being put down at the lab. I don't know what specifically happened to her, but the tech said that she was just "studied" and grabbed a lot, so she doesn't like to be held. I've had her little over a year now and she will eat from my hand (she is albino and usually is a little aggressive about food but doesn't bite hard) but runs from me if she thinks I'm going to pick her up. Recently I've made a pen that sits around the cage so my younger girls can enter and exit the cage at will during playtime. Boba refuses to leave the cage. I have spent hours enticing her with food and she will lean out as far as she can without leaving. I worry she isn't getting the stimulation she needs! I picked her up and put her on the floor the other day and she ran into a hut and stayed there. She wouldn't take food on the floor but took some inside the hut. I had to pick her up to put her away since she wouldn't come out on her own. That made me think she doesn't feel safe out in the open but I'm not sure what to do about that! Any help/suggestions would be much appreciated!
     
  2. Aug 21, 2019 #2

    TheFatRatGirl

    TheFatRatGirl

    TheFatRatGirl

    New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2019
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Bristol, England
    Have you ever heard of a bonding pouch? I have one and it works wonders for my rats. It's basically just a soft 'bag' made of fleece with two holes at the top. You hang it around your neck and place the rat inside. Don't get me wrong, she'll probably be a bit startled at first, but it's a great way to really bond with nervous rats as she'll be concealed away inside of the comfy fleece so won't feel the same fear she feels out in the open. I usually pop a new rat in there just before sitting down to watch a film or something similar. Rats are just afraid of new things and if they're already fully grown when you get them (especially if they've had a rough start to life) they'll avoid new things at all costs. I place a hand inside of the pouch with the rat but don't touch them at first. After they've settled down a bit, and have grown accustomed to my scent in their space, I start to gently pet them and offer them little treats. I've had rats who were stiff with fear or jumpy that become floppy and content by the end of a movie; bruxing as I stroke them and even crawling out of the pouch to fall asleep directly on me instead! Give it a go, hopefully you'll make progress. :)
     
  3. Aug 21, 2019 #3

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2019
    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    221
    Location:
    Minnesota, USA
    Since Boba is an albino and has red eyes, she probably has much poorer vision than her black-eyed rat buddies, so she'll need a little extra love in that department. Rats, since they are prey animals, don't like big looming objects over their heads. That can spook them. It sure doesn't help when a big looming shadow is then associated with being tested on. From now on, try holding Boba by putting your hand at eye level with her and lifting her up that way. She may be a little confused that way, but she'll probably get used to it.

    Boba may just be very scared of coming out of the cage. If she was studied, she was likely never out of her cage without human hands involved. It sounds sad, but she may not know what out-of-cage time looks like. She'll need to come out on her own time, and be sure to reward her when she does (with food or pets if she enjoys them, but not any loud noises or sudden movements).

    As suggested by TheFatRatGirl, taking her out of her cage gently may also be a viable option. Since I don't have those adorable bonding pouches, I usually just use a hoodie or have the rat ride in my arms or on my shoulder. If she takes food during this bonding time, give her some. Make sure not to go towards loud, scary noises, or have her experience a generally scary time. We want to make the world outside her cage fun!
     
  4. Aug 21, 2019 #4

    Rocket99

    Rocket99

    Rocket99

    Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2018
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    38
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Just an FYI... I always approach my biters from above, NEVER from the front, or risk being bitten, more of a definite thing than a risk. So the "from above" approach has its benefits for sure. But.... I also gently rub their neck and upper back every time, to let them know i am no threat. As for the cage rats, i do the same and wait for sometimes months for them to come out onto my arm or shoulder on her own. Try to keep your hand closed and out of sight and offer her your arm while coaxing her with gentle spoken words. Often they will come out on your shoulder, but only after many many trials in which they will step out and step back, 2 feet out, 2 feet back, 3 out, 3 back. Usually, once i feel all 4 feet on my shoulder i will move away quickly but easilt, which sometimes causes a oanic but usualky they just accept it. Dont try to handle her, leave her on your shoulder and then move back so she can jump back into her cage. That is how she learns to trust you, when you strand her on your shoulder but then let her jump right back. She will probably take a LONG time, maybe days, maybe weeks, to do this. But if shes been affected by trauma associated with handling, even this tactic may not work. You may have to do the towel removal and then hold her while you assure her you are trustworthy. Could take months. Could never happen. If she is happy and social with other rats, why not just leave her be? Its what she wants, and she needs.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
  5. Aug 21, 2019 #5

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2019
    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    221
    Location:
    Minnesota, USA
    I've had biters rear up and go for my hands, mouth wide open and teeth bared... and this is when I was trying to pick them up from above. With this method, as soon as I generally grab on, the rat will often squeal and struggle and tear up your hands, hence why I like approaching them from the front.
    Yes, I've gotten bitten from both methods. At that point, I take the bite and keep going. I've found with my biters, taking my hand away just encourages the behavior.

    If I must, I really do make some noise (say their names, the treat jar rustling, etc.) to tell them I'm coming. I've found most bites I receive are 100% my fault because I spooked the rat. Owen's really the hormonal rat I've had and he was the one to rear up, teeth bared.
     
    Kye likes this.
  6. Aug 21, 2019 #6

    TheFatRatGirl

    TheFatRatGirl

    TheFatRatGirl

    New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2019
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Bristol, England
    Yeah, I think it really depends on the 'type' of biter the rat is. With easy-to-spook rats I generally don't pick them up from above just because it's the angle a predator would approach from; I find it leads to a sort of squirmy panic and I'm more likely to get bitten than if I let them know I'm there first and scoop with two hands from below. With cage-aggressive rats I manoeuvre them out of the cage with hidey-houses or tunnels and then do the handling in a more neutral area until we've bonded. Rats with hormonal/dominance issues are going to bite, at first, no matter what so the from above approach definitely has it's merits in that case; I try to keep my fingers from their mouths as much as possible until it's sorted!
     
    ViciousCurse likes this.
  7. Aug 22, 2019 #7

    Dena

    Dena

    Dena

    Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2018
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    181
    Location:
    Texas
    Just a side note on the shoulder thing. I have used this method, except, I had them crawl out in my hand first. Then I put them straight on a shoulder. Macaroni was a fearful rat, but never bit. She would just bolt, or freak out if you tried to touch her. When I finally got her on my shoulder, I put my shoulder up to the cage and let her jump down into her cage. Then about a week into doing this, I went to put her on my shoulder and let my dad, who was visiting look at her, and she got so terrified at a new person, that she jumped off my shoulder except I wasn't near her cage. She fell straight from my shoulder to the floor! When she hit the floor, we were both shocked. I immediately reached down and scooped her up, and cuddled her and told her I was sorry, then put her straight in her cage. Later that day, when I went to get her, she came straight out, and gave me kisses! I've had her over two years, and she's been a kissy rat since. I'm really lucky though that she didn't get hurt. I'm about 5 foot 4, and she fell from almost that high. So I'm really lucky. My point being, if you pop her on your shoulder, make sure she's a little more confident first. Or that you're sitting down, and nothing spooks her.
     
  8. Aug 23, 2019 #8

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2019
    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    221
    Location:
    Minnesota, USA
    Never had a leaper rat! Except Lil Chu, but that's after he's had to get his rare bath and just WANTS to go into his cage so badly. At which point, I've just gotten smart and held onto him a little more firmly than the others.
     
    Dena likes this.
  9. Aug 23, 2019 #9

    Dena

    Dena

    Dena

    Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2018
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    181
    Location:
    Texas
    Taco hates his rare baths. He will chitter and whine the whole time. Oddly though, he LOVES the blow drier set on medium heat and low blower. :p:D
     
  10. Aug 23, 2019 #10

    bobatea

    bobatea

    bobatea

    New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2019
    Messages:
    0
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Hawaii
    I have heard of them but never used one before- I'll have to give it a go! Thank you so much for the suggestion!
     
  11. Aug 23, 2019 #11

    bobatea

    bobatea

    bobatea

    New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2019
    Messages:
    0
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Hawaii
    Her vision is honestly terrible, which I think is where most of her biting comes from (she also has a thing for biting fingernails?) Other than her going after nails, her biting is very gentle and mostly just excitement about treats. Once she realizes that there's a hand under there she lays off.

    Good news though! Boba came out of the cage entirely on her own yesterday! I added a little cover over the stairs from the cage to floor and she came out to the edge of the cover. After a few hours of my younger girls running around like maniacs I saw Boba come onto the floor! She took a treat and immediately ran but she wasted no time coming out today and walking around. She is still very skittish but she is exploring and eating and hopefully she will relax more after we get to do some bonding time in a hoodie or rat pouch.
    Thank you everyone for the help and suggestions! :)
     
  12. Aug 23, 2019 #12

    jorats

    jorats

    jorats

    Not So Much Staff Member Admin

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2007
    Messages:
    45,160
    Likes Received:
    2,059
    Location:
    Northeastern Ontario
    We had rats who came from vet tech school who were used in the teachings of vet techs. Those rats were always so scared. I would continue to do what you are doing and letting her decide what she wants. If she wants to stay in the cage, let her. But always offer her the chance to come out. I've had rats come out of their shell after a year and a half being rescued.
     
  13. Aug 24, 2019 #13

    Dena

    Dena

    Dena

    Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2018
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    181
    Location:
    Texas
    Awwwww! That's SO SAD! I know they need to be able to learn, and they need animals to do so, but to imagine a poor rat who is taken away from its family, to be poked, prodded, and handled sometimes roughly hurts my heart. :(
     
  14. Aug 24, 2019 #14

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2019
    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    221
    Location:
    Minnesota, USA
    At least for me, all of the rats I have mistakenly bite my fingers and nails every so often. I have long nails, so they often confuse my nails for food and try to drag my nails away. Usually after the second or third tug, they figure out it's attached to me and look for the food. Some of my poorer vision rats, like Arthur (who has black eyes but still head sways a lot), will find the food, hold onto it gently, and then let me pull away. It's a little understanding between he and I. Some rats also just can't figure out where my nails end and the food starts, so they wait for me to drop a piece in front of them.

    Otherwise you're doing everything right! Just keep going. I'm so glad she came out! :)
     

Share This Page