New rat owner - rats want nothing to do me!

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sampeartree

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Mar 11, 2018
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I just got my first 2 rats on Friday (today is Sunday so barely 3 full days). They're 6 weeks old and I got them at a locally owned independent pet store that sells them as either feeders (but plenty of people buy them as pets) so maybe my problem is that they weren't socialized at all.

I guess I'm just really paranoid that I'm doing something wrong? They want nothing to do with me. They won't approach me, they hide when I walk past them, and only once have they taken a treat from my hand. They definitely don't want to be picked up at all either (which I've only done so once before today to put more bedding into the cage).

I started trying to do some bonding today, like every forum said to after at least 2-3 days but they're still terrified. I put one in the hood of my backwards jacket, he didn't fuss about being picked up but he shivered and peed out of fright. I feel really bad now.

I feel like I'm doing something wrong, I've read countless of articles and forum posts about socializing and bonding with new rats and it seems like they should at least be a little receptive of me by now. I'm just afraid that I've scared them too much and the bonding won't happen.

I've never had rodents or any pet of this kind before so I'm probably over-reacting. I logically know I just have to give them time but I'm so unsure of everything.

Edit - another problem is that they won't eat at all. Its like they don't know what they /can/ eat.
 

Sproutie

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Give it some time, I'm sure you're doing nothing wrong. They will warm up to you, I'm sure of it. Just dont give up. When you put them back in the cage, hang something right by it that you have been wearing, or a pillowcase or something that has your scent so that they can get used to it. It has only been 3 days, although I know how agonizing it is to feel the fears your feeling. I've been a rat owner (or ownee) for just about 20 years, and whenever I get a new one, I get that same feeling. Good luck to you and your new babies!!!! Just remember, dont give up!!! They are worth it.
 

SQ

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central New Brunswick Canada
you can put on a tea shirt and then another, loose shirt over it and put the 2 rats, together, on you between the two shirts and sit down and let them get used to you for 20 mins to 3o mins . Do ths many times as it will allow them to get used to you and your scent while feeling relatively safe. A site with good ideas is joinrats.com

as for food, what were they being fed at the store? Maybe continue to feed that and also feed the following, so that they can slowly transition to a healthy diet (assuming they were not being fed a proper diet)
the recommended diet is a good block (oxbow or Harlan Teklad 2014) and a variety of daily vegs and occasional healthy treats such as a piece of ripe banana, berries, cooked grains such as oatmeal, quinoa etc, organic pumpkin seeds etc ..... hopefully they are eating when they are hungry

Please make sure they have at least 2 sources of water - one of which should be a water dish that can not be upset.
Please post pics of them and their cage - we love pics :)
 

sampeartree

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A site with good ideas is joinrats.com

as for food, what were they being fed at the store?
Thanks for linking that site! I'm definitely going to try a few things from there.

I'm not sure what food they were using but I'll call tomorrow and ask, it looks like they've munched a little since posting this so thats good! They don't seem receptive of anything but these little donut treats from the store, especially not fresh fruit or veggies! They've completely ignored the romaine lettuce and strawberry salad I made them but I'm sure it'd be weird to transition from a pellet-only diet to fresh food so I'm not entirely worried about it right now. My only concern is they 100% don't care about treats so coaxing them into transport boxes/to me has been difficult.
 

sampeartree

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Give it some time, I'm sure you're doing nothing wrong. They will warm up to you, I'm sure of it. Just dont give up. When you put them back in the cage, hang something right by it that you have been wearing, or a pillowcase or something that has your scent so that they can get used to it. It has only been 3 days, although I know how agonizing it is to feel the fears your feeling. I've been a rat owner (or ownee) for just about 20 years, and whenever I get a new one, I get that same feeling. Good luck to you and your new babies!!!! Just remember, dont give up!!! They are worth it.
I'm a true perfectionist and I want things to run as smoothly as possible so stuff like this makes me nervous. I logically know it will take time but sometimes it helps for me to have someone more experienced reassure me that what I'm feeling is okay, so thank you! I'm definitely not giving up. I'll be sure to post pics when they're comfortable enough to let me get close :)
 

TiffanyKei

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Mar 10, 2018
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Toronto
Our rescues were the same way. We were told they came from an abused situation situation and to leave them alone for a week without trying to touch them. Well of course my bf (a rodent person) couldn't follow, and they seemed to get worse. After we left them alone for almost a week , they started to get curious about us. He is still too afraid to handle them, but they are now coming up to him more and more.
 
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SQ

Senior Member - Vegan for the animals
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central New Brunswick Canada
Yes, always good to give them time, help them to feel safe, and then they will grow to trust you.

Food suggestions in addition to good blocks: my rats love peas (thawed frozen peas), baby kale, mixed greens, cooked sweet potato, baked squash, a very few cooked chick peas and cooked kidney beans (as they need a low protein diet); cooked quinoa, cooked (real) oatmeal, cooked organic 7 grin or 12 grain cereal, a piece of ripe banana, a few organic pumpkin seeds, organic kumut puffs (cereal from grocery store with no added sugar etc)
 

jorats

Loving rats since 2002.
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CongRATS! Every rat has their own unique personality but with hard beginnings like feeder rats, it probably has affected them some. I too highly recommend joinrats.com It's a great site which uses only positive reinforcement.
 
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sampeartree

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I've left them alone today and one of them took an unthawed pea from my fingers so that's small progress. The other is still terrified of me though, I'm going to try and do the shirt thing and maybe set up a free range area in my bathroom tomorrow.
 
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sampeartree

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Everything seems to be going very well so far!

Alistair (the more active one) was not too crazy about the shirt/being picked up but Connor (the shy one) loved sitting on my shoulder and walking through my ponytail. They started getting antsy after a few minutes so I set them in their free-range area (the bathtub) and they did well in there too.

Thanks so much for the advice, everyone! I really appreciate it. I don't feel as nervous anymore.
 

Squeakie

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Feb 27, 2018
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Edmonton QLD AUSTRALIA
I'm so excited for you and your new little babies they sound like they are very lucky to have you... My babies did the same, so I would go to there cage a lot throughout the day and put a little food just at the front door of their hut. Over time they would sick their heads out for a sticky peak... And of course by this time I discovered what yummy food they liked!!!
 

Sproutie

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Everything seems to be going very well so far!

Alistair (the more active one) was not too crazy about the shirt/being picked up but Connor (the shy one) loved sitting on my shoulder and walking through my ponytail. They started getting antsy after a few minutes so I set them in their free-range area (the bathtub) and they did well in there too.

Thanks so much for the advice, everyone! I really appreciate it. I don't feel as nervous anymore.


That's great, I'm very happy to hear that some progress is being made, even if just a little.
 

Jake S.

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Apr 13, 2018
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Oregon, USA
I'm glad things are going smoother! I felt the same way when I first got my rats. I had read nothing other than how social and friendly they were, and got worried when they were shy. It's definitely a process that requires patience and determination. It looks like Conner is really making progress. With my rats it seemed like when one progressed to a certain point it motivated the other to catch up. I hope things keep improving for them and keep up the good work!
 

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