Our new baby rats are not cage curious, what do we do?

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by MeineRatten, Jan 28, 2019.

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  1. Jan 28, 2019 #1

    MeineRatten

    MeineRatten

    MeineRatten

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    Three days ago my husband and I got two beautiful baby girls from Futterhaus (pet shop, as there seem to be no breeders in Hamburg, or they are hiding very well). The girls are absolute angels when handled; they don't bite and sleep in a hood if one is offered. However, we are finding that they are not very cage active, especially when we are around. But I think to understand the situation I would need to give you a bit of their background.

    Both girls were bought at the same time and brought home together. When we were picking them the youngest (just 2,5 weeks at the time) climbed to the top of the aquarium back wall and the elder came to support her after looking at us and measuring us out. We got them because they were the only two that seemed to be bonded together, while the other pair just hid away and wasn't even visible. We thought that by taking them together we'd help them adapt better. When brought home the older girl climbed into a hide at the bottom of the cage and left the younger one to sleep at the top. We were a bit afraid that they wouldn't be getting along, but now they sleep together, so here all is good. They eat and we assume drink. Neither of them has any trouble with being picked up and handled, but when it comes to us being around the cage... They just hide, or in case of the younger baby - freeze.

    Today they overturned a water dish so I went to clean up and apparently offered my hoodie in the process. Both of them sat in my hood for the next hour or so without wanting to leave, and we were by the cage. They took some banana off my hand and just slept in the hood with some periodic bruxing and boggling (checked on them a few times). The younger even stayed over-time in the hood when the older decided she'd had enough.

    So my question is if they are so eager on being handled mostly outside of the cage, why are they not curious inside of it? Could they be overwhelmed by the size and space they have? Could it be a result of wrong handling when they were brought to the pet shop? Or is it that they are just too young (our vet's suggestion) to fully understand the situation they are in?

    Per our vet's suggestion, we made sure (now) that every part of the cage is with easy access for us and that the girls are given maximum viewing angles, as apparently a lot of hides hinder them adapting to a big cage and a lot of space. As for the internet advice, I have already tried the spoon method (kinda works) and left my hand in the cage for 10 or so minutes, but no use.

    I have had many rodents (mainly mice and hamsters) in the past, but no rats, so neither that nor training as a vet nurse gives me any clues as to what to do. I am under impression that it might be a result of a traumatic past, but how can we help them? Don't really want to have them not being happy with us being around their cage... please help with any advice.
     
  2. Jan 29, 2019 #2

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    Hello, and welcome to the forum! Congrats on your new babies, and try to relax a little. :) First, your younger girl is really too young to have been weaned. Are you sure she's able to eat well enough? Im guessing the older girl is close to her age, so they both are very young and would not, at this age, be extremely adventurous yet; they'd still be with their moms. So then, it's not surprising that they just want to cuddle and probably sleep quite a bit. Whenever you bring home new ratties, of any age, it takes time for them to settle in, feel safe, and begin to behave as you might expect. Rats are naturally quite intelligent and also very cautious, so it takes a little time. It sounds like they're already comfortable with you, so don't worry so much about them playing in the cage. It will come with time and growth, maybe another week or so. I do disagree with the vet, though, about the hides. They need to be able to feel safe in their home, and that requires places to hide and rest where they feel protected. Bottom line, I think they still need plenty of hides, hammocks, etc., and they need time to grow, and you will together be fine!
     
  3. Jan 29, 2019 #3

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    I forgot, did your vet suggest any supplement for the tiny girl? It may be she needs some formula to supplement her regular food, (and maybe the other as well, depending on her age), because she should still be nursing. Someone who knows more than I can address that. I hope they thrive wonderfully for you.
     
  4. Jan 29, 2019 #4

    Dena

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    What are their approximate ages? How old did the pet store tell you they were? They should have never sold them or took them away from mom so young. Chances are, they thought you were buying them as food for something, since unfortunately, that's what many sold in pet stores are bought for. If so, then that's why they sold them so young. How long have you had them. Also the vet should have recognized that they were too young, if he has rat experience. If not, you may want to find a new vet. That would be a red flag for me.
     
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  5. Jan 29, 2019 #5

    SQ

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    EDIT: went back and edited this when I realise the babies are only 2 weeks old :(

    They actually need to go back to their mama.
    If you can, buy their mama and their siblings ,,,,, because if returned to the store they may end up as snake food

    They would be considered orphans as they should have stayed with their mama until 5 weeks old (baby boys) or at least 6 weeks old (baby girls). Being separated from their mama so young will impact their long term health
    I hope that they are both the same sex.

    You will need to purchase organic soy infant formula (or kitten milk replacer), and a small tiny new paint brush. You will dip the paint brush in the formula, and they will suck it off the paint brush. They will need to be fed the formula every 4 to 5 hours (4 times a day) according to the chart. (Do not use a syringe as it is too easy for the formula to go into their lungs)

    You can also start to put in a shallow dish of food for them containing formula thickened with a bit of baby cereal a couple of times a day, and start exposing them to small amounts of food feeding soft vegs such as baby food, frozen/thawed peas, cooked sweet potato, cooked squash, and as they age a small piece of broccoli ……. you can also give frozen/thawed organic corn (GMO corn is designed to kill rats and other small animals)
    You will need to feed them oxbow or Harlan 2014 blocks as they age - give them a small amounts of hard ones to nibble on and grind up some of the blocks and soak them in cool water to make mush - offer small amounts of this older.
    - they will only try a tiny bit of new foods at first but as they get older, they will eat more

    You will also need to use a damp warm cotton ball to gently massage their abdomen and bottom to stimulate them to pee and poop …… their mama would normally stimulate them by cleaning them

    Please see the links on orphan care found in this reference thread as there are many things you need to know if you are going to try to raise these baby orphans https://www.ratshackforum.com/threads/reference-thread-read-only.35894/
    Please ask lots of questions
    You can also join the baby group on the facebook group Rats and Mice are Awesome

    Please give them 1 or 2 water dishes that can not be upset
    Rats require at least 2 sources of water in a cage, one of which needs to be a water dish, and babies tongues are not strong enough to move the ball bearing in water bottles, even if they look like they are drinking

    Rats must live with at least one other rat so it is good that you bought two.

    What have you been feeding them?
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2019
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  6. Jan 31, 2019 #6

    MeineRatten

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    Ok, I need to clarify something here. We live in EU, so rats in pet stores come from private breeders (there is only one in our region) and are sold significantly younger than in the US/Canada as well as not being sold as snake food unless explicitly specified. Everyone who comes to buy a rat/or any other rodent is required to sign a contract, and the living conditions/habitat are evaluated prior to the purchase.
    UPDATE:
    Our girls are now 3.5 weeks and 5 weeks old. The older one is doing perfectly fine now, we have supplemented the younger one with rat-specific formula and kitten nibbles, and she's coming out of her shell and gaining in weight again (almost 90g now, which is not the best, but she'll get there). We're both on solid food now and eating well. Introduced some veggies, so I had to clean the cage 2x this week as we had an accident (poopy type), but that seems to be normal now too. Rats at this age pee and poop on their own, so all is clear and good there also. We caught a tiny case of the sniffles, but the lungs sound clear, and after changing their cage again the sniffles are going down too. We are going to the vet for registration and passports (yep, this is a thing, mainly because we might end up travelling at one point for my work) so I'll ask for some lab reps and would also require to have a look at the samples myself. Presumably, it is our neighbours weed-smoking that might have an effect here, but I won't make any conclusions until the results are in hand. Adding to that. There are absolutely no other symptoms apart from an occasional sneeze.
    I have been previously trained as a vet nurse, but there was only a short course on rats that didn't cover as much as I feel it should have.
     
  7. Jan 31, 2019 #7

    MeineRatten

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    The girls are now 3.5 and 5 weeks old. So now urination/defecation stimulation is required. Pets here are NOT sold as snake food unless otherwise specified, their future habitat is assessed before purchase and you would not be allowed to buy an animal without signing a contract. Apart from a minor sneezing problem (which is currently being assessed) they are both healthy and yes, they are the same sex. Please don't assume that no research has been done.
     
  8. Jan 31, 2019 #8

    MeineRatten

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    They are now 3.5 and 5 weeks old. The vets (as well as myself) are aware that they were sold quite early. Animals here are not sold as food unless otherwise specified, the only reason why the younger one came so early is apparently due to the mother being ill and they were uncertain is keeping the kits with her is a good plan. But we're enjoying our food and water as well as have acquired a pretty serious taste to kitten nibbles (soft), carrot and potato baby mush and I can't walk past the cage while eating a banana, because it has more popularity than me. Actually popping in hand now when we're about with treats. So everything is seemingly going well.
     
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  9. Jan 31, 2019 #9

    MeineRatten

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    Thank you for your reply. They have actually grown quite a bit since my post and kick each other around the cage like nuts (really funny to see Lila, the younger one, chase Po around the cage like she is not twice her size). We are currently dealing with a bit of a sneezing thing and I am ordering some labs tonight/tomorrow for that. Have listened to both of them and they sound clean, no unusual secretions, temperatures are at the norm, lots of energy and eating like a horse, so go figure. in other words, we'll see. I have researched some behavioural studies and looks like we're on track behaviour-wise. So all good, can update you on a lab reps if that's anything that might be interesting.
     
  10. Jan 31, 2019 #10

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    You're welcome. I'm very glad they're so well and you're enjoying their rattie antics. I'm quite surprised there are such restrictions on purchasing rats in Germany, and I wish we had some restrictions here as well, especially on dog ownership, as most people don't care for their dogs properly in this area of the world. Here, on the forum, we are accustomed to people bringing questions because they've picked up rats at the store without having first done any research or preparation. Furthermore, many pet shops will sell rats too early as they either assume the babies are being purchased as reptile food or they just don't care. So, unfortunately, we may assume that a new member is lacking in rat care knowledge, which is clearly not the case this time.

    Yes, I'd be interested to hear about your girls' lab results. I've never had a vet run any labs on my rats. In N Am, it seems few vets have learned much about rats, fewer have any experiential knowledge, and rat forums like this one are much more likely to provide an owner correct answers to their questions than a vet. It sounds as though you may not have that problem, and you could be an asset to us. Again, welcome.
     
  11. Feb 5, 2019 #11

    MeineRatten

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    Hi again. So we have the tests back now, and there seems to be nothing wrong, sugar was slightly elevated, but they had some apple the night before. I am starting to wonder if maybe checking blood would be a good plan if there's any serious anomaly in the future, but for now, any tests of that sort are out of the question (mainly due to age). We have consulted my vet, and she talked to her colleagues and the consensus is that we might just be dealing with stress-related phenomena. And since our sneezes have been subsiding in the past couple of days, I am assuming that that's the right diagnosis. Still supplementing with a general antibiotic/vitamin (small doses in the water, so practically a placebo for us) mixture for now and hopefully, that would make it a bit easier on them.
    Lila (younger one, and the right one on my photo) is starting to come out of her shell and even took a banana form my husband today! Po (on the left), however, seems to be threatening to enter puberty (about time) and her behaviour is getting s bit strange. Still curious and quite hungry, but hse's now in love with the idea of hiding and being found (runs into the hide and you have to put your hand out for her to come out). We're trying to introduce solid treats now for future training, and dried bananas are a huge success!
    Thank you so much for your support. I have had many animals in the past: cats, dogs, hamsters and even horses, so I have a habit of researching everything I can get my hands on. The problem here is that not much on rat behaviour is available in free access, or if is then works more as a science material for a lab rat behaviour, which could often be dramatically different making some of the material inapplicable to house rats as pets. So thank you so much. I am going to be scanning though the forum to maybe find out more about behavioural changed thoughout puberty. Going into heat is daylight clear, but wht else to expect?... If you have any advice on what and where to read, please let me know.
     
  12. Feb 5, 2019 #12

    jorats

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    Are you sure the girls were only 2 weeks old? I can't understand why a breeder would actually allow them to go to a pet store at that age. At 2 weeks old, rats just begin to open their eyes. They are not fully developed and without mother's milk for another 2 weeks, they can be severely retarded in their growth and even have failure to thrive.
    Rats learn social behaviour from mom and siblings which is why it's so important for them to stay with mom until 5 weeks of age.
    I'm glad you are doing good progress with your little ones. joinrats.com is a great site with lots of suggestions on socializing rats. Ideally, getting two more babies, about 6 weeks old, who have stayed with their mom and siblings until then would be a huge benefit to teach your little ones social behaviour.
     
  13. Feb 5, 2019 #13

    MeineRatten

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    Well, Po is now five weeks, and a few days, Lila is three weeks and 4 days accordingly. We have checked around, and rats here are separated at 2.5/4 weeks, so finding them sisters is a bit of an issue if we'd want them older, as well as I don't feel particularly confident with introductions yet. They'll be getting some new siblings in autumn (along with a new cage!), but for now, that's not an option. Both are growing well and are within their weight, and their mental health doesn't seem to have suffered too much. There is, of course, a suspicion that they can be traumatised from being in a pet store, but that seems to be applied toward humans and not between themselves. I hope we will work through this. I can see Po teaching Lila quite a few things because she was with her mom longer, we are also training some specific innate behaviours like grooming each other and playing with each other. Admittedly, they probably would never be perfect, but getting them sisters of about their age would probably not teach them anything and only introduce stress. We'll raise them how we can and let them raise the others later. And as to food, they refused formula and don't demonstrate the reflex to indicate that they would want to nurse. Thanks for the concern, we're doing all we can for them, but there doesn't look to be another option.
     
  14. Feb 5, 2019 #14

    Mel_V

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    Once they’re a bit older, I’d switch them to a wire cage they’ll definitely be more active but maybe for the first month they may be pretty shy:)
     
  15. Feb 6, 2019 #15

    SQ

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    Rats should never be separated from their mama before 5 weeks of age because rats will naturally wean their babies between 4 and 5 weeks. Baby girls should ideally stay with their mama until at least 6 weeks old as they need to learn a lot from her. Strange that with the animal protections you mentioned in your country, that this type of cruelty is standard practice in your country.

    Rats are considered babies until 12 weeks old. Because rats under 12 weeks old see new rats as playmates and are not territorial until after they reach 12 weeks of age, rats under 12 weeks of age can be put together without going through gradual intros.

    As has been mentioned a few times, check out joinrats.com for behavioural info and info re socializing
     
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