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Please help, my boys don't seem happy

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odinson

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Hi there, I'm a first-time rat owner and have two half-wild boys, Thor and Loki (born May 14), who arrived late Friday night. I've been told their temperament is a bit more high strung than typical pet rats but they did start socializing with their foster family. Their mum said it may still might take some time and they are still developing, so we don't know what personalities to expect. They seem very shy and nervous in their new space, which in turn makes me nervous! I'm worried they don't want to come out of their cage for me even though it's only been a couple days, and I'm not sure if there is something wrong. I want to take it at their pace and not force them out and I've been placing my hand outside the cage for them to get used to my scent. Thor was even scaling bars yesterday looking for a way out so I know they're antsy, but seem so scared of me! I consulted some threads here and watched some videos by the Rat Guru on youtube so some of the behaviour has been explained, like one lying on his side (dead sleep), yawning a lot, and how to tell a nip from a bite. Yesterday Loki sort of lunged at my hand by the bars, mouth first, then later when I placed my hand close to him, he did briefly latch on to my knuckle and almost broke the skin. I'm the type to yank my hand back in a knee-jerk reaction from pain, but I can see that even that scares them.

I also wanted to know if short squeaks or peeps are normal, there seems to be conflicting information on this. Yesterday Thor was on his hind legs with his nose pointed in the air and made these barely audible high-pitched squeaks (similar to a mouse, I'd say). That wouldn't have worried me because it didn't sound like it was his breathing, but this morning I think one of them sneezed as soon as I came up to the cage -- so of course, my mind is racing. I wanted to make a vet visit just in case, but now I'm actually worried. Thor just turned away and huddled on top of his brother in their PVC tube and started twitching??? Please help, I just want to make sure they're okay and I'm not overreacting, but I'm totally prepared to make a vet visit just in case.
 

Dena

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New home sneezes are normal. They should go away within a week. Them being shy and skittish is expected. Wild rats are, well, wild. Half wilds I would expect to be at least somewhat skittish. Some rats are just scaredy rats, and some never seem to be bothered by anything. They all have different personalities. Squeaks and peeps are normal. Some are more vocal than others. They will need time to adjust to you and their new surroundings.
Any time you pet them, make sure you do so with clean, freshly washed hands, so you don't smell like food or a threat.
Rats like to sleep in piles sometimes (no concept of personal space), and sometimes get hiccups. Mine do when they get overly excited. That may have been the twitching? Don't worry too much about them hiding when you come around, or not wanting to come out right now. Until you gain their trust, free roaming probably isn't a good idea. If you need to clean their cage, put them in a travel cage. You can use a small box, let them climb in, then move it to the temp cage. You need to work on gaining trust. Www.joinrats.com has lots of tips on this. Don't push too hard, and don't give up. Trust comes with time. 😊
 

odinson

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Ottawa, Canada
Thank you!!! This is all very reassuring. Their foster mum said basically the same thing, except they never nipped with her (she calls them taste tests). Just so I'm sure, what would be considered a threatening smell? I've switched to using unscented Dove only now.

Hiccups make sense, I thought maybe he was breathing irregularly but he was definitely nervous. Thor (the more courageous one) almost got into the carrier tonight...tomorrow I'll try with a box and see if that works as a middle-man because the cage should really be cleaned of the old stuff they came with. Joinrats.com is definitely a great resource and I'm learning to read their body language - so I'll just keep studying haha. Thanks again Dena!
 

Dena

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I think with any new animal it's a learning curve and process. A smell of another rat, or maybe cat, farret, anything that may hunt or hurt them. Once I played with my sister's farrets, then went home and tried to pet my very loving, cuddly bunny, and she attacked me pretty viciously. It scared the crap out of both of us.
Where they need to get used to your scent, they also should be shielded from others (like the ones mentioned). And they are smart. Once they figure out you're not food, or a threat, they usually won't bite anymore. Also, don't let it become a habit for them. Eep at them if they nip. Try to only offer your palms or back of your hand for sniffing.
 

odinson

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For sure! I don't hang out with any other animals though lol, even with my hands washed it must just be my new and unfamiliar scent. I'm learning it will definitely take some time (for their foster family it was a little over a week). Couple attempts to taste test the of the back of my hand by Thor this morning accompanied by some eeps from me...I'll try the palm next time. thanks!
 

Big Schpog

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Well, be aware that rats DO nibble their human and most times it's just a testing thing. You WANT rats to be comfortable testing things with their teeth. It's only if they bite down too hard that you want to squeal. Normal teething and nibbling is to be ENCOURAGED. Otherwise, your rats learn that your hands are like kryptonite and you'll be scared of them and they'll be scared of your hand.

Rats don't normally take a bite out of a human hand unless there is a damned good reason. Rats TEST things with their teeth. It's totally normal. My little Queenie loves to nibble on my fingernails. When she first did this I didn't pull my hand away. I allowed her to test and when she bit a little too hard, I let her know with a squeal. Queenie, after just ONE squeal, understands that she can approach my hands for a nibble on the ole fingernail and she knows PRECISELY what pressure she can use. Point is, she approaches my hand with ease.

Now yes, if you've just handled a juicy piece of chicken and you go sticking your hands to them, they will probably try to bite and snatch, however, in the moments where I've forgotten I've got a tasty scent on my fingers, my rats still only TEST nibbled. At the last second, they realized it was my finger. I've NEVER been bitten by ANY of the four rats. Not ONE bite.

You need to also stimulate their licking with lickable treats. I find homemade custard does the trick. First on the back of the hand, then move to the fingers once they've got the licking going.

It's sorta cool you have half wild rats. They'll be more active and more troublesome, but with it comes lots of intelligence. Spend lots of family time with them and I mean lots. Have fun and love on them and enjoy learning how rats see the world.
 

lilspaz68

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Halfies with a new owner is a tough start. Can you tell me the history on these rats? Did you ever meet mom?
Halfies can range from fearful and almost untouchable, to very aggressive. Others can be *almost* like domestics but even then you cannot ever forget they are half wild. Can I ask how you got these guys?
 
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lilspaz68

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Just so you know I've taken in a LOT of halfie litters from people who just didn't realize. And I'm a very experienced owner
 
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odinson

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Ottawa, Canada
Thanks Big Schpog...*sigh* I know the nibbles and taste tests are key and I've been using joinrats.com as a good reference to learn but I'm worried any wrong start (me jerking my hand back as I have already a couple times) will have them permanently afraid of me. For many things I have a high pain threshold but I think me being new to pets & new to rats makes it slow going. So Thor's early taste test of my knuckle did "hurt" but only punctured like one layer of skin -- it was more surprising than anything else. I spoke to a vet assistant last week (we have an appt. for Friday) who happened to own rats & she suggested gloves to protect from the pain and from catching anything. I read here that some are afraid of them, but I tried with these boys the other day and was able to hand feed one of them an almond. So...I feel like I'm getting mixed info but I'm more inclined to be safe for now.

lilspaz: I got these boys from All Creatures Rescue in Toronto and I'm in Ottawa so nope, never met the mom. They were transported by some friends of the foster family. They're 3.5 months old now, and I think the story is that their mom got out and got pregnant by a wild male. The rescue was very grateful to find someone to take them in but didn't mention anything about extra aggression, just that they would be slightly more active and skittish/nervous - more in tune with their prey animal senses I guess. They started socializing with their foster family but I think with them being so young I'm essentially working with a blank slate. They also haven't been fixed but I don't know how much hormonal aggression that would add at this stage. I've only had them a week and a few days, but these boys seem pretty content to laze in a pile in their PVC tube...maybe they get up to more shenanigans while I'm asleep.

Some progress: Today I was able to get them into their carrier which took me by surprise but I think they were scared :rolleyes: They ventured out of the cage on their own, I used the second level as a little ramp so it was familiar territory -- but I had a hard time picking them up to put them in the carrier which is where my inexperience is really taking a toll. Thor was too quick and Loki either wriggled out of my hands or I dropped him...or both :( They scuttled back into the cage, then I put the carrier inside and they just hopped in! I'd taken out their other stuff so I think it was just the only place to hide from me. Anyway I was able to finally clean the cage, but they were sneezing a little too much for my liking before that (though Dena mentioned new place sneezes are normal). So I think a vet visit is necessary to check things out. It would be their first time as well, their foster mom claimed they've been in perfect health since birth.
 

lilspaz68

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Oh dear. I don't think ACR has dealt with halfies before. I have dealt with about 5 litters so have seen all the different types. You will need to watch your boys for any signs of hormonal aggression (you will see hunched backs, puffed up fur, maybe pushing each other around a bit more) then get them neutered ASAP. After that and the hormones settling these 2 boys were almost like domestics.
Go slow, watch their body language, and if they are food oriented, that's a great start :)
If you want to post a video I'd love to see how they react to you.

I had the boys Beni and Ortiz neutered in my first litter so they could stay with their sisters and foster brothers. Beni was one of the friendliest ones, thankfully. He had a neuter abscess here and had just had a soak to help it surface.


This was my last halfies Java and Marsky

Here you can see the agitated body language and the puffed up fur. They were neutered after this.


After their neuters


and as Old men
 

odinson

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Ottawa, Canada
Yes they've been pretty puffed up and hunch-backed when I come around, and only in the last couple days have I caught them (play?) fighting with each other on their hind legs. We've really gone back and forth with them feeling comfortable around me and it's only a sudden movement or noise that catches them off guard and sends them into hiding. That's good to confirm I should consider getting them neutered, the ACR said they like to avoid it if it's not absolutely necessary but I don't think they had a good idea of the level of aggression these boys may have. They were sure to warn me about them being halfsies but it did sound like they couldn't give me much in the way of what exactly to expect -- just to wait for their personalities to fully form. Though still, the foster family mentioned no aggression...so they are probably stressed in the new place.

These boys aren't too food oriented, also confirmed by the fosters but we'll keep working on it. I'll see if I can get a video but they are pretty hidey in my presence!
 

odinson

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So....Loki is out. Preparing to get the boys into their carrier, my sister came in to help as she was driving us, he finally hopped in the carrier after several back and forths with them both...then he sprang. Needless to say the appointment is cancelled. He only got behind my sofa, precarious because there's cords back there, then back and forth until we were able to make his running space smaller. It's been a three hour ordeal now & too long to explain but looking for other methods. The vet assistant suggested I drop a towel on him then scoop him up and dump him in the cage, but he's trapped in a narrow, dark space so it's hard to move/see -- very awkward position.
 

odinson

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Aug 22, 2020
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Ottawa, Canada
The towel thing didn't work, we had for a few seconds in a box, until he bit me hard through a corner, as if to say "Let me out now!" then ran UNDER the sofa. Three hours after that, here we are. He must be hanging out there now...but there's a heater along the wall my sofa is on and there's probably enough space underneath for him to slip under (turned off luckily since it's summer). Hoping he'll get hungry soon and come out, I have a little coral area prepared with a humane live trap, set with applesauce covered pear pieces and some Oxbow blocks. Plus an almond for good measure but it might fall through the bars, those traps are hard to set up alone and my sister's gone for the night. He's been gone for four and a half hours now and it just got dark. When should I start to *really* worry? Just really hope the bait & trap works as I'm not confident I can catch him on my own, & he must be so afraid of me now.

In the meantime the bleeding from his bite has slowed for now, the area on my finger (right index) is only slightly puffy and I've been putting pressure on it and elevating it. Going to put some polysporin on but any other treatments or things to know? My right arm's been feeling a little heavy but maybe that's psychosomatic. Gonna do some searching to make sure i'm not in danger of infection from what I can tell.

EDIT: Loki just poked his head out and scared his brother...or maybe Thor got excited to finally see him, as am I. Pics of The Situation:
22CDB508-B0DB-4B31-B9C3-B3936F4D2B6B.jpeg
A0B5396A-EC20-4C28-8425-E7846921A3F1.jpeg
 
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Big Schpog

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You took on a lot for a first time rat parent. It's going to be a journey, that's for sure. I would get them neutered too. Nip that whole thing in the proverbial 'bud.' LOL

Oh and Lil Spaz, I love the images you shared with us. They remind me a bit of my Big Schpog, the colouring.
 

odinson

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Aug 22, 2020
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Ottawa, Canada
:oops: Really hard to think about the future when I can't even locate one of them!!! and thinking i may be way, way over my head.

Loki just outsmarted the trap and maybe got away with some pear. I kinda figured any rat might be way too smart for it, and it's even the Havahart size bigger than small...no idea how he figured it out. So now I have some water out in the corralled area, and another dish of water with the trap reset in the larger, not-well-rat-proofed area that includes my kitchen appliances...in case I fall asleep (it's 1am now, been at at this almost 9-10 hours).....don't know what else to do but wait, I'm in my room with the door blocked off & I have an alarm set for 5am in case I drop off so I can get up to check/reset the trap! *shrug*
 

Jessicac

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Aug 17, 2019
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Oh my goodness! What an ordeal, odinson. Sorry, I don't have advice, but hang in there. Hopefully Loki will want to get back to his brother and cage soon.
 

Big Schpog

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What a little stinker, hiding out and evading traps. LOL. You gotta laugh at it because it'll drive you crazy if you don't. He's a smart little chonker. Hang in there.
 

odinson

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Aug 22, 2020
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Ottawa, Canada
At 27 hours now, I just heard a commotion from the living area where both boys are (I'm in my bedroom), so now I'm wondering if Loki said screw that trap and climbed the cage to find another food source. Not much to find if he was able to climb the kitchen area, but the applesauce and peanut butter I was using are out covered on the counter (stupid). I tried to limit the things he could climb, but his cage had to be part of the corral (it's huge for one, and his brother's inside nearby). What are the chances he'll come back for the peanut butter trap? Or a better question, is he more likely to return for the food that's there or venture out to scavenge? I would think halfsies could jump pretty well, even at their young age? I can't reach the OPR quickly enough as it's after hours now.

I've been way too scared to check since that scurrying noise (about 30m ago), in case he is out and I spook him further into hiding. But there is a small chance it was Thor in his cage...really sounded like some quick, far-traveling feet though, nothing they've ever really been able to do in the cage. I don't think I heard the trap get tripped, just scurrying.
 

odinson

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Yep, he found a way out. Bunch of stuff knocked over...don't know where he'd be now as it's morning. Checked around a little, reset the trap and put out some applesauce under a tree stump hidey and some food in his dish on top of it...maybe it'll tip over when he takes a piece so I can hear. Also sprinkled flour on the floor.

Maybe he'd go back to the sofa since it's dark and warm? but he pretty much has free run of the place now. Really at the end of my rope here...
 

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