Too large of a play area?

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Negoonus

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Jan 6, 2020
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Hi guys, we have a young rat that tends to get very skittish during free roam. We give our rats about a third of our living room and our older rats love the extra space but the young one hides under furniture and wont move until i come over to get her. We're guessing the play area is too big but we're not sure. We we're also going to try putting her in our hoodies to bond with her since we're worried that she doesn't like coming out of the cage. Is there anything else we could try with her? She's coming around already with cage interactions but play time not so much.
 

ViciousCurse

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Jan 28, 2019
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Minnesota, USA
First off, welcome to the forum! I don't believe there is any area too large for rats lol.

However, do you have another young rat to be her companion? She'll need a buddy around her age just for comfort and in case her energy becomes too much for the older rats. Sometimes older rats get a little too mean to the babies since the babies can pester them too much.

As for bonding with her, you can keep doing what you're doing, or you can get a cuddle pouch for her. It's basically a glorified necklace of fleece that can fit a rat. (Something like this) The rat will still feel safe and warm, but will smell you and will be on the move with you. Also, less poo or pee in your hoodies. Feeding her yogurt, applesauce, baby food, etc. from your fingertips can help her be less skittish of you. Just be prepared for mistake bites. Sometimes rats mistake our fingertips or nails for food and can chomp down, but will immediately realize that our fingers aren't food and will let go.

Give her more hides that only she can fit in. Personally, I don't like them hiding under the couch since it can be so stressful to get them when they're hiding under there, just from a bad experience. You can try placing treats around the place or putting down more hides, more tubes, more food, etc.
 

Negoonus

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Thanks for the welcome. We just lost one of our girls a few days ago so we haven't thought about adding a third girl to the mix again. Honestly we we're comfortable with two rats and when we got our youngest, we felt overwhelmed. I think we can only handle 2 for a while but do you think this is necessary because we will consider it as soon as we can since we want her to explore and not hide.

She just seems so stressed outside of the cage. She will run around and explore part of the room, she tends to only stick to one small area. She does also follow the older rats and chase them around, but something will spook her and she will hide under the couch for the rest of the time. We hate having to try to get her from under the couch. We don't want to stress her out. She loves taking liquid treats off of us and she fell asleep being pet today so she's coming along. Can't rats just climb out of the pouch? With the hoodie they just kind of stay in there unless they wiggle out.
 

ViciousCurse

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Aw, I'm so sorry for your loss. It really depends on her age and how she and the adults interact. If she seems to pester them constantly for play, a new younger rat may be needed. If she's content to lie down and sleep with them all day, then a younger rat may not be needed.

I'd block off the couch to her then. Cut up some cardboard and then place it in front of the couch or make the playpen smaller so she can't get to it. Taking her out from underneath the couch will cause a ton of stress and could hurt you guys' relationship, which isn't what we want! But I am glad she loves taking food from you AND fell asleep! She really trusts you guys then. She's just very skittish.

With the pouches, I'll put some extra sheets of fleece in there to make it as warm and cozy and inviting as possible. There's even another example like this one. People sometimes buy/DIY a pouch that has a zipper or button. If they're willing, you can give them yummy treats too, like puffs, or veggies, or yogurt bites. I just never put my guys in my hoodie anymore because they tend to poo and pee in it and I don't want to wash it every day lol.
 

Negoonus

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Thank you. It's been a rough week because of that and we really want to give our youngest all the attention and training we can now.

So far she seems to be pretty content to sleep with the older one, especially after the other adult just passed. We found the two of them snuggled together today. So thinking we might be okay with just the two of them for now. But we will definitely keep an eye out if the little one starts to pester the older one.

We have blocked off the couch with some cardboard, we are just trying to close up all the little holes they seem to find and still get in there! Lol.

Haha yeah, we always try to wear really old sweaters just in case they pee or poop or even start to chew on the fabric. We are definitely going to take a look at the pouches, see if we can make one for her.

Thank you for all your advice! We really appreciate it.
 

LatteTheRat

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Jan 3, 2020
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california
I have 2 young girls and they both are skittish and scared outside of the cage during free-roam time. Don't take my word for it, but I'm thinking that younger rats might be more wary and nervous in large areas because they might not be as confident as adults because of their size. This is just a hypothesis, however, and I haven't really researched that part a lot . What I do is I made a big wall with pieces of cardboard to keep them from getting into trouble and take all of the stuff out of the cage and any extra toys and build and make it fun for them. I also put down towels to keep the carpet clean. Latte (my slightly older and braver rat) still likes to run all over me and Cookie (my new baby cuddly rat) just wants to cuddle up with me and sleep. They also don't accept treats anytime unless in their cage. So I don't know whats going on with that lol.
 

Dena

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Texas
Another thing you can try is to cut holes in a cardboard box, and put crumpled up newspaper in it, and they will be in that sucker like white on rice! Then, they have a place to hide that's safe, and they can feel secure. Or you can take a carrier, and put just a towel in it, and put it in the area near the couch, so she has a safe place to run to. I would seriously think about getting another baby. If your other rat is getting older, then she could pass, leaving the baby alone. If you get another while she's young, then the intros will go so much easier, and they will have each other if something happens to your older baby. I always try to keep mine in threes, just because I don't want any of them to be left alone in the event of a sudden death.... Just something to think about. It's not replacing the one who passed, it's carrying on the love to another rat who needs a home. :)
 

Negoonus

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Can we wait longer to get a third? We're not ready honestly and both girls are getting along great during this time and we dont dont to ruin that for them and us by rushing in.

We also were thinking of switching to males down the road too, so thats brings up its own complications that scare us. So we just need time and we're hoping that our girls won't mind.
 

LatteTheRat

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I'd say its fine to wait til getting a 3rd. Personally, I feel like rats don't need to always have another companion their same age. I only have 2, but 3 is probably alot to handle! Just curious, why do you want to switch to boys later?
 

Negoonus

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I think theyre temperament would be better for us being more prone to cuddling. We still wouldnt trade our girls for anything we just wish they'd cuddle a little bit.

The oldest is about a year and four months and the little one is maybe 3 months. She was all by herself at petsmart so we had to take her home she looked so scared.

The little one looks so sad right now she keeps just hanging out in the same spot at the front if the cage door it's killing me thinking she needs another friend or not.
 
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SQ

Senior Member - Vegan for the animals
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Welcome to the forum

Babies need another baby to play with …. this also makes them less irritating to older rats.
So yes, she needs a friend

Also, since girls should be spayed for health reasons if you have access to a good rat vet with the knowledge and experience to safely spay rats, that should help if you decide to add a boy later on.

See the reference thread for info on spaying rats and other good information https://www.ratshackforum.com/threads/reference-thread-read-only.35894/
 

Negoonus

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Thanks. We we're thinking of getting more one on one time with the little one before adding a friend. We don't want to rush since we're still greiving.
 

LatteTheRat

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Loosing a pet is hard... so sorry for your loss. Don't rush yourself and get another baby when you guys are ready. It's not like shes all alone because she has her older friend <3
 

Evermore

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Oct 10, 2019
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Ottawa, Canada
I'm very sorry for your loss. It's difficult to lose them - they just have a way of wiggling right into your heartstrings. I also do understand that you don't want to take on more animals than you can handle. She has a buddy right now, so I wouldn't worry too much if you are able to provide her with enough attention and play that she isn't hassling the elder lady.

Something I recommend, if you haven't already to help with that, is to add a wheel (none with gaps where their tails can get caught, though!) or hang treat balls/toys from the top of the cage so the youngest can run and bat things around and stretch as much as she likes where she feels safest.

Meanwhile, keep bonding the way you are with her. Keeping her in hoodies, just letting her ride around while you make food, coffee, tidy, etc. so she can both get accustomed to you and the smells of the environment before additional free roaming time. It'll help her get comfortable and she may be less nervous come the next time she is taken to the living room.

For bonding, offer her little treats and/or nesting materials by handing them to her while she's inside the cage, since then she begins to associate you with super good things. My boy doesn't care about this whatsoever, he just wants head scratches and hugs. My girls go bananas if you try to gift them things. Also - if it's possible - sit by the cage with the cage open, and just talk to her/hang out/do what you do (play a game, watch TV if possible, listen to music, whatever). We have one girl right now who insists that we don't pick her up; but that she climbs out of the cage onto us herself. If she skitters up our arms or dives into our hoodies, that's fine. But if we try to pick her up? She hates it. Of all the rats I've had over the years, she's the only one who demands that level of independence. Meanwhile our [neutered] boy begs to be picked up. Your girl may just have very different preferences for handling than what your previous rats did.
 

Negoonus

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Hamilton
Thanks for the help and we're actually amazed how far our youngest has come in a few days. She was quite content to hang out in my hoodies after i shoved newspaper and fleece in there.
 

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