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5 girlies but 2 are a slight problem

1443 Views 7 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Rat Daddy
I hate referring to my babies as a "problem" so please dont take this post offensively...
This is going to be LONG because I want you to understand what Ive done and what the background was. (Sorry!)
I purchased 3 beautiful white ruby eyed girlies in December after saving up for an XTRAIL Little Zoo (similar to Critter Nation so big enough for 12). These were my first ratties. After they settled in and got to around 3 months old I started looking for other unloved rats that needed a forever home since my cage was so huge. When my girlies got to about 4 months old I found 2 brown beautiful tiny girls in an adoption centre. I was told they were born in November like my ones were, making them a similar age. These ratties were tiny with massive front feet like younger rats seem to have. They were just bone and skin. So inquisitive but so scared of being handled. They were playful and happy and would sniff at my fingers through cage bars (and nibble!) These girls had no idea what food was. I put rat nuggets in that they had been fed in adoption centre and counted 10 nuggets and the next morning there was still 10. I put it down to stress. But they were still so bubbly and seemed so happy it confused me. 3 days passed and still 10 nuggets remained. I tried little bits of veg that my "original" babies went mad for (brocolli and peas!!!) Still, nothing. They would nibble at it like "what is this?!" Eventually i found that some rats like soya milk so i put a bowl of that and they drank it all up like they were starving. Anyway, to save rambling and time, within 2 weeks I finally managed to show them that food is good (thank goodness for baby food!) And then they wouldnt stop eating. Fine by me.
After 4 weeks of slow introductions, all girlies merged. The 2 new ones started to come out the cage and investigate my living room where my rats run wild. This is when I noticed how scared of hands they are. If I sit still theyll run all over me. But the moment I go to touch them they literally freak out. To get them back in cage is a nightmare I feel like Im torturing them. They scream and literally leap for their life. I have resorted to leaving cage doors open and the moment the newbies go inside i close the cage doors and do my calling noise for other rats (blow kisses and they come running from everywhere) and then put them all away.
I have had them now for 3 months and NOTHING has changed. Theyre still terrified of hands. They eat fine but they do seem to play so much different to the originals. Theyre much rougher and hump so much more than mine do/did. Theyre still small but definately putting on weight. I dont believe for a second they are same age as my originals. I put them as around 4 ish months old judging by size and behaviours.
So here is my problem. I love my originals to death because they have molded around me. They come when I call and they get so excited to see me. They arent cuddly yet but i knew they were less likely to be as theyre girls. One is a chewer which drives me nuts but its manageable. But these other two seem so diff in a more... wild way? They chew EVERYTHING including my fingers still. Theyve torn apart my couch. They rip and chew and shred everything. They never want to say hello or play or be touched. Ive tried everything I have read about trust exercises and all sorts. Ive given them a substantial amount of time. Im at my wits end because I feel they deserve such a happy life but Im finding myself letting them out for less time than Id like as its intense. I have to watch CONSTANTLY for them chewing and shredding. I work full time as a waitress and its so tiring. Sometimes i only have an hour of free time and if it was just original babies id let them out as i just call and they come back but because i cant touch the brown ones and dont want to scare them by grabbing at them all the time i end up not letting them out. I feel like im being cruel. I knew they would be a bit of work but this is draining. I feel like im constantly battling with their problems rather than showing them how to be loved. All i want to do is make them happy and im willing to put in time and work but i really dont know what else to do now. Could it be they left their mum so young that they havent been nurtured properly? Could they have been badly abused and handled and so theyll always be troubled? Am i being unfair and is this normal and 3 months is not substantial? Do i wait? Do i continue? Have i messed up by not touching them enough? Even though it causes them to hurt themselves by trying to leap so far away from me? Should i home them to someone who can give them hours and hours more than i can with no other rats to dominate time? My rats seem to have given them much more confidence. I dont think id want to separate them. I love all my girls but these 2 seem like the most high maintenance thing you can imagine. My other girlies seem so easy. I just dont know if im being selfish or unreasonable. I just want to let them out and not watch the clock worrying if i cant put them away. Their playtime would be endless if i could.
Im so sorry this is a novel. I really thought it was important to know the background details so you can see what ive tried and whether ive messed up any where along line.
Please please please help guide me in a better direction so these adorable little babies can be happy.
(P.s. i think theyre happy but i want to KNOW it!!)
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It could be bad breeding and/or not being handled much if at all when they were young. I would highly suggest getting from a responsable breeder for more friendly/tame rats.

But that is all alittle too late now :) Honestly I do not believe in giving up on a pet or it being a lost cause. Sometimes we just need to channel all the patience in the world. And I say that with experience with very crazy high maintenance rats lol

Yes they can be much more tame if you give them time. I suggest reading the thread on immersian training. Giving them each alot of time and energy into trust training will help. Not over night but given time it will.

Instead of letting them free range in your living room, I would block off a smaller section where you can rat proof so you do not have to worry about chewing or problems.
Thank you! I dont ever want to give up on them either but i had this nagging thought that maybe they would have a better home elsewhere. I really do love all my girlies and it would break my heart to have to say goodbye. I just hope in another 3 months they have some signs of inprovement and at least relax more.
Thank you for reading my novel haha... i will try corner off a part if i can im just not sure how as of yet.
I closed off a part of my bathroom with a sheet of corrugated plastic from the hardware store. If you can spend an hour or more with them in an enclosed space, you should see day by day improvement. Check out the immersion thread.
You can get umm posterboard type stuff. But it is a thicker more stable cardboard type sheet but it is sold like at walmart in the arts and craft section.

Then you just tape the sheets together and tape them to the wall. They are high enough so they can't jump out and the smooth surface means they can not climb. They may be chewed through it just depends. But it is a cheap thing to try.

You can see what it looks like here:
You might want to try clicker training or conditioning with them. They may never be "tame" to being handled, but you can condition them to go into a box or tube or some such and then use that to put them into the cage. I did this with my guinea pigs. They were never truly tame and my GPs had a very high prey / fear instinct to run when I would try to pick them up. What I did with them, was I would use a "cuddle sack" or pouch, and put treats inside. I placed it in their cage and the moment they got in, I would pick it up and move to their play area where I'd have loads of fresh veggies for them. They soon learned to associate the sack with veggies and treats. I could soon put the sack in the cage or the play area and they would all bound in, then I could move them safely. You can also try clicker training. there are loads of resources for it online, but basically you associate a sound with a reward. Then when they do the "right" action (i.e. approaching your hands) you click and then reward them, you then modify the behavior by requiring them to come closer and closer to get the click and reward.
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Omgosh thank you for your advice!!! Im definately going to try these. The foam board was a great idea! And maybe the bathroom too as its neutral ground so they might be more interested in me rather than their usual hidey holes. I might try that pouch idea thats great too. Ive just ordered a snuggle sack! Thank you so much i really appreciate it.... xxx :)
The major problem with doing what your doing is that your doing it over and over again and you are getting the same results... Basically watch the move Groundhog day to see how that plays out... It isn't until you break the cycle that things are going to change.

We're training a new rat now, and every day is different... some days backwards and some forwards.. but that's fine as long as every day is at least slightly different we're making progress because we're influencing behavior through communication. And through trial and error and experimentation we're getting to know our new little baby.

To be perfectly honest, you have picked a hard row to hoe. Adopting rats from homes unknown can become a major problem... We once adopted a 3 week old rat from a feeder bin that had been brought in by a customer. She was beautiful and active and sharper looking than the other feeder type rats and she turned out to be part wild... man what a surprise! She could jump from my desk right into my face and lay a dozen mock bites on my nose before I could swat her off. And yes they were only mock bites and she didn't really hurt anybody seriously until she got much older. Even then, I only got bitten once and if handled with kit gloves by someone she liked, she was a real sweetheart. But I learned my lesson.

Now I can fix most screwed up rats, up to a point... I wrote the thread on immersion, but also keep in mind I have a 9 year old daughter to think about. Our part wild rat wasn't screwed up, she was just naturally vicious when provoked, which made her very predictable. And most of all she loved my daughter who could stuff her into doll clothes which made her safe for at least one of us...

The girls you adopted from the shelter may have been badly mistreated and have good reason to be afraid of hands and humans, this is going to take a lot of work to get over... Luckily they don't sound wild or part wild, if they were you would have a lot more trouble catching them and you would most likely have been bitten pretty badly by now, plus wild rats rarely do any damage to furniture, they prefer to be as unseen as much as possible... as in leave no footprints in the snow. There are a few other giveaways, but for the most part if they don't turn into a flying fur ball of fangs, claws and fur when provoked... you don't have one.

So change it up... naturally I'd recommend you read my thread on immersion.. basically start working with them in close quarters... send the message that you want to be friends and engage them... this is going to really stress them out big time at first, but with lots of engagement and patience and treats they are going to start to realize that you aren't about to drop them into a snake tank like their last owner did... An eventually their stress will subside and you will start to build your relationship with them... I realize it's going to get ugly before it will get better, but if your last relationship ended up in you getting hurt, you are going to be less trustful of the next one and the same is true of rats...

Remember things don't just get better with time, they get better with contact and work, time actually works against you as rats get used to the way things are and the longer it takes for things to change the less likely they will be to adapt to change.

I really don't want to discourage anyone from adopting from a shelter, or from anywhere, but when you adopt older rats that may have been mistreated or just not socialized, they come with luggage and sometimes with issues that will require lots of work. Going forward try and find rats from a known and if possible trusted source... When you can't do that, spend a little while with the rats you are about to adopt... The last six rats we adopted came home with us without a box or cage... The only rat we ever took home in a box was our wild child and that's only because the girl at the store insisted, after telling us how sweet she was and what a good home she came from... (like she didn't know what she was selling us and why she was in a feeder bin). Oddly, although I'd check my homeowners and medical insurance first, I might adopt another baby wild rat, they are truly amazing animals... BUT, I'd never adopt any rat that I couldn't easily handle at the point of adoption; domestic or wild type. It's not that I can't fix them, but with so many sweet little ratties out there in dire need loving homes why would I want to bring home one that's already screwed up by someone else.

As your already committed, I encourage you to read my immersion thread and keep in mind many of us have worked with way funkier rats than you seem to be talking about and most of the time things worked out really well for everyone. The vast majority of rats can build a meaningful relationship with their humans and just about all of them can be substantially improved. You really did a nice thing by adopting rats with issues, but expect your commitment to be tested as you proceed from here forward.

I've worked with a very few select folks who actually adopt screwed up rats on purpose to rehabilitate them... some get really good at it. But they all tell me that once they build a bond of love and trust with a screwed up, problem rat, the relationship they built is worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears it took to get there.

Best luck.
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