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Reposting because the first attempt got blocked somehow...


We got two male rats last October for my 6 year old daughter's birthday.

We gradually got them used to us, and now they're happy to be handled, and come out of their cage to explore the room usually twice a day for at least 30 minutes at a time.

Once out of the cage, one of them will come back to me if I shake the treat jar, and is happy to be picked up and put back in. The other however is not so easy. When it's time to go back in the cage he hides - under the cage usually, or behind a cupboard - and has so far given my partner one and me two nasty full depth bites trying to get him back in, the last of which was when I just waved my hand near him; I wasn't even thinking about trying to pick him up.

If we leave the cage open long enough they will both eventually go back of their own accord, but I don't especially want them running around in there unattended all day whilst everyone is at work and school. I don't think it's anything we've done, as we treat them both the same and the other one is lovely. They haven't bitten the children yet.

And some answers to TwilxghtRat's questions:

They were from a pet shop - All your Pet Shop needs here at Pets At Home

I don't know what would count as "excessive touching", but a 6yo and a 2yo give them cuddles. They understand that if the rat squeaks they are doing something it really doesn't like and should gently put it down straight away. We could leave them alone more / longer, but we were under the impression that the more handling they got, the friendlier they would be.

Blocking up his favourite hiding places is probably the best option. For the first few months we only let them out into a play pen, but that got boring for them, and the more adventurous / non-bitey one just kept jumping out of it, so we let them roam the room.

We're giving them Pets at Home Biscuit Hearts Flavoured with Strawberry Small Animal Treat 80g | Pets At Home as treats; occasionally dried banana chips.
 

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Cloud and Dew (Pearl Merle and American Mink, both with Irish markings)!
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Okay. My advice to you after reading that is to have LOTS of patience, and get the aggressive male to trust you more. You can do this by spending a few hours or as much time as possible with them! Liquid treats like applesauce are great, but if you’re worried he might bite someone’s finger while licking it off, using a metal spoon (rats hate the feeling of teeth on metal) is a good solution. Make sure (if you aren’t already) to pick him up very carefully. Two hands using the scoop method to pick him up gently from either side. Extremely gentle and slow movement near him may ease his fear. Also, I have another question. When he bit, did you approach him, or did he come up to you to bite?
 

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Okay. My advice to you after reading that is to have LOTS of patience, and get the aggressive male to trust you more. You can do this by spending a few hours or as much time as possible with them! Liquid treats like applesauce are great, but if you’re worried he might bite someone’s finger while licking it off, using a metal spoon (rats hate the feeling of teeth on metal) is a good solution. Make sure (if you aren’t already) to pick him up very carefully. Two hands using the scoop method to pick him up gently from either side. Extremely gentle and slow movement near him may ease his fear. Also, I have another question. When he bit, did you approach him, or did he come up to you to bite?

In addition to that ^^ you may want to go back to using a playpen while you're working on the trust issue. One stressful encounter of "catching" him can undo any advancements you made in the trust area. At least with the playpen, he really can't run and hide. Also, try using a "transport box" getting from the cage to the playpen and back again. The idea is to teach (bribe) him to go into the box or cage, of his own accord.
It doesn't have to be big or fancy - you're just using it from cage to playpen. Tissue boxes work well (mine prefer the "cube" style box or even a paper bag (mine love running in and out of paper bags - I think it's the crinkle sound.
 

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Just to add, rats who really don't like to be picked up are still lovely pets. Teach them tricks, give them entertainment rather than cuddles. As they get older they may chill more, and be okay with quickly being scooped up with two hands and moved to another location.
 

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I don't think everyone will agree with what I am about to add but I don't think it is a great idea to introduce rats to free roam until they have bonded with you or at least until they trust you enough to pick them up at any time. I have went both routes on multiple occasions and feel it is best to keep them in a cage until bonded. Slowly introducing them outside of the cage say on your arms or shoulders helps build trust and makes it easy to train them to come to you when called during free roam. I also make it a practice to never introduce my rats to the floor of the room their cage is in. This way they are curious about the floor but aren't distressed since they don't even know what is there. Last time I introduced rats to the floor their cage was in, they were always getting distressed trying to get out and onto the floor.
 

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I don't think everyone will agree with what I am about to add but I don't think it is a great idea to introduce rats to free roam until they have bonded with you or at least until they trust you enough to pick them up at any time. I have went both routes on multiple occasions and feel it is best to keep them in a cage until bonded. Slowly introducing them outside of the cage say on your arms or shoulders helps build trust and makes it easy to train them to come to you when called during free roam. I also make it a practice to never introduce my rats to the floor of the room their cage is in. This way they are curious about the floor but aren't distressed since they don't even know what is there. Last time I introduced rats to the floor their cage was in, they were always getting distressed trying to get out and onto the floor.
I agree. Free roam is just an opportunity to avoid you if they aren't fully trusting and bonded. That makes for stressful situation for everyone. And I also don't use the same room as the cage for free roam, as the cage is too tempting and distracting. I can leave the cage doors open and they climb all around the cages, but never want to get down to the floor.
 
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Cloud and Dew (Pearl Merle and American Mink, both with Irish markings)!
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I don't think everyone will agree with what I am about to add but I don't think it is a great idea to introduce rats to free roam until they have bonded with you or at least until they trust you enough to pick them up at any time. I have went both routes on multiple occasions and feel it is best to keep them in a cage until bonded. Slowly introducing them outside of the cage say on your arms or shoulders helps build trust and makes it easy to train them to come to you when called during free roam. I also make it a practice to never introduce my rats to the floor of the room their cage is in. This way they are curious about the floor but aren't distressed since they don't even know what is there. Last time I introduced rats to the floor their cage was in, they were always getting distressed trying to get out and onto the floor.
I agree as well, free roam can be very stressful. It really just depends on the rats!
 
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