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I finally saw the first signal that my relationship with at least one of the boys is becoming stronger. I was off work yesterday so a coworker fed and cared for them. When I arrived his morning and turned on the lights, they both jumped up on the front of their cage looking for attention (or perhaps food).

Decided to open the door before picking up their food. Stripe and Pinkie both came out and moved toward me. As they neared, I reached to pet Pinkie he allowed me to touch him and then immediately retreated back into the cage. However Spike stood still and allowed me to stroke him. I slowly reached out and lifted him up. At first he squirmed as if he was going to try and return to his cage, then he stopped and settled in my arms for a few minutes. It was almost as if a light when on in his head that this could be a positive thing. When finally returned to his cage, he attempted to climb out towards me. I was so excited. Now I see proof he is getting more comfortable and perhaps gaining more trust.

I will continue to work with both of them. Is it possible that Pinkie will never really enjoy handling? Do you think I should begin some more-focused work with Pinkie, or, since he seems to be making steady improvement, continue the slow, forward path we are currently on? It has only been two weeks and I can see they both recognize me and seem happy to see me. They come from wherever they are when I call. I have tried to hand feed special treats rather than just use the bowl, as a way to help them look at me as the provider of all good things. Today I fed them a tiny dollop of plain yogurt on the tip of a spoon. Stripe went crazy over it, Pinkie sampled, but was not so enthusiastic.

Looking for guidance on how to help with their behavior in interactions with me. Any pearl of wisdom or personal experience you care to share is most appreciated. I want them to be happy, healthy and relaxed with me.
 

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Two weeks is really a short period of time. The fact that you have this kind of bond forming already is pretty good.

Our oldest rat, Latte, took to us almost immediately. She generally did not poop on us. She still preferred her cage for a while, though. Twice she leapt from my arms to the cage (missing once). The next oldest, Penumbra, has been the hardest one to work with. She got nervous when being pulled from the cage, and she almost always pooped. She would shy away from being picked up, though she was fine with licking my hand. Our youngest, Loki, had been pretty nervous too, but I think she came around after a month or so.

Penumbra has finally—after nearly 6 months—become more accepting of being picked up. She hasn't pooped outside her cage in a long time. I can't say for certain that it was just time. It might also because I gave her the opportunity to be more independent. I attached a belt from the cage to the couch so that the rats could come visit me while I watch TV. Penumbra always seemed happiest when she came to me on her own terms rather than when I would pick her up and drag her out of the cage against her will.

Pinkie will probably enjoy handling. It may just take more than 2 weeks. It could take months. Just be patient with him and let him come to you on his own terms sometimes.
 

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I agree be patient and have lots of treats and praise for them. I guess I was lucky that I never had and issues with bonding.
 
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