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Hello Hello,

I am a brand new rat mom to two baby dumbo girls. I love them so much, my heart melts basically every time I see them. The two girls are, I would suppose, sisters, but have very different tendencies. They always cuddle (and when I mean always I really do mean always) and I worry that if I ever take one out to play with the other, the other will get lonely. In reality, the other one usually climbs up to see what's going on and goes to sleep. Sometimes I hear vocalizations and see them staring at each other through the glass. It makes me feel as if I've done something wrong...until they quickly turn around and start ignoring each other again and the one in the cage goes back to sleep.

Is it okay to play with my girls one at a time for extended periods?
I'm talking anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour and a half or so for each girl, each time. I feel bad ever depriving them of each other because I know they're never to be housed alone. That being said, is it okay for me to play with each rat individually? It seems to be the easiest option. I let them free roam together every day, but my girls have two very different personalities. Daisy likes to climb all over me and hide in my sleeves, while trying to keep Millie out of trouble (and eventually get her back into the cage) is like roping cattle in the rodeo. If Millie gets out of my reach and I move, Daisy's human tree becomes disrupted and she will slide down one of my limbs as an escape route, which scares me to death. It's very hard to handle them free roaming at the same time because one always wants to relax and the other wants to escape to another part of the room entirely. She has to be heavily supervised as she explores because she is certainly very curious. Following Daisy is like getting a workout in every part of your body that attempts to move quickly while you are staying close to the ground.

Daisy LOVES to be held. She is just super receptive to touch and will let you do almost anything to her and groom your hand whist you are doing it. Millie, on the other hand, freaks out greatly. While Daisy enjoys resting in the crook of my elbow, I can only keep Millie chill in the bonding pouch I made, and only when Daisy is not present. I feel kind of bad, because since Daisy is just so easily bonded with me I will just pick her up and watch TV with her in my lap until she falls asleep. Millie will have nothing to do with this and will generally release her bowels in a tall pyramid formation if I try. Will spending more time bonding closely with Daisy as opposed to supervising independent Millie make this worse? Granted, it's literally only been three days. I got my rats on Thursday. Daisy took to me instantly. I think that Millie is warming up to me, but she's generally more skittish. I'm just worried that because our connection wasn't as immediate as the other that this could pose some strange problem later on. I just want to give her the best possible life she can have. I don't want to bias myself against her in any way because I have so much room in my heart for her. I want to go with her flow, but I hope that by seeing her behavior I don't make some sort of assumption about her potential that actually disrupts her flow, if you get what I'm saying?
 

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Every good rat parent tries to engage each and every rat equally, that said it never seems to work out that way. Some rats become very affectionate and attach themselves to you while other's become independent and do their own thing...

So just like kids rats have personalities, you can't deny one your affection because the other one prefers to be less interaction. Sometimes when you play with one the other will come to check out and join in the fun.... Max was a very reclusive rat, sometimes we didn't see her for days at a time, but if we were playing with Cloud on the floor, she would pop up and crawl all over us and actually be rather playful... then she's crawl off to her favorite dark place again.

Still, you haven't had your rats too long so just keep engaging them and see how their personalities develop... Max was a very affectionate pup before she grew up to be a hermit and I've had pretty reclusive rats become affectionate as they age.

Just try to spend as much time with each, as best they tolerate it and despite their different personalities you will have rewarding relationships with both.

Have fun.
 

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It might be that Daisy will be your heart rat, and Millie will be Daisy's companion. I doubt that spending time with Daisy will make Millie more shy, but you will definitely have to put in some work to get Millie more used to you. I recommend getting a wire cage asap - not just for the obvious reasons (air circulation, more opportunites for exercise and enrichment) but this way Millie can hear and smell you when you're nearby. Rats have poor vision, but a strong sense of smell and hearing. From behind the glass Millie might not have as much opportunity to learn what you're all about, which is why she just goes to sleep when she's in there alone.

I'm not sure it's a good idea to let them free range just yet. You want to develop a bond of trust with them, make sure they know their names and come to you when they're called, and are comfortable being scooped up. Once this is established, then you won't have to run after them to get them back in the cage. Chasing after them can actually make them frightened of you (remember they are prey animals). Also, once you get a wire cage they won't dread going in there!

I do think it's a good idea to spend time socializing Millie. It sounds like Daisy is making the job easy for you, but with Millie you'll have to put some work in to get her comfortable. Just be patient - with babies you will make progress fast :)
 

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Just a minor tweak on the previous post... Unlike deer and rabbits, rats aren't actually prey animals in the strictest sense, they are mostly scavengers and opportunistic hunters much like humans...

That said, neither rats nor humans nor piranha fish are stupid enough to let themselves be eaten by something 100 times their size. I know it's I'm putting a fine point on it, but it's important in understanding rat psychology that their actual place in the food chain is far more complex than just being prey, and it goes towards their understanding of their world and their complex behavior set.

There are actually situations where a large pack of rats working in unison can be quite formidable and rats have been known to aggressively and seriously injure larger animals and humans while "defending" themselves.
 

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My experience with rats is limited, but I get the impression that the alone-time-is-harmful concept only applies to lengthy amounts of time. Obviously a rat will need to be alone at some point. Perhaps you need to quarantine one, or it's just how things happen with cleaning. Rats leave themselves alone too. My youngest rat, Loki, often sleeps alone. I feel so bad because I see Latte and Penumbra sharing the space pod, but poor Loki is sleeping alone in a box. But then the next day, all three are snuggled together in a different box. When I first introduced Loki, she and Penumbra slept together while Latte skulked alone in the upper cage like some emo teenager. Rats can be weird.

It does seem safe to leave a rat alone for a while. Obviously this shouldn't be the norm. When one of my first pair of rats got really sick, I took her back to the pet shop to see if they could nurse her back; she got sick during the 7-day return period. I probably could have left Latte alone, but I wanted to keep her company, so I brought home a loaner rat. Sadly, the sick rat died, and now Penumbra is a permanent fixture (well, until she dies unfortunately). I suppose Latte could have been okay by herself while figuring out if the sick rat was going to make it, but I'm glad I didn't test that theory.

I can't imagine any harm happening when you take a rat out to play for a few hours. Personally, I love playing with all my rats at once, but if it became impractical to bring them all out, I have no qualms about leaving one behind for a while. She'll see her cagemates soon enough.
 
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