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Discussion Starter #1
Okay, I'm really new to rats. I've never owned any or known anything about them until I got suckered into adopting some from the local pet store. I adore them, but I have some questions.

First of all, they're VERY, VERY timid. Although they've been handled all their life, they don't like being picked up and are very timid when the cage doors are open. I think they might be afraid of me. I presume this is probably normal, until they get used to me, but I'd like some advice on exactly what I should be doing to make them feel better around me. I've got some cheerios and rice krispies for treats, but a lot of times, they're too nervous to take them, especially if they're outside of the cage.

They do get curious and come out of the cage after several minutes of it being open. They'll explore a couple of feet and rush back to the cage. They get really skittish if I touch their backs, which I presume is a natural reaction? Especially if they don't like being picked up?

Anyway, I really don't want them to be scared of me and I've never done anything to hurt them that I'm aware of, although I'm sure I've done some stuff to inadvertently frighten them, like bringing them home, to a strange, new place, and taking them out of the cage to clean it. Does anyone have any suggestions on what I can do to make them feel more comfortable? I realize I've only had them a little over a week and they're very young. Any ideas on how long it will take before they're willing to cuddle with me and stuff?

Also, I think a couple or all of them have upper respiratory infections. They sneeze almost constantly when they're awake and a couple have mild red discharge around their noses. They've been like that since I got them. Will an over-the-counter antibiotic like tetracycline clear that up or am I definitely going to have to take them to the vet? I really wasn't counting on vet bills this early in the game and am a little strapped for cash. If I can treat them over-the-counter, I would prefer that. Also, my local pet store does not carry tetracycline. Any ideas where I could get some? Thanks!
 

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First off, how old are the little guys exactly? Under a 6 weekers shouldn't be sold to people. It soundslike your little guys are very unsocialized. Their going to need a lot of time to adjust to you. Just handle them a bit, very gently, every day and give them nummy treats like rat biscuits and kashi cereal. If you suspect they have respitory infections, you'll need to take them to the vet as soon as possible. That might be one reason they are so skitish. My rat just recovered from a resp. infection, and a vet check + good antibiotics was $50 (Don't know how much in punds that is if you live in U.K.). A good vet will have you only pay for the medication if more than one ratty is sick.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Well, I think they're around seven or eight weeks old. They weren't sold to me, I adopted them from a pet store that took the mom in when she was pregnant and raised the babies in the back room. I have a policy of adopting my pets whenever possible, rather than buying them, so I can provide homes for animals that might otherwise not get a home or go to a really bad one. Most people will value what they pay for, not everyone places value on something they get free.

Anyway, they said the rats have been handled since birth, but I think a pet store's definition of 'handled since birth' may be vastly different from a breeder's definition of the same thing. I spent some quality time with them yesterday, feeding them plain cheerios and wild baby greens (which they LOVE). I did notice that they are not sneezing as much and the discharge looks to be clearing up. Aside from the sneezing, they don't act sick, either. They race up and down the ramps in their cage and clean themselves vigorously any time they think they might be dirty. I think I may be a paranoid ratty mommie more than anything. The bedding I use, while it is recycled paper, I think it may be a bit dusty, so that might be part of the problem. I think I may start sifting it before adding it. Tonight is cage cleaning night, so I'll probably try it tonight. Come to think of it, I think the pet store had them on pine bedding, so that might be the other part of the problem, and they're just now recovering from the toxins in their old bedding. The two I've had for a couple of days longer are the ones without discharge and don't seem to sneeze nearly as much.

Unfortunately, the vet I found that treats rats wants to charge me $200 to see the four of them and I just can't afford that at this time. If they don't continue improving, I will borrow it from someone and take them, but for the time being, I'm going to watch them closely and see if it's just dust and the old phenols.

They're getting bolder. Atra, the black one, will actually come to me to get a cheerio and he takes it so daintily. The others tend to snatch and run, although, one of the others is starting to not run as much, but he still snatches it from me. They're filling out some, too. When I got them, they were a little bony. I think it's because of the improper food the pet store was feeding them. With me, they get Mazuri rat blocks and snackies of wild baby greens, fresh fruit and cheerios.

They didn't seem as adverse to being picked up yesterday, either. They still don't care for it, but they don't grab for the cage as much as they did. If I just leave the cage open and sit next to it, eventually, they'll start getting up the courage to come out and explore. they seem to come over to me a lot too, so I think they're getting used to me and starting to connect me with the cheerios that they get. I think it's probably just a matter of time and patience.

Thanks for your response. I really appreciate it.
 

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Rats can take a while to get used to being handled by humans. They're very loving, but it takes some time, especially if they're that young. I realize it's been a ocuple of weeks since you last posted, but if their conditions have been stabilized, I wouldn't take them to the vet.

You might want to change the type of bedding you use. I've noticed that pine bedding causes much more sneezing than the recycled paper bedding, e.g. CareFresh in the major stores. It's softer and seems like it produces less dust and especially oil.

If the discharge is white or green, they probably have an infection. If they were my rats, I wouldn't take them to the vet until they seem extremely tired, don't want to eat, or their ears and tails seem very cold an pale. It's just like in humans: a cold is different than the flu is different than scarlet fever or polio. Some things their immune systems can take care of in the proper environment, and some things they can't.

Please let us know if their status has degenerated.

--Kevin
 

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Wow. I just read my post again and noticed quite a few typos. I guess that's why that "preview" button is down at the bottom of the screen.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Meh, don't worry about the typos. I haven't taken them to the vet because they haven't really gotten worse. They're still sneezing, but not like they were. I already use a paper bedding. I think it's a little dusty, but not toxic.

They're getting friendlier, too. When I take naps, I will open the cage and one by one, they tend to venture up onto my bed and tickle my face with their whiskers. They're so cute...
 
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