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Hello

I have 4 relatively young rats (around 3 months old). They are active, healthy, and haven't experienced any major trauma (other than being relocated). I did a lot of trust training, and they come up and sniff me when running around near their cage, and are happy to be petted inside their cage. One of them even likes to sleep on people's hands inside the cage. However, if I pick any of them up (using the proper technique, slowly and using both hands), they quickly get stressed and intent on getting back to the cage. Occasionally they will eat a Cheerio on my shoulder, but even then they want to get back to their cage ASAP. There are no cats or dogs or other predatory animals (other than humans!), and I don't take them outside - and I offer my hands as a little cave against my body - but they just aren't into it. I see so many pictures of rats happily running around on people's shoulders, and I am beginning to feel a bit frustrated. The reason I bought rats was to really bond with them and spend time with them. Their cage is on my computer desk, so they are with my all evening (and a lot during the day, though they are usually asleep), and they know my voice. I also give them treats, usually by hand. Any help would be appreciated!
 

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Are you only holding them in front of the cage or moving them away from it? When I first started working with Mamma she would get super stressed if I took her out of the cage and tried to hold her while sitting in front of it. She'd just squirm in my hands and search desperately for a way back to her safe place. But if I took her into into another room, usually using a fleece bag that she could hide in until she felt more comfortable, she seemed to relax a bit and would even come out to explore after a short while. Usually just to pluck a treat from my fingers so she could scurry back to her bag to eat it. But the more I took her out and sat with her like this, the more she got used to wandering around outside her cage. Now when I put a ramp from the cage to my bed, she's happy to come waddling out because she knows that thar be treats in the "great outdoors" beyond her cozy little home.
 

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Thank you very much for your response :)

I have tried both options. If I take any of them into another room (except for the youngest, who goes into my t-shirt) they grind their teeth in a stressed-out way. I know that bruxing can indicate contentment, but it's clear that it's a stress-related teeth-grind, not a happy one. Now that the weather is cooling down, I plan to wear a hoodie so they can hide in that. I had a small fleecy bag made to carry them, but it's too small. I plan to make a better one when I have a bit more money (and someone to help with a better handiwork skills!)

Thanks again :)
 

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It's normal. My babies didn't like going far from their cage until this week, I've had them since mid Feburary, they treated the floor like lava. Previously they like to explore on my lap if I left the cage door open like a bridge back in, and would let me take them on my shoulder and walk them around if I left my hood up so they could hide in it. My previous boys were older when I took them home and it took them a little while before they were comfortable. Both cases they wanted to make sure they could back to their home base quick enough, also I found having cereal boxes or the like scattered around the free range area helps. If they have a place to dash too if they get scared they feel better. Instinctively wide open spaces are where predators live, even if you can't see or smell them. I tempted the braver one out with oh so tasty yet not so good for you shepherds pie on tiny plate on the floor. The shyer one would see the other rat got tasty food and didn't get attacked and stressed out how he wasn't getting tasty food, he looked so sad. He eventually over came. We left treats hidden around in our "rat forts" and now they don't want to go back in their cage.

For trust training, I let them hide in my old hoodie for a half hour, I say old because there was fear messes. I picked them up constantly, feeding them treats immediately. After a few days they were playing happily on my lap. Immersion training was at the door and on my lap. The babies were TINY so I didn't push my luck, they could get in places my older boys couldn't and I didn't want to lose them. No matter what, rats are curious and it will get the better of them. Patience patience patience and it will happen.
 

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I have one girl who hates being out of the cage (she's also pretty wacky anyway so I tend to just let her do her thing) but if you get her out of the room she calms down a LOT. The hard part is getting her out of the room. None of my 5 were scared as babies about being out of the cage though. Probably because I never let them really settle in, they were out on my lap within an hour. One of mine I got on my way to a concert a few hours a way. She was in my lap for the drive there and back, and was pretty much only in a travel cage over night until she got home. She is now my sweetest although that has a lot to do with personality. I didn't know about letting rats settle with my first couple but I don't think I'd do that unless it was a very stressed rat. I think it's similar to immersion training but not quite as direct.
 

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I have one girl who hates being out of the cage (she's also pretty wacky anyway so I tend to just let her do her thing) but if you get her out of the room she calms down a LOT. The hard part is getting her out of the room. None of my 5 were scared as babies about being out of the cage though. Probably because I never let them really settle in, they were out on my lap within an hour. One of mine I got on my way to a concert a few hours a way. She was in my lap for the drive there and back, and was pretty much only in a travel cage over night until she got home. She is now my sweetest although that has a lot to do with personality. I didn't know about letting rats settle with my first couple but I don't think I'd do that unless it was a very stressed rat. I think it's similar to immersion training but not quite as direct.
Thank you for sharing your experience :) I'm sure they'd enjoy it if they got used to being out of the cage (and their area). I'm trying to get the younger one used to it, who both isn't quite as attached to the cage, and seems least bothered by adventures into the unknown.

Thanks again :)
 

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One of my rats stresses when out of her cage. No matter where I go in the living room, she whimpers and climbs to wherever is closest to that cage—elbow, shoulder, etc. She is a homebody.

But when I take her out to play in the bathroom (about a 4'x6' space), she's pretty easygoing. She wanders around and climbs over me. No whimpering whatsoever. Not sure if it's the room's distance from the cage or the fact that she's not being held against her will that gives her confidence.
 

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Ooh! Forgot to add, *Catch them when they're sleepy* My wacky one (Minnie) is a very heavy sleepier, I got her out right when she woke up yesterday, and was able to hold her nicely on a towel for about 7 minutes, got too squirmy at 10 though so I put her up. Make each "session" a little bit longer, by like a minute. If they really stress when you go to get them, don't grab them, wait until they're calm. One of the last things you want to do is stress them out, it will make it harder the next time you want them.
 
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