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I recently acquired two new girls from a friend of my cousin who found out that he bought a pregnant rat. He loves rats and has had plenty of them but he didn't have the resources to keep all of the babies and on top of things his apartment was being fumigated. I agreed to take the two girls from the litter but I just can't get a read on them. What I'm trying to figure out is if I'm getting anywhere with them or if they're just not bonding/adjusting much at all. I'm also not sure how much of the distance I'm perceiving is just because they're girls and they're wigglier than the boys I'm used to.

They were about two and a half months old when we got them at the beginning of September and the guy I got them from was very good about handling them while they're young. Our household is multi-species with three dogs, two cats, and one boy rat from my first pair (his cagemate passed at about 3 years old in May). The girls have their own cage and it's nowhere near my boy's cage because I think he's got mites. For the first week or so, they were not adjusting to the move at all and my wife's cat kept trying to make friends with them (really, he was cuddly friends with my boys.) sniffing through the bars, but they didn't know that and were actually aggressive at anything touching the bars for the first couple nights. The pictures below came a couple days later when they relaxed enough for me to pull them out of their cage. It was early enough that no amount of coaxing or yogies would get them out of their own free will at that point. Their names are Jinky (she has a kink just before the end of her tail) and Pandora (she's the most curious).

So they've been with us a month and a half. I usually get in at least 15-20 minutes holding them every night, but I can't manage much (any) free range time for them due to our only ratproofable room being used for storage at present. We used to let our boys roam and play on the couch or our bed with active supervision, but I've been told that won't really hold girls from hopping down and getting into trouble. I've been following the basic new rat trust training steps of getting in hand time and using treats to encourage them to be friendly and come out of their cage. Jinky is pretty shy and will reach out the door for a treat, but still won't come out on her own. Pandora will come out even without treats if you let her and explore around on the long table their cage sits on, but she's not willing to crawl more than her front feet onto my hand for a yogie. Both of them are very gentle when accepting a treat from fingers (held or flat) and check to make sure they actually have their teeth on treat instead of skin. They don't snatch treats, but they do prefer to run back into their cage to eat them once they have them. I have to chase them around their cage a bit to get a hold of them most times. I also have to scoop a huddling Jinky out of the corner of the shelf where their food bowl is on occasion, and sometimes she'll hold onto or grasp at the bars to stay in the cage too.

Both of them are more comfortable with actual hands than my boys used to be (the boys actively tried to sit on any skin that wasn't a hand) but they really prefer to be on my shoulders. Getting hand/skin time can be difficult at times because they'll opt to climb my shirt (or chest) to get to my shoulders even if I pull them off my shoulder to hold them. This is especially true of Jinky who usually gets up there and turns into a statue. Sometimes she trembles a little too, but I can't tell what her actual emotion is at that point. She'll still eat a treat or groom herself a bit while trembling but she won't walk around when she's like that. Pandora is perfectly happy to run from shoulder to shoulder or down one arm and up the other looking around, so much so that I worry she'll fall sometimes. Even if they insist on being on my shoulders, I try to keep a hand on them petting them pretty constantly. Pandora has bruxed for me once while sitting in a cupped hand, eating a yogie, and being stroked. Jinky relaxes and switches shoulders or crawls around my arms more when I have Pandora out with her, but she still seems pretty timid. To me it seems like there's some progress but it feels far slower than what I got with my boys who were just feeders from PetCo.Thoughts, advice, ideas?



 

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Sounds like they're just being girls :) mine never stop moving.
 

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Only one of my girls is completely comfortable with hands, one is ok with them, and one avoids them like you are talking about. What I've been doing (I have no idea if this is an actual thing but it's helped) is I grab them and just keep grabbing them hand over hand until they relax for a bit (long enough for ear scritches) then set them down :) I have seen a difference in how they react to being picked up, instead of thrashing and grabbing the cage bars for dear life they just go limp, for short distances (like from the floor to a shelf or from the cage straight to my chest or shoulder). As far as getting them to come out willingly, I recently found out that offering my arm instead of a hand seems to work really well with even my most hand-shy girl!

Also, I let them run around on the bed with me for about an hour a day and I haven't had any problems with them jumping down. They go as far as they can on the edge but they always turn around. If I get worried they are going too far I tug the sheet underneath them and for some reason that always works lol they turn around and run to me! I stuff a blanket under the door, put a gate up, keep the dogs and cat out of the room and let them on the bed. I do this right before I go to bed and it's working out very well :) Then they also get 10 - 15 minutes out of the cage just running around on my arms. If there is any way for you to be able to work out a room to rat proof to spend more free time with them I think that will help a lot :) At least, it has for me!
 
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