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Hello,

My 10-year-old daughter has been asking for pet rats for a few months. After some research, I concluded that they sounded like good pets, and with fairly easy care that my daughter could manage with some help. As an animal-lover, I was excited to welcome more animals to the family. We already had a dog and a cat, which was a big reduction in pets for us - we recently lost another dog, cat, and some fish - it was just old age for all. I had a hamster growing up, but otherwise, no rodent experience.

So, we adopted two 4 month old male rats (brothers) from a local animal shelter. One is brown agouti hooded, the other is brown agouti berkshire, both dumbo-eared. My daughter named them Nimbus and Firebolt after Harry Potter's broomsticks. These boys were apparently born at the shelter, so that was their whole life so far. The employees assured us they were handled as much as possible and were gentle. We picked these particular two because they seemed the most curious and friendly when we put our hands in the cage.

We have had the rats for just over 2 weeks now. They live in a nice big cage up in our extra bedroom (the kids' playroom) to keep them safe from our dog and cat. They are super cute. I look forward to spending time with them each day. Unfortunately I seem to be enjoying them more than my daughter who prefers to play with her human friends or play video games! Go figure.

But here's my question... as much as I look forward to the time (usually in the early evening) when I can spend time with the rats each day, I usually wind up feeling disappointed by their skittishness and seeming desire to just hang out in their cage. I expected them to LIKE me more and want to come out to play! I now realize that being handled "as much as possible" at a shelter probably doesn't compare to a well-socialized breeder/rescue situation. I have read all the posts on trust training and even "immersion" and have tried all of it. At first they seemed too nervous to even take treats from us, although they still seemed curious. They just didn't seem to want to eat. Eventually, we were able to start with just handing them treats in their cage, then luring them to the door, and out of the door, and now they will (still somewhat nervously) climb onto our hands for treats. However, I still feel like they would prefer to be left alone. If I successfully get them into my hands and carry them away from the cage, they seem frantic to get back! Very often after a little while of luring them with treats, they just seem to give up and crawl into their bed, not even caring to come out for the treats. I wonder if we just haven't found treats they are excited enough about? We are trying all kinds of fruits and vegetables, plus the yogurt drops, plus bits of scrambled eggs.

On the occasion when I have to pick them up (instead of just letting them crawl onto me), they still squeak and act scared.

In addition, I am feeling a bit concerned about the litter training. We're two weeks in with that, as well, with no change to the amount of poop I am scooping from the cage floor to put into their litter box each day. AND, one of the boys in particular, Firebolt, seems to "mark" my hand quite often - just a little dribble of pee as he walks over my hand. Will that get better, or should I accept that I will often get peed on? Or should I consider neutering?

Well, that's all for now. I just wanted to introduce myself and the rattie-boys, and I am just looking for some assurance that I'm on the right track with them! I am so excited about them, but the bonding is taking much longer than with other pets I've had (dogs and cats)!

Thanks, and this forum has been very helpful to read through so far!
brindle
 

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I'm equally new to the forum and rat ownership, but I hope your experience improves! I adopted a lazy + extremely docile and friendly adult male from the local shelter and recently got a baby to be his companion who is extremely skittish, so I'm wondering the same thing!
 

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It does improve. Im new to the forum but not new to rats. Their incredibly smart and trainable, but also neophobic (afraid of new things). One trick I use to train new rats is to get Yogies or yogurt drops, and break them into tiny pieces, and when they come to me they get a treat. Soon youll be their favorite thing! as for your daughter im sorry, i have no training tips for kids....
 

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I'd recommend something like some yogurt on a spoon or your fingertips as a treat. Something they have to hang around you to get the goodies on. I did that with my boys and it worked really well! Within a few weeks, they started warming up and now they never want to go back in the cage. One of them was more shy than the other. He's only started grooming my hands and wanting to cuddle after a few months. My little fatty was totally down on hanging out and petting...so long as treats were involved. Now he'll chill on my lap and groom my hand for as long as I let him. Some rats take longer to warm up! Keep at it and they'll figure it out!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the replies! Here is a picture of the new boys. The hooded one is Nimbus and the all-brown is Firebolt.
Nimbus&Firebolt.jpg

Last night I tried mashed banana on a spoon for them, and that kept them "with us" longer as they couldn't grab and run. However, they only seemed interested in a few bites and then they weren't hungry anymore. They did happily let me pet them INSIDE the cage for quite a while, and seemed relaxed and content. One even fell asleep!

Does this count as my second post, or do I have to start 3 separate threads?
 

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Thanks for the replies! Here is a picture of the new boys. The hooded one is Nimbus and the all-brown is Firebolt.<br><img src="http://www.ratforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=194578&stc=1" attachmentid="194578" alt="" id="vbattach_194578" class="previewthumb" style="margin: 1px;"><br><br>Last night I tried mashed banana on a spoon for them, and that kept them "with us" longer as they couldn't grab and run. However, they only seemed interested in a few bites and then they weren't hungry anymore. They did happily let me pet them INSIDE the cage for quite a while, and seemed relaxed and content. One even fell asleep!<br><br>Does this count as my second post, or do I have to start 3 separate threads? 
 

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The boys that I got a few weeks ago are slowly warming up to me. I've been sharing some of my dinner with them, spending time, just talking, hanging around the cage. The first boy that I got new happily crawls out to give me little kisses, and the other two are curious and peeking their heads out at me. As someone who has done this whole getting the rattie babies warmed up to you thing... it just takes perseverance... and delicious food! Also, wearing a hoodie really ends up helping xD
 

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their so cute!! the other thing i do with new ratties is to sit in the tub (empty) and let them run around. They tend to want to run for cover which is usually your legs, so they can start associating you with safe and comfort. Also easy clean up for messes and harder to escape :3
 

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I totally agree. Finger feeding or by spoon has gone a long way to building trust with our new rats. I look forward to spoon feeding them plain yogurt every morning.. and they sure love it! We have one skittish rat, Darwin, but he is making progress daily :)
 

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Wearing hoodies..exactly! Even better when they are fleece, lol! Our boys love climbing our legs.. great exercise for them and the fleece (head to foot) protects our skin. Summer will be interesting.
 

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Does this count as my second post, or do I have to start 3 separate threads?
I don't know if you found out, or if someone messaged you maybe, but I did notice (I think) that nobody answered this question! It certainly does count as your second post.:p
 

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They're cute! I'm glad you're making progress with them. :) Sometimes it can be a slow process, because they need to adjust to new settings and new people. Another thing that may be overwhelming for them is that a lot of shelters have very basic enclosures (not because they don't care, but lack of funds, typically), and if their cage is very exciting, it could be something they're still adjusting to.
 

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Thanks everyone!

I'm happy to report that we had a really good play session last night. The rats were crawling all over my daughter and I looking for treats! They still didn't want us to actually pick them up, but if they crawled up on their own it was fine. This morning I only had time for a very quick "hello" before work, but even in that few minutes they crawled out on my hands - one crawled up to my shoulder. So I think we're making good progress. Does anyone have any hints for helping the rats get used to us picking them up? Or just continue as we are, and they will get used to it eventually?

As for the comments about wearing fleece and hoodies... yes, we have found that they scratch up the skin around our necks, as they like to be up on our shoulders a lot. Hoodies/thick clothes help a lot, and I too wonder how it will be in summer! I just ordered two "ratoobs" from Wrapcity on Etsy for my daughter and I, to help keep our skin from getting scratched. Hopefully we can wear the rats around a little and it will help with bonding.

What are the opinions here about whether it would be safe to have a rat in a ratoob around the house with the other pets? Both our cat and our dog have seen/noticed the rats. Somewhat surprisingly, our cat didn't care - but he is pretty mellow and friendly with other creatures. The dog, however... she is a Cairn Terrier and therefore I can't imagine she would ever calm down and get over her excitement/prey drive over having rats in the house. We don't let her into the room where the rats are at all. She is small, so the rats would be safe up around our necks - it's not like the little dog could jump up that high, or knock us over, or anything. I hope they would be secure in the ratoobs and not fall out. Would they be too scared out around the house with the other pets around, though? Or would being able to "hide" in the scarf make them feel safe enough?

Post #3!!!
 

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Your boys are adorable! I love their names, too. :)
 

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As for the "few bites" of banana, rats tend to try new food (I'm assuming this is new food?) in small portions because they are unable to throw up. They're making sure this is a safe food and over time will trust taking food from you. Get them hooked on something (I give my girls milkbones, yes the dog treat) and they're like putty in my hand :) rats are amazing pets, you wont regret them
 

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As for the "marking", all three of our girls dribble on us occasionally...still. Interestingly, when they do this their urine does not smell! To get them more used to being comfortable around us initially, my daughters and I would get the rats out of their cage and let them run around a closed room and explore. We sat on the floor and had treats at the ready (fresh bits of fruit, Yogies, etc.). Since they would come to us out of curiosity (rather than us reaching into the cage and pulling them out repeatedly), they socialized pretty quickly. We got them pretty young too (a couple months old?), so that helped I think. Good luck with your new sweeties! Rats are the best pets!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Is it classed as a Berkshire is it has a full coloured coat and a bit of white on it's belly?
I think so AmyNickiD, this is my understanding too. I may be wrong about Firebolt, actually, because he's not white on the belly, but just a light gray. However, it is definitely different than his "top side" so I don't think he's a "Self".

To everyone else who has replied - thanks! Things are still coming along slowly with the boys. They seem to "see-saw" a bit - some days I think it's going really well, and others I wonder if they will ever LOVE us or just kind of put up with us! I guess we'll keep working on it...

We are going away for the weekend coming up so they will have 3 days where they don't get "playtime" with us. I hope they don't regress. :(
 
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