Rat Forum banner
1 - 20 of 65 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
27 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
New Owner & Hey, guys. I'm a new rat owner. So, yesterday I boughSkittish Baby Rats

Hey, guys. I'm a new rat owner. I'm sorry the title is all messed up.

So, yesterday I bought two baby husky rats, Kirk and Spock. Kirk is a little older than 1 month, but Spock is a real baby, he's like half Kirk's size.


They have a huge cage and lots of toys and hideouts. Just to get them inside the cage, it was ****, cause I didn't want to pick them up (they actually don't let me do it) and start things the wrong way, so I just put the box inside the cage and that was it.


I played a little with them, letting them scent my hand. Then I left them alone for a bit, then started offering some treats (those star-shaped honey cereals). I didn't take much time until Kirk accepted it (the names suit them perfectly), but Spock rarely does. I tried to pet them, but they wouldn't let me, they actually contract/retract/twitch themselves, I don't know, like when you're about to punch someone. Ok, patience. Kirk is actually a little bit familiar to my voice already, because when I say something, most of the times 'Kirk', he comes out for a treat.


Okay, they spent the night by themselves and in the morning I tried playing with them, and again, nothing. They are REALLY skittish. I could only get Kirk out by luring him into a toilet paper roll, but I immediately put him inside the cage again, because he was pooping the entire coach and terrified of me. Again, they are really happy in the cage, they wrestle and climb all the time. Then, I watched Arrested Development in the coach for a while, right beside their cage.


A few hours later, I prepared the tub for some socialization and lured them into a box (it took me 30 freaking minutes, xd). I laid down in the towels and they started exploring, but it looked like they were more interested in escaping than in actually getting to know me. I had lots of treats, like yogurt, cereals, even baby food, but it took them about 30 minutos or so to start taking it from me. Oh, by the way, every time they get a treat, they run away and hide. I tried picking them up to give them some cuddle, but they dodge me like 'yo, son, you slow as a tortoise and you scare me, bro'. Kirk surprised me, because he looks so brave, but actually squeaks like in pain when I try picking him up. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the breeder used to pick them by their tail, I don't know.


So, I really don't know if this is normal. They are not even 2 months old yet, so I was wondering if it is completely natural for baby rats be this skittish. This is going to be really hard, because I actually want to give them lots of love and let them run around my room, but it is almost impossible to get them out of the cage, either by picking them up or by luring them into something.


PS: I was thinking about recording myself reading and letting the recording play 24/7, but I'm scared that they are going to associate my voice to the environment and no to me, I don't know. I also was planning to spend the entire day with toilet paper on my clothes, then putting the paper inside their little hideout.

Some pics of my babies (the photos were taken by the breeder, no way I could actually grab them like this):

Rat Mammal Muridae Hamster Gerbil Rat Mammal Muridae Mouse Hamster Rat Hamster Muridae Gerbil Skin Rat Hamster Gerbil Mammal Mouse
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
995 Posts
Oh they are SUPER cute! I'm a sucker for husky rats, its sad they're so rare in the US.

Have you checked out the Immersion sticky? Thats a great socialization technique. All you can do is spend as much time as possible with them, they should warm up to you soon. The more long chunks of time (think multiple hours) you spend with them out, the faster they'll warm up to you.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
27 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, I love huskies too.

But what do you mean with spending time? Just siting by their cage and talking to them or something else? What do you think about my recording thing?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
383 Posts
Yeah, it sounds like you will need some hours to spend with them. After some time, they have to acknowledge you're there.

Also, I fully understand the frustration of rats taking food from you and running off. I read that smearing baby food on your skin will attract them to you, but they can't just take it and run off, so they have to learn to lick it off you if they want the treat. Honey or yogurt is probably a great option.

The reason for the long time required is that you want them to associate coming to you as a good thing. If you take them, then that can hinder the bonding process. You just have to be patient. But feel free to take them from the cage to your immersion session. You don't want to waste time, and rats can forget how terrifying it was. I can't find the post, but I remember seeing an interesting analogy (by Rat Daddy, I think). If someone wants to give you $5 million but can only give it to you in one place, he's going to try to get you to that place. You may be suspicious of the stranger, so you won't go. The guy really wants to give you $5 million, so he kidnaps you forcibly and takes you to the money place. You can then forgive him his methods when you are rewarded handsomely. It's a silly analogy, but it seems fitting for rats. They won't like being picked up, but they must be picked up so you can begin bonding with them. Once you do, then they'll forgive you your method (and probably forget).

And I try not to be in the habit of judging people I don't know, but I do question your breeder's methods. I don't deal with breeders, so maybe I'm just ignorant. You mentioned that he picks up rats by the tail, which I understand is a no-no. I've seen mice picked up by the tail, but they were feeder mice. Maybe it's not that big a deal with baby rats? I have been spooked off of tail-grabbing that I wouldn't try it. It doesn't sound like your breeder socialized with the rats any, though the pictures indicate that the rats were comfortable enough with him. I may be speaking out of turn due to my own ignorance.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
6,244 Posts
You might find some useful socialization tips in my immersion thread, but you are doing the right thing by engaging them in activities with you. I'm sure they will come around very quickly.

Not that it will bother you in the least, but the rat on the left looks suspiciously like a high white.. I know there are multiple ways to get the same markings, but I'd be just a little concerned if someone is re-branding American high whites and calling them huskies.

For reference....

Rat Vertebrate Mammal Muridae Rodent

This is Amelia a really good example of an American high white... she and her brother were dumped into a feeder bin by her breeder... most likely they were the only two survivors.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
27 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks, Kuildeous.

The thing is, they just don't let me pet, cuddle or handle them in any way, when they're on my lap, they just run away. They are extremely skittish, really. That's the thing. How can I bond with them if they don't accept my touch, poop everywhere and hardly take treats?

They were used to the lady breeder and she actually just picked them by their tail when she couldn't figure out any other way to do it.

Also, could you tell me what do you think of the recording and the toilet paper methods?
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
6,244 Posts
Holding rats by the tail and breeding high whites for fun and profit goes hand in hand... just thinking out loud.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
27 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hey, Rad Daddy.

I read your immersion thread and many others, believe me. How long do you think it's going to take for them to trust me, if I spend at least one hour interacting with them? Also, what do you think of the methods I refered? The recording and the toilet paper, I mean.

And about the markings, I actually live in Europe, so I wouldn't know about that.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
383 Posts
No need to bump. It's only been 16 minutes. Many of us have jobs or school to tend to, so it might be hours or even days before someone sees the message. Anyone who cares to be up to date on postings will read them.

Hmm, if the breeder only knows to pick them up by their tails, then I'm guessing she's not a good breeder…or rather she's not breeding sociable rats. Maybe she only breeds feeder rats? I am not savvy enough in rat talk to get what Rat Daddy was talking about regarding breeding high whites, but the context sounds negative toward the breeder.

I imagine the recording and toilet paper tricks couldn't hurt. I doubt that they would be effective, but I can't see how it would undo anything. Rats have a tipping point, it seems. My rats would be shy and poop on me. Then one day, it all vanished. They don't poop outside the cage, and they understand me and want to be with me. For two of my rats, it wasn't even gradual. It was sudden; oh, hey, I don't have to reach in there to grab you now; here you are. So know that even if it doesn't look like you're making progress, you actually might be.

The longer you can spend with them, the better. Bring a book with you. You'll want to engage the rats, but if they are more interested in alone time, give them that time. Read a chapter and then engage them again. Have baby food on hand so they have to eat it off your hand only when on your chest. It's only been a day, so don't expect miracles just yet. They've spent a little more time with you than the average pet store rat spends with a customer with a passing interest. Right now, you're not part of their world yet. When they realize that you are, then their attitudes toward you will change.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
272 Posts
Something I did for my boys was get a t-shirt I had slept in for a few days...and one I didn't expect to get back...and placed it in their cage. This way they may associate me with a safe place...and that my smell was something not foreign.

Could be done with a sock also.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
870 Posts
The longer you can spend with your rats, that is they are "with" you in the bathroom may be best right now since they don't really know you and you don't want to have to chase them all over any room with lots of hiding places. That would be traumatic for everybody and would really put you back on gaining their trust. Talking to them by the cage is ok, but nothing beats or works as fast as being together. Yes, they are babies, so they want to explore their environment, they aren't really aware of you as another "being" yet, so they treat you as part of the furniture or as a scary giant. When you have them in the bathroom talk to them constantly. When they are close enough, engage them use you hand as if it were another rat and play with them. Give them treats. Like Kuildeous says something you can spread on your skin so they have to lick it off will make them stay in one place for a bit longer. If they have been picked up by their tails it really doesn't sound like they were socialized by the breeder. Picking them up that way is not recommended. They are baby animals that don't know you yet. Spend a lot of time with them, not by the cage, with them. When you can't have them out of the cage, talk to them often. Pet them, cuddle them, but be aware at this age they aren't likely to think that cuddling and being petted are much fun. Exploring the environment and you will be more what they want to do. They have lots of energy now and just don't have time to hold still while that great big world is out there to explore. Give it and them time.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,261 Posts
Put on an extra large fleecy hoodie and keep it closed at the bottom. Then pop the rats inside it and they will run around it and crawl on your shoulder and everywhere else. When they pop out, you can just gently pop them back inside. I would sit in the bathroom with the door closed and play with them like this for many minutes at a time ;)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
27 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for the tips, guys. A recording of my voice is playing by their cage for over six hours now and I'm going to give them a few more treats.

It's actually impossible to get them out of the cage and they don't like eating liquid things from spoons, because they are really skittish, but I guess I'm going to have to work with that. The thing that makes me sad is that a friend of mine bought a feeder rat at a petstore and in the same day they were already best friends. Well, what can you do? I'm also laying on toilet paper bits and tomorrow I'm going to put them inside their house, so they associate my smell with comfort and safety.

But, like I said, I can't really pet them or handle them, so what do you guys mean 'playing with them'? The best I can do is sit by their cage and read to them, really.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
272 Posts
Thanks for the tips, guys. A recording of my voice is playing by their cage for over six hours now and I'm going to give them a few more treats.

It's actually impossible to get them out of the cage and they don't like eating liquid things from spoons, because they are really skittish, but I guess I'm going to have to work with that. The thing that makes me sad is that a friend of mine bought a feeder rat at a petstore and in the same day they were already best friends. Well, what can you do? I'm also laying on toilet paper bits and tomorrow I'm going to put them inside their house, so they associate my smell with comfort and safety.

But, like I said, I can't really pet them or handle them, so what do you guys mean 'playing with them'? The best I can do is sit by their cage and read to them, really.
Esquilo, I completely understand where you're coming from. I heard of stories (like on here) that had rats on shoulders by day two and I wanted so badly for that to be my situation.

I had a PM conversation with Rat Daddy, since I value his opinion, and he suggested that getting to know your rat is like getting to know a new friend. We don't rush in for hugs and telling our deepest secrets... we "court"... get to know them...allow them to know us.

Once I had that mindset, it was pretty cool the transformation. I think they sensed I was more relaxed...and I felt more confident.

I think rats naturally sense stress, tension... I think they have to (instinctively)...once they see I wanted to play with them...they went from running away from the door of their cage...to now rushing up when they hear me entering my house and saying, "Hello boys!"

I'll echo Rat Daddy's advice (hopefully with his permission)... just play with them. Don't have expectations...and each day you'll find your friendship blossoming. :)

And please keep us posted.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
27 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks, Thedology.

I think the breeder was really bad and fed them through the bars, because Kirk is really trying to bite me when I put my fingers inside the bars, he's trying to catch me with his little paws and all that.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
27 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
ALSO, is it normal for them to 'pulse'? I mean, I'm pretty sure that they are just breathing, but dude, it's like they are scared or something, their tummies pulse a lot.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
6,244 Posts
Some of us have been working with rats for a long time and in a lot of different situations... OK so I'm the guy who reaches right into a bin of 100 feeder rats and plucks out one's I like and yes, I did a demo at PetSmart where I pulled a rat right out of the enclosure and walked him around the store on my shoulder while I answered rat questions for the staff and customers...

But there's a secret to this trickery... I'm pretty good at reading a rats demeanor, I have a whole lot of practice... When I reached into the the rat enclosure at PetSmart one rat was curious and relaxed, he was a perfect rat to do a demonstration with... (and he most likely made a very special friend for some very lucky rat owner) There was another rat in the enclosure that would have run away, as it was nervous and another one that would have bitten me outright, because it was clearly terrified... I pulled off the demo, not because I have any kind of magic, but because I can read rats...

After a few years working with rats, you really get to know them and you can really gauge and understand their responses... sometimes us old timers forget that "new to rats" is a pretty scary place to be... I mean you don't understand rat yet, and rats have big sharp teeth and they are really fast and agile and they can really hurt you... So for the most part you are likely to be overly cautious...

Advise? Get the rats out of their cage and into an immersion space with you, let them roam around and explore a few minutes until they get a little comfortable, then engage them... treats, talking, play, gentle pokes and touches... let them respond to you... even if it's only pooping and running away at first. Try to be as confident as you can and as courage permits scoop them up and let them climb off or even onto you... Just keep gauging their responses and try to reply to their needs as best as you can... your rats will get what you are doing and you will just instinctively begin to understand them and you will start trusting each other.

Why do I use the term play? Because it shouldn't be work, treat it as a process and an adventure... Socialization is supposed to be fun and something you enjoy doing, not a process to be endured or overcome... You are making new best friends for life, this is a great time!

If you are really afraid, wear gloves and cover yourself with a blanket... rats are smart they won't be fooled... They know it's you inside the gloves... But the worst thing you can do with your rats is nothing... do nothing and nothing improves, in fact things can get worse.

As to the recordings and the smell ideas, I doubt they do any harm, but I generally recommend dancing under the moonlight naked as an all purpose confidence building ritual.. works for intros, potty training, socialization and might be a great way to wind up a particularly good date... if not, it's a way to build better relations with your neighbors... maybe?

Seriously, you are dealing with some super intelligent animals from the second most successful species on earth and they are social animals and most likely really want to bond with you and be your friend... it's a matter of meaningful communication not trying to fool them into liking you because their cage smells like your armpits or that you can mimic noises made by a machine...

When we took Fuzzy Rat out, experienced rat owners would always sneak up from behind us and swipe our rat off our shoulders to play with, (oddly that joke never got old) one look and any experienced rat owner knew she was sweet and friendly, still it was just a little bit unnerving having people just grab your rat from behind. Sure we usually socialize most of our rats half way on the ride home in the car, but we pick the right rats to start with... then we're pretty good at understanding rat so yes we're usually carrying a new rat around on shoulder the same day we adopt her... but no one really expects a new to rats owner to do that, that's what immersion is for, it's a process for both the human and the rat to learn to communicate and bond. Don't worry about how long it takes, as long as you aren't getting bitten, just have fun with the process.

Best luck.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
870 Posts
But, like I said, I can't really pet them or handle them, so what do you guys mean 'playing with them'? The best I can do is sit by their cage and read to them, really.
I am afraid I don't understand this. I never had a pet - dog, cat, parakeet, hamster, snake, gerbil, or rat that I couldn't pick up and take to the bathroom on day 1. Yes, sometimes it was a short chase to accomplish this, but you have to pick up the animal to move forward from here. I did have two little girls (rats) that were so frightened that they hid in a tissue box in their cage with tissues stuffed in the opening, they were about 3 -4 months old and I just took the tissue box into the bathroom and talked to it til they got curious and poked a nose through the tissue plug. Then I put my finger near the nose let them sniff it and started lightly petting the nose til a head came out the hole. It took a while, but even these two frightened abused girls warmed up to me, but it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't gotten them out of the cage. Are you afraid of being bitten? You can use gloves - heavy work gloves, oven mitts or whatever gives you confidence. Is the cage so large that you can't catch them? Can you block off part of the cage to make it easier? What exactly is the reason you can't handle or pet them?

If you can manage to get them into the bathroom with you, then you can let them run around a bit. Make sure the bathroom is escape proof. If doors don't seal well stuff towels under them. Make sure they can't get into the wall behind the toilet, or get into cupboards from the baseboards. Then, settle down for as long as you can manage. Let them run around a bit and explore. When they are near enough reach out your hand to them and let them sniff it. If they run away wait til they come close again. When they aren't afraid of your hand pet them, poke them, tickle them - just engage with them. Talk to them a lot. I am not a fan of a recording of your voice, but something with your scent on it in the cage can't hurt.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
190 Posts
I'd like to make a suggestion, if I could - Could you possibly take a dishtowel or something to that effect, and sleep with that inside of your shirt at night, and tuck that into their little house instead of the toilet paper? I feel like that would hold your scent a great deal longer than tissue would.
 
1 - 20 of 65 Posts
Top