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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I just got a new rat today for free from Petsmart (he's been there for a long time and nobody was taking him so he was free), and he's big and heavy. I got home and tried taking him out of his carrier, but he started squeaking when I touched him and tried to pick him up. I don't know why and I was wondering why he did that. I managed to take him inside to introduce him to my first rat, and he seems very scared right now, but they seem to be getting along for now. I gave him a bath because he smelled pretty badly, and I noticed that there were orange dots on his fur and I noticed that his skin seemed "old" looking, so I can guess he's an old rat, but I'm not sure. Are the orange dots normal? After he got dry, the dots disappeared and his skin seems normal again. Is he an old rat or new or is it just how he is? He's bigger than my current rat. He seems to be adjusting now at least.
 

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He will be scared to be handled at first, it's very unlikely that the staff at petsmart handled him regularly enough to make him comfortable with human contact. The orange dots on his fur could just be buck grease. It's normal and something mature male rats tend to get. I couldn't tell you how old he is, if you call the pet shop where you got him from,they should at least be able to give you a rough estimation.
 

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Echoing what Jess said about the rat not being socialized. Was he dumped there by a previous owner? Maybe that owner neglected him as well.

We saw a pair of females at Petco who were older (maybe a year?) than ours. They were being kept in a cage at first, but they kept biting kids who put their hands up to the cage. The staff explained that the previous owner fed them through the cage, so they associate anything put up to the cage as food. The previous owner also didn't interact them with them much. Both rats were bitey. Not enough to break the skin but enough to warn away anyone trying to pick them up.

Considering that rats generally don't bite, that says a lot about how antisocial they were. So I'm not surprised that yours is not used to human care. I'm glad he wasn't bitey, but I suspect that's actually pretty rare. He can still dislike being picked up without resorting to biting, and that sounds about right from what you described.

I'm sure he'll adjust fine. He has a companion now, and I'm sure that he'll warm to you and appreciate you picking him up and scritching him. He just needs time to realize what a sweet life he has.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
He seems to be warming up now, and there's something that slightly bothers me. My first rat is starting to "hump" him or showing dominance. I personally don't like seeing it, but I know it's normal. Is there a way to make him stop or is it just nature? The pet shop I got him from doesn't really know how old he is, but one worker there said he was there since she started working there and that was three months ago. I personally was there 3 months ago when I bought my first rat, and I never saw that one. Last night, my first rat touched the new one with its paw accidently and the second one started squeaking like crazy until I put the first one on my shoulder away from the new one. Is there a reason for that? He also seems to be very slow when doing things such as eating, using the bathroom, etc. Which makes me suspect he's old.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Sorry for the double post if that isn't allowed, but I can't seem to edit my last post. Anyways, my new rat is starting to not be as skittish, but he's still skittish. He also likes to sleep with my other rat. They'll put their heads on each other. Which I find really surprising because I've read that rats from different litters don't get along with each other. I'm not sure if this is just completely luck or if it's not that common for them to fight. The new rat is still skittish enough that I don't feel like picking him up which makes sense now why the pet store never picked him up. Is there a few things I can do to make him more comfortable to pick up and make him less skittish? I normally take him and the other rat on a "walk" on my shoulder outside once a day to make him more comfortable around me.

Also, he tends to squeak when he's picked up or touched. Especially when I first attempted to pick him up after I got him home and he was in his carrier still. He didn't squeak when I was holding him when I bought him from the store.
 

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He hasn't been handled so he doesn't know what to expect. If you teach him that by squeaking or acting frightened or biting he won't be handled, then he will repeat those behaviors to avoid the new experiences. The only way to teach him that the new experiences you want to share aren't frightening is to "force" them on him at first. When my son was 12 and thought he was very grown up, I saw a notice that the circus was coming to town and bought passes for him, his best friend, and myself. I was very excited, but he didn't want to go to the circus. I dragged my son kicking and screaming (not literally) to the circus, where he had a good time and enjoyed himself. You know (or should) that what you want to do with/for your rats will be fun for them, so if you have to drag them kicking and screaming to do it, just do your best not to feel guilty. I recently went from frightened, biting rat to loving companion in about 10 days. My experience is here: http://www.ratforum.com/showthread.php?267114-I-m-not-sure-I-can-do-this. Also read Rat Daddy's Immersion thread.
 

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Raindear is right. Your rat just doesn't know what to expect. You have to teach him to expect lovings and possibly treats. Despite his protests, pick him up. Hold him for a while and let him crawl on you. He may be a little nervous. But then put him back in the cage so that he knows that being picked up is not the end of the world. If you give him a treat after putting him in the cage, he realizes that being picked up is actually a good thing. You can give him the treat after you pick him up, but rats usually don't eat when they're nervous. But if he feels comfortable eating on your shoulder, then that's a great step.

I'll use an extreme example I've read about. I do not suggest this for your rats, since they sound pretty friendly and don't need this. I just want to illustrate a point. I read that you can break a rat's fear by holding him for 20 minutes. The rat may squirm or protest, but he'll stay still eventually when he realizes he can't break free. After 20 minutes or so, the rat will forget what he was afraid of. Supposedly, with enough repetition this will make the rat realize that there is nothing to fear from being picked up.

I tried that with a super-shy rat. I'm not sure I should have, but she's fine now. But I would pick her up and keep a blanket under her to catch her poops. I would hold her still against me with one hand touching her. She would try to get free and then resort to just sitting there being tense when she couldn't get free. After about 15 minutes, she suddenly relaxed. She would then try to get out, but it would be more like reaching out with her front legs to pull herself out of the blanket rather than squirming. I would let her climb out and then back into her cage. I then dumped the poop she invariably left behind.

So while the fear-breaking seemed to be doing something, I found my super-shy rat was more responsive to just sitting in a room with her and letting her climb on me on her own terms. Me having access to Cheerios helped.
 
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