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Hi, I've received two rats as a present about a week ago. They are set up and settled in their tank and have quite a few toys and hiding places. One rat (the albino) is quite confident and is using all parts of the tank. He will accept treats through the bars and come and say hello at the bars but if the lids open he bolts into the lower tier where he is inaccessible. The other rat (pure black). Stays in the lower compartment. The albino tends to take him food down when we are in the room. When we are out he will get it himself. He seems terrified tho. He shakes and chatters his teeth when we are near. My partner got them from a pet shop so I don't think they were handled as babies. After reading the sticky post on handling I just wanted to confirm what I was doing is right. Such as do I need to remove quite a few of the toys and change it so they don't have the large platform to hide under? I also think the gradual technique will work for the albino but not the black. How do I go about doing different? They are both still young, not adults yet and I just don't want to upset them or go to square one... Thanks
 

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Update: I've tried them with baby food, peanut butter, apples, carrots, curly kale...they don't eat any of it. So the treat reward system isn't really working lol as they wont even eat this if put in their bowl and left. Just dried pellets.
 

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Update: I've tried them with baby food, peanut butter, apples, carrots, curly kale...they don't eat any of it. So the treat reward system isn't really working lol as they wont even eat this if put in their bowl and left. Just dried pellets.
Please don't give them peanut butter. It's too thick and sticky and rats have a hard time swallowing it and can actually choke to death. Rats can't vomit, so if something gets stuck in their throat, it can be quite an ordeal to get it up. With peanut butter, since it's so sticky, it can actually cause them to suffocate by blocking their throat and airway.

Maybe post some pictures of your cage setup and people can offer suggestions for improvement.
 

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Hi and welcome to the board. Rats are naturally distrustful of new foods. If their Mother and then themselves only had pellets they may not be willing to eat much else yet. What they do generally do, is try and little tiny bit of a new food. Rats do this because they are able to eat such a wide array of foods (much like us) -they can test a new item to make sure it doesn't make them sick. I've had a few pet s tore babies in the past like yours. Timid and not really hip on treats. I would just keep putting a little bit of treats in the cage often. Keep it to the same couple of items-say the kale and carrots, and chances are they will eventually start eating it, and then loving it. (tho each will end up with their faves as far as food is concern) I'd suggest to pick the first few foods as ones you have on hand most of the time and want to use as treats for rewards later.

When you say you set them up in a tank, if you mean a glass tank, that is not ideal to rats. Most rats tend to be prone to respiratory issues, so unlike many other small rodents, a tank doesn't give enough ventilation. There is a couple threads of pictures of peoples set ups to give you ideas. As far as how big, general rule of thumb is 2 cubic feet of cage per rat. Though many ferret cages are awesome, the bars are usually too wide for females, or babies and is only suitable for full grown males. Biggest warning I will give-make sure you have HUGE doors, with great access to get things in and out and for cleaning otherwise you will hate the cage over time.

You did great, making sure you have two so they have each other since they are very social animals. If you are in the US, many of the store bought rats are sold as "feeders", so they never really get handled much as babies, making them fearful of humans. In most cases you work on this and they will become well adjusted little ratties. Different rats take different amounts of time. Try reading the immersion thread to help you make them comfortable. For myself, I like to use my bed, since I have both my computer and tv in my bedroom, so its really a comfy place for me to spend a lot of time. I will clear my bed of pillows and blankets. (maybe put down an old blanket to sit on for any potty issues-tuck it in a bit so it's not used as a hidey spot) Then I take a small blanket-like those small fleece throws and toss it over my legs. I'll scoop the babies up and just sit there with them while I watch a movie, letting them get accustomed to my smell while they are hiding under the throw. Some people use their bathroom, or a hallway that can be rat blocked off or their couch. Whichever spot you are comfortable with and reasonably rat proofed enough for supervised out of cage time.
They thread on immersion is very long, but it's quite helpful and covers almost every type of rat.
 

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First as to socializing your new rats, I'd recommend my sticky thread on immersion, you might want to read the first few pages. If your rats aren't biting I'd basically skip over those parts dealing with aggressive rats.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thanks for the advice. I read somewhere on a breeders website about peanut butter. I'll stop that straight away. I'm in the UK. Their cage 2ftx4ftx3ft but its their initial cage and they are still only small. We are looking into buying a full sized one soon when they are settled but it has a door the size of the cage on the top which is why it was originally used for ease of access. My plan is one I've seen that's 6ft. I will read the immersion thread aswell as they are really timid and I don't want to get them too stressed. Thanks
 

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Rats from pet shops are most likely traumatized,,,,,from have people banging on the glass front,,,my first rat was rescued store from a pet stupid(pet smart)...and more often are kept alone in the stores cage. Social skills are lacking, and rats are very social. I would suggest, you are headed on the right track, do not feed the rat through the bars,,it may encourage biting,,,,open the door ,,hold treats in fingers or open hands,,,call their names,,,,coax them out,,,reward them with a treat,,,fresh fruit,,,cheerios,,,give them nuggies on their heads,,,belly rubs,,,,I went through this with my first rat from a pet store,,,took awhile,,,he knows his name and now comes when called,,,,comes to the door,,,,come out for treats,,,,let me say this,,it did take some time,,,but it ,really worth it,,,,it just take patience, and baby steps,,just keep praising the rats,,,,,best of luck
 

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My boys were also from a pet store so I know just how hard it is to socialize them when they had absolutely no handling previously. First of all, one thing I noticed about the treats is that mine didn't really go for fruits and vegetables either. I thought the reason was maybe that it was cuz they were never given anything like that before in the store so it was just so strange to them. They love veggies now btw, carrots are their obsession lol. So at first when I was trying to get them to warm up to me I mostly gave them dry cereal as treats cuz they can eat quite a bit of it at a time. My boys really like corn flakes, or cheerios are good, otherwise they also like fruit loops but those are sugary so i try to avoid them as much as possible. So maybe try something like corn flakes cuz they aren't as strange of a treat for them to get used to right away. They are relatively plain. Mine also took to store bought treats pretty well too like yogurt drops. I used the slower method like you are wanting to use. What I did was took my rat cage into my foyer, which was a room about the size of a bathroom that had a door I could shut. It was probably about 4 ft by 4 ft. I would sit on the floor by the cage and open their door and offer them corn flakes from my fingers. I would spend at least a couple hours a day with them doing this and trying to encourage them out of the cage by say holding the treat further outside the cage door and see if they would come out and get it. Then I would leave a treat on the floor outside the cage door and they would come out and get the treat and run back in the cage. I would also pick them up and pet them a little bit every a few times a day just so they would kind of get used to my touch. Eventually they were comfortable enough to come out and explore the room and i was in there just watching and offering treats. Since the room was so small they had to come near me and interact with me and I would hold still and allow them to crawl on me and would try not to spook them. Basically I just went with my instinct of petting them and holding them sometimes but trying for the most part to just feed them treats and spend time with them and allow them to come to me. This method works but it does take a lot of patience and trust me it's boring to just sit there and watch them for hours and have them hate you when all you want is to cuddle them. But the patience pays off and you know that soon enough you will see the reward and have a great relationship with them. It took somewhere between 2-3 weeks until my originally skiddish rat (my one who was like your black one at first) turned out to be the social lovable one in the end and all of a sudden just like that he came around and loved me. It just happened one day where he wasn't scared of me and sat on my shoulder and it just progressed from there and ever since he's been attached to me like you wouldn't believe. He loves me to death and is so naughty cuz he wants my attention and is very smart so he gets bored and tries to entertain himself but this method of socialization completely worked for him cuz he was completely terrified and actually somewhat aggressive at first to the point where i thought I was going to have to take him back cuz he bit me and drew blood 3 times out of fear. I wouldn't believe now it was the same rat. My other boy, on the other hand was actually quite sociable in the beginning and ended becoming more withdrawn over time and never really warmed up to me. He has a great temperament so that wasn't the problem but he hated being picked up or pet, and it turned out that it wasn't a problem with the socialization method I used but that's just his personality. He's just an independent rat and doesn't need much love and attention. So it took him a couple months and I did end up using a few forced immersion sessions with him to get him used to being held and now he comes around for his few minutes of love everyday and doesn't mind being picked up when he needs to but he just does his own thing during playtime. From what your post seems, it looks like you are wanting to go with the method I used, easing them into warming up to you. I think it's a great method, it's low stress, it just takes a while and requires patience. So be patient, go with the flow. If you feel like you want to force a little more petting on them, that's fine. You aren't going to scar them for life. Do what feels right for you. Or if you'd like you can look into the thread on the immersion guide and that's where you sit with them for hours "as long as it takes" and continually force petting and holding them until they get used to you and you make some sort of breakthrough. You can do multiple sessions of that and supposedly that works just as well and can possibly work a little faster. Both methods work. Some people feel bad or feel like immersion stresses the rat out too much and don't feel comfortable doing that or just don't have the time to spend several hours in one sitting with their rat rather than just doing one or two hours at a time each day with the rats in the slower method. So it just depends what works for the person. Let me know if you have any other questions! sorry this is so long but I hope you will find my experience to be helpful as it sounded somewhat similar to what you are now going through. Good luck! I can't wait to see how it all turns out for you in a couple weeks!
 

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My boys were also from a pet store so I know just how hard it is to socialize them when they had absolutely no handling previously. First of all, one thing I noticed about the treats is that mine didn't really go for fruits and vegetables either. I thought the reason was maybe that it was cuz they were never given anything like that before in the store so it was just so strange to them. They love veggies now btw, carrots are their obsession lol. So at first when I was trying to get them to warm up to me I mostly gave them dry cereal as treats cuz they can eat quite a bit of it at a time. My boys really like corn flakes, or cheerios are good, otherwise they also like fruit loops but those are sugary so i try to avoid them as much as possible. So maybe try something like corn flakes cuz they aren't as strange of a treat for them to get used to right away. They are relatively plain. Mine also took to store bought treats pretty well too like yogurt drops. I used the slower method like you are wanting to use. What I did was took my rat cage into my foyer, which was a room about the size of a bathroom that had a door I could shut. It was probably about 4 ft by 4 ft. I would sit on the floor by the cage and open their door and offer them corn flakes from my fingers. I would spend at least a couple hours a day with them doing this and trying to encourage them out of the cage by say holding the treat further outside the cage door and see if they would come out and get it. Then I would leave a treat on the floor outside the cage door and they would come out and get the treat and run back in the cage. I would also pick them up and pet them a little bit every a few times a day just so they would kind of get used to my touch. Eventually they were comfortable enough to come out and explore the room and i was in there just watching and offering treats. Since the room was so small they had to come near me and interact with me and I would hold still and allow them to crawl on me and would try not to spook them. Basically I just went with my instinct of petting them and holding them sometimes but trying for the most part to just feed them treats and spend time with them and allow them to come to me. This method works but it does take a lot of patience and trust me it's boring to just sit there and watch them for hours and have them hate you when all you want is to cuddle them. But the patience pays off and you know that soon enough you will see the reward and have a great relationship with them. It took somewhere between 2-3 weeks until my originally skiddish rat (my one who was like your black one at first) turned out to be the social lovable one in the end and all of a sudden just like that he came around and loved me. It just happened one day where he wasn't scared of me and sat on my shoulder and it just progressed from there and ever since he's been attached to me like you wouldn't believe. He loves me to death and is so naughty cuz he wants my attention and is very smart so he gets bored and tries to entertain himself but this method of socialization completely worked for him cuz he was completely terrified and actually somewhat aggressive at first to the point where i thought I was going to have to take him back cuz he bit me and drew blood 3 times out of fear. I wouldn't believe now it was the same rat. My other boy, on the other hand was actually quite sociable in the beginning and ended becoming more withdrawn over time and never really warmed up to me. He has a great temperament so that wasn't the problem but he hated being picked up or pet, and it turned out that it wasn't a problem with the socialization method I used but that's just his personality. He's just an independent rat and doesn't need much love and attention. So it took him a couple months and I did end up using a few forced immersion sessions with him to get him used to being held and now he comes around for his few minutes of love everyday and doesn't mind being picked up when he needs to but he just does his own thing during playtime. From what your post seems, it looks like you are wanting to go with the method I used, easing them into warming up to you. I think it's a great method, it's low stress, it just takes a while and requires patience. So be patient, go with the flow. If you feel like you want to force a little more petting on them, that's fine. You aren't going to scar them for life. Do what feels right for you. Or if you'd like you can look into the thread on the immersion guide and that's where you sit with them for hours "as long as it takes" and continually force petting and holding them until they get used to you and you make some sort of breakthrough. You can do multiple sessions of that and supposedly that works just as well and can possibly work a little faster. Both methods work. Some people feel bad or feel like immersion stresses the rat out too much and don't feel comfortable doing that or just don't have the time to spend several hours in one sitting with their rat rather than just doing one or two hours at a time each day with the rats in the slower method. So it just depends what works for the person. Let me know if you have any other questions! sorry this is so long but I hope you will find my experience to be helpful as it sounded somewhat similar to what you are now going through. Good luck! I can't wait to see how it all turns out for you in a couple weeks!
Wasn't my thread, but this is fantastic advice for me and my new rats! Thanks so much <3
 

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Wasn't my thread, but this is fantastic advice for me and my new rats! Thanks so much <3
Glad you found it helpful! I wish I had found this website when i first got my boys...I knew pretty much nothing about rats and just socialized them according to what I felt was best. I came across the sight after a couple weeks and it's been really helpful ever since.
 

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Actually there isn't actually a "forced immersion" variant. The idea of the immersion area is to keep you and your rats in reasonable proximity and in contact, so you can get to know each other and get over your fears and apprehensions of each other. Kind of like going on a cruise rather than a speed date. You get to know each other and understand each other and hopefully interact playfully. A little bit of chasing is normal, but rats like to chase each other too. More than forcing interaction you are inviting it and fostering it.

The problem with short sessions is that we all have a tendency to fall back to the beginning when we break up our sessions too soon or before we really learn something about each other. Kind of like seeing someone in the elevator every morning on the way to work. After a few days you say hi and a few years later you still say hi as you go up or down to your respective floors. Every day is groundhog day and you never have that breakthrough you need to establish meaningful communication and a permanent bond. If you got stuck on the elevator for a few hours, you would have to talk and get to know the people you were stuck with and are more likely to become friends and perhaps do a survivor's lunch the next day and create a meaningful relationship.

I don't know the precise mechanism that makes humans become friends or lovers. But it usually involves a light bulb moment. And rats bond with you in a similar fashion. One minute you are the great big bear in the room and suddenly they realize you are a friend and not a monster. In that split second everything changes.... but you have to get there. Like realizing you have been taking the same elevator with your soul-mate for years, but you didn't know it, because you never got past "Good Morning".

Again this isn't a matter of force, it's a matter of opening a dialogue, and that takes time. Oddly this is one of those events that can most easily be proved in the negative.... If you don't make contact and don't break through obviously nothing is ever going to happen.

There is a variant of immersion called extreme immersion. This is a very special case used only for aggressive and biting rats. It involves backing down a dangerous animal and establishing correct social order with you in charge. This isn't for normal rats or frightened rats, it's for rats that are confused and think they are in charge and you are the enemy or their subordinate. Rats are smart, but they can't very well run your household or your life. They can't decide who comes into your home and when or what you should do and when and bite you to get their way... This just won't work. Even in extreme immersion you only need as much force as it takes to establish yourself as being the parent and once the rat understands his place in your family or society he's usually happy to have a big human around to lead and protect him. There's been a lot of discussion and debate about extreme immersion. It's an ugly process, but it works and it fixes rats that would otherwise need to be neutered or put to sleep. As it ends with a normal immersion bonding session, the results are usually very good.

So to be clear, there really isn't a hybrid method between immersion and extreme immersion that might be called forced immersion... It's one way or the other depending on the rat you are dealing with.


There are elements of force required in rat handling that have nothing to do with immersion. When it's time for your rats to go into or come out of their cage, sometimes you have to get a bit physical, the same is true if you have to stop your rat from doing something dangerous. As a rat learns the rules of your household, you generally need less and less hands on intervention, but sometimes, especially with a new rat it's just what it takes. If you bought you rat at the pet shop, it most likely didn't know you and it most likely didn't want to go home with you and yet the store employee put it into a cardboard box anyway and sent it home with you. This was also most likely the very best thing that ever happened to your rat and it took a bit of force (manhandling) to accomplish. Sometimes it takes a bit of manhandling to get your rat out of the cage to clean the cage or to bring it to the play area and sometimes even well socialized rats don't want to go back to their cage and again some manhandling is required. There is a very big difference between being arbitrarily cruel and managing your rat pack. In order for your rats to live in your home you have to enforce some rules. When my daughter was a toddler, she didn't always want to go out with her mom or me, but I couldn't just leave her home alone and I had to go out. Sure it was nice to explain where we were going and why, but in the case of a disagreement... dad's got a toothache and we're going to the dentist one way or the other. Sure I tried reasoning first, then bribes and finally it's just "lets go now!" As kids grow up they learn what the rules are and there's less "lets go now!" and with rats it's the same, they come to the cage door to be let out and go back to the cage on their own. But that's not intuitive so new rat owners sometimes need to do a bit of manhandling to get from point A to point B.

Words can have many meanings and force can be a breeze in the trees or a dump truck out of control on a steep hill. At some point the use of force is too gentle and is ineffective and from there it ranges into the realm of animal abuse, but there's a sweet spot in the middle which is enough to get the job done quickly without overly stressing or harming your beloved furry friend. The best advise I can give anyone is to keep your objectives in mind and do what needs to be done. Think first and then act appropriately. With my well trained shoulder rats, I usually get most of my mileage on their understanding, then I do use bribes, but when it's mission critical it's "lets go now!" and scoop and go. I have to look out for my rats welfare and do what it takes to protect them, like any good parent.

A good example is medications... I prefer to hide meds in something a rat likes to eat, but if your rat doesn't want to take it, you don't just let him die to avoid stressing him. I hope that makes sense.

Best luck.
 
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