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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've had my two rats Lemon and Lime for a few weeks, I've been playing with them for about 2 hours every day. I read about immersion on this forum so i did it that way, but it's not working. Lemon has currently escaped again! because she managed to jump three feet in the air to get away, and Lime is so timid that she tilts her head away from me when i touch her and she even leaps up into the air if I bother her enough. The solution to the problem may be to build a taller playpen with no chance of them escaping, but the point is, either I'm doing it wrong or they're not taking any notice.

I've been trying to search the forum for more tips but i can't find anything which goes into detail about shy rats or jumpy rats. I've read about immersion with aggressive rats but these rats never attack me and they don't like being near me at all, even when I've been pretty much forcing it on them for hours. To be honest, it almost seems like they get worse by the day. Can anyone who has tried immersion explain how they did it? I really want to get this right.
 

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Sometimes the symptoms you are describing are because your rats are fearful of you. This might not be your fault, they may have been mistreated before you got them.

But immersion is a matter of engaging your rats, letting them respond to you and they replying to their response appropriately...

So how's about a little background? How old are your girls? Where did they come from? How are you engaging them, then what do they do? Are they responding to you at all? And if so how? Then what do you do?

Yes, I realize that one is jumping over the barrier and the other is withdrawn, but I have to assume that over the course of hours something else is happening. And yes, you shouldn't be chasing a rat over a barrier, that's counterproductive, so you need a better way of enclosing your space or just another room like a hallway or bathroom.

Immersion is kind of a dance, it's a way of establishing basic communication, like dealing with adopted children that don't speak your language, it comes easier for some rats and some people. And it takes longer when rats have a bad history with people or sometimes it just takes a while for the humans to understand what their rats are telling them so they can properly reply.

It would be nice if immersion could choreograph the entire dance, but much like meeting a new friend, we can all start out with hello, talk about the weather and maybe complement the other person's wardrobe, then say something funny. After that the conversation changes depending on the individual person's personality and interests. You don't take your vegan date to your previous friends favorite steak house and your not going to score lots of points discussing modern dance with someone who's into physics. And it always helps to listen to what the other person, or in this case rat is telling you.

I know it seems odd to compare immersion to dating or making new friends, but that's exactly what it is. Rats are social learning animals and they are able to communicate and understand, they don't understand advanced calculus but the basics of relationship building are very much the same for both species. And if someone or some rat has really been hurt in a previous relationship, building trust gets harder.

I hope that helps to start with, post some more details and maybe we can help with something more specific.

Best luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you for your reply and I agree it does seem like they're scared of me. I think that being able to understand my rats and communicate with them would be wonderful and I'd like to be able to do that. With previous rats i have used trust training and it works to an extent, but I think immersion would be great if i could do it right.

I got the two rats (Lemon and Lime) from a pet store, but it was one which sold snakes, and the rats in there were being sold as food. They were only 4 weeks when i got them so now they're about 6 weeks. When I get them out to play, they just sit there for about half an hour, they don't move. I can touch Lemon and she's fine but Lime always moves away from me, she doesn't run away, she just moves her head and tenses up. After about half an hour, Lemon will begin to get adventurous and she'll have a bit of a run around, then she'll return back to sitting next to me. She can be quite friendly and she takes food off me, but randomly out of no where she just jumps up into the air and gets away. Lime never really explores or does much, she won't take food off me either. I keep holding her, playing games with her, stroking behind her ears, trying to get something out of her and this can go one for hours.. nothing happens. A couple of days ago I kept her with me for 4 hours and by the end of it, she was exactly the same.

Is there something I should be doing which I'm not doing? I'm assuming there obviously is. I read about showing dominance but I'm not sure how i can do it with these rats, as they would most likely submit to me and turn on their back but not in a good way.. more in a terrified way.. as though I was an enemy not a leader.
 

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You only need to show dominance if your rats are attacking or challenging you, which your rats are obviously not doing. Basically when a rat gets confused and thinks it's your alpha you wind up in an untenable situation as it's going to bite you and attack you to enforce it's rule... Rats can't run our lives or our households so in order to restore a healthy proper social order a certain amount of tough love is required to put things back into perspective...

With terrified rats you are already large and in charge to them, perhaps too much so. You want to be approachable and friendly to the point of being playful and engaging. Like you might engage a small child.

The one girl that's coming to you is on the right track, the other one still has't gotten it, just keep trying to find fun things to do with them and get them to react to you then try to respond to them... until you get a breakthrough moment when they finally realize you are actually a sentient being too.

Lastly don't let yourself forget these are young girls you are talking about... they are full of go go go energy and are driven to explore, this isn't personal, they just have short attention spans and can't sit around so try and be more active with them if you can, also don't take offense if they need to run around and explore... Young girl rat often tend to bounce off of you rather than sit on you. This is true of some older girls too. Our current family rat Cloud loves to come up and snuggle with me, and she loves skritches and will nap on me for up to 10 minutes at a time, then her feet kick into gear and she's off again or she'll start grooming my lips or play rat dentist. But she just can't stay put for too long, it's like her feet have a mind of their own. When you work with girls you have to give them a bit of leeway to accommodate their nature. I've had girls that would nap on my for quite a while, and a couple that couldn't sit still for 5 minutes. Both came when called, took treats and followed me around, they all love to play with my daughter and me, some just couldn't stop their feet, but all were perfectly socialized and loving rats.

In any event it sounds like you've already made some progress with one of your girls and with a little bit more work the other will come around... Remember you don't know what your rats experienced before you got them, so you may have already come farther than you think.
 

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I'm going to tell you the story of one of my most skittish rats. This will be long, so please hang in there.

I was on my way home from work when my sister called and told me she had found a breeder on Craig's List that had cinnamon rats, something she really wanted. So I grabbed some carriers and went to pick her up. When we arrived at the breeder's home, the rats were housed in his garage. The wife came out to talk to us first. We told her we were looking for a cinnamon rat. She opened a cage and pulled a rat out by the tail. I instinctively cupped the rat in my hands and faster than thought she was in my shirt. Before I could tell her not to, she grabbed another rat by the tail, and my sister put her hands under it and once again, in the shirt. Now, I told the wife, "I would rather get the rats out myself and risk getting bitten than have you getting them out by their tails."These both turned out to be agouti. Then the husband came out. The wife told him that we objected to the rats being picked up by their tails, and my sister asked him if he had any cinnamon rats. Now, he started pulling out nesting drawers and looking at the mothers and their litters. We are in Las Vegas and it was May, in his garage. As he checked various drawers, he pulled out several dead babies and tossed them into the trash. In one of the bins was a fawn mom and litter. My sister said, "I like her. She's pretty, but she has babies." The breeder said, "I think I can give her litter to some of the other mothers." I said, "Um, how much will you charge us for the rats in our shirts, the mommy and her litter? Then we'll get outta here." We put everyone into carriers and left. I was never happier to see a house in my rearview mirror.

When I got home, I went to put Calliope into a single rat cage, but she ran up my arm and into my shirt. For about an hour and a half, I petted her through my shirt and talked gently to her. When she would start to relax, I would start to take her and put her into the cage. She would grab hold with all she had, so I would pet and talk to her some more. Finally, I was able to put her in the cage and go to bed. I left her with a tissue box and some tissues because another shy rat I had liked to make tissue walls between us, and I thought she might do the same. She climbed into the box and pulled a plug of tissues into the hole to protect herself. For several days after, I would hold the box in my lap and talk soothingly to it for about an hour. After 2 or 3 days, she would stick her nose out of the hole and I worked up to being able to pet it, and give her treats. In about a week she would come all the way out of the box and eat on my lap. After about 10 days, I dispensed with the box when I got her out.

Now, if I had known about immersion, that first night I would have settled in for a long session that may have lasted until I had to get ready for work. I would not have worried about getting her out of my shirt to put her in the cage. I would have comforted and petted her til she poked her nose out of my shirt. I would have pet her nose and tried to interest her in treats. If possible I would have kept up with the comfort and treats until she was more comfortable with me and finally, when I had to, I would have gone to work. I might have some of immersion wrong, but I think that is what I would have done with this girl if I had known about this method.
 

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That's absolutely correct raindear, your frightened rat was telling you she wanted to be protected and comforted. What an excellent message to get from a neglected and mistreated rat! And the best response is "I'm here for you. And I will protect you."

Rats don't think in time slices like humans do... we can stop doing something and then return to it later and pick up where we left off... When we do short sessions rats do learn that we want to engage them, but also that we push them away after a short time... this is confusing. In the wild a new rat would join a pack and it might never be completely alone again for the whole rest of it's life. The human work, sleep and TV schedule isn't necessarily something that rats are programmed to understand. Unlike kids you can't explain where mom is going every morning or night and it takes a while for rats to understand that you will be home every evening. Some dogs even have trouble with their human's schedules.

Rats are smart and they can learn and adapt, but don't confuse what they can learn in time to something native to their understanding... Long sessions make progress faster.

Immersion stresses communication, unfortunately rats don't speak English and we don't speak rat, so sometimes it's hard to divine what your rats are telling you. Sometimes it's trial and error.. try something else until you get through and some times it's slow going and requires a bit of patience, but like code breaking first you have to get the message across that there is a message, then you make contact on the most rudimentary level and then it picks up from there.

Remember, you don't look like a rat and that means that many rats don't even know you can or want to communicate with or understand them. If you found yourself in the bush of Alaska and a Grizzly Bear growled would you think he was saying hi or would you run like the wind? And then how might he understand your rather rude behavior? Before you can communicate, both rat and human have to realize it's possible and then build a foundation. Now in certain national forests the bears learned to ask for food and tourists fed them so wild bears and humans have learned to communicate, it might not always end well, when humans don't respond properly, but overall it has been done.

Best luck.
 
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