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Hey guys, I'm having a weird problem that I need some help with. I've tried asking in another popular forum but I didn't get much help, so I'm coming to you guys for advice. I apologize in advance if this is a bit long.

I have 2 young girls, Flame and Dash, both 8 weeks old. I got them just about 2 weeks ago. From the very first day, they have been extremely friendly, affectionate and trusting of me. The first day consisted of them running around on the bed, sleeping in my shirt, playing with my hands, licking/grooming me and everything. Very sweet little babies. They didn't seem afraid of anything. However, things have changed in the last 2 weeks.

Here's quick info on my girls:
Flame is the shyer of the two, she isn't as playful and is more nervous. She doesn't really love being petted as much, and gets spooked by sudden noises. She also fear poops everywhere if I take her out of my shirt (which is the problem I'm getting to in moment). But she is still very sweet, takes treats, sleeps in my shirt, grooms me etc.
Dash is my "special girl." The reason I got girl rats in the first place- I had actually gone to my local breeder to get a mouse after my 2 previous boy rats passed away :( -but the breeder let me hold this one tiny little baby girl rat and my heart melted instantly. We had a connection. Ever since day one, Dash has been IN LOVE with me. She grooms me a lot and has become a very passionate "rodentist" obsessed with cleaning my lips and teeth and trying to crawl down my throat if I don't stop her. She wants nothing more in life than to spend every waking moment with me. She loves playing with my hands and will zoom all over the cage and tackle my hands. She's nuts :eek:

Now my problem... I love these girls to death. However, they've evolved over time to ONLY stay inside my shirt. I used to be okay with this, in fact I loved having them cuddle in my shirt and fall asleep. I know they trust me and love me. But now they refuse to come out. And I mean, REFUSE. If I put them on the bed, or the counter, or even my lap- NOPE! They scramble back up and into my shirt. This used to be okay. But now they're getting bigger and their claws are very sharp. My skin is really suffering here. My chest/shoulders/stomach/ribs etc. all get swollen and puffy because I'm allergic to rat claws. I also have a tattoo on my chest and I don't want the long term skin damage to ruin it :( I also think they should be able to come out and explore without clinging to me like velcro. Seriously, they will NOT tolerate being out of my shirt. Flame will fear-poop everywhere. Dash is not afraid, but she gets very upset. They both frantically dig their way back into my shirt, or if I refuse to let them in, they'll run off and dig under a pillow or whatever else they can find (while pooping everywhere...) It's weird because they are not afraid of me at all. They're just afraid or upset about being "outside."

Here's what I've attempted so far:
-Block my shirt collar with my hand...They just frantically dig around/under my hand.
-Keep putting them back down every time they try to get in my shirt...Ends up with me constantly rejecting them every 5 seconds until they give up and go hide somewhere else (and I feel terrible...)
-Wearing 2 shirts and putting them in-between the 2 layers... Doesn't work because they insist on being next to my skin, so they will dig under the shirts anyway. Same thing happens if I wear a hoodie or a blanket. They don't care, they just want to be next to my skin.
-Putting them on the bed and standing away from it so they can't climb on me at all... They spend all their energy trying to leap off the bed and get back to me. If I stand too close they'll climb up my legs, and if I reach down to pet them they climb up my arms and go right back down the rabbit hole lol.
-Sitting in the bathtub "trust training"... Same thing happens. They don't care about exploring, they just want in my shirt.
-Wearing a Ratoob/bonding pouch... Again they will dig under it and get into my shirt.

Please guys, I'm getting desperate. I love them to death, but this is frustrating. I really need to break them of this clingy habit. They need to feel safe and explore and get exercise, not be stuck inside mommy's shirt like baby kangaroos. Any advice is welcome but I'm really hoping Rat Daddy will give me his wisdom, I've been relying on his expertise for all my time lurking this forum! :)

I've attached 2 pictures of my baby girl Dash to give you guys an idea of what this little cutie is making me put up with (hopefully they work, I've never attached to a post before)
 

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My two girls were the same way when I got them. All they wanted to do was sleep in my shirt. My skin also reacts to their sharp nails and it became a maze of red lines from their scrambling to get in my shirt. Yours sound a little more extreme, but over all the same behavior of probably most baby rats. The good news is that this is not permanent. Both of mine outgrew this and now they are more interested in exploring the world instead of my shirt. Yours will do the same; I'm sure of it. :) And Dash is so adorable!
 

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In a bit of time both of your girls will work up their courage the world without you... In fact you are going to miss your little snuggle buddies sooner than later. For now cover your bed or chair or sofa with some towels then sit down there and cover yourself with a blanket that's either dark or thick so it's dark underneath and get them to play under the covers with you... It may not be as perfect as inside your shirt, but it's way safer than out on the open counter... In time they will peak out from under the covers and eventually roam all over your house on their own... but for now it's out from under the shirt and under the blanket then out into the big bright world... one step at a time...

If it helps, you can take off the shirt under the blanket and just cover yourselves with the blanket, which might help them to see the blanket as being the same as your shirt...

I usually get the outgoing girls that take off and explore right away, but our most recent girl Misty took six weeks to get out from under the covers... She lives under the kitchen sink now and there's nothing that will stop her from exploring. She'll still go under our shirts but for the most part it's just typical girl rat hit and run love...

Cloud & Misty.JPG

Misty is the smaller dumbo next to the big fluffy rex Cloud outside waiting to go home after a day playing with the kids... I thought I'd never get her out from under the covers, but despite a slow start she's done well for herself.

Best luck
 

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Thanks so much guys!

I have been working with them more, putting a blanket or big fleece over myself, and they actually do come out and explore under it. They do still insist on running back into my shirt (painfully, I might add...) if they get spooked or just decide they miss Mommy. But so far we're having great improvements. I do love snuggling with them, I only wish they could snuggle NEXT to me, and not IN my shirt... They seem to be slowly, but surely, learning that things are safe.

It's good to know this is not a totally unusual problem. I think they are just VERY attached to me, and afraid of the "outside" world. Whenever I say hello to them during the day, they get so excited and worked up, the zoom all over the cage and go nuts! They obviously love spending time with me. Just have to keep making progress. I thought for sure they would NEVER come out... but sure enough, the last few days they have started peeking out and walking around a bit. Go figure!

Rat Daddy, I am forever jealous of your amazing stories and rat buddies. I love hearing about them. Thank you so much for your advice!
 

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Doctorowl,

All rats are amazing and they can grow to be very competent and confident and develop complicated personalities of their own... All I do is try to facilitate their personal growth as much as I can and they do the rest.

Give your rats half a chance and a little encouragement and you will have plenty of amazing stories of your own to tell.

Best luck.
 
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