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So I have been having behavior problems with my relatively new rat, Rose. She's 14 weeks and I got her when she was 5 weeks.
Anyways, here's what happened last night. Rose is currently in a very naughty and destructive stage in my bedroom and I am waiting for a playpen to arrive that I will be free ranging her in from now on, or at least until she gets older and listens to me better, because she has dug multiple holes in my carpet very deep down to the floorboards with nails sticking out of them, one is right under the door so she could escape into my apartment. Right now I am allowing her to play in the bedroom while i wait for it to come in the mail and I've done everything I could think of to block off the spots with holes in them but she is ridiculous and gets around everything I do. It's impossible. And one of my boys is like her accomplice lol and he doesn't even know what he's doing cuz he's too big to escape anyways lol so last night she got around my blockage in front of my door and escaped out into my apartment. She was out there for a few minutes I believe before I really noticed she was gone because they were all previously napping around my room, so it was pretty quiet. When it was time to put them back in their cage I didn't see Rose anywhere. I looked under my blocking and sure enough she had made the hole she dug even bigger so I knew she went through it.

I opened my door and immediately saw her in my bathroom. She has escaped once before and went there and I found out theres a crack under my bathroom cabinet that she can get up inside so there's no way I can get her without taking off my entire bathroom counter, which is impossible. So the only way to get her is to bribe her to come out with a treat. And she is still in the stage where she doesn't completely trust me, so she only listens to me when she wants to. She's very sassy.

When she came out for the treat and I caught her, I grabbed her tail like I always do to make sure she couldn't squirm away on me, then I grabbed her body and her entire temperament changed. She turned back on my hand to bite me but she must not have done it cuz I wasn't bleeding afterwards. I think she knew better than to bite me maybe. So I got scared and let go of her body so I wouldn't get my hand tore up and I just held her by the tail out in front of me and she was going crazy, squealing super loud and twisting and turning trying to bite me and get away and she was all puffed up. I have 3 rats and I have never seen a rat get aggressive before luckily. My boys have never fought or gotten puffed up or anything. I've been bitten a couple times by one of my boys when I first got him cuz he was scared but not aggressively like that. And when I intro'd my girl to my 2 boys it went absolutely perfect. I've never seen her get upset. She turned into a complete psycho cuz she was so mad I wasn't letting her go under the cabinet. I didn't want to drop her cuz she would get away again but I know how much damage they can do quickly so I just hurried up and held her out as far as i could by the tail and put her in her cage and she was all puffed up for a minute. Then a few minutes later she was over it and I pet her to see if she was ok with me and she was all fine and normal again...what do I do now though? is she going to throw a fit like this again when I don't let her do something she really wants to do? My other rat Daisy is sassy too but man she takes sassy to a whole other level...it is not ok with me obviously for her to act that way. I'm not sure if I need to do something to work with her and make sure she knows I am the alpha?
 

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She might have just been really upset that you held her by the tail. I know you didn't really have a choice in this instance, but typically rats freak out when their tails are caught in something. As far as bonding and establishing trust and alpha status, have you tried immersion with your rats? So far it seems to have worked out any kinks for me, both with new rats and rats I've had a while that didn't completely trust me yet.
 

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She sounds like she was spooked. The way you captured her was unfortunately very predatory (I hve to do it to my girl all the time...) and she reacted naturally. The good news is her fear didn't overwhelm her sense not to bite you. But it doesn't sound something to worry about.


I've been thinking about your carpet problem by the way. What if you got some cardboard and bent it so it covered the floor then you either used a carpet nail to hold it in place or bent it in an L and duct taped it to the wall? Alternately heavy tiles purchased from homedepot could cover the spots and then be picked up and set away when she's not out. Rabbit proofing carpet is probably a google search you should do.
 

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When rats get loose they can get very emotional and energised and it is quite normal for them to have a reaction like that. I would encourage you not to use a tail hold but lead with a torso hold near the front of the body and lift the rat with their legs supported by your other hand. This avoids activating an anti-preditor fear/aggression response.
 

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Sounds like you're having a tough time! Hope you form a closer bond with her.
Firstly, grabbing their tail is very dangerous and can result in degloving which need attention to have the tail amputated, and easily gets infected... The skin is basically ripped off the tail. It's like having their spine exposed and is incredibly painful.... Here is more information on degloving http://ratguide.com/health/trauma/degloving_injury.php

Some rats will never like to be picked up quickly and will respond better if you move slowly. Regardless, scoop her up from the bottom so that she does not react that way. I usually have to block my girls from the front and scoop from the back quickly. You get used to it- girls are naughty and energetic... If you cannot scoop her/grab her in a way she doesn't freak out, then just wait for the play pen.... The reason she was squealing was likely because she was terrified and probably hurting as well... Spend time with her inside the play pen and interact with her daily to gain her trust...
 

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This was definitely her being scared and panicking rather than her being aggressive. As much as sometimes you have to risk grabbing thete tail to save them from something worse it can hurt and panic even the most settled rat.

In terms of the tricks your having i wonder if you've leapt into free range to early. i don't key my rats into large areas for free range until they are settled and happy with me. This is as much a safety feature as a way i build the bond with them. instead of letting them in a large area i spend time somewhere with limited space, say a sofa or top of bed, some people use an empty Bath. o would spend one on one time with her teaching her that you are fun and doing lots of picking up and handling. It might take a few weeks but is well worth it. When she's comfy with you then Let her in a larger space and expand it slowly so she doesn't get to carried away.
 

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Yeah I will do a tail hold if the rat is in an unsecured space or when I found a stray rat wandering outside or something like that, because it is quick and they have trouble getting around far enough to bite you. But with repeated use some rats can get a very bad attitude about it.
 

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I have 3 rats and I have never seen a rat get aggressive before luckily. My boys have never fought or gotten puffed up or anything. I've been bitten a couple times by one of my boys when I first got him cuz he was scared but not aggressively like that.

[......................]

My other rat Daisy is sassy too but man she takes sassy to a whole other level...it is not ok with me obviously for her to act that way. I'm not sure if I need to do something to work with her and make sure she knows I am the alpha?
I don't mean to go off topic but I'm curious - is this a female rat thing? :confused:
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I am aware of the issues of holding a rat by the tail. I didn't have any other option in the circumstance. With her I always have one hand lightly on her tail because she is so small and squirmy that she gets away easily and I only had one chance to catch her because when she's under that cabinet it's completely up to her whether she chooses to come out or not because I can't remove my entire bathroom sink to get her. I don't know what's under there and whether she is safe under there or not so I grabbed her tail first because her body was already beginning to go back under the cabinet. The tail was a backup but i am always careful and don't pull it and grab her body as quickly as possible. I had her body until she went to bite me and that's when I decided I had to hold her just by the tail. It seemed like a lot better option than getting my hand ripped apart by her teeth. And that's good that it sounds like she probably wasn't acting out of aggression but more out of fear or kind of shock or surprise at being caught. It's very possible she may have been scared because she doesn't trust me completely yet, but at the time I got the impression that she was just mad cuz she really wanted to play under that cabinet. I'm still working on solidifying my bond with her, because I didn't get as much opportunity to be in a small space as I did with my boys. My roommate absolutely hates rats so the only place I can have them is my bedroom, so for my immersion training, i brought a lamp in my closet and sat in there with her for a few days, but it's not very practical obviously and was very dark and small so I could only do that for our basic immersion training and then she got moved to my bedroom free ranging. That gave her a lot of space to run and it made it harder for me to interact with her than it was when I was in a smaller space with my boys at my parents house. She does love me and will come to me and climb up on me and everything but she is scared when i try to pet her so i know there's still some trust issues we have to work on but we are getting there. The playpen will help a lot because I can sit in there with her and we will be in a small space together and she will be forced to interact with me. I think that will help me get the breakthrough I'm looking for and push through to the next level of trust.
 

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I found say her freak out was probably a reaction to being held by the tail. My girl Eponine gets herself into trouble a lot and occasionally saving her requires a tail hold.she will squeal and freak out just as you described here. Other times she is never aggressive with me nor would she dream of biting me as she's normally the calmest of my 4 but when she's put into a tail hold she freaks out just like you described yours doing. I wouldn't worry about it unless she starts doing it when she's not been Tail Held.
 

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I had a part wild rat some time back, to be very sure she didn't like being grabbed. She tore up my neighbor's hand and once when I accidentally got a bit forceful she lept into the air and turned into a ball of fur fangs and claws... And I dropped her fast... I blocked her from killing a mouse I was holding and I took an awful deep bite into my palm for my kindness...

It was actually very painful and she hit the far wall from my reflex reaction... Similarly, to your situation she came back to apologize to me and was licking my ear as I was stemming the flow of blood out of my hand.... Kind of like "I'm sorry, no hard feelings." To be absolutely clear... that rat never panicked, but she was wired hot and attack was a reflex when she got angry. I think the encounter with the wall actually did her some good in helping her manage her temper as she never attacked me again. Again not that I intended it, nor do I suggest it as a training technique, but we can learn something from our accidents too.

Now before anyone thinks my approach after that was to be more forceful with her, in fact it wasn't. I learned something too.... mostly not to make her angry. I would always identify myself before touching her so she heard my voice, then I would let her sniff me and then I called her up on hand. And to be honest, with basic bi-directional respect in place I never got bitten again. She actually had a very pleasant personality and was the first rat to come when called and she was a real pleasure to work with. My daughter could manhandle her, but no one else, including myself could.

So there's a difference between an aggressive rat and a hot wired one... If your rat is generally charming and friendly and compliant but 'freaks out' when she feels threatened or get's angry, mostly you have to work around that and concentrate on training and techniques that will prevent the wild rat defensive mode from kicking in. Honestly, I believe the ball of fur, fangs, claws and fury is a wild rat survival strategy as is the bazaar attack mode behavior for some rats especially wild rats, part wild rats or throwbacks. I've never seen this behavior in purely domestic rats, but I have to suppose it might still be in the genetic memory for some....

Remember, this advise pertains to a very small group of rats that really most likely can't modify their behavior. And I suppose the way you can tell is that they flip the switch on and off when it comes to their attack behavior... Minutes or seconds after they freak out they are normal and friendly again and otherwise they are very nice rats....

Aggressive rats are different they are pushy and confrontational. They do what they want to do and puff up when you try to stop them and some will snap at you or bite for effect when they don't get their way. Mostly they aren't well behaved and don't follow commands and often bully their cage mates. They aren't like my part wild rat that was friendly and charming but might flip out if she was enraged or threatened, they are bossy and want to get their way.

If you decide you are dealing with an aggressive rat that is trying to bully you, first try a stern command and then discourage the behavior, sometimes a gentle bop can be associated with a "no chewing" command or a little firm manhandling using thick gloves might communicate your disapproval. Aggressive rats have learned to push you around and they can also learn that they can't push you around as opposed to wild rats that just flip out and lose control and go into a kind of hard wired survival frenzy. By using appropriate force to enforce rules as the parent (or alpha) most bad behaviors can be moderated and everyone can live happily together. Think of it as correcting a misbehaving child and explaining and enforcing the house rules.

To be very clear.... rats are small animals and appropriate force doesn't include actually injuring or harming your rat! It's basically just doing what it takes to communicate your status and the necessary rules for your rats to live in your home. It's not a matter of punishing them after they do something wrong, but a way to stop them when they are doing something so they understand what you want or rather disapprove of or in certain cases that you will defend yourself if they attack you. If you keep your mindset clear that you are communicating with a purpose and that you are dealing with a small animal that you love, you won't go overboard. When I was a kid, long long ago, spanking was a common disciplinary practice. My own dad had a belt... and I suppose I still remember it, but perhaps only once or twice when I really screwed up... I also recall other kids that had abusive parents coming to school with their mom's or dad's handprints on their face regularly which clearly ranged into rage abuse that was absolutely counter productive.

In raising my own daughter, I suppose I still believe in corporal punishment, but I've never had to spank her.... ever. She's a bright child and she gets it long before I have to use physical force. To be honest, I"m a soft touch, both with my daughter and our rats. And the same is true of our rats, I almost never need to use any force with them a stern voice command usually communicates my disapproval sufficiently to correct a problem. So don't get carried away with physical discipline!

It's important to understand that loving interaction and rewards for good behaviors are always your first go to options. But sometimes, NO means NO. It's because you use adverse communication so very rarely that it is so effective.

With my part wild rat, negative communication only involved raising my voice a tiny bit. Being hot wired also meant she was hypersensitive so any loud noise and she would evaporate into the woodwork for hours. In her view of things, I practically had to whisper, my normal tone of voice was enough for her to understand I was getting annoyed and would stop her from doing something wrong... And overall she was a very well behaved rat. Fuzzy Rat of course eventually learned I was a soft touch and would never really hurt her and I had to call my daughter to get her to stop doing something I didn't like... She loved my daughter more than me, and she eventually learned to ignore me to a degree, but as soon as I called my daughter she knew things were serious and she would stop doing whatever she was doing... My daughter would give her a little bop, then hold her face to face and have a "long talk" with her to 'explain' what she was doing wrong... and Fuzzy Rat really hated the 'long talks' from my daughter a lot more than a little painless bop from me.

So try and diagnose your situation first, then apply the appropriate corrective approach. Remember, it's about love and communication to help your rat live better in your mixed household. Different approaches are required for different rats, but none should border on abuse. It's all about understanding and getting your message through to a very intelligent animal that deserves both love and respect.

Best luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for your input ratdaddy. I always find your posts intriguing. First off, to everyone else again, I do appreciate the input, but I do not believe her freak out was due to me holding her by the tail. If that were the case, I wouldn't be concerned and wouldn't even have posted. I wasn't holding her by the tail when she began the freak out. I held her by the tail because of the freak out. And I have held her by the tail several times before when pulling her out of naughty places she wasn't supposed to be, like my closet and she has never had a problem with it. She is very tiny and light, and it isn't hurting her in any way, I don't pull or yank at her tail when she's trying to run or anything. So i just don't think that's it. I honestly think it was a temper tantrum because she didn't get her way of what she wanted to do, which was play under my cabinet. She got busted, and it pissed her off.

Ratdaddy, Idk if you've seen any of my recent posts about her but I have had several behavioral problems with her lately and am basically at my wits end, to say the least. She is so destructive and has destroyed my carpet in several places. She also tries to get away with a bunch of other things too and is a horrible listener when it comes to discipline. She won't listen and when I do discipline her she just goes right back to it over and over and completely undermines me. At times, I end up just having to put her in the cage for timeout, because there's nothing that will break the cycle of what she's doing. Obviously all rats are naughty and I went through things with my boys as well when they were young, and really got tested on how good my ratproofing was lol. But they were never this destructive and my boys also listened to me and responded to my discipline, at least 95% of the time. She is just completely out of control where I just don't know how to discipline her because she isn't learning the things she can and can't do, she just has a sassy attitude like I'm gonna do what I want when I want. I can tell she knows it's wrong too, because she will look at me right before she does something that i have corrected her on a million times, she'll look at me for like 5 seconds to see if I'm paying attention and then she will try and do it really fast so I can't catch her in time. it's funny how similar she is to a human toddler. She's still a baby so I know she needs to learn things and will hopefully get better but she has done so much destruction to my carpet that I can't even have her out for playtime anymore cuz she can escape from my room. I am waiting for a playpen to arrive which should come tomorrow and then I will keep her in there for playtime and also sit in there with her and work on our relationship because she doesn't trust me completely yet. she is not good with being pet and still is a little timid so it will be good to be blocked in a small space with her because right now I don't have a small space to use for that.

I am not sure whether she just has a bit of a temper she doesn't get her way or whether she is actually aggressive. Since she is still a bit young and hasn't completely come out of her shell in my opinion I'm not really sure what to think. She is definitely very sweet and innocent at times and will cuddle with my boys in the cage. She definitely has that sassy attitude when she is doing something naughty but she has never even nibbled me before. She just gives kisses. So I would like to say she will not turn out to be an aggressive rat but she also has not really let her personality truly come out, like I said, since she is still a bit timid and shy around me. Also, I have been observing a behavior for about a month now where they have been having a lot of dominance fights. She is little so she knows she doesn't have a chance against them so she is completely submissive when it happens and actually seems to enjoy just laying on her back and trying to play bite them from there. She actually has always played like that ever since I got her. I was assuming they boys were bothering her when she went into heat, because it only seems to happen every few days or so, but now it seems like she is picking the fights alot, doing this things where she tries to bite him on the side and kind of get underneath him, going for his stomach, or maybe even his crotch. I'm not sure. But I'm not sure if it's an aggressive or playful behavior. It almost seems like she is being a bully cuz I've never seen that behavior during a dominance fight. But I have also heard that going underneath a rat is a submissive behavior so maybe she is actually being submissive by doing this? Im not sure if maybe now that she is getting bigger she wants to be the alpha and is starting to assert herself more, but Daisy, my current alpha is absolutely not going to have that and he is always going to be bigger than her. When I first got Rose she was 5 weeks old and intros were so strange because they all got along perfectly and there was absolutely no dominance fights that happened. Rose just was so happy to be around rats, since she came from an accidental litter situation where there was 23 babies. I think she was sad to be by herself all of a sudden so when i put her with my boys for intros she just chased them around all crazy and played with them. It seemed like the boys were annoyed cuz they are so much more laid back than that of course, being older and boys, but it was like they knew they had to tolerate her cuz she was a baby. So shockingly, my chubby boy was even sharing his food with her right out of his mouth. He turned into a little mommy and I knew that would happen cuz he's a sweetheart with other rats, even though he doesn't like cuddles from me. They cuddle on top of each other every day. I couldn't believe the intros went so well and then when she got bigger about a month later that was when they started to do their dominance issues. It's like she has split personalities, one moment being so sweet and innocent and cute as can be. I love her to death. then the next moment she is so sassy and it's like you can just see it in her eyes that she knows exactly what she's doing and she's purposely not listening to me. She does the same thing with the boys now, like I said before with the biting thing where she picks fights now with my alpha boy, and just a few minutes ago daisy (my alpha) was sleeping and she walked up and just pushed him over with her head for no reason. But yet the next minute she's curled up sleeping on top of them all cute. I just can't quite figure her out if she is just being a baby, just like a human toddler would do, cuz honestly a lot of her behavior sounds like what a kid would do and she is only 3 months old so i feel like maybe she will grow out of it like a human would if I just keep trying to discipline her and also build trust with her? or do you think she is showing signs that she may be an aggressive rat? I really need help with this one because if she is aggressive I don't know how to discipline her...i'm not super experienced with rats unfortunately, my boys have responded well to my method. I discipline by just saying their name and telling them no, if it doesn't get their attention I say it a little louder, once I got their attention they usually listen to me and stop what they are doing but if they don't listen I say it again in a little more firm tone, and then I will try an excited voice and call them over to me and usually that works, otherwise there's the method of getting up and going to them and holding them up to face level and saying no and bopping their nose. I also ratproof as well as I can to prevent the things they tend to get into. My methods usually work well because my boys are pretty good listeners, especially Lily. He will listen on the first time I say it. He's a really good boy and rarely causes trouble. So I don't really know any other methods to discipline...besides putting them in their cage for timeout if I can't break their cycle of going back to the bad behavior. I rarely use that though.

I'm so sorry this is so long but ratdaddy i could really use your input on Rose. Like I said, I am absolutely at my wit's end here. I love her to death but there have been many times where I regretted adding her to my family and stirring the peace. I know this playpen will help the stress a lot but I am going to feel bad containing her and would love to have her play in my room with her brothers. I know I can also make the breakthrough I want with our relationship using this playpen as a small space so i can work with her easier so that will be great cuz i would love to have the bond with her that I have with daisy or at least get her to the point I am at with Lily, but I really need to get her attitude under control. I need to be in charge. I'm not ok with my rat being the boss around here, and I do put off a confident energy at least and stay consistent with my discipline as well as my love for her after I do have to discipline her so I think I have a good start. If you could answer my questions in the above paragraph it would be extremely helpful, thank you!
 

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Certain rats are actually unusually gifted. Our Fuzzy Rat was one of them. Imagine a rat that spent her summer playing at the park all afternoon and well into the evening, swimming in the lake and interacting with strangers for hours at a time suddenly cooped up inside the house for winter... Add to that, her humans were engaged with other activities much of the time. It was a recipe for disaster. Suddenly out of the blue, she would feel bored and neglected and go on destructive rampages. So yes, there's a hole in the carpet and every wire in the house and office has been slashed, soldered and taped. 90% of the rat damage in our house comes from one rat. The other rats have done a little damage here and there, but compared to Fuzzy Rat they were/are pretty much perfect house pets. Just like you described, it was like she turned into a bad toddler, doing damage on purpose to get our attention. And yes, she sliced wires she knew would be most likely to call attention to herself, like my headphones when I was listening to music and the wires to my computer monitor or the phone wire when I was talking on the phone. Somehow she figured out that if I was wired to something she was going to be ignored. When she started going through the carpet, the more I tried to stop her the more determined she got. She may not have been getting good attention, but she was getting noticed for sure.

Can rats really associate wires with humans or human activity? My wife accidentally drop kicked Max, the very next morning the network wires to her computer and her desk phone wires were slashed and Max never attacked wires before or since... so you decide.

So sometimes rats are just destructive, but other times they are bored or want attention when they destroy stuff. The brighter the rat the more likely it's the latter.

Twice before, I've given this advise and in both cases the person wound up with a shoulder rat. The best shoulder rats are intrepid and get bored easily. They want or rather need challenges. They thrive on action and thrills and yes will cause conflict to get it... And they will absolutely act like bad toddlers when they feel they are being ignored. So if this is Rose's problem, she needs more engagement and interaction and challenges. When we were at the park or in some new place Fuzzy Rat was quick to follow commands and on alert for predators and situationally aware. She would seek out and meet strangers, run off and explore, climb trees and otherwise be in her element... indoors she was lethargic, bored, didn't usually follow commands and quick to get into trouble. If this sounds too familiar, you might just have one of the very special sort of rat we had.

Now, before you get too excited or depressed, keep in mind that naturally gifted true shoulder rats are very rare and odds are well against Rose being one. It's at least a 100 to one off situation. The test involves challenging Rose with new situations and lots of interaction indoors first... if she takes to that a safe site visit might be the next step... A normal rat is going to look disturbed and disoriented by a new place or a new challenge, a shoulder rat will look engaged and intrigued and literally alive and excited.

Special rats, like genius children are both a blessing and a curse. If Fuzzy Rat hadn't become a spectacular shoulder rat, she would most likely have become a total monster and spent her whole life locked up on a cage where she would have become more miserable and destructive over time.

Whatever you do don't just take Rose outdoors, try to engage in more exciting activities indoors first and pay particular attention to the safe site part of my shoulder rat thread before taking her out the door. True shoulder rats are very rare, and I'm far from certain that you have one, but you do have to entertain the possibility that your dealing with a special rat that's very bored and very much in need of attention and a challenge. It doesn't happen often, but if you've got one, your in for a wild ride ahead.

For folks reading along, the reason I don't give this advise often is that for normal rats too much excitement (and danger) isn't always a good thing. And there's no way for me to truly evaluate a rat on line at a distance. And my comments are based on someone else's evaluation of a situation and therefore it's a risky course of action being recommended based on second hand information... I suppose what I look for is a rat that's a big square peg in a small round hole, it's like identifying a genius child, often bored and misbehaving and wrong it just too many ways to fit into a normal category. And you test them by challenging them.

I suppose it looks something like this:

Fuzzy Rat indoors in winter, lethargic and clearly bored and most likely contemplating some new mischief.
Mammal Mouse Hamster Whiskers Gerbil


And outdoors, intrepid, alert and engaged in other words she acted like a perfectly normal rat, when a normal rat would have long since panicked and dug herself into a burrow somewhere.

Tree Jungle Plant Branch Wildlife



Even when she was old and sick she still came alive when things were happening and she always loved to pose for pics.
Grass Green Lawn Pasture Grassland



So I'm not saying for sure Rose is a special rat, but if you overlook the possibility and she is, things are likely to get worse. And again, there may be other ways to keep her engaged and challenged indoors, but Fuzzy Rat actually enjoyed mob scenes and fireworks and I don't know how I would have given her that kind of stimulation in our house. I can't say this advise will help, but it's an option to explore... cautiously.

Best luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for the advice. I will try to find a way to stimulate her more inside. The problem I have with that is I never know how to better entertain them. Any good ideas? My room can be pretty interesting with lots of things they are allowed to get into and explore but since they've explored those things several times of course they still do tend to get bored. I just can never think of anything else to do for them. I got my playpen and of course the bar spacing is 1 inch (it didn't say on the description online) and rose can squeeze through it..so yet another thing I have to either adjust or return the playpen. I can never win with that! lol i was afraid of that happening because she used to be able to fit through the bars of my cage also.
 
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