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Obi-Wan, Loki and Gandalf
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The original post is lost in limbo, so here goes my second try to posting this.

This is my first post on this forum. After reading many topics from other rat owners and watching a ton of videos about ratcare and behavior in pet rats we decided we wanted to adopt pet rats.

My wife and I adopted 3 dumbo hooded male rats from a breeder January this year when they were 6 weeks old. Their names are: Obi-Wan (alpha rat), Loki and Gandalf, they're from the same litter. They have a lovely double level cage with a tons of hammocks, a hide, foraging toys and such. We get them out of their cage twice a day for at least one hour of free-roaming inside a selfmade playpen. We give them treats, raging from dried fruits, cereal and hard-boiled egg during playtime and through the bars of cage in order to bond with them.

The odd thing is we can always easily pick them up (they freeze the moment we scoop them up [fear?]), since we've practiced doing that from the day we got them, however, all three of them absolutely HATE being pet. We've tried everything ranging from letting them lick yogurt or meat baby food from our fingers during free-roaming to letting them sniff our hand before touching them. They always back-out the moment we touch them. This is accompanied with squeaks and sometimes even screeches.

They also tend to fight ALOT both inside as well as outside the cage. We are thinking about neutering all three of them since there does not seem to be a single 'aggressor'. The fighting has never led to bloodshed, though they do screech and scream a lot during fights.

All three of them are still very much aware of sounds and sometimes freeze for 30 minutes or more when we as much as sniff our noses near the cage. Their cage is in the area of the house that gets the most traffic, so they'll get enough exposure.

We wanted male rats because of their cuddlyness and chill nature. We've tried everything from, immersion to forced socialization, nothing seems to work to get them to love us and it really discourages us, especially after seeing tons of videos and reading stories about rats licking their owner's fingers and love cuddling with them. We have them for four months now and nothing seems to work. They only see us as their source of food and free roam time, and it looks like they don't care about us at all. They don't lick us (only when we have liquid treats on our fingers and stop immediately when the treat is 'finished'). What are we doing wrong?

TL:DR || After months of socializing rats they're still skittish and don't like getting touched. They show no love or interest towards us. How can we get our rats to love us?
 

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Hi and welcome! It all comes down to age and personality. I foster rats, and have had all types. But it wasn't until just recently that I had a rat that actually wanted to be petted, wanted to be touched on his back and neck, and he came to me. The others, especially the young ones, only come for their food like little piggies. They clamor and lick until it's all gone, then run off to play in free roam. Like children, there is so much to do and so much to see and smell and taste. Like toddlers at the playground, who hardly look back at their parents.

So it isn't so much that they don't love me or like me, they are just too busy being rats to settle down for cuddles and pets ;)
 

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Cloud and Dew (Pearl Merle and American Mink, both with Irish markings)!
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First of all - STOP WATCHING THOSE VIDEOS! 😂 As silly as that sounds, it’s true. Watching videos of people with seemingly perfect rats will just make you discouraged, like you mentioned.

I honestly don’t have much to add, I agree with everything Tinytoes said! :)
 

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I’ve found that some of my rats have gotten more cuddly with age, so it could just be hyper young rat time. Additionally, each rat has a unique personality & to an extent that cannot be changed so I think you need to take a deep breathe and cherish your little guys for who they are, even if it isn’t what you expected.

I agree that you need to stop watching those videos— it sounds like it is just making you feel worse and the rats won’t watch the videos themselves and change overnight.

If they are all fighting, I would recommend neutering them. Is this something they’ve done the entire time they’ve been with you or is it more recent?

Welcome to rat parenthood by the way!!
 

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Obi-Wan, Loki and Gandalf
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you all for all the replies so far. This community is so friendly and welcoming. I'd love becoming a part of it.

As for the videos we've watched, I totally agree with you all that they do play a part in the discouragement, however most videos we've watched were about rat behaviour and how to socialize young ratties. We've tried every trick in the book and it didn't help as much as was expected.

In response to ratsbian - They've been in fights since we got them, in the beginning it more playful baby rat fighting. Nowadays there is a lot more puffy fur and hissing going on. They pin eachother down alot. There seems to be a dominance struggle between Obi-Wan (alpha) and Loki as they screech and sometimes even scream whilst fighting. Would neutering all three of them solve this issue?

How do we make them more relaxed. They seem so tense from time to time. Sometimes all three of them freeze up without any reason (no sudden movements or sounds coming from us) and they look terrified. We've tried giving them their favourite treat when this happens (yogurt) but they refuse to take it, even when we smear it on their mouths. Is anything we can do to prevent this from happening?
 

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Honestly they are only 6 weeks old, they are still babies and just growing up. Give them a month and you should see them start to settle down and not be as skiddish. They likely will be much more social with humans by 2-3 months if they are in a high traffic area and being interacted with regularly. All of this behavior is pretty normal for young male rats just coming to a new home.

One thing, most of the rats I have owned at that age were more interested in fresh greens than anything sweet. I found it easier to bond with new young rats simply by frequently coming by with bits of romaine lettuce or spinach. I would keep a container in my fridge of romaine/spinach bits and just hand them pieces frequently throughout the day. I would test new foods as well but found they cared the most about greens at that age. You can make a consistent noise to alert them to your treat visits as well like tapping on a food dish, clicking your tongue, etc.
 

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Obi-Wan, Loki and Gandalf
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Honestly they are only 6 weeks old, they are still babies and just growing up. Give them a month and you should see them start to settle down and not be as skiddish. They likely will be much more social with humans by 2-3 months if they are in a high traffic area and being interacted with regularly. All of this behavior is pretty normal for young male rats just coming to a new home.

One thing, most of the rats I have owned at that age were more interested in fresh greens than anything sweet. I found it easier to bond with new young rats simply by frequently coming by with bits of romaine lettuce or spinach. I would keep a container in my fridge of romaine/spinach bits and just hand them pieces frequently throughout the day. I would test new foods as well but found they cared the most about greens at that age. You can make a consistent noise to alert them to your treat visits as well like tapping on a food dish, clicking your tongue, etc.
They were six weeks old when we got them. They are now 5 months old.
 

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Sometimes all three of them freeze up without any reason (no sudden movements or sounds coming from us) and they look terrified. We've tried giving them their favourite treat when this happens (yogurt) but they refuse to take it, even when we smear it on their mouths. Is anything we can do to prevent this from happening?
This is just something rats do... Nothing you can really do about it.
 

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Ah I think I missed those references in the original post. Honestly males have always been hit or miss for me. I found some end up loving human touching and all of that but many don't seem to care for it. I still like males but I now always have the expectation that many of them will be independent of me. It always confused me because I have read a lot about how males are more cuddly but this has rarely been the case for me. I have had much more success with females as they seem to naturally enjoy soft petting and cuddling especially as they age.
 

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Ya gotta love them for everything they are, and everything they are not. My first foster boys were full grown and not socialized, and I loved them just the way they were. They will never be cuddly. My last set of 5 boys I raised from 4-5 weeks old, and only 1 out of the 5 is actually a cuddly rat, but only when he wants to be. Gimli is my 'tail wagger' :giggle: but I had to go through 16+ rats to get that special one.
 
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I don't like it when people describe male rats as being more cuddly. People often say girls are more playful and boys are more cuddly but the opposite of playful isn't cuddly, it's lazy. Young rats are all pretty energetic for the first year or so. As they age, girls tend to remain more active and boys tend to get lazier. "Active" versus "lazy" has nothing to do with affection, though.

It's normal that your rats don't care for being petted. It's normal that they don't curl up in your lap and take naps and cuddle. As they get older, they may be more likely to want pets and cuddles but there's no guarantee. I've had rats that never really cuddled but they showed affection in their own way. Don't be discouraged. You're not doing anything wrong and your rats aren't defective. They're just acting like pet rats.

As for the fighting, rough-housing is very normal. Squeaks and pinning and forced grooming are all normal. Puffed fur and hissing is starting to sound concerning, though, and should be cause to pay close attention to them. After you've had rats for some time, you get a feel for what's acceptable fighting and what's not. The [JoinRats] website has some good pages on normal play as well as aggression/fighting. Talking with your breeder is definitely a good idea if you're worried about aggression!
 

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Obi-Wan, Loki and Gandalf
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I don't like it when people describe male rats as being more cuddly. People often say girls are more playful and boys are more cuddly but the opposite of playful isn't cuddly, it's lazy. Young rats are all pretty energetic for the first year or so. As they age, girls tend to remain more active and boys tend to get lazier. "Active" versus "lazy" has nothing to do with affection, though.
I totally get what you mean. It just seems that after months of intense socialization they're still as afraid of us as the day we got them. They just don't seem to progress.

As for the fighting, rough-housing is very normal. Squeaks and pinning and forced grooming are all normal. Puffed fur and hissing is starting to sound concerning, though, and should be cause to pay close attention to them. After you've had rats for some time, you get a feel for what's acceptable fighting and what's not. The [JoinRats] website has some good pages on normal play as well as aggression/fighting. Talking with your breeder is definitely a good idea if you're worried about aggression!
The fighting is actually getting more and more intense, especially between Loki and Obi-Wan. Both of them often puff up and screech at eachother while intensely rolling around like a ratball. I 've noticed a difference between the regular shove and playfights and the more extreme wrestling. Loki would puff-up his fur and use his hindleg to kick Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan responds by pinning him down. During these pins Loki screeches and keeps kicking Obi-Wan.

I've heard about the saying "no blood no foul", there hasn't been bloodshed, although I'm keen on avoiding that as much as possible. I even break them apart when they start getting puffy.
They're not aggressive towards me or my partner.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Ya gotta love them for everything they are, and everything they are not. My first foster boys were full grown and not socialized, and I loved them just the way they were. They will never be cuddly. My last set of 5 boys I raised from 4-5 weeks old, and only 1 out of the 5 is actually a cuddly rat, but only when he wants to be. Gimli is my 'tail wagger' :giggle: but I had to go through 16+ rats to get that special one.
We sure do love them for the little rascals they are. I just wish they'd stop fighting with such intensity and be more trusting of us.
 

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Obi-Wan, Loki and Gandalf
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Here you see a typical fight between Loki (top and puffy) and Obi-Wan (bottom). Loki is kicking Obi-Wan with his hind leg in this picture.

305302
 

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the ole' karate chop with the hind leg lol. Normal. If you see one rat go shooting up in the air screaming, and boxes and stuff flying, you might want to check for an injury. Most of the time they just make a whole lot of noise, like children screaming "He hit me!!!"
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thank you all for all of the amazing replies.


Our rats are still pretty terrified of us from time to time. At the time of writing this my wife is cleaning their cage. When cleaning we always temporarily house them in a small hamster cage (their cleaning cage) with a sputnik. All three of them are cramped inside the sputnik, frozen in fear. It just hurts seeing them this way, even though they experience this every Friday while we clean their cage.
Is there anything we can do to make them less tense?
 

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Cloud and Dew (Pearl Merle and American Mink, both with Irish markings)!
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Is there anything we can do to make them less tense?
Honestly, not really. They just need to get more used to it, you could put them in it then take them out and give them a treat so they associate it with good things, you might want to move one of their objects from the main cage into the cleaning cage (then put it back after) so that the boys at least smell their scent in there!
 

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Moving them from the safety of their cage is very stressful. And reaching in to catch them is not helping them learn to trust you. If you could try herding them into a fleece tube, and then move that to the small cage, they will be much less afraid. Then when they are returned to their cage, give them whatever super special treat they like, preferably a wet treat on a spoon that they have to lick off and can't run away with.

The unfortunate thing I have learned is that one scary experience can undo weeks of trust training. Everything is going fine, making progress, then something frightens them and they regress back to being fearful. Very frustrating. Takes days for them to get over it and forget, which they will.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Moving them from the safety of their cage is very stressful. And reaching in to catch them is not helping them learn to trust you. If you could try herding them into a fleece tube, and then move that to the small cage, they will be much less afraid. Then when they are returned to their cage, give them whatever super special treat they like, preferably a wet treat on a spoon that they have to lick off and can't run away with.

The unfortunate thing I have learned is that one scary experience can undo weeks of trust training. Everything is going fine, making progress, then something frightens them and they regress back to being fearful. Very frustrating. Takes days for them to get over it and forget, which they will.
The odd thing is, we don't even have to try hard to catch them. Whenever we open the cage they just freeze in place and we can pick them up easily without any struggle or fuss. It's just that after 5 months of living together with us they still look at us and see mean giants who are trying to eat or hurt them. We've been nothing but calm and sweet to them.

We offer them a wet treat and they lick it from our fingers, but they would only take from time to time. It just seems that al the training we did the last couple of months have been in vain.

We've made peace with the fact that they'll probably never become sweet cuddly snuggle rats, but we just want them to feel more relaxed. After all the careful handling they still seem scared most of the time.

Honestly, not really. They just need to get more used to it, you could put them in it then take them out and give them a treat so they associate it with good things, you might want to move one of their objects from the main cage into the cleaning cage (then put it back after) so that the boys at least smell their scent in there!
Funny that you've mentioned this because we actually tried that today for the first time by moving in their favorite hammock with them, that sadly didn't work as they resorted to hiding in the space pod again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
305314


Here is a picture of Loki frozen in place after receiving his favorite treat (dried melon). He sat still like this with the treat in his mouth for almost 10 minutes! Me moving away from the cage doesn't help, since I actually left the room and came back to still find him still in the same position. After a while he'll slowly but hesitantly start eating the treat. All three of our rats are like that.
 
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