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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone.

I have 2 female rats Peanut & Smeagol. They are 3 months old now and we have them for almost 2 months. They are very sweet, and come to me when i open their cage door and sit on my shoulder. I can pet them but not always, it sometimes seems that they are scared of me. They will suddenly run away from me when i try to touch them, and they also don't like to be picked up. Especially Peanut.. she grabs everything she can and starts squeaking like i'm gonna eat her or something ??? I always scoop them, never pick them up from above so that's not the problem. I tried (baby)food on my hand but still they don't like being touched. I tried the 'just grab them and they will learn that it's not a big deal' approach also but nothing works.

When i see video's on youtube of people playing with their rats it makes me jealous because my rats won't let me..
So can someone help me figure out what to do ?
 

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You need to bond with them a bit more :) Slowly earn their trust in little steps, they will come around. You could try sleeping in an old shirt and putting it in the cage so they can get used to your scent and learn that you are not that scary. And, lots of (healthy) treats, Rats will do anything for a treat!
 

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Id say the opposite, these rats are essentially babies and your asking them to make all the first moves in the relationship. This will happen eventually but it is much quicker and less stressful in the long run to show them that the thing there scared of isn't actually scary. I nickname this the confidence method, its not dissimilar to rat daddys emmersion technique in principle but focuses on getting them used to handling in small spaces first.

Confidence method - broad use
What is it: The main principle of this approach is to approach the rats confidently and treat them as you would a confident rat. It can sometimes be called immersion, forced socialisation or pushing technique. It utilises confident handling and lots of repetition
Why: This method works on the principle that exposing a rat to what they may feel is a scary situation for long enough (in a suitable protected environment) will result in the rat realising that there is nothing to be scared about.
Strengths: It works well with the majority of rats and tends to bring them on faster than other methods. Most rats adapt within a few weeks, faster if they are already confident.
Weaknesses: It doesn’t work well in an environment where the rat mentally withdrawers and freezes (sometimes called flooding) this can happen where rats have a traumatic past or have been hurt by humans (or in some cases they are that way inclined). A one off incident of doing can be ignored, however if it reoccurs then it’s a sign this isn’t the method that suits the rat in question.
Hints and Tips: If you have a nice busy area of the house you can put the rat cage in this really helps socialisation. If this isn’t doable then try leaving the radio on in there room (though not all day, they need to sleep too) Take into account the rats age and ability to adapt to changes when deciding how long to do a session for. Very young kittens and the old or unwell do better with short stints of half an hour at a time. Adult rats and the particularly stubborn may need longer to come round.
How to use it:
1. Start off by setting the cage up right, focusing on no hiding places or enclosed beds. Open hammocks and tubs make the best beds and making sure that you can reach all parts of the cage. If you have a particularly big cage or one with poor access it may be worth starting off in only part of the cage or a smaller cage if you have particularly nervous rats, this helps make it easier to pick them up if you are uncertain.

2. Get yourself in the right frame of mind. For this you need to be calm and confident, if you approach the rats like this they will respond much better than if you are nervous or scared of hurting them. It’s useful to know that rats are strong little things and are not going to break if you handle them firmly.

3. First of spend some time on “in cage” socialisation. This is all about getting them used to you being in and around there environment as well as used to being picked up and touched. Get yourself comfortable so you can have your arm or arms in the cage. If there are other rats in the group that don’t need working with on this and they are liable to escape or cause issues take them out and pop them in a temporary cage, though if they are fine to pop in and out then having them around can really help show the new rats there’s nothing to fear. Start off by moving stuff around, tidying up and stroking any passing rats for a few minutes, if the new rats approach you then let them have a sniff and say hello, if this goes well a quick stroke then continue messing around in the cage. If you’re worried the rat is going to bite watch carefully for fluffed up fur and a hunched posture or tail wagging (this is a sign of aggression), you should either go to pick these up quickly grasping firmly around the shoulders or not approach them as they are setting themselves up to bite. Most rats (and I would expect all of our rats) will at most sniff and do an exploratory nibble (essentially tasting you as kittens in particular explore a lot of things with their mouths). This is fine and should be encouraged.

4. Next start to pick up the new rats, keep this brief and hold them firmly, if they try and get away move quickly but make sure they know you are there (a polite hello and stroke is ideal but if they are very scared or look like they may bite moving fast is kinder for both involved). Once picked up hold for a few seconds (supporting the bum of bigger rats) then put down. If they squeak or squirm in this time ignore it. Make sure your holding them firmly and they will learn it is secure. Once they are down give them a short time to settle (time to pick up the other one) and then repeat. You’re aiming to get this to the point where they don’t flinch or back away from your hand. They may still squirm or protest when up (what kitten doesn’t want to be exploring the world rather than being restrained) but should allow you to do it with no fuss. With rats from a background where they haven’t been handled much, particularly adults, this can take a number of sessions. I tend to not do this for more than 20 minutes at a time, but can repeat multiple times a day with tricky rats. With well socialised rats you can often skip or limit this to a few goes at picking them up as they are very used to it, just keep picking up a few times a day for a few weeks with young rats to make sure they see it as a normal part of life.

5. Once you’ve spent a bit of time in the cage spending time out of it together is very useful. To start with don’t free range in a large area, you want to spend time establishing the bond first so the rats are both easy to retrieve when free range is over, and they understand that you can be just as exciting as exploring the world. I find a sofa or bed useful for this as it is somewhere you can very much be part of with restricted space (make sure to move anything they can get onto such as side tables away. Some people also use a bath, though if you do make sure to put a towel in the bottom as they can find the slippiness distressing. Take the rats out of the cage and transport them to this area using a rat bag, carrier or similar (something secure whilst you get used to how slippy they are and they get used to the idea of shoulder riding – most our babies should be reasonable at this but some like to climb down your back or slide down your front etc.). Then settle down with something good on the tv or music. This session is all about spending time together, feel free to play, stroke, and pick them up, if they spend time being scared or frozen then back off a bit but don’t allow them to completely withdraw. Most confident rats will relax within a few minutes but it can take some rats 30 mins plus before they relax enough to explore you or the sofa. After a while (faster for kittens than adults) the rats are likely to settle down to sleep. I tend to prefer keeping them out in the open for this, so discourage clothes diving or settling in a rat bag (helps them get used to being in the open). Again aim for the sessions to be over 30 mins and play it by eye. You want to see the rats visibly relax at some point during the session, this can mean going to sleep or confidently exploring, however you want that loose body language as a rat that is huddled asleep isn’t necessarily relaxed. It may take a few sessions for the scared rats to relax well.

6. Repeat this at least daily until the rats are interacting confidently with you and are happy to be handled. After this you can consider full free range. If you have a large free range area then you may want to start off smaller and build up. Also expect new rats to be a bit hesitant the first time they are in a large open space, especially if it doesn’t already smell or rat, or it smells of a predator species. They will adapt in time so just keep it up and if they are struggling then try adding a few familiar objects to offer them some continuality.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Okay thanks!

Definitely going to try this @Isamurat

I already take them out every night when i'm sitting in the couch and then they sit with me, but i'm gonna take out the blankets and stuff because they always hide under there ;)
 

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Some rats just don't like to be touched or picked up through their whole life though. Definitely try everything Isamurat said though! But I had a boy who would squeak whenever he was pet or picked up. He was such a complainer! He didn't struggle or panic when picked up at all, he just loved to complain! He was very healthy most his life. It was only near the end when he was suffering from a PT that he stopped squeaking when he wasn't feeling well.

I have a girl now who doesn't like to be picked up and will stiffen her muscles and spread out her limbs like she's scared that she's not on a solid surface. I've had her for almost a year now, and she still acts like this, but the other 2 rats she lives with are fine now. She just doesn't like being picked up (being pet is fine though!).

And finally, my hairless girl has always hated being touched, maybe because she has no fur? The only time she lets me pet her, and usually only lets me pet her face and head, is when she's very sleepy or just been woken up, then she'll let me rub her little face. other than that, she will usually recoil away from my hand and look VERY offended. It's pretty hilarious. She'll pull away, usually with one paw up and sit for a couple seconds totally still and GLARE at my hand. Such a rude/offensive thing to be touched I guess haha. But she is very affectionate and loves to climb on me and kiss all over. I'm just not allowed to touch her back ;D

I hope your new girls relax soon and end up letting you pet and hold them without fussing!
 
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