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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

A few days ago I picked up my first rescue rats, Oscar and Xavier. They were surrendered because they didn't get along with kids, and I suspect that they were never properly socialized and didn't get much time out of their cage. And/or that during the time they did spend out of their cage they were manhandled by over-enthusiastic children. They're both rather skittish and freeze up in fear when I try to pet them, but I know this is only a matter of patience and persistence to correct. However, Oscar is especially petrified when it comes to picking him up. Whenever I try he runs and hides, sometimes shrieks, and last night when I tried to get him out of the cage he rolled over and put his paws up in a defensive position. I think he probably got the brunt of forced cuddling, because he moves much slower than Xavier and his fuzzy Rex coat makes him look like a teddy bear.

It's really only when I try to pick him up that he acts so frightened, once he's out and socializing he's content to use me as furniture and even take treats from my hand. They're actually both very happy to get out and play, but so far Oscar won't come out of the cage on his own if I leave the door open and wait. I've tried scooping him up from his bottom hoping it might be less scary than picking him up from above, but so far any method I've tried is equally terrifying. Any suggestions on how best to pick up a skittish rat?
 

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I let my rats sniff, lick and walk all over my hand to make sure they know it's safe before I pick them up.
 

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First of all rolling over is submission, not defensive... if that helps. Rats never roll over defensively, they defend themselves with all 4 paws on the ground so they can move and bite.

I'd recommend that you check out the immersion thread and take your guys into the immersion area and settle in with them for some play and bonding... basically set up an environment where you can really get to know each other in a relaxed non-coercive environment where they can explore a little and meet you on their own terms and where you don't need to exert so much physical control. Let the walls do the rat management while you be the friend.

Best luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for your replies!

I feel a bit better that he wasn't being defensive, but still sort of upset that he thinks scooping him up requires submission. Maybe just some time to acclimate to his new home will allow him to be comfortable. I've read the immersion thread before for my first pack of babies, but I'll give it another look. (Rescues must be harder to win over). I've let them run around on my bed with me while I do homework or some reading, and Xavier is settling in well with that, but Oscar mostly just hides behind my headboard until I have to scoop him up for bed-time. He comes out sometimes to check me out, though.
 

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Its all good advice...my first rat was a rescue..( headed for snake food)he had a difficult time trusting us,, we just kept trying..letting him know things were all right,,we never got bit. bribing him with treats helped. we did not give up.just keep calling to him..tempting him with treats re-assure him...give him chin rubs and head nuggies,,,he will come around,,,rats love attention,,and contact,,give him love
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
MouseE190, I'm glad to hear from someone else with a scared rescue rat! It's very sad to see such an intelligent creature freeze up in fear, especially since I'm used to squishy lap rats. But I suppose rescues would naturally be a bit more hesitant to trust than babies or pet store rats, especially if they've likely been mishandled by humans for an extended period of time. He actually acts a lot like my cat, Lulu, who we took in as a feral kitten. She still freezes up when she encounters us and hides more often than not, but she'll sleep on my bed and allow pets sometimes. I think if me and Oscar both take some time to adjust our expectations of the other we can have a fulfilling relationship.
 

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Always remember that rats are learning animals, the more they have experienced the more they have learned.... That goes for bad as well as good lessons about humans. And as we all know unlearning the bad is harder then learning the good. Second or third home rats may be more challenging than first home rats. For first time rat owners I tend to recommend fresh, friendly pups to raise your own way, like adopting a human baby. When you adopt a teenager, he or she comes with baggage... good parents or bad ones, foster homes and possibly a lot of experience... That's not to say that adopting a teenager is a bad thing, it's just going to present certain challenges that adopting a baby won't.

Also keep in mind that some rats that are given up to adoption don't come from the best of homes, which is likely true of kids in the system. Some folks enjoy and even prefer the challenges and rewards posed by rats that have been mistreated or even abused, but in any event, you have to be prepared to address whatever emotional and behavioral luggage that comes with a second or third home rat.

Best luck.
 

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I've not had this experience, but I do have a rat who was pretty shy and fearful at first. She also didn't like being picked up.

Sitting on the floor with her helped. I'd offer food to her when she climbed up on my belly and chest. When the rat saw me as part of the furniture, she was more accepting of being held. She still had some of that fear when she was back in the cage; I think the cage just represents the ultimate security. But when free ranging in the bathroom, she was much open to the idea of being picked up.
 
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