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Do rats naturally sit on someone's shoulder? Two of my boys - Jin and Kiu love to sit on my shoulder and walk around and I never even had to teach them, they just naturally do it.

However my boy Tae hates it and also hates been held no matter how hard I try. I dont think he came from a good background though but I feel like deep down he appreciates me.

Jun isnt strong in his legs (he struggles with climbing and running, like a disability I guess) so he sits in my pockets or in my hoodie and is quite happy.

So I thought I had to train them to do it but they do it quite naturally, is it meant to be natural? When I read stuff it said I had to train them
 

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I think it's just a matter of time and temperament. Mel used to be able to sit on my shoulder for a little while, but would eventually get antsy - now she will fall asleep inside a hood. But she still hates pockets.
 

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I think for most rats it is really just natural. I have had lots of rats and even little babies and they all seem to just naturally go for the shoulder and chill.

But all rats are unique and there are ofcourse some that do not like it. I have many rats who even though will climb to my shoulder are just too hyper to sit still there for long. They would rather go run off to do whatever.

If he likes to sit in your pockets or hoodie I would just be happy with that. They have bonding pouches or a RaToob you could use as well. He may just not be as confident. Give him time to build trust and confidence and he may change. But I wouldnt force it.
 

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i have always had rats that did it naturally. i only had one that hated going places with me... i had no idea a rat could drool before i had him.
 

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Only two of mine like to sit on my shoulder. The other two just climb right off.
 

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The first time I heard the term "shoulder rat" was when I was out shopping. Suddenly, from somewhere behind me a heavyset older lady shouted "Look Herb, the man has a shoulder rat!" Fuzzy Rat was an only rat at the time and she went everywhere with us. Typically, she liked to ride on my shoulder, looking backwards. This way she could see where she came from and get back to the car or the house on her own. She actually had a very remarkable ability to navigate vast distances by memorizing the landmark she saw along the way, in reverse order.


At the time, to my knowledge, there really wasn't a term for rats that could travel outdoors or to stores and restaurants with their humans. And "shoulder rat" seemed about as appropriate as any term was likely to be. For those very special rats that become truly outdoor competent, I probably coined the term "true shoulder rat". Having trained three true shoulder rats since Fuzzy Rat, I have found that not all shoulder rats prefer to ride on my shoulders. Cloud is older and on the pudgy side and prefers to be carried on my forearm. Misty prefers to ride under my jacket poking her nose out. But, when my hands are occupied, I still have a tendency to plunk them on my shoulder so I can get things done. And all of our rats do understand the "shoulder rat" command so they stay put on my shoulder when I need my hands.


Inside your home some rats will just naturally tend to ride along with you on your shoulder, while others prefer to explore under their own power. But, when I talk about training shoulder rats, I'm generally talking about training rats that go outdoors. A limited shoulder rat is typically generally safe to take back and forth to your car, perhaps on short walks on your shoulder and into certain places of business while being carefully supervised. A true shoulder rat, however, is competent to be put on the ground and it will follow you or even go off and explore, but will always come back to you within a reasonable timeframe.


Training is important to all shoulder rats that go outdoors because the great wide world is a dangerous place for rats. The rat has to have a relatively calm personality and to never panic in order to be safely handled outdoors. And true shoulder rats are very rare because they have to become competent and skilled at navigating longer distances in wide open spaces. Our final test for a true shoulder rat is to take it to an outdoor fireworks show. This is about as extreme of an environment that any rat is ever going to find itself in. Typically, it's dark, there are huge crowds of strange people around, there are fireworks's floating above and aerial bombs going off. If a rat can keep its composure through all of that and not panic it's earned the title true shoulder rat in my book. Naturally, we graduate to that point after safe site training.


When Fuzzy Rat got older, she insisted on being called "Fuzzy Rat" not just Fuzzy. I suppose she earned the privilege of being called whatever she wanted. In recognition of our true shoulder rats accomplishments we award all of our true shoulder rats the same distinction. Max became Maxi Rat, Cloud became Cloudy Rat and Misty is Misty Rat. To be honest, they're not nearly as fussy about their names is Fuzzy Rat was, but it serves as a reminder to us that they are very accomplished animals and members of a very elite fraternity and deserve special care and special treatment.


I realize that the term shoulder rat may be a little bit confusing, but when you see a true shoulder rat, your most likely to see it riding on its human in a public place. If you see it, it's most likely going to be on someone's shoulder and it will make perfect sense to you.

Sometimes... the very best of true shoulder rats are going to look more like this...

Exploring on their own...

free range at the beach.jpg

Or walking at heel....
at heel on beach.jpg


This photo was taken at Fuzzy Rats last visit to the safe site...
IMG_0423.JPG

She was over two years old and nearly more tumors than rat in this photo, but she was still hamming it up for the camera and loved every moment she could still spend outside foraging around in the grass.

And this is Maxie Rat passing her true shoulder rat final exam...

A IMG_0610.JPG

You might tell I'm already very proud of her as the final fountain is going off over us... This is no place for an average untrained rat to be and she was only 6 weeks old at the time...
 

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see I am not sure i would actually allow a rat loose on the ground outside... when i think shoulder rat i think rat that stays on your person. and i have gone everywhere with rats that way. stores, malls, festivals, etc etc.although there was one who followed me at heel, my heart rat zinc. she was not trained but i discovered this by accident. it was after the may 8thn 2009 storm in the midwest devastated my town and i walked the entire length of the town surveying the damage with zinc in my arms. a couple old ladies stopped to ask questions and asked if she would run away. i said no... and set her down, and she did not run away. she just followed me. i had never done this before but i think she and i had a deep connection and i knew she would not be lost.
 

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You're actually describing what is pretty typical behavior of true shoulder rats. They tend to stay pretty much right near you and walk at heel.


Fuzzy Rat love to run away and go off and explore on her own. At the park it became a running joke, "lost you Rat again?" people would commonly ask, when we would be recalling her because we had to go home. Fuzzy Rat was singularly competent and could smell or sense danger at a distance. We really never encouraged her to run away, but she was a very sneaky rat and she could tell when we looked away even for just a second. Eventually, we got pretty used to her shenanigans and if we were in a reasonably safe place, I would put her on the ground and tell her "go play" and she would weeble off to explore the tall grass or some dense vegetation. Fuzzy Rat had a real affinity for wild boy rats and we always had to be extra careful with her when we were near any place that wild boy rats lived. The first time Fuzzy Rat ran away she was only four weeks old and my five-year-old daughter started crying. To be honest, I pretty much figured Fuzzy Rat was a goner. But I sat down with my daughter and I quietly reassured her that Fuzzy Rat loved her very much and would most certainly come back. And no, I don't normally lie to my daughter. After 45 very long minutes, I saw Fuzzy Rat's nose poking out of the hedges she had run off into and she came right back to us. I was honestly very impressed, but we moved her further training to the safe site anyway. It took me a long time to get used to having a rat that was competent enough to free range outdoors unsupervised. And it really is very stressful not knowing where your rat is. But there really is something very reassuring in knowing that your rat won't get lost and will always come back.


Cloudy Rat never ran off, she was always very good at staying with us. And then one day my daughter lost her in a marsh. Some kids saw her heading back to the playground, but there were a lot of people there and I guess she wasn't confident enough to come out of the underbrush. Naturally we did the best we ccould do in searching the marsh, but finding a tiny rat in a big salt marsh at low tide is a lot harder than finding a needle in a haystack. After about an hour, I decided she was most likely tired of exploring and should theoretically be back at the place she fell into the marsh. That would most likely be the place in her mind where she last saw us and that's right where we found her, sitting there in a small patch of poison ivy waiting to be picked up. Even though Cloudy Rat that never wandered off on her own, it truly felt great to see just how cool and composed she was and how competent she had become. Not being able to find us, mostly because we were looking for her, she did the next best thing, she went right back to the spot where she lost us and waited to be rescued. The ability to stay calm and never panic and to make smart choices on the spot is what differentiates a true shoulder rat from any other rat. True shoulder rats are very remarkable animals. And they are really a privilege to work with.


One of the tests that we do at the safe site when training our true shoulder rats is to encourage them to wander off a little bit on their own, or in some cases we tend to drift away a little bit to see how they react. Fuzzy Rat had excellent eyesight, she would always go back to the place she last saw us and then look around until she could see us and run straight to us. Every rat will react slightly differently to this worst-case scenario, but in order to be a true shoulder rat they have to stay calm and remain predictable. If the rat panics and starts behaving erratically it's going to get lost in the real world. In a world of open sewer drains, tall grass, hedges, shrubs and infinite places for a rat to hide, any rat that panics is going to get lost eventually.


From what you described, I think Zinc was probably an excellent shoulder rat right from birth she had all the qualities necessary to be successful. There's a lot of things that you can do to train and test the shoulder rat to make it better, but without the right rat to work with you're never going to be completely successful. The very best true shoulder rats are born that way, then there are some that you can train, but for the most part most rats are best never allowed to free range outdoors.


Fuzzy Rat was unquestionably a heart rat like Zinc. Naturally born true shoulder rats almost inevitably become heart rats. There's something almost charismatic about them and although it's almost impossible to describe, you just know they're special.
 

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I wanted to add that one of our rats, Mel, is basically a "hood rat." Not in the racist sense. She's pretty twitchy - much more neurotic than her roomate - but if I put a hoodie on and put the hood up, she will not only alternately happily curl up next to my head, chew on my necklace chain, and groom me, but she'll actively fight being dug out. It's the weirdest thing. I'm actually increasingly confident enough that I would walk around outside with her extendedly, pretty sure that she's going to stay in there.
 
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