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The Heroic Adventures of Oliver and Barry!

1614 Views 12 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Tedology
Well, I've had a few steps back, but also a step forward. :)

I brought the boys in their small carrier to the bath tub for a family meeting and socializing. I did wake them up from a hammock nap, so they may not have been terribly happy to see me. But I figured if I just waited until they were active, it would be at night...when I sleep. :p

I use the small carrier to cover the drain (the drain is not large enough for them to climb in...but I don't want their paws getting stuck, either). Well, Oliver learned how to climb up the carrier and inside. Yeah, that didn't wash so I retrieved him.

Both he and Barry were more squirming than normal to get out of my hands :( That was a bit disheartening. I won't lose hope...just know I need to give them more time. After all, it's only our second day together!

Then I got some Cheerios and tried to hand one to Barry inside his carrier. No luck. However, when I handed one to Oliver, he took it from my hand and began enjoying it. Well, Barry saw that and tried to take it from Ollie! I didn't want a fight breaking out, so I took Barry out and tried to give him a Cheerio while he was on my lap. Nope, no interest. Back to the carrier.

Tried again...no interest. However, Oliver was more than happy to take two more Cheerios! LOL! So I think I may have found Oliver's "chocolate". I will further pursue this.

Some questions (if you've read this far):

1. I'm thinking I'm only going to give treats when we have a "together" session. This way they will hopefully equate "outside the cage" = "good stuff". Is this right/wrong to do?

2. They often clean themselves when we're in the tub. Do they possibly do this when they are stressed? :( I don't want that to happen. :(

3. When they squirm/try to get away, what should I do? Should I let them? Should I gently restrain them so they don't learn that "fighting" = "getting away"? I think I felt Barry even bite me at some point. Not painful...but noticeable.

4. Any other tips are appreciated.

I'm just taking them out twice or thrice a day...so hopefully it's not too many times?

Thanks for reading/helping! :)
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Food treats can help, but you want to communicate more meaningfully... you don't want to be thought of as a vending machine.

When your rats are preening they are thinking, don't disturb them, after a good preen rats often change their behavior which is generally a good thing.

It's OK to let your rats have some running room, they can't come to you and show you that they want to be with you if you don't let them go so they can come back. Socialization shouldn't come down to a test of wills or you inflicting force on your rats... try and keep it playful, inspire your rats want to be with you.

I know, I've been accused of advocating the use of force during certain types of immersion, force has to be used to counter aggression, but it doesn't generally help your situation when you are trying to make friends with rats that aren't attacking you.

Try to read your rats behaviors as if they are little kids that don't understand your language and try and get them to see you as another intelligent being and interact with you as a family member. Always try pulling rather than pushing first.

I hope that makes sense.

Best luck.
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Thanks for your input, RD. :)

You're right! I had read that preening means thinking! I can't believe I forgot that. I will keep that in mind.

So, if I'm holding them and they squirm to get out, I'm guessing I should let them get out? I guess for some reason I thought that they would learn that squirming would get their way?

So many different viewpoints on forums...it's hard to know which advice to follow and which to ignore! I guess I just need to keep reading and hope for discernment. :)

Your advice is always appreciated...thank you!
You might use exactly the same moves and methods with 15 rats and they may work great for you. Then you will be working with another rat and for some reason, you get a "light bulb" moment and try something different that works better with this rat. What I'm trying to say here is don't dismiss your own intuition. You are there with your rat. You know him better than anyone reading here. If you get what seems like a good idea, follow through.
You might use exactly the same moves and methods with 15 rats and they may work great for you. Then you will be working with another rat and for some reason, you get a "light bulb" moment and try something different that works better with this rat. What I'm trying to say here is don't dismiss your own intuition. You are there with your rat. You know him better than anyone reading here. If you get what seems like a good idea, follow through.
Thank you, Raindear. I appreciate it. :)

Well, just got back from another "field trip" with the boys. They're tiring (to me!) LOL. I wish they were more trusting, but it's only been two days. I guess I wish I knew how long it customarily takes. Then again, that probably varies, I'm sure. :) I just wish they would stick around in my hands more...rather than me "forcing" them to/restraining them. :( I'm impatient, I know.

One good thing. In the tub, Barry took a couple of Cheerios from my hand and then ate them near me. I took that as a sign of "semi-trust" that he ate them near me. :)

(I hope you all don't mind my log here! LOL)
So Cloud, our current true shoulder rat weebled by and asked to be picked up, then she insisted I open the drawer where I keep a broken up chocolate chip cookie for her, and gave her a piece which she ran off and ate behind my computer monitor, she came back and groveled a bit more. Then realizing she's not getting any more, she wanted down on the floor and she weebled off again...
Now I hear her rummaging around in the kitchen trash...

So that might not sound all lovey dovey and sentimentally squishy but that's who Cloud is... Sometimes she just comes by for a treat, sometimes she wants to play and every now and then she gets lonely and wants some snuggles. Sometime she follows my daughter around like a puppy when she's around. And other times she just hangs out in the metal cabinet in the kitchen or naps in her cage.

I'd just like to remind you that Cloud is a true shoulder rat, who will walk at heel outdoors and she's perfectly bonded to us, but indoors she pretty much leads her own life and comes and goes as she pleases... It's not a matter of control or force, she comes when she wants attention or treats and then does her ratty things on her own in the dark. Every rat is different.

There are very rare times when force is required to fix a serious problem, but again you are trying to make friends and get your rats to come to you willingly rather than overpower them into submission. You do have to make the judgment calls on the fly and you want to keep your rats engaged so they know you are there, but you don't want them to be thinking about running away from you all of the time... You want to be the most interesting thing in the room so you attract them....

Now I realize there are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part you know your date is going pear shaped when someone is handcuffed to the radiator to keep them from leaving... Some of the rats we've had enjoy chase games, where we chase them around, but they come back again and again to be chased and to escape again... and this can be fun. But applying too much control might get you compliance, but it won't build a friendship.

As to how long it takes, there is no rule, it mostly depends on how neglected or screwed up your rats are before you got them. Young pups or pre-socialized rats can come around in minutes to hours... older neglected rats or mistreated rats can take days or even weeks until they really come around. Progress is usually not gradual but occurs in steps as rats and you suddenly reach a better understanding of each other. Remember the steps... engage, allow the rat to respond, and then reply appropriately....

Hang in there, you are most likely doing just fine... if you can get out of the tub and give your rats a little more room to explore and to respond to you in. Try to make it more fun and adventurous... kind of like you are exploring together.

Best luck.
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My first meeting with rats was at a home with several rats. I guess I had about 5 little girls running around my hands, arms, lap and neck. I said something about them not sitting still to be petted, and their owner pointed out that they were perfectly willing to run all over me and weren't trying to return to the cage or escape. In all the rats I ever had (over about 10 years) I only had 1 that liked cuddles. Males are supposed to be more cuddly, not that I ever had a cuddly male either, but as I understand it they grow out of bouncy babyhood into squishy love balls. So, if you can encourage them to come to you and play with you, you are on the right track. Don't expect a lot of cuddling just yet.
Thank you RD and Raindear.

Raindear: you're right. At least, when they hide...they like using my body as a shelter-in-place! LOL

In fact, Barry has decided that inside my pant leg is his go-to for security and for munching on any Cheerio gifts. ;) Of course, he probably just likes the darkness, but I like to think my scent is there (thanks for my leg's presence!) :)
Proof of Barry the Bold facing the terrifying "Cave of Denim"!

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So cute! The fact that they are already taking food from your hands is a good sign - my girls each took about a week before they would accept food from me outside of their cage.

Have you tried putting them on your shoulder? Mine won't stay in my hands either, but love to hang out on my shoulders. They might be a little scared at first - Charlotte was - but they should take to it after a couple times. Anna actually climbed straight to my shoulder when I first held her. :)
So cute! The fact that they are already taking food from your hands is a good sign - my girls each took about a week before they would accept food from me outside of their cage.

Have you tried putting them on your shoulder? Mine won't stay in my hands either, but love to hang out on my shoulders. They might be a little scared at first - Charlotte was - but they should take to it after a couple times. Anna actually climbed straight to my shoulder when I first held her. :)
Hmm...no, I haven't tried the shoulder yet. I may try that. Thank you. :)
I bought a hoodie just for playing with rats. They don't really make use of the hood right now, but when I took one rat in for a checkup, she was unhappy about her new surroundings. I'm glad I had the hoodie then because she took comfort on the back of my neck under the hood. I let her stay there until the vet was ready to examine her.
I bought a hoodie just for playing with rats. They don't really make use of the hood right now, but when I took one rat in for a checkup, she was unhappy about her new surroundings. I'm glad I had the hoodie then because she took comfort on the back of my neck under the hood. I let her stay there until the vet was ready to examine her.
Interesting idea...thank you, Kuildeous. :)
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