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I recently bought two female fancy rats after a long stretch without having any. I was (and still am!) excited to have them back in my life but one of the two is acting very strangely. It's not something I've seen in any of my other rats.

They are both young, and I bought them from a pet store that has a good record of care of the animals (they get them young and handle them often before they are adopted out) and I've never had a problem with the store. The first, Myrtle, has turned out like my other rats. She is gentle, loving, and ready for a cuddle. She is less willing to climb onto me from the cage but once out she is adventurous and comes when called. I think she will soon be climbing out all on her own.

The other, however, is confusing me with her behavior. Lily was at first very skittish about coming out of the cage, but I got them a much larger 3-story one nearly 2 weeks ago and I at first thought it made her feel safer. She would come to the cage and play with her toys, but lately she's started to give me mixed signals. She runs out onto me the minute I open the door, which I would consider a good thing in any other rat but she then proceeds to act completely freaked out that she decided to leave her cage. And yet she stays on me, and in my shirt and refuses to go back up. I bring them out to play with them and she doesn't relax, just constantly goes from inside my shirt to the play area, back again. And any noise will send her running into a hiding spot.

But when I put her back into the cage at the end she acts as if it is the last thing she wants. It's like she can't make up her mind and I don't like that I'm not making her happy. She's also really rough. She doesn't bite, but she will tug on my lips and fingers, shoving at my body to get me to move. It hurts, sometimes, and she's not afraid to use muscle and nails to haul herself up me. I understand wanting to crawl around (I love when I'm the jungle gym!) but the feeling of it comes across as less than relaxed.

She also stares out of her cage at me when she's put up, and paces between the levels, sticking her nose out as if she wants to get out. I'm not sure exactly how to get her to settle and relax so we can both enjoy play time. Having her dart around in a panic just makes me feel terrible.

It's like I've gotten rats from two completely different places when they are (supposedly) from the same litter. Any advice on how to ease her panic would be much appreciated!

Thank you.

Answer
You have to realize that just as no 2 people are alike, in looks or personality, neither are animals.  Does not matter that they are from the same litter.  How many brothers and sisters do you know who are very different from one another?  My own 2 children are like night and day.  My daughter is opinionated & outgoing while my son is quiet and easy going.  My very first rattie girls, from the same litter, turned out to be quite different.  One was super sweet and loved to give kisses, and her sister was stand off-ish.  The sweet one grew quite chunky and her sister was super lean, though they ate the same diet.  And also, the chunky one was the healthy of the two...her sister was ill often and died early.  And that is just the way genetics work.

Going on the assumption that these are very young babies, be aware that their personalities are just beginning to form.  Both of them might go through various changes in personality in their early months.  I recently adopted a baby rattie who was very cautious and hid a lot the first month or so, but now 3 months later, she is outgoing and loves to climb all over me.  I might add that this one is also a bit rough with her teeth and nails when climbing on me (I always have scratch marks on my arms and neck, but I know she doesn't realize it and doesn't mean to.

I suggest you give it time, and a lot of patience.  Take things slow, at her pace and when she is ready to open up more, she will show you.  Of course there is always the chance that she won't open up at all...some rats are just not as friendly as others, and you might just have to accept that.  But I would say that as long as the 2 girls are getting along nicely with each other and appear happy together, that is what matters most.

I'm attaching a link to a website about trust training a pet rat.  I'm not sure if any of the information in this particular article relates exactly to your situation, but there is plenty written on trust training rats on the internet if you are interested in more ideas.  
Here's the link -->  http://ratguide.com/care/behavior/training_playtime.php

If you do everything you can to patiently work with your rat, it will hopefully pay off, but don't be discouraged is she doesn't show any changes.  With time and age alone, and also getting used to her new environment, when she outgrows babyhood and grows out of her hyperactive stage, she will likely be less skittish and more attentive towards you.

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I can answer a variety of questions regarding adoption and care of pet rats throughout their lifetimes, including questions about their health and well being, temperment, diet, bedding, cages, toys, etc. I will try to answer your questions to the best of my ability in a timely manner and I have an abundant amount of resources to help me to help you with your pet rats. I love rattie pictures, so include pics with your question if you can. You may ask me medical questions, but please be advised that I am not a vet. I may use my resources to answer some medical questions, however, I will need to refer you to your local vet with medical questions that I feel I am not qualified to address.

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