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Pet Rats/New Rat Owner

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Question
Hi Irene, I just adopted two male rats (about 6 months old) from a girl who couldn't take care of them anymore. I've never owned rats before so I'm trying to learn as much as possible and be the best new rat mommy! The previous owner said they loved being handled, but when they sit in front of the cage door and I open it to take them out, the shy away. Is this because they don't know me? I've tried letting them sniff my hands and leave them cupped open, but they refuse to climb on in. Any advice?? Thanks!

Answer
Hi Ellie, first I'd like to welcome you to the wonderful world of rat ownership.  You will soon find yourself enamored by these amazing little souls.

If your new rats' previous owner was truthful in telling you they enjoyed being held, then I am certain that they are just nervous about their new environment, new human, but most likely a combination of both.  If they are indeed friendly rats, it won't take too much time for them to adjust to their new environment.  

My advice is to go at their pace.  Don't force yourself on them.  Don't put your hands in their cage to try to take them out, instead, open the cage door and wait to see what they do.  If the cage is on a table or on the floor, sit or stand a few feet away, and don't make sudden movements.  Watch what they do.  I think eventually, curiosity will get the best of them and they will venture out slowly to explore, so make sure the area outside the cage is rat-safe and enclosed so they can't escape and hide in your house.  Let them come to you.  Rats are curious and will sniff everything they come in contact with, including you eventually.  Put some stuff out in the area right outside their cage door, such as empty boxes, towels, etc., so they will have some things to explore instead of just a wide open space, which may be scary to them.  Have some tiny treats on hand you can feed them (such as rice crispies).  You can put a few in your palm and let them come and find them.  Don't try to grab them or pick them up or they may retreat or flee.  That will come in time once they trust you.

Most importantly, you need to have a lot of patience.  Depending on their personalities, they may warm up to you within a few minutes, hours or perhaps days, but if you take if very slowly and let them take the lead, it will happen, I am sure of it.

This is just some information as a start.  There are plenty of articles on line written on the subject of trust-training pet rats, but the one I always recommend is on Joinrats.com.  Here's a link to it.  This is a great site for lots of other information about pet rats, so enjoy exploring and learning.

http://www.joinrats.com/EarningTrust

Please let me know if I can help you with anything else and good luck with your new boys.

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Irene Murphy

Expertise

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.

Experience

I have been a huge rat enthusiast for many years. Since becoming a rat owner, I have educated myself in all areas of pet rats from every resource I could find including the internet, books, conversations with local exotic vets, as well as several local rat breeders.

Education/Credentials
I have a college degree but not in the area of animals. I have obtained my extensive experience and knowlege of pet rats all on my own because in my eyes, pet rats are the most interesting and fascinating creatures you can ever imagine to have as pets. I also am saddened by how mislabeled and misunderstood these amazing and extremely smart animals are by the majority, and my mission in life has become to educate and change as many people's perceptions of rats as I possibly can.

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