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Pet Rats/adopted rat, shy and scared


hello debbie,
I acquired a rat two days ago from an elementary school teacher. she (i was told the rat is a she, but havent check for confirmation yet) was in a classroom since february. im not sure exactly how old she is but the teacher said she got her from the pet store in february so she is probably only 5 or so months old. the only other information i got was that the teacher had found out that one of the children had been secretly poking it with a pencil, and now if you stick your finger at it, it bites. she gave me the cage and it has no wheel in it, and because of her disposition i get the feeling she may have never been let out of the cage. the teacher who had her said she had raised a lot of rats though, so maybe she did let her out, who knows. i ordered her a wodent wheel and it should be here tomorrow so hopefully that will help her a lot. she is extremely shy. I haven't tried to pick her up yet but I have tested the finger theory and yes she does bite. i have been giving her lots of treats, grapes, almonds, a bit of yogurt, piece of banana, carrot, etc. along with her blocks and she is eating them up. the first day i had her she had to get moved from place to place in order for me to get the bedding set up and all, but the second day i left her alone besides coming to her cage and trying to talk to her in a calm voice. today i was working in the room she is in all day and she started to get curious about what i was doing and came to the side of the cage a bit. i even put my face close to the cage without her running away, but now she is back hiding and seemingly really scared again. i built her a little place to play outside of the cage and spread paper and nuts all through it so i am going to try to let her do that in the morning. all this to say, is there any thing else i can to do help her adjust to me and help her calm down? i assume time will help but i wonder if this is a hopeless cause? i also have not picked her up yet, and i was planning on wearing some gloves in case she bites, i dont know how bad she will freak out. is that the right thing to do? i thought about putting her cage in the room that i am letting her out in and just let her come out on her own, but i read that you should move the cage as little as possible. I also have read how much they like to have a partner rat, but im not sure how she would get along with another rat at this point, what do you think?

thank you so much for your time.

Hi Jessi,
God bless you for rescuing this poor rat. Shame on that teacher.  I do recommend you get her a companion, because a single rat feels very insecure, and having a friend will make her more open to you. See the article called Trust Training on my website at and you'll also find an article on introducing new rats.

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Debbie Ducommun


I can answer any questions about pet rats, but you will probably be able find answers to simple questions more quickly on my website at If you have a life-threatening emergency you can try calling me at 530-899-0605. I am not usually on the computer on the weekend.


I have been "The Rat Lady" since 1985 and am recognized as one of the world's experts on pet rats. I have 3 published books and already answer lots of questions about rats daily.

President of Rat Assistance & Teaching Society

I am a monthly columnist for Pet Business magazine, and my writing has appeared in other magazines. I have 3 published books.

BA in Animal Behavior

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