Pet Rats/Shy rat
I adopted two female litter mates a week ago. They are 5.5 weeks now. One of them is adjusting great. She opening up, being playful, happy to see me and seems to be enjoying herself. The other one is completely terrified. I can't get her to come out of her house. I try and give her treats and she won't take them. I'm being patient with her and waiting for her to come to me but she's not opening up at all. I feel so bad for her because I don't want her to be scared. I currently have them in a three level wire rat cage. There's a house, food bowl, water bottle and a couple of rat toys. Do you think she just needs a little more time? Also, do you have any suggestions on how to make her feel more comfortable?
Hi Amy, I apologize for the delay in replying to you. Please understand that rats, like people, have varying personalities, so it is not surprising that, thought they are sisters, one is more reserved than the other. Some rats are super friendly and curious and warm up to their humans quickly, while others are shy or skittish and take time to trust.
There are plenty of websites on the Internet of you search trust training, but I will describe one scenario that you can try which I personally have found to be very successful in getting new, fearful or skittish rats used to you. Keep in mind that the most important thing is your time and patience. I almost guarantee that you will begin seeing results soon, depending on how much time you are willing to put into this. Try not to get frustrated if you don't see immediate results...just don't give up and continue to try.
I suggest you set up a small and cozy play space for your girls. A small bathroom is ideal. Keep in mind that rats are instinctively fearful or uncomfortable in wide open spaces. Therefore, try to make this small area as cozy as possible. Throw down lots of towels on the floor and make fluffy piles out of them so there are spaces in between for your girls to run into and hide. Put down lots of boxes close together so your girls can run between the boxes or jump on top of them if they want. If you have anything else that you can make tunnels or hiding places out of, put those in the room too. In other words, make this small room feel full, instead of wide open and empty. It will give your shy fearful girl a feeling of safety. Rats do tend to run along the sides of walls, so the boxes and towels, etc., will give them lots of "walls" to run alongside. Next, bring their cage into that room and place it on the floor. Bring a cup full of tiny treats, trying to keep these healthy. Peas, Cheerios, rice crispies, granola, or bits of bread and crackers are all good choices. Then sit yourself down on the floor across from the cage, perhaps 2 to 3 feet away, then open the cage door, and wait to see what happens. Your friendly girl will likely jump out right away. Wait to see if your shy girl comes to the cage door on her own, or comes out of her cage altogether. Dont make sudden moves that may frighten her. Talk to her gently the entire time. Don't reach in the cage or try to pick her up. In other words, let her decide what she wants to do...follow her lead. After some time, if she doesn't come out at all, try to gently coax her out by slowly reaching out with a treat. If she doesn't take the treat, wait then try again. If she does take the treats and eventually comes out of her cage, make a trail of treats around the room, in and between the towels and boxes to see if that may inspire her to follow the trail and explore a bit. Meanwhile, let the friendly girl explore and play with you but don't get too close to the cage or make loud noises or sudden movements that might frighten the other one. Most importantly, try hard not to get discouraged if this doesn't work the first time. If she doesn't come out at all after say 15 to 30 minutes, then pack it up and try again later that day or evening. Keep setting up these short play sessions at least twice a day.
If after a few weeks, your shy girl is still not brave enough to come out and play in the space with you, don't worry. You can assume this is just her personality and you shouldn't force anything on her that doesn't make her comfortable. Personally, I feel fairly confident that she will eventually break out of her shell and slowly become more comfortable. I think she just needs more time. Meanwhile you should continue play times in small spaces to allow your other girl to play with you and hopefully in time, and with watching her sisters trust of you, her curiosity make exceed her fear and she will eventually brave coming out to see what all the excitement is about.
I hope these suggestions are helpful and that before long, you and your shy girl will become good friends. Please let me know if I can help you with anything else. And please do update me in a week or so. I would love to hear good news that you two have bonded.