I love how confident Blue Apple babies are, but not all rats are the same!
I’ve been hearing of many people who are having difficulty socialising their pet rats. By “socialising” I mean that they want their rats to feel more comfortable being handled, spending time out of their cage, and engaging with different members of the family. Not only do they want their rats to feel more comfortable with all this but to actively seek out human company and enjoy “free-ranging” outside their cage.
The degree to which a rat enjoys people or world outside their cage varies enormously from rat to rat. I breed confident friendly rats and the babies seem to reflect this. However, before I began breeding, I’d get rats from any number of places and I’ve had a lot of skittish rats in my day.
A lot of temperament is due to genetics. Breeders who select for a specific temperament are generally able to achieve it over time, just like any trait. However, handling is critical so a lot of breeders not only handle their babies, but make sure that their adults are regularly handled, too, to ensure that they are comfortable in human company. With patience, most rats become quite friendly.
Here are some quick tips for dealing with shy rats (I will add some more later!):
- Start with a small cage! I know I insist on a large cage for homes to which I allocate rats, but sometimes that smaller cage is really important. Ill rats, introductions of strange rats, transporting rats, and helping shy rats overcome their fear are just a few examples.
- Be patient. With very shy rats you may have to sit by the cage and offer treats or even just sit by the cage.
- Put their favourite hammock by the cage door. That way, when you sit by the cage you are near them.
- Let them make the first move as much as you can. Sometimes you will just have to scoop them up and walk around with them (walking is a good way to keep them from jumping from you back into the cage!) for 20 minutes, but even better is when they come to you.
- Regular handing. Every day routines are comforting to rats, so get into a routine of handling your rats, interacting with them, or just being near the cage on a daily basis.
- help them get into and out of their comfort zone. Don’t push them too hard, but try to extend their experiences just a little bit every day.