Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Discuss rat companionship, introductions and behavioural problems such as biting or shyness or tell us about your rat's unusual habits.
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claireyfairy
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Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Post by claireyfairy » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:41 pm

Well I last night had a breakthrough with one of my babies Pippin. I got my two babies at the end of April and since then Poppet has bonded nicely with me. She doesn't particularly like being picked up but doesn't mind it so much anymore. Poppet now free ranges with the older girls in the spare room where they live.

However, until now Pippin just would not let me touch her and whenever I open the cage door for free range she runs straight up into the Sputnik and will not come out. I have tried to get out the sputnik with her in so I can force her into being handled but the few times I have done this she has panicked so much and has started making strange noises (a bit like a chicken clucking) and has fought to get back into the cage. I used the dressing gown technique with all the others and they were fine within days but she just won't stay in it and I'm scared she is going to have a heart attack her heart beats so fast.

I have been trying with feeding her yummy treats from my hands but she isn't interested unless it is through the bars and she will also lick my fingers if I put them through the bars so I think she must like me to do this. It seems like she is agrophobic and just doesn't like being out of the cage!

However, last night I tried again as I do every night with a bit of new potato. She came up to the door eventually and at first was biting off bits and running away to eat it but when she realised I wouldn't give her the whole lump she eventually sat and ate from my hand which she was half sat on. After half an hour when the other girlies realised I had food and were sat eating potato on my knee she came fully out of the cage onto my knee for only short periods of time but she kept running back into the cage but then back out onto my knee again. This is a total breakthrough and I was over the moon. :D

My question is should I just keep doing this and still not try to pick her up yet as I don't want to go backwards?
Are some rats just never going to be as friendly as others?

I just want her to be like the others and come out to play and not be terrified. :(

Sorry for the essay!
Claire
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Owner of 5 gorgeous girlie rats: Betty :dumbogirly:, Crumpet :girly:, Pippin :girly: and Poppet :dumbogirly: and the new addition (skinny) Minnie aka monster! :girly:

Rest in cheese Mouse :girly:

Mulberry (Jane)
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Re: Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Post by Mulberry (Jane) » Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:48 pm

Given that you've had Pippin for quite a long time now, & she's still very timid, I'd continue a very slowly, slowly approach and use food to get her to come out onto you very day, as you did last night. It does sound like yesterday was a breakthrough, so well done, but I wouldn't try to go fast. After a good few days of her coming out, and coming to you quicker & with less hesitation, I'd try touching her (not picking her up) whist she is on you, or if it seems more appropriate, to encourage her to explore inside your clothing then move on to stroke her through your clothes etc. I think the key will be to get her to come out onto you at least once a day, preferably 2 or 3 times if the rest of your life allows it. You could also move from feeding licky food through the bars, to offering it through the open door.
Don't give up hope that she will learn to like, even love, contact with you.
NB Have you considered whether Pippin can see/hear appropriately? (This might make the world outside the cage more scary)
Mulberry rats are: Tuck, Islay, Mull & Treshnish
Guinevere, Excaliber, Nymwai, Muddy, Lightnin' , BB, Monty , Brownie, Koko, Etta, Jensen, Fernando, Felipe, Vanilla, Tiffin & Matilda.

Remembered with love: Little Jon and my other sweethearts x

claireyfairy
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Re: Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Post by claireyfairy » Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:59 pm

Thank you for your reply, I will continue with the slowly slowly approach and I'm going to try with some yoghurt or something tonight but I know this will be chaotic as soon as the older girls and Poppet see what I am doing! They will be all over me too. I suppose this might encourage her that the others trust me though and so should she.

Her hearing and sight both appear fine as whenever there is a sound (usually Betty falling off something) or I move quickly she runs back into the Sputnik. I just don't understand why her and Poppet (her sister) are so different as they have had exactly the same treatment and Poppet will spend ages exploring me at free range but she has always been the nosey one I suppose.

Unfortunately the only real time I can do this is on an evening as we set off early to work and don't get back until 6.30pm. This makes mornings impossible too because as soon as the cage doors are open the other 4 are gone and if not out for a while refuse to go back in! This would mean getting up at 5am or something! They have a long play out period in the evenings though.

It is just so frustrating when you just want them to love you! She is the cutest rat I have ever seen which makes it worse because I just want to kiss and cuddle her like I do with the others (when they are in their less pingy moods lol!)
Claire
xxx
Owner of 5 gorgeous girlie rats: Betty :dumbogirly:, Crumpet :girly:, Pippin :girly: and Poppet :dumbogirly: and the new addition (skinny) Minnie aka monster! :girly:

Rest in cheese Mouse :girly:

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Re: Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Post by claireyfairy » Thu Aug 05, 2010 3:34 pm

I just wanted to update this and give everyone else who is having problems with scaredy rats some hope.

Now when I open the cage door and the other four tumble out I rest the door on my knees while I sit on the sofa and Pippin runs straight out onto my knee and prises open my fingers to see what treats I have for her! She is like a new rat! She still doesn't like to be picked up but will sometimes sit still and let me stroke her gently for a few seconds but does like to put herself back in the cage rather than me trying to put her back.

The next stage is to see if she will free range with the others without any trauma when putting her back. I am going to leave it until Saturday I think but she is now taking an interest in trying to get off my knee and go and play with the others and I really don't like her missing out on play time but I still think the key is slowly slowly.
Claire
xxx
Owner of 5 gorgeous girlie rats: Betty :dumbogirly:, Crumpet :girly:, Pippin :girly: and Poppet :dumbogirly: and the new addition (skinny) Minnie aka monster! :girly:

Rest in cheese Mouse :girly:

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Re: Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Post by Bazu » Thu Aug 05, 2010 3:51 pm

So glad to hear it's going well for you both! :) I definitely agree that it's still a case of slowly, slowly - the last thing you want is to undo all that work now!
Orca, Minke, Myst, Nova, Exi and Fye

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Re: Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Post by princesslea » Sun Aug 08, 2010 2:37 am

Isn't it such a lovely feeling when you realise you are gaining their trust. My 10 week old boy Alfie :dumbobaby: isn't one for being handled and will only tolerate it for short periods then he's off, I totally bribe him during free range and make him sit on me and for licks of yogurt. His brother is much calmer and dosen't mind being handled. It's strange as they have both been raised together and handled from birth. It takes lots of time and patience, I happily sit in the bathroom for an hour or so each day and let them clamber all over me, they now clamber onto my shoulder where as three weeks ago they were hiding under the bathroom stand!!!

Good luck x
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Girlies - Ellie, Izzie, Star, Indie, Missy (2 x Russian Blue Irish, 1 x Essex, 1 Siamese Essex 1 x Black Berkshire)

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Re: Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Post by burninglight » Sun Aug 08, 2010 9:21 am

claireyfairy wrote:I just wanted to update this and give everyone else who is having problems with scaredy rats some hope.
and that it does! I've had my girls for a few weeks now and they are both very timid so I've been doing the slowly slowly approach as well - was beginning to wonder if it would ever work with Gigi, but now I have hope. They both hate to be picked up, however Pixie will now happily walk on to my hand to have a little run around inside my jumper. Gigi will come to my hand, take treats, have a little lick and a nibble but doesn't seem interested in coming out of the cage at all. She watches the door from the back of the cage and just observes Pixie doing laps of my neck or sitting on my head.

I shall continue with the approach and hope she makes some progress. Seems a shame for her to miss out.

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Re: Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Post by Purplehazer » Sun Aug 08, 2010 9:23 pm

Rather than start a whole new post, thought I would add to this one. We have 2 baby boy rats, had then for about 2 weeks, and trying to gradually tempt them out of the cage. They're doing well, and coming out more and more but I have a question about cleaning them. Understandably, they are starting to smell, and am a bit concerned about whether this is bad for their health but don't know how to clean them out without grabbing them. Feel like that would undo the good work they've done. What should we do- leave them to stink until they're more comfortable outside the cage, or keep them out and freaked out while we do a quick clean? Any help appreciated!

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Re: Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Post by burninglight » Mon Aug 09, 2010 5:34 pm

with my girls (who do smell to high heaven if left too long) I either put the carrier in their cage - when we were using the smaller carrier - and after a couple minutes they'd both jump in and I could close the box and set to cleaning the cage. Now they have a bigger carrier I was hoping Pixie would wander out as she has been and Gigi normally hops into the tube or igloo, so I was just going to scoop this up (with her inside) and put this in to the carrier with them.

Not sure how successful this alternative will be, but they are due a clean tomorrow, so we'll know soon enough.

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Re: Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Post by Mulberry (Jane) » Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:49 am

You could do partial 'spot' cleans (daily even) which will get the rats used to having their nests / familiar surroundings changed as well as making them less smelly for the first few weeks until they are comfortable leaving their cages.
Mulberry rats are: Tuck, Islay, Mull & Treshnish
Guinevere, Excaliber, Nymwai, Muddy, Lightnin' , BB, Monty , Brownie, Koko, Etta, Jensen, Fernando, Felipe, Vanilla, Tiffin & Matilda.

Remembered with love: Little Jon and my other sweethearts x

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Re: Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Post by Jemma » Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:05 pm

I thought it might be worth posting an alternative approach for Purplehaser and others which works well for me. The softly softly approach can work well (if slowly) but sometimes a more direct approach works better with some rats and normally is much faster. With new rats i limit the hiding places in the cage completely. For the first week they get nothing but open hammocks, beds and climbing things. I also normally restrict the size of the cage (for 2 reason, one it makes them easier to catch, and two it helps them bond with there new cage mates).

I then handle them as much as possible, i pick them up even if they run, I don't grab them hard, but i do corner them and pick them up firmly even if the rat squeaks and struggles in protest. I hold them for a few seconds and put them down again, give them a couple of minutes to calm down (whilst repeating with any other new rats) and then repeat. I'll spend a long time like this, sometimes just sitting with my arm in the cage, sometimes picking up and holding then putting down, if they try and avoid me in teh cage i will approach them, but keep my hand low, a hand from above is scarier than a hand from below. As things improve i hold them for a little longer, pulling them out of the cage for a quick cuddle and back in again. I do a few sessions of this ever day, around 10-20 mins bursts. This really gets them used to being handled and once they realise your not going to hurt them they stop resisting. They then quickly move on to trusting you as a means to get out of the cage, so running onto your hand or up your arm (or leaping at you as you pass - bloomin rats, i am not a climbing frame :lol: ). Once they are settled i make sure i pick them up out of the cage at least twice a day, the rest of the time they bolt out too me lol, but this ensures that should an emergency happen i know i can grab them quickly and easily without it being shocking or scary for them.

On top of this 'in the cage handeling' i also get them out on there own at least twice a week at first. They will then spend about 30 mins one on one with me, in this time I'm mean and don't let them hide in my jumper or anywhere else. It forces them to accept and face there fears and i normally find on about the 3rd or 4th time out they are no longer scared anymore, they also tend to stop being afraid in the first 10-20 minutes. I tend to try and not fuss them too much on the first couple of times, after that i make a point of just touching them or scrathing/stroking them as often as possible, maybe repeating the 'pick you up' game. I also soemtimes get them out with another friendly rat who knows me well to mix things up a bit.

I also don't let them free range on anywhere bigger than a double bed for the first few weeks, until i know i can pick them up and they won't struggle. Being able to retrieve your rat from free ranging without too much bother (other than finding them) is a really useful thing and also safer for the rat.

Overall i find this works well and tends to settle things faster, it doesn't work with every rat any more than the softly softly approach does but you tend to get some results in a few weeks, if not sononer. I've found well socialised rats react particularly well to this, taking days to settle in, though again it depends on the rat, i've done the same with extremely bitey rescues and had them happy in a month ish.

It's an alternative anyway and it would let you clean them out too :lol: as with anything with rats there are no right answers.
Jemma
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claireyfairy
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Re: Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Post by claireyfairy » Fri Aug 13, 2010 10:36 am

Further update... she was sat in my dressing gown for the whole of free range last night in between coming out onto my knee to eat some pasta which she sat on my knee to eat rather than running into the cage. She lets me stroke her and I picked her up twice last night without her squirming or sqeaking. She seems like she could end up being one of my cuddliest girlies but it has just taken her a while to bond out of the cage. I am over the moon :D
Claire
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Owner of 5 gorgeous girlie rats: Betty :dumbogirly:, Crumpet :girly:, Pippin :girly: and Poppet :dumbogirly: and the new addition (skinny) Minnie aka monster! :girly:

Rest in cheese Mouse :girly:

Mulberry (Jane)
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Re: Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Post by Mulberry (Jane) » Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:37 pm

Really good news Claire, and Pippin. I hope she does go on to become a cuddle lover.
Mulberry rats are: Tuck, Islay, Mull & Treshnish
Guinevere, Excaliber, Nymwai, Muddy, Lightnin' , BB, Monty , Brownie, Koko, Etta, Jensen, Fernando, Felipe, Vanilla, Tiffin & Matilda.

Remembered with love: Little Jon and my other sweethearts x

claireyfairy
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Re: Breakthrough with very skittish ratty but help needed

Post by claireyfairy » Mon Aug 16, 2010 12:40 pm

Pippin has been playing out with the other girlies all weekend and has climbed all over me at any opportunity. When it has been time to go back in the cage she has been absolutely fine letting me pick her up too as long as I don't keep hold of her for too long. All my hard work has paid off. It is so nice to see her playing out with the others :D
Claire
xxx
Owner of 5 gorgeous girlie rats: Betty :dumbogirly:, Crumpet :girly:, Pippin :girly: and Poppet :dumbogirly: and the new addition (skinny) Minnie aka monster! :girly:

Rest in cheese Mouse :girly:

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