I’ve had several comments in the discussion areas about how to tame shy rats, so here are my replies, and a couple of useful links about the subject:
For Nervous Rats
Why not try putting your rats on a bed (with you on it) or a table or kitchen top so that they can’t hide from you. They don’t normally try jumping off. Have a blanket or box they can return to if they feel nervous. Let them sniff your hands and get used to your hands being near to them before picking them up. Some ratties are more shy than others, so try to be patient – they will come around. My older rats prefer to run up on to me rather than me picking them up, but they tolerate it and will keep still for me now, when they were babies they would wriggle and try to run off too. It just takes time, and keep trying – the more contact you have with your rats, the more they will learn to trust you.
How to Approach New Shy Rats
My advice is to offer them treats and try and handle them as much as possible. A way to trust-train them is to keep them on your person for at least 20 minutes a day – I mean don’t let them on the floor or anywhere but where you are. Even if you just keep your hand near them at first – not to pick up – offer treats till they associate you with good things. I used a box with Jinx & Dublin – they could play in the box and I put my hand in the box near them all the time – they were soon running up my arm to explore! Try not to move to fast towards them if you can. I had to put some of my boys (one at a time) in a pouch where they felt secure and let my hand rest near them.
If they don’t like you picking them up out of their cage or don’t come out by themselves – don’t chase them – this will only make them more scared of your hands – either offer food to encourage or get a pouch or bag and get them used to it – then you can use it to get them out (they will run into the safety of the pouch). Dublin and Jinx used to step from their bed to the pouch and I would carry them in it to the box. It was a secure place to explore from while they were getting used to me. I didn’t let them on the floor (main play area) until they were used to me.
The best treat for trust-training is yoghurt on a spoon – rats love it and they have to stay to lick the spoon – they can’t just run off with it!!
Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating coconut pieces.