Bonding with your Rats: A Beginner's Guide
When you first bring home a pet rat, it is not unusual for your furry friend to hide for the first couple days. Remember, they have just been moved from their home in the pet store to an unfamiliar place. It may take them a week or more to warm up to you. Here are some things you can do to make your rattie friend feel more comfortable.
Loud noises, other pets, and quick movements will all make a rat feel scared. When you first bring a rat home, try to put him in a location where other pets and noises will be at a minimum. Make sure you give the little guy lots of treats, as this well help them realize you mean no harm. Always have your rat take the treat out of your hands. NEVER feed a rat through the cage, as this will cause them to beginning snapping at anything that enters the cage. Remember, don't try and force your rats to do something. If you rats still seems shy about taking food from you, leave them alone and try again the next day.
Once your rats are comfortable taking food out of your hand, offer food from your fingers. Once they get that down, hold the food outside of the cage door to try and get them to venture out of their cage to get the treat.
Once your ratties have passed the food tests, you can begin hand taming them. Pick up your rats, remembering to always support their bottoms, and let them sit in your cupped hand, while you gently stroke their backs. While you pet them, it is a good idea to talk to them in a quiet, friendly sounding voice so they know you're not a threat. If your rat begins to seem scared, put them back in the cage and give them a treat. Repeat this process everyday until the feel comfortable with you holding them.
Once your rats are comfortable with you holding them, take some time everyday to grow the bond between you and your furry companions. If you have more than one rat, be sure to bond with each rat one-on-one, as well as bonding with them as a pair or group. Once your rats become comfortable with you, they will become almost like a cat. They love cuddling and hanging out, especially on your shoulder.
How to Introduce a Pet Rat to Water
Like all pets, rats love to play. There are many different activities that you can do with your rats that will help you bond with them further.
A game that my rats have always loved is tug-of-war. To make a tug of war rope, simply find some yarn and braid a short rope from it. Rats love shiny things, so I have a zipper tied to the end of my rope. To play with your ratties, open the door and wiggle the string around in front of them, and if they're interested, will grab the rope with their hands or teeth and begin pulling. Gently pull the rope back, but be sure to let them win once in a while. They will carry the rope away with their head held high and hide it somewhere in the cage! (Don't let them keep the toy in the cage, though)
Another activity that your ratties will love is hand wrestling. To wrestle with them, stick your hand into the bottom level of the cage, and ran your hand around the floor, being sure to rustle up the bedding so they hear a commotion going on. They will come to check it out, and when they do, pounce your hand on them! They will jump around the cage, eagerly playing and mouthing your hand. Be careful not to get too rough with them!
Some rats love water. To find out if yours does, fill a sink or bathtub with a small amount of water, so that they still will be able to touch the bottom. Throw some treats into the water, add your rats, and see if they are fans of swimming!
Keep at It
Getting your rats fully used to you will take some time, so don't get frustrated if it doesn't happen right away! Just like when you get to know someone new, it will take your rats some time to adjust to their new surroundings and to get used to their new caregiver - you!