Hello. We got our daughter 2 14 week old male rats a week ago and could do with any tips on getting them used to us! They will approach our hands in the cage for treats but only one will let us handle him. We have had them out the cage every day for the last 4 days for free time (in the empty bath) but transport them carefully through in their Sputnik beds. They are curious and explore the tubes and boxes (and treats!) we put in for them. They are also responsive when in their cage and come running up to the front when we talk to them! My worry is that if we don't handle them enough, they will not tame as well in the long run? On the other hand, we don't want to stress them out by trying to handle when they are still nervy. Any suggestions or advice?
Using treats that they have to lick off of you is helpful as it forces them to remain in contact with you (though they may nip your finger the first few tries as they aren't sure what they are doing so eep loudly at them when they do! It'll feel like a pinch and shouldn't break the skin). We start on fingertips and move it up the hand so that they have to stand on you to get the treat. You can do that with normal treats too and get them to come up your arm too. Yoghurt, watered down peanut butter (if not watered down it can cause them to choke so be careful with peanut butter), malt paste (for ferrets), fruit purees, all good for them to lick off of a finger!
If you have a baggy hoodie then wear it and throw them in, though don't wear anything you particularly like as they like to chew once they get comfortable! Putting an old t-shirt you've worn for a little while in their cage can help too (gets them used to your smell)
You could probably start trick training them too. We have a boy who still isn't a fan of cuddles and is a bit skittish by nature, but he loves learning new tricks and he'll excitedly run out of the cage to play every night.
Thank you. I will try the 'lickable' food tip tomorrow and will also dig out some old tops They are such interesting little fellows - looking forward to slowly building that bond and teaching them some tricks too!
How confident are you in getting them back? If you're not too confident then it won't be detrimental for a short period that they only have time out on you or in a confined space (like the sofa or bath). An hour out a day is preferable but small bursts is easier to manage, 20mins at a time is fine if you can't get them out for an extended period.