Author Topic: Stupid question but, Do they know your legs are part of you?  (Read 687 times)

Offline Oneoldmare

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Stupid question but, Do they know your legs are part of you?
« on: October 19, 2016, 10:43:50 AM »
Hi everyone,  never posted before but have been lurking for a couple of months.
I got my boys about 6 weeks ago, they were 8 weeks old.

Came home and were quite skittish but friendly and have been sitting with them everyday during playtime in the bathroom.

They seem to be getting braver and braver, one of them even closes his eyes and brux's a little while I stroke him. (Not when I'm holding him but him sitting very near me)

I wanted to ask if you think they realise that my legs are part of me?  They seem to be quite happy to walk over my lap and legs but still avoid my hands.

If they do realise it's me then I'm chuffed as they are obviously starting to trust me, or do they not think its me at all and just an object to climb over.

Offline BigBen

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Re: Stupid question but, Do they know your legs are part of you?
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2016, 11:53:19 AM »
At six weeks, it's hard to tell.  Everything is new to them at that age.  But I suspect they make the connection very quickly.  If they groom your legs or mark when climbing on them, then I'd say they've realized it's all you.  It's natural for rats to be afraid of your hands, even when they trust you in general.  Try pretending that your hand is another rat, and have it play with them the way they play with one another--run up to them, run away, wrestle (let them win half the time), run away and come right back--all the things that rats do to signal playfulness and a desire to engage.

Also, when you pick your rats up at that age, it is important to make them feel safe and supported.  Scoop the rat gently and slowly up in both hands, making sure the whole body is supported.  Then bring the rat close to your chest (Rattus norvegicus are burrowers, and feel safest when next to a wall).  Once your rats know and trust you, you will be able to pick them up any old how and they won't be frightened, but for now be careful about it.

Lastly, be sure to give them plenty of treats, so that they associate your hands with good things.  Puffed rice or wheat makes a good treat for this purpose, because you can give the rats quite a lot without filling them up and ruining their diet.  Also, if you put a dab of something yummy on your finger and let the ratties lick it off, that will help reinforce the message.

Good luck, and enjoy your ratties--six weeks is a fun age. :heart:


P.S.--Forgot to mention that baby rats don't like to be held for very long at a time--they have too much energy to sit still for much cuddling.  So don't be disappointed if they don't want to stay in your hands, just get them used to being picked up and let them run off and do what a rat's gotta do.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2016, 11:55:20 AM by BigBen »
What is a rat?  King-sized love in a pint-sized package.
Rat Code:  6m2f22r !B C? D+ F S-- ocA reC sM a+++ e++++ n

Offline Oneoldmare

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Re: Stupid question but, Do they know your legs are part of you?
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2016, 03:43:22 PM »
Thanks for the reply bigben.
They are 14 weeks now, I've had them 6 weeks now.
Not holding them at the minute, only to take out for playtime or cage cleaning and only long enough to pop them in the carrier.
I have a feeling one of them may well turn into a snuggle lap rat, he's definitely lazy and enjoys me stroking his little ears, the other is not quite as keen.
It's hard being patient waiting for the trust but it improves everyday 😊

Offline BigBen

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Re: Stupid question but, Do they know your legs are part of you?
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2016, 10:59:04 AM »
Sorry--I should have read your post more carefully.  And by the way, welcome to Goosemoose!

A lot of what I posted still applies, though at three-and-a-half months they will have the world pretty well figured out by now.  So my guess would be that they do know your legs are you, so feel good about that.  They may be afraid of your hands from not having been socialized enough when babies--which is not a problem, really, it just means you need to work with them more now.  On the other hand, they may simply have too much energy to really enjoy being picked up at this stage.  As you get to know them, you'll figure out where they are coming from.  It does sound as though you are making good progress, though.  I take it these are your first rats?

Be sure to be generous with the treats.  Rats don't usually share food unless they really care about the other rat, so they see your willingness to give them food as a strong signal that you care.  It's a great way to bond with them.  And do keep letting us know how the three of you are getting on.  And some piccies wouldn't hurt. :poke: :poke:

By the way, if they are truly afraid of you, there are two techniques you can use while working with them.  The first is called "trust training," and it involves using food rewards in a disciplined way to get them to approach you willingly.  The other is called "forced socialization," which relies on a quirk of rat psychology to get through the fear and show the rat that that he is safe in your hands.  (It's very gentle, despite how the name sounds.)
What is a rat?  King-sized love in a pint-sized package.
Rat Code:  6m2f22r !B C? D+ F S-- ocA reC sM a+++ e++++ n

Offline bit-bit

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Re: Stupid question but, Do they know your legs are part of you?
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2016, 12:44:50 PM »
Welcome to non-lurker status!

They almost certainly know your legs are part of you if you've had several weeks of daily playtime.  What it sounds like is that they're more comfortable with legs than hands - if you think from a rat's perspective, a sitting human's legs are big stable platforms, while hands are these things that come out of nowhere to get you.

BigBen's suggestions are good. Work on making your hands less scary by moving slowly and predictably - rats don't have great eyesight, and that makes it really easy to startle them and turn on their "eek, a predator!" response.  Make some noise when you're approaching them so their attention is on you, and bring your hands in low toward them, not from above like a hawk.  During floor time, it can help to just lay your hand flat on the floor and let them explore it (a couple treats on top of it can help).  Once they're comfortable with still hands, you can work toward scratches, play fights, and the like - it sounds like this is already underway with one of them, but it does take time.

If you want to get them more comfortable with being held, I recommend an oversized hoodie. Set your hand on the floor and they'll use baggy sleeves as tunnels to get inside, or they might camp out in the kangaroo pocket after climbing over your lap.  They like warm, dark, enclosed places, so they'll feel safe while they're getting used to the feel/sound/smell of your body. You can pet them through the fabric as a step toward direct petting, and dropping a treat or two in with them will help lower their defenses.  Don't use your favorite sweater for this though - it is likely to get peed, pooed, and nibbled on  :-\

Offline BigBen

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Re: Stupid question but, Do they know your legs are part of you?
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2016, 03:12:21 PM »
. . .  Don't use your favorite sweater for this though - it is likely to get peed, pooed, and nibbled on  :-\

Ratties will do as ratties do, lol! :cheeky: :doh: :yelcutelaugh:
What is a rat?  King-sized love in a pint-sized package.
Rat Code:  6m2f22r !B C? D+ F S-- ocA reC sM a+++ e++++ n