Rats are amazing pets! They're extremely intelligent and crazy cute! But what do you do when a rat isn't tame?
Some of our frequent customers might be familiar with Roberta. She's a rat that's been with us for the past six months or so. As a young rat, she never interacted with many people, and when we got her she was quite aggressive. She used to bite and charge at anyone that came close to her. She was very defensive and extremely nervous. Fast forward six months and Roberta will allow me to pick her up and will happily take food from my hand. So how did I do it?
Most animals are much more tame if they are regularly handled from a young age and rats are no exception. The younger the rat, the easier and faster the taming process will be. Have an adult rat? Don't fear! Even the most nervous and aggressive rats have potential. Rats are generally very smart and loving creatures. The key to taming them is gaining their trust. Always remember: rats, like all other animals with a mouth, can bite. And their sharp teeth can hurt. Don't push your rat too far, too fast, or they can (and will!) bite you.
The first step to taming is hand feeding. I try to find the rat's favorite treat. I've found the most success with peanuts, honey nut cheerios, and banana chips. Start by opening the cage. If your rat comes to the front of the cage, hand them a piece of food. If they remain hidden in their den, simply place the treat in front of them and step back. Repeat this step until they take the treat from your hand. Once they take the treat confidently from your hand, it's time to move onto step two!
The second step to taming is moving the treats to your palm or arm, instead of handing it to them. The rat will learn that stepping onto your hand isn't so bad and that they can trust you to hold them! Once your rat is comfortable sitting on your hand or arm, then it's time to move to step three.
The last step is simple: scoop up your rat and give them treats when you hold them!
Just regularly handle your rat so they keep building trust with you. Rats are extremely social animals (which is why we only let them go home in pairs unless there's an outstanding reason not to). They need to spend lots of time outside their cage with lots of behavioral enrichment. Once their tame, they'll love sitting on your shoulder or running around on your bed. They are amazing pets and their intelligence is unopposed when it comes to other small animals!
Taming is a simple process. With enough patience and love, your rat can be your new cuddly best friend!