- We are very experienced at handling these rats, have areas set up for them and protocols that we follow without even thinking. So, the rats cooperate with us even when they might not cooperate with other people. It’s like that Crocodile Hunter guy: he makes picking up a deadly snake look easy, but most people would get bitten. Most people instinctively understand this about snakes, but they don’t realize that Roof Rats are not the same as Norway Rats and probably never will be.
- Because we are used to their behavior, we don’t realize that other people might find it upsetting or scary. The rats in my office hide, jump, run, climb to the ceiling, and otherwise try to escape and avoid me…it’s all just “crazy roof rat” stuff that I literally see every day and mostly just ignore at this point. Because I know my office is escape proof and, at the end of the day, they will always end up back in their cage so it doesn’t matter.
But if someone doesn’t have a “rat safe” play area, and it’s the first time they’ve experienced this, I guess it freaks people out. Too many people call me in a panic the first time they get their rats home, because the rat’s escaped and they don’t know what to do. My rats “escape” every single day, and every single evening they are right back in their cages. Its something that’s become part of my daily routine, normal and expected. Which has really desensitized me to other people’s subjective initial experience with them.
- Although almost all Roof Rats have the potential to be anyone’s good pet, they are all unique individuals, and some are brave, outgoing and accepting of strangers, while others will require more patience and willingness to put up with initial “bad behavior” prior to getting to that point. As I mentioned, this is something we are very used to, and, because our lives revolve around breeding and keeping these guys as pets, we are set up to deal with their whole range of behaviors. Of course, I prefer it when they calmly sit on my shoulder and eat a nut while I give them face rubs, but I am used to the fact that I might need to put up with some misbehavior prior to that. I’ve been down that same road so many times that I always see the “good” inside the rat and focus on bringing that out. I celebrate the fact that, eventually, I am able to prove to each individual that I’m actually a nice person and they can safely trust and even love me.
- That said, some Roof Rats will be “easier” than others. If someone is not experienced with this species, and not set up to cope with potential “bad behavior”, they would be much better off with a more well behaved individual that is more trusting and open to strangers than average.
All else being equal, older rats tend to be calmer and more trusting than younger rats for two reasons:
a. Young Roof Rats know they are every other animal’s favorite snack, so their senses and reactions are hair trigger to avoid being eaten.
b. Older Roof Rats have experience being handled by friendly humans, and have hopefully learned that we are more likely to feed them than eat them.
All else being equal, male rats are calmer and more trusting than females. Size and testosterone makes them braver. Brave rats are more willing to come out of their cage, accept treats, and run up your arm. Brave rats are also less likely to nip out of fear. Males are also lazier and more food orientated. They are more likely to come when called and sit on your shoulder and let you pet them. Therefore, they tend to be better “starter Roof Rats” for people than females, all else being equal.
Females can be great pets (Roofy was female, and she was one of the best Roof Rats we’ve ever had) but, statistically speaking, your odds are better with males than females. And with adults instead of youngsters.
- Because of everything we’ve learned, we recommend the following:
a. People should not have younger rats or females shipped to them. We will generally only approve shipping adult males, unless the person requesting them can justify their request (eg., they they want to breed them and are qualified to do so.)
b. Locals can get younger rats, but we still strongly recommend adults.
c. If you visit us, handle both males and females, and strongly prefer our females, we will let you adopt them. Keep in mind that you might want to exchange them for males, later, so if you had a long drive, we recommend that you take males instead of females.
d. Unless someone gets very calm adult males, we strongly recommend that they create a “Roof Rat Safe” play area prior to taking them home. This area needs to be escape proof, and have no inaccessible hiding places. You need to assume that your Roof Rat will run around, jump, climb, and squeeze itself into any space big enough to enter every single time you let them out of their cage, and you need to ensure that you can get them back into their cage when playtime is over, no matter what.
If you are not set up and ready to handle this, having them as pets will not be enjoyable. Basically, if you can safely walk around our backyard with the rat on your shoulder, you are OK without a play area at home: if not, do not that that rat home with you unless you have a safe play area. Seriously.
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