Baby Roof Rats – Handling Tips and Techniques
Baby Roof Rats can be a lot of fun: smart, playful, inquisitive, active little acrobats.
But, they are also small, quick, evasive and stealthy. They can fit into the smallest of hiding places, squeeze through the tiniest gap and escape. And, if you’re not careful, they will.
Did we scare you? Don’t panic: you just need to carefully follow the tips and techniques in this section, and your mischievous little guys will turn into calm, friendly and cooperative pets.
Baby Roof Rat socialization can progress through 5 stages. When you adopt a Roof Rat from us, we will advise you which stage that rat is probably in:
- Stage 1: he doesn’t know or trust you, yet.
- Stage 2: he will stay on you.
- Stage 3: he is willing to be picked up by you.
- Stage 4: you can easily put him back into his cage.
- Stage 5: he takes treats and eats them while on you.
Stage 1: When you first get a baby Roof Rat, he may be in stage 1. Many of our rats are now very trusting, so they may skip this stage entirely. But, if your rat still seems nervous being handled by you, you will need to work with it a bit to make it feel more comfortable. At this stage, you should avoid making it want to escape. Roof Rats can move much faster than you can react. If you make a Roof Rat feel it must escape, it can and it will. So…
- Avoid sudden movements. Move slowly and deliberately.
- Avoid loud noises. Roof Rats have very sensitive hearing. Even crinkling a wrapper may startle a baby Roof Rat. And they will instinctively react without even thinking.
- Don’t try to grab or catch a baby Roof Rat that doesn’t trust you. The Roof Rat will most likely evade you or slip through your fingers, or you will hurt it. If you hurt it or frighten it, it might even bite you.
How to get your baby Roof Rat used to your touch and smell in a safe, non-threatening way.
- Prepare a “Safe Room” for socializing your baby Roof Rat. Block any gaps or hiding places. Everyplace reachable by your baby Roof Rat should be reachable and visible for you, also.
- Until you really trust your baby Roof Rat, always bring the baby’s cage into the Safe Room and shut the door before taking the baby out. Make sure you block any gaps under the door.
- Take the baby out while he is still in his baby snuggle hammock.
- Slowly insert your hand and lay it next to the baby, so you are gently touching it. Wait until it seems to get used to your touch and smell and relaxes a bit.
- Slowly, gently caress the Roof Rat. Roof Rats groom each other on the sides of their faces, which you can very gently emulate with your fingertip. If you do it just right, your baby Roof Rat will respond with comfort and pleasure.
- Don’t rush anything. Let the baby set the pace as it feels comfortable.
Stage 2: Most rats people adopt from us will already be happy to stay on your shoulder without jumping down immediately. At this point, the Roof Rat mostly feels confident around you and it will want to come out and “explore” you on his own. Now, you can start to teach it to be more patience and cooperative.
- Be Careful: if it doesn’t trust you and feels frightened, it could still get lost at this point.
- Baby Roof Rats generally won’t run down your body to the ground, but are good at jumping from you to any nearby surface or object. So, for now, stand in the middle of your Safe Room while your Roof Rat is exploring you. If the room is small, the baby may still jump sometimes, but at least it won’t be able to hide or escape.
- Let the baby explore you while acting as friendly, non-threatening and helpful as possible. If you see the baby wants to go someplace, slowly and gently hold out your hand (for example) to act as a bridge or a ramp.
- Tip: try wearing a long sleeved, cotton pullover or something similar. Roof Rats have sharp little nails, and they will want to run up and down your arms, so give them something to securely grip besides your bare skin!
- Most babies like being up high, so let it climb to your shoulder or head, and hang out there as much as it wants. If you have shoulder length hair, maybe it will hide behind it. Maybe it will hide in your hoodie if you have one. Or even in your shirt or jacket.
- In case your baby does jump down at this stage, you will be able to retrieve him using his baby snuggle hammock. Put the hammock in front of him, then slowly approach him with your hand from behind to gently encourage him to enter his snuggle hammock.
Stage 3: Now that he is comfortable being on you, you can start to teach him to return to you as needed.
- Remember, you cannot “catch” a Roof Rat that doesn’t want to be caught. So, you need him to want to come to you whenever you need to retrieve him. Getting him used to your touch, running around and playing on you, feeling safe sitting on you for long periods, has hopefully gotten him ready for this important step.
- So, when you feel you are both ready, slowly, calmly and gently put him down on a surface. He will probably seem a bit unsure and nervous, being someplace different with unfamiliar smells, etc. That’s OK: hopefully, you are his “safe place”, now.
- Slowly, gently, extend your hand to him, hand flat on whatever surface the Roof Rat is on, and let the Roof Rat come back to you and climb up your arm. If you don’t give it any reason to avoid you, it probably eventually will. If you want to make friendly, encouraging noises, it won’t hurt, as long as they are gentle and not startling.
- If it doesn’t work right away, don’t give up. Don’t lose patience or get upset: the baby will sense this and it will not be helpful. Try to project confidence, speak in friendly, soothing tones, and keep giving the baby opportunities to climb on you, like that’s the most natural thing the baby could do. And, eventually, it almost certainly will.
- Remember: Roof Rats like being up high. If your upper body is the highest point in the Safe Room, that will be where the Roof Rat naturally wants to be, unless you give it a reason to avoid you. That’s one reason why holding your hand out to a Roof Rat usually works: he wants to climb to where he feels safer, and you are giving him what he wants.
- Important: if the baby has jumped or fallen down someplace on his own, he may panic. Remain calm, and try to get him to run up your arm. If you are patient, you will almost certainly be successful, eventually.
Stage 4: Now that you can easily pick your baby Roof Rat up, you can teach him to let you put him back in his cage as needed.
- If you’ve got his snuggle hammock, hopefully he will eventually go inside of it. If so, and it’s time for him to go home, then gently block both openings and put him back in his cage while he’s safely inside. Easy!
- Otherwise, when he’s on you, stick your hand in the cage, and then try to calmly, gently guide him down your arm and into the cage. Once he’s in, block him from going back out until you can withdraw your hand and close the door.
- When he’s older, putting him back gets a lot easier, as you can usually just give him a treat, and he will happily go inside his cage to eat it in peace.
Stage 5: Eating is when your baby Roof Rat feels most vulnerable. Now that you and your baby Roof Rat have established mutual trust and cooperation, he’s ready to try eating while on you.
- Put your baby’s cage someplace where you can greet him frequently during the day.
- At least twice a day, offer a treat when you great him. Almonds work great. For other suggestions, refer to the lesson about healthy treats. If he seems shy at first, don’t get upset or impatient: keep trying! Eventually, it will work.
- Once he is taking the treat from you without hesitation while in his cage, start offering it to him instead while you are socializing him outside his cage, in the Safe Room. Again, he may not take treats at first, but don’t give up!
- Eventually, he will be willing to take the treat from you, and sit on you while eating it. This is a big deal: you have entered your baby’s “circle of trust!” At this point, it is safe to carry your Roof Rat with you anyplace in your house, if you so chose.
- Keep doing what you are doing, and your baby will become your little buddy for life!