Shy pet rats are common because the original owner, or pet store, did not handle them often or at all. Most often, a shy rat is still friendly and tame, but scared of such a big human with large hands. Even a rat that bites can’t be called aggressive because the bite is generally out of fear. Taming a shy rat is easy, but can take time. Some rats respond in just a few days, while others a week or more.
Find your rattie’s favorite food
The first step to taming a shy rat is to figure out what snack your rat likes best. Some of the most popular rat snacks are rice, yogurt, cereals, fruit or scrambled eggs. It is pretty obvious a rat’s favorite because they will try to grab the food and keep begging for more. Some react instantly to the smell they know and love. Keep in mind that one rat might love rice, but the other prefers applesauce. Also, choose a snack that isn’t large in size so that the rat will be forced to keep coming back for more or have to eat right out of your hand or spoon.
Prepare a play safe room
When taming a shy rat it is important to start out in a room with few hiding places. The rat might dart off scared, and the last thing you want is to have a mad dash to find her while tossing cats out of the room, moving furniture and trying not to panic. The best place is the bathroom. Block any openings below doors. Bring the entire rat cage into the bathroom if you can. Having his cage to run to will make him feel safer. If your rat cage is too big, lure him into a smaller one. It is a suggestion to let him become used to the new cage before the taming process.
Bribe the shy rat out with treats
Open the door of the cage. Place a small amount of the favorite treat in the palm of your hand. Keep your hand just outside the door. Then wait. It might take a few seconds, or much longer, but eventually the rat’s desire for the treat will outweigh her fear of you. She just has to have that rice. Let her come to you and do not move. Chances are, she will take some of the treat and run off with it. She’ll have to come back for more though. Eventually, she will stay near your hand to get the food easier. Then, she will sit on your hand to eat it. Do not grab her at all. Instead, try to pet her while she eats. She might run off at first, but keep trying.
Hold your breath
When taming shy rats the hardest part is not scaring them. One little sound might make them nervous and they dart back to the cage and to safety. There has been numerous times where a small laugh, quick breath, or slight movement of a cramped foot has sent the rattie running for cover. The less movement and noise you make, the longer the rat will stay near you. Once he’s used to you and trusts you, sounds won’t be a problem.
Become your rat’s playground
Let your pet rat come to you. He will eventually want to explore outside the cage, and chances are high he will explore you first. Let him climb inside your shirt(wear two to protect against those tiny claws). It will be dark inside your clothes, and he will feel safer. Don’t be surprised if your rat heads down your pants, too. Don’t worry; he won’t bite anything precious. After some time, you can try to pick him up in your hands. If he tries to wiggle out don’t force him to stay. It might take many, many tries, but he should get used to being held. Keep in mind that not all rats can be tamed enough to be handheld. Some just never like it. However, they will play on you and trust you. They just don’t trust your hands.
What not to do when taming a shy rat
Never grab a rat by its tail to pick it up. Never.
Some rat owners will say to remove all bedding, hiding places and toys from the rat cage so that she gets bored or has no place to hide. This is unnecessarily cruel to the rat and can cause stress for her. You can’t bore a rat into being tame, and you can’t force it either.
Do not choose very unhealthy treats for taming a shy rat. Fat rats might look cute, but it can hurt their health dramatically. Also, they might refuse to eat anything else you try to give them and only want the sweets.
Keep the taming process going regularly. A couple times a day is minimum. Try not to let a day go by without some interaction with the shy rat. If too much time goes by without working with the rat, you might have to start all over again.
Taming a shy rat is worth the time and effort because the rat will be happier. Also, you will be able to interact with your pet a lot more, instead of just looking at it inside the cage.
Taming Your Rats, fancy-rats.co.uk