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Pet Rats - Taming, teaching and training rats!

Rats are Smart!

Rats are really intelligent creatures, much more so than hamsters or other rodents. There's a reason why rats are always used in laboratories - it's because they're smart!

Learning Through Association and Reinforcement

Rats have a good capability to learn and memorise tasks through a process called Association. But just like how human babies learn to talk or walk, rats need to be taught what you want them to do too. They don't speak our language, but instead they can memorise things by a process called Reinforcement. To practice Reinforcement, simply give your rats a treat and a lot of paising if they did what you wanted them to do.

A Good Environment

Sometimes rat owners make the mistake of thinking that their ratties' living environment doesn't need to be interesting or fun to be in. They seem to think that an hour of play time or training time is enough to stimulate their little minds. This is untrue.

Rats are constantly problem-solving, 24/7. Giving them a stimulating and challenging living environment will ensure that their minds stay sharp for learning tricks.

Buy or build a large caged enclosure complete with shelves, ramps, ladders, cubby holes, bins, hammocks, exercise wheels, tunnels, hidey holes, baskets and ropes strung across.

A pet rat looking content at being petted

Occasionally, treat them to a game of "hide n' seek" with sunflower seeds. Hide them in hard-to-reach places so they really have to think hard about how to get to them.

Be sure to adjust and rearrange the furniture and food locations. Always keep 'em guessing.

Make playtime games challenging as well with swimming pools, sand boxes and tunnel-mazes.

Rat Tricks

You can train your rat to do many things. You can teach the ratties to ride on your shoulder, to use a litter box, understand when you tell it no, and come to you when you call them by their name. In order to train a rat you need to establish a trusting relationship. When your rat is comfortable with their cage, you're ready to begin training them.

I have been training Coffee and Jump to come to the cage entrance when I snap my fingers and make a clucking noise. They get a yogurt drop when they get it right. Coffee memorised it in 2 goes. I snap my fingers, and he comes hopping gleefully. Jump took about 7 tries of me pushing his bum and guiding him towards the entrance to learn this. But eventually he did it, and he was very pleased with himself as well, as he finally understood the idea. The trick is to give your rats a lot of hugs & kisses & encouragement.

Teaching Your Pet Rats Their Name

The first thing you should start with is teaching them their name. Rats have quite poor eyesight, but will soon learn to identify you by smell. Always avoid quick and sudden movements around a new rat and talk to your rat every time you feed it.

A hooded pet rat looking around

If you always use its name when you feed it, it will soon learn to come to its name. Also, when you see your rat say its name and then hold it. You must repeat this over and over, but after a while your pet rat should start to come to your hand. When you call them, and they do come, give them a treat to reward your rat. Soon you will be able to replace the treat with petting or a kiss.

Taming Your Pet Rat

One way to tame a nervous and terrified rat and turn into a cuddly lap rat, is to make the use of the food your rat desperately wants! Reward your rat with its favourite food (very small amounts of food each time) if your rat:

  1. Comes to you to get food when its name is called
  2. Climbs on to your lap to get food
  3. Allows you to pet it as it is eating on your lap
A pet rat climbing a rope

You should never bend the rules or give up. Give it a week per step, so that in first week your pet rat learns its name, and discovers that it will get food when it comes to you. In the second week, when your pet rat comes to you when you call its name, encourage it to climb on to your lap and get food.It is a long process but it's so worth it! After you teach your rat to come when you call its name, you don't really have to worry about your rat going missing anymore!

When the rat comes to meet you or stands on its back legs when you are around the cage offer a tit bit and while the rat sits and eats it gently ease one hand over its back and around its midriff, carefully lift it out and place it on the palm of your other hand. Always sit down when handling a new rat so that if it jumps from your hand it won't hurt itself. Talk and offer tit bits all the time and soon it will come back to you, this will depend on how interesting it finds it new surroundings compared to you!

Interaction is Key

There's no way your rats will become tame without interaction with you. You must take your rats out for at least an hour a day and play with them. If you can, hold them lots, carry them around with you all day long. If you have more than one, make sure you give them individual attention. Show lots of love and TLC (Tender Loving Care).

Training and teaching your rats!

Wild Rats

However, if your rats are completely wild, start slow. Start by being near the cage, sit beside it and read a book for an hour. The next time, place your hand on the cage while you watch TV or something. Your goal is to have your hand in the cage, just take your time to do so. Always remember - take small steps, and don't worry if you got bit - it just means you tried to progress too quickly. Persisting normally helps. I had a pet rat that bit, but once she realized that I wasn't going to give up, no matter how much she bit, she stopped biting. last updated 1 Oct, 2017


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