Monday, 6 December 2010

Rat whispering

He doesn't have a name yet.  If he had a name before, I'll never know.  He was found a week ago trapped in a cage someone had left in a skip, just before the snows came.  I found him in the local animal shelter, and brought him home two days ago. 

I've kept rats most of my adult life... 28 now, over a 16 year period, but he is clearly the most timid one I've come across.  He doesn't like being picked up, and bolts for the small plastic 'house' in the corner of his cage when I try... I've been bitten once already, for foolishly trying to block his escape with my hand, the first time a rat has bit me in all these years.  Pet rats aren't normally that frightened, which makes me wonder if he suffered more than just neglect before we took him in.  But with treats and quick handling I can get him out of his cage, and while still timid, the generous helpings of food I've been rewarding him with seem to be having a positive effect on his behavior.  At the very least, he hasn't bit me yet today.

The next step is training him to trust me... applying a rat version of the Rarey technique to convince him that I'm not a threat.  That means more treats, lots of positive reinforcement, and lots of interaction.   At the end of it all, I may have a fat rat, but at least I'll also have all my fingers.

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