This article is from the WSSF 2004 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Kids Q & A
By Helen Pembrook
Brianna Hussey, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
QGreetings! My name is Brianna. I am 11 years old. In February I bought my first pet rat. She is a female tan Hooded named Razzmatazz. Right now she is about 5 or 6 months old, maybe younger. She does not accept treats from my hand. She will not learn her name. I cannot train her, no matter how hard I try. Do you know how I can train Razzmatazz to learn her name? What treats should I use? Is chocolate really poison for them?
In April, I bought another rat. Her name is Alaska. She is an albino. I do not know how old she is exactly, but I think she is full grown. She also does not accept treats from my fingers and also will not learn her name or be trained. When she is out of the tank, she poops everywhere!!! How can I get her to stop?
ARats, like all other pets, vary greatly in personality and temperament. Some rats will be easily trainable with no treats at all while others will just never quite get the concept of what you want from them. The best treat would be Cheerios or something like that, broken in half or quarters. There is a book out about training rats to do tricks and how to go about it called Training Your Pet Rat written by Gerry Bucsis and Barbara Somerville and published by Barron’s, ISBN 0-7641-1208-2. There are also two other books with chapters on training called Rats: A Fun & Care Book (ISBN 1-889540-05-6) and Rats: Practical, Accurate Advice from the Expert (ISBN 1-889540-71-4) both written by Debbie Ducommun and both published by Bowtie Press.
Chocolate is toxic to rats and though the animals could tolerate small amounts and not show any instant signs of poisoning, they would suffer long-term damage and it may shorten their lives.
As far as pooping goes, it is a sign that your rattie is still very nervous. Since she was an adult when you got her, she may never fully relax. Just keep working with her and every time you have her out, work on making it a pleasant, relaxing experience. Let her get to know one place at a time until she is comfortable with it. Just sit quietly and watch TV on the couch or wherever. When she is okay with that place (stops pooping so much), move to the chair or floor and start again. After a while, go back to the place she already knows. You might also get an old towel that will be her towel. Put it on your lap or shoulder or over your arm and let her climb on it every time you take her out. Be sure to leave it a little dirty so she can smell that this is hers and she has been on it before. When you wash it, wash it alone with no detergent and no dryer sheets so that her scent does not get washed or perfumed away. Offer treats when she is out with you, even if she does not take them, then give her a treat when you put her back in her home. After a while she should start to associate being handled with something good.