|Shamus's Baby Picture (Photo by breeder Amy Epperly)|
I was also terrified that, in my ignorance, I would do something to hurt or traumatize them, so I pored over books and articles on rat care. I scoured pet rat websites and found this amazing guidebook. I found a good rat breeder and got a waiting list, set up my "nursery," and drove several hours to Atlanta to get the boys and bring them home. I spent several hours there getting acclimated to them and pumping the breeder for information.
I knew they'd been well bred and handled well, so based on my reading, I thought they would warm to me in a matter of days--weeks at the most. But weeks passed, and they still acted like they were terrified of my hands. They would climb all over me and take treats from me, but they did not want to petted or picked up. The breeder reassured me that this was normal, that it might take months for them to really bond with me.
|Sergei's Baby Picture (Photo by breeder Amy Epperly)|
|Soren's Baby Picture (he's on the left - Photo by breeder Amy Epperly|
Finally, I went to YouTube and watched about a dozen videos of people playing with and interacting with their rats. Here's one. And here's another. You have to scroll down for this one, but it's worth it. The next day, while the boys were in their play area, Shamus (the Black Irish) came up to me and nibbled my hand. Instead of curling my fingers into my palm, I said to myself, Okay, I'm just going to have to trust him. And I let him explore my hand. He took each of my fingers very gently in his mouth, then let me scratch his ears and stroke his back. Later, when I put him back in the cage, he gently grabbed my thumb in his mouth and held it there with his little paws while I rubbed his cheeks and tummy. He closed his eyes. If a rat could look blissful, he did. I fell helplessly in love.
Since then, he and Sergei climb up to my shoulders and happily let me pet them. (Soren is a little more reserved, but he's coming along.) I'm beginning to see those dog-like qualities I'd hoped for all along.
Yep, looks like it's official. I've become a genuine rat lover.