Bond with Rats in “Pouches”
(For the Rat Who Already Willingly Enters a Pouch)

If a rat is not afraid to venture into a pouch, encourage him do so, and then set the pouch near you. This can be a helpful socialization technique. What's key is that the rat isn't afraid to enter the pouch from the get go.

What this method does Not involve: Insisting that a scared rat go inside a pouch, or taking hold of a shy rat and putting her inside a pouch when she doesn't want to go there.

I've often seen the notion, "Bond with your rat using a bonding pouch." Most of the descriptions explain that a rat likes to be inside a covered cave of sorts. The idea is that you wear a type of pouch around your neck, in which the rats hang out, and then carry the rats around with you while you do chores or whatnot. The result is that the rat becomes desensitized to scary sights, sounds, smells, and You.

I would actually suggest slowing down with this kind of work, and start with using a pouch on the outside of the cage, or on your lap.

I explain more beneath these links. These links are for purchasing pouches, but you can also make a no-sew pouch. Pictures of that type are at the bottom. (a variety of types) (not currently selling)

For helping the rat learn to feel comfortable being touched, and to bond with you for snuggling, I've been having a huge amount of fun using a large hammock with a particular design. You can see a photograph of examples at the bottom. I got the idea to hold them in one, on my lap, in bed, where they're not allowed to roam on the bed. These very large hammocks are designed with just one fist-sized/rat-sized opening. The pouch smells like them and is very snuggly and comfortable. I slide my hand through the main door, which is about 3.5 inches in diameter, just right for a closed fist, and once my hand/wrist is inside, the door is more or less shut off, it's just me and the rats. :)

What I really like about this method is how I can interact with the rats. My hand gets a lot of attention from them, and vice versa, and I offer much comfort to them. I get them at opportune times, right after dinner, or breakfast (on the weekend when I'm home for that), or right when I get home in the late afternoon and they're just waking up. I get all 3 in at once, set the thing on a pillow and the pillow on my lap.

My experience is that I'm "joining" them as a fellow rat. They doze, groom themselves, groom each other, groom me, brux, boggle, and hiccup. Chancy falls asleep. The others zone out under my non-stop scritching. They look out the door, or nudge each other around as they attempt to get the "best" snuggle spot. They feel safe inside the enclosure.

Then, I do also wear the neck-type pouch around my neck. Specifically I have liked the ratoob because of its large size. The rats can move from the pouch on my lap, to inside the tube, and this allows me some freedom to do chores and help desensitize the rats to all the activities sights, sounds, and smells. An example of a ratoob is on this site:

In general for all this socialization work, I'll hang out with the rats for anywhere from 15-40 minutes depending on how the rats are. There are no pee-pee accidents because the rats don't like peeing inside their beds, and they know how to give me a "pee-pee" dance signal when they need to go back to the cage. I can read the computer and scritch at the same time; what more could anyone ask? :)

This is one of the best activities I've ever done with my honey bunches, and I'm sorry it didn't occur to me to try it out when they were babies.

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