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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone,
In a week or two, I will have my very first babies (MWAHAHA YES) and I am very much counting down the days. I am trying to be as prepared as possible and have a few questions...
I will be driving around 1.5 hours to get them, but would like to start the bonding process as soon as possible. Is it best to leave them in the travel cage and not play with them (my husband or I will be driving), or are we allowed to handle them in the car? Will that freak them out too much?

What is the best age for adopting a baby rat? I've read anywhere from weaned - 7weeks. With dogs I know there is a critical socialisation period with their siblings and their mum, but are rats the same? Does it really matter once they are weaned, seeing that boys and girls get separated around 5 weeks anyway?
Do you make an effort to socialise your rats with other people, let them go outdoors under careful supervision etc?

Thanks in advance!
 

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I would say you can handle them CAUTIOUSLY. I usually leave them in the carrier but peek in, drop treats in, pet them, and etc. without removing them or allowing an avenue for escape. Having once lost a chihuahua puppy in a car, I can attest that there are many small places with moving parts that you cannot safely retrieve a struggling animal out.

Rats can be adopted at any age. The best age is 6-7wks or older. This means at 5 weeks they were separated from mom, recovered, then were separated for sending home to you. It's pretty traumatic. The later age also lets them learn key socialization behaviors, what is and isn't okay. Too young leads to awkward rats.

I let SOME of my rats SAFELY go outside after training and with the aid of a harness, only in a safe area in safe temperatures at safe times with careful supervision and I monitor for stress. Not all rats can take it. I socialize my rats with my family and friends as much as possible, but they're pretty friendly and get that humans = nice.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for your quick responses!

Nanashi, appreciate the detail in your post. I'm trying to cause as little stress as possible. Would you bring water on the ride, or something like a cucumber/yoghurt?

Outdoor level sounds like expert level at this stage - I'm not familiar with signs of stress in rats and I presume it can be an individual thing as well. Not going to venture that far being so new to it, but was curious about what people do to have a happy, well adjusted rat.
 

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It's a short enough ride I wouldn't. Wouldn't want them to get diarrhea.
 

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When I picked up two baby girls a long ride from home, I offered to hold them in the car. One said, "um, no thanks, I would rather stay in the carrier." and curled back up in the carrier for the ride home. The other (Gabrielle) said, "Ooh. I think I will curl up right here." got into the snuggle collar I had brought with me and rode all the way home curled at the base of my neck. Gabrielle was the most affectionate of all my rats to date. Now, I am not telling you what you should do. Certainly, you need to be careful and make your own decision based on how things seem to be going, how the babies are responding to you, etc. But, this was my experience. Usually, I would do as nanashi7 suggests and handle them quietly in the carrier, but with due care there can be other possibilities. I would definitely have some peas, or other wet food along. Water would just get spilled.
 

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cucumber or melon is great for the carrier. Just cut a few peices up and they will be sorted.

I'd go for 7 weeks if you get a choice though it does depend on the rats. Really confident ones can take 6 weeks happily
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Ah, thanks everyone. I will take some cucumber with me. Will probably keep the handling in the car to a minimum, might peek in from time to time to see how they're going.
The babies might be around 5 weeks when I get them. Now I'm worried they are too young.

PS Raindear, I don't know if it's just because I like your name but I enjoy your posts.
 

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This actually depends on the rats you are adopting. For the most part we try to choose friendly and calm rats and yes we do play with them in the car on the way home. We currently keep girls so we adopt them as young as possible to avoid the chance of accidental litters. It might not be a good idea to take your rat out of the carrier if you adopt an adult pet shop rat that's never had any human contact.

We carried the last rat we adopted right down Main street and didn't even bring a carrier... The breeder promised his rats were friendly, but even he looked a bit surprised when we walked out with our brand new rat on our arms... Actually it attracted a bit of attention and even stopped a few cars...

I don't really advocate taking rats you don't know outside... but... when you find one that you can... friendly and calm and sweet... it's a jackpot moment! Don't put it down or let it go. Take that rat home!

Seriously... choosing the right rat can change the entire course of your socialization and relationship. The very best rats are special when you meet them and it only gets better from there.

Best luck.
 

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Like Rat Daddy said, it depends on the rat. I took Charlotte home in a cage, because she was a little more timid and I thought it would be less stressful for her. However, when I got Anna, I just held her on my shoulder on the car ride home, as she was more outgoing and less likely to freak out and squirm away. They both go places with me in the car a lot now, and behave very well. Definitely bring a cage, but you could probably hold them a bit in the car if they seem sociable and not squirmy. Anna made it easy by climbing directly to my shoulder when I got to the car. I think the breeder must have already taught her to go there. :)

I also only had to drive a half hour and not 1 1/2 hours. Make sure you bring bedding in their cage, and even a bit of food and water (in a bottle) if that is possible.

Five weeks isn't too young. If the mom weaned them, then they are ready. The problem is when breeders wean them too early.

Good luck with your babies! Can't wait to see photos.
 

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I hate to come off too harshly when it comes to shy rats, most in fact do outgrow their issues. In fact they aren't really shy at all, they just have no human experience...

But I've answered literally hundreds of posts and private missives that all started out with someone adopting a rat that was neglected or even abused. A few were overtly aggressive right from the start but many were apparently shy on first examination, masking their more serious problems.

There's a tendency to choose the sex and looks you like and then pick and point to select your new rat out of a batch, giving little consideration to the animals personality and mental/emotional health. Don't think I'm immune to the desire to select the prettiest rat in the bin, I'm not. It's normal for all of us to fall victim to good looks...

But I have to be very honest, the least attractive rat I've ever owned was the truly amazing Fuzzy Rat... she was plain and mismarked. My daughter reached into the feeder rat pup bin and Fuzzy rat literally crawled onto her hand at three weeks old, my daughter instantly fell in love with this odd looking little rat... I put Fuzzy Rat back into the bin 3 times, and tried to "guide" my daughter towards more attractive rats... We sifted through 3 bins of rat pups, but every time my daughter reached into the one bin, Fuzzy Rat crawled up on her hand. Finally my daughter who was only 5 years old at the time insisted that it was to be "her" rat and "she" should be able to pick the rat she wanted... I gave in and we adopted the most amazing rat I've ever known...

That was a long time ago and I've learned a lot since, much of it from Fuzzy Rat. You want to spend some time with rats you are about to adopt before you take them home; handle them, see how they react to you and get to know them a little... choose the most outgoing and friendly personality and the one that feels right to you. Don't just pick and point at any rat that catches your fancy or make a pity purchase of some rat you feel sorry for. Choose wisely and socialization will be fun not frustrating and you will most likely develop a better relationship with your new rat faster. With rats personality is everything.

Some people do specialize in fixing problem rats, and most screwed up rats can be fixed and some very shy rats can actually be sweet... If you are really good at fixing or working with problem rats I encourage you to continue to rescue rats no one else would want, by all means, I applaud your commitment! But if you are a new rat owner looking for a great first experience start out with a rat that is friendly and social, preferably a rat that chooses you... And yes, this kind of rat will literally ride home on your shoulder... they become heart rats.

Fuzzy Rat introducing herself to little girl at the beach, she loved making new friends where ever we went.
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and snuggling with her favorite human, my daughter...
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And she would have been the last rat I would have picked from the feeder bin... based on looks alone... Luckily I had a very smart little girl and rat who chose each other.

Best luck with your new rats.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Hi Rat Daddy, Wolfie,
Thanks for your insights. I am going to be a new rat owner but have plenty of experience with dogs... I thought I had an idea of what owning a rat was like but since reading about shoulder rats, rat behaviours and trick training I realised I knew nothing.

I have done plenty of research on this site and actually what prompted me to register was your thread on Immersion, Rat Daddy. I think I read through all 42 pages over a day or two while thinking about how I was going to use the information in it to communicate and engage with rats. Fuzzy Rat's tales were a revelation.
For a bit more insight on the babies I will be bringing home, they are coming from the same breeder as Wolfie's girls. I believe they are half siblings from another litter. The breeder came highly recommended but we can only pick our pets from photos and the first time I see them will be the time we bring them home.
I want to support someone who is passionate about rats, but at the same time I am struggling to find breeders in the bay area that have well loved and well handled babies who I can check out and let the right rat pick me. I am not fussed about what they look like - I really only care about their personalities.

Wolfie, sounds like you are doing great with Charlotte and Anna! I hope my boys will be as happy with me as your girls are with you. Keep up the updates, I love hearing about them
 
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