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I've never owned rats before (though I have a lot of experience with other types of pets!), but if all goes according to plan, we will soon be adding a pair of young female ratties to our family (currently consisting of myself, my husband, 3 human kids, 2 small dogs, 2 cats, 2 parakeets, & a betta fish). These rats will be a gift for our sweet, calm, gentle, animal-loving, wants-to-be-a-vet-when-she-grows-up 6 1/2 year old daughter (though obviously, I expect to be heavily involved in their care, as well). Her older sister is the primary caregiver for the parakeets, & her older brother has the fish, so my little one is begging for a pet that is (mostly) her own. After visiting some pet stores, talking to other pet owners, & discussing the pros & cons of various small animals, my daughter has decided that she REALLY wants a couple of rats. I've done a fair amount of research, & I agree that rats sound like the perfect pet for her. I've already ordered a cage & basic supplies and have been in contact with a few breeders (who we will be visiting the week after Thanksgiving to select our babies & put them on hold until they are old enough to come home with us.)Now, here's my question (or rather, a series of related questions): my husband & I would REALLY like to surprise our daughter with her new pets on Christmas morning. Our plan is to have the cage ready, pick up the babies from the breeder as close to Christmas as possible, & then keep the rats (in their cage) at a relative's house until Christmas Eve after the kids have gone to bed. We would then present the rats to our daughter first thing Christmas morning. But after reading the post on immersion training, I'm a bit concerned about this! Will it be traumatic for our babies to go through a couple of moves like that so close together? Will it hinder their ability to bond with our daughter if they don't get to meet her for a few days after they leave the breeder? We're getting rats who have been handled since birth, so they should be fairly people-friendly, but I want to start them out on the right foot at our house. Obviously, I want them to get along with everyone in the family, but I'd like them to view my daughter as their primary caregiver. I'll plan on helping her with immersion training, but chances are, we won't be able to begin until the day after Christmas, as we'll be with extended family most of that first day. Will we still have a good chance of success if the initial bonding is a bit delayed?On a related note ... I'm perfectly willing to snuggle with our babies on the car ride home from the breeder's house, & even visit the ratties for short periods while they are staying with relatives for the few days before Christmas. But will that just do more harm than good when it comes to them bonding later with my daughter? Should I encourage the relatives who will be keeping them until Christmas to interact with them, or will this just further confuse the girls as to who their family is??Advice from experienced rat owners would be much appreciated!!
 

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This is my opinion for gifting pets at the holiday. It might be better to give her the rats a couple of days before or after Christmas. If you do it after you could package photos of the rats or package some of the toys n such for the rats for her to open! Or set the whole cage up for her to see on Christmas and then wait for a day or two to pick them up! The reason for this is that there is an awful lot going on in most homes on Christmas with gifts and big meals and visitors and that is a lot when you add a new pet on top of it all. Kids tend not to be at their best, and all of the hustle and bustle can be a lot to cope with, plus if you have a bunch of extra people around it could be very stressful to your ratties.
 

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This is my opinion for gifting pets at the holiday. It might be better to give her the rats a couple of days before or after Christmas. If you do it after you could package photos of the rats or package some of the toys n such for the rats for her to open! Or set the whole cage up for her to see on Christmas and then wait for a day or two to pick them up! The reason for this is that there is an awful lot going on in most homes on Christmas with gifts and big meals and visitors and that is a lot when you add a new pet on top of it all. Kids tend not to be at their best, and all of the hustle and bustle can be a lot to cope with, plus if you have a bunch of extra people around it could be very stressful to your ratties.
This, all of that, above.

I'd ask the breeder if you can pick up a day or so after Christmas, which will set you guys up for more success anyway, plus eliminate that extra move and transition you're (rightly) concerned about with the babies.

Let your daughter unwrap the cage set up and accessories on Christmas and include a note or pic of the babies, etc, and informing her when you'll be meeting them and bringing them home.

As for immersion...there are other methods. I use the trust training, myself. It just fits more with my own personal philosophies about relating to the animals I choose to bring into my family.

I looked at immersion as it is discussed here especially, and it absolutely does include extreme flooding (a scientific term if you want to google) and results in learned helplessness.

Do the rats recover from that stressful "initiation"? Undoubtedly, many of them do, and go on to become great pets.

It's not how I personally feel comfortable, though. Slow, steady, kind, positive, and consistent wins the day, 's far as I'm concerned.

It did take more patience, certainly, but I have abused/neglected rescue girls who now literally leap out onto my shoulders when invited, soon as I open the cage doors. They ride around with me, talk to me, brux happily, and run to me for safety if something startles them.

I'm sure not an expert, but just offering another viewpoint, for your consideration ;D
 

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I don't think it would be absolutely horrible to do it the way you initially presented. it may be a little more stressful for them than necessary as far as them trying to adjust to a new environment and then having to adjust to a second new environment shortly afterwards. I don't think it would be too bad to have them cared for by the relatives and then a few days later have your daughter and you set as the primary caregiver cuz they would most likely easily adjust to you guys. they won't latch on automatically to your relatives because it can take weeks for the rats to really truly bond with you. So I owuldn't be too concerned about that but i would be more concerned about the stress of so many moves and hustle and bustle. My boys were pretty scared and stressed when they had to adjust to their new cage, their new home and surroundings and I would just feel bad doing that to them twice. It could potentially set them back a bit in warming up to you guys because of the stress.

My suggestion would be to do what the others said about doing it a couple days after christmas but you know how excited kids can get and she may be disappointed opening that box with no rats actually in it yet! You may have to hear about it all that time until you go pick them up. So my personal suggestion being 22 and remembering what that's like at christmas morning I would say that you should get the rats as planned before christmas and give them to her a couple days early so they are in your house and only have that one stressful adjustment and you don't have the worries of how many caretakers they have to adjust to. You could give her the main cage and their water and food dish as well as a couple other things in the cage at first and have her open some other toys for the rats on christmas morning. Let us know what you decide!
 

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Btw I also went with the trust training method, because I didn't find this website until I was done with bonding with my rats so I knew not much about them and did things the way that I felt right about and it just happened to be trust training. I don't feel immersion is wrong but I liked to do a little mixture of both because I don't feel it's necessary to be as fully aggressive as immersion is and to spend hours at a time doing immersion. I would spend a couple hours a day in a small room with my boys and coax them out of the cage with cereal and pet them and hold them when I felt right but let explore at their own free will and use positive encouragement. I used my own judgment on what was too much forcefulness on handling and when I needed to push them a little bit and it worked fine. so use whatever you feel is right. they both worked. when my one boy didn't come around after about a month and my other boy had fully become a cuddler I started using more forceful immersion methods with him to make things easier. It depends on the rat sometimes too.
 

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I like the idea of her getting the ratties before xmas. You could maybe buy some extra rat treats, toys, space pods, etc. to wrap up as xmas extras for her and the ratties. And if you do some immersion (or trust training) sessions before xmas it's likely the rats will be calmer and happier on xmas day, which is a gift in itself.
 

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Thanks for the advice, guys. At this point, I'm thinking we might just present her with the set-up cage on Christmas morning, & then pick up the new babies to fill it as soon as we can afterwards. (It just seems too anti-climatic to do it BEFORE Christmas. My daughter will be anxious to get the rats, but I figure that will just extend the holiday fun! Besides, the few days leading up to Christmas are usually pretty crazy & stressful, too, so the ratties will be coming home to a more relaxed atmosphere if we wait.). I'll talk to the breeders when we meet in a couple weeks -- hopefully, at least one of them will be willing to let us do a pick up right after Christmas so my daughter won't have to wait too long!!
 

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Thanks for the advice, guys. At this point, I'm thinking we might just present her with the set-up cage on Christmas morning, & then pick up the new babies to fill it as soon as we can afterwards. (It just seems too anti-climatic to do it BEFORE Christmas. My daughter will be anxious to get the rats, but I figure that will just extend the holiday fun! Besides, the few days leading up to Christmas are usually pretty crazy & stressful, too, so the ratties will be coming home to a more relaxed atmosphere if we wait.). I'll talk to the breeders when we meet in a couple weeks -- hopefully, at least one of them will be willing to let us do a pick up right after Christmas so my daughter won't have to wait too long!!
I think that sounds like a terrific plan, and a good breeder will APPRECIATE that you are thinking of minimizing the stressful transition for the babies as they join your family.
 

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We adopted our first rats when my daughter was 5 years old and immersion is the perfect method for a small child... Sitting down and playing with new rats is exactly what kids do with their new rats.... My own daughter played with her new rats and snuggled with them and followed them around literally until she fell asleep with her rat napping in her lap. Pretty much unless you lock you children in one room and the rats in the other you are going to be doing immersion of one flavor or another.

It's a good idea for a parent to stay close at hand to keep things light and airy and make sure you rats actually get a little break every so often if they seem like they need it.

There is a particular flavor of extreme immersion done with very screwed up and biting rats called extreme immersion, this is where some folks have a particular disagreement with the practice, but under no circumstances should you be doing this with small children in the household. You are going to a breeder to chose young and friendly rats and that's the only kind of rats for small children! Please make it perfectly clear to your breeder that you can't adopt problem rats.

As an adult observer/participant, you want to see your kids hands on with their new furry friends, but not forcefully overwhelming them... the rats should have room to run and explore and bounce off your child. Keep close by and watch for signs of distress in either the rats or your children and then slip yourself gently in between without causing more stress. Don't be too proactive as to get in the way of your kids and rats becoming best friends, but keep in mind these are live animals with very sharp teeth.

It's actually a rather strange phenomenon that kids and rats tend to understand each other intuitively. Depending on the child and the rat, but for the most part, it's going to be great fun to watch as they begin to communicate with and understand each other and interact. It should look very much like a child with a new puppy.

Yes, trust training is still practiced by some adults and it's particular strong suit is with rats that are very shy and have been damaged by humans in the past... Immersion with this kind of rat takes a lot longer too, even with long sessions because you just don't want to push a terrified rat to far too fast. Remember immersion is not about overwhelming your rat, it's about interacting with them and communicating the way they can understand you. "Flooding" is never an issue in immersion whereas short sessions and stretching out the bonding process needlessly can actually cause rats to become aggressive when trust training is done badly or haphazardly. The best trust trainers, also pay attention to their rats needs and work to build understanding with their rats, and mostly they do more frequent and longer sessions than folks that have the worst results with trust training. I suppose anything can be done badly, but well and for the most part the biggest risk to screwing up a rat is neglect, not interaction.

I'm pretty good at fixing problem rats, but mostly I'm very selective about the rats I choose or rather the rats I help my daughter choose. I look for rats that have outgoing and engaging personalities. I especially avoid rats that have been abused or mishandled or that show any signs of aggression or unusual fear. Yes it's normal for a new rat pups to be a little apprehensive around new people, but they should calm down in a few minutes and be pretty easily handled. You should be able to scoop them up and put them down without fear of being bitten. The very finest new rats will actually come right up to your hands and will climb up on you.... That's the rat you want for your kids! After just a few minutes with the breeder or at the store, we carry our new rats home in our arms.... Our rats don't come home in a box. Yes, I'm particular about the rats we bring home, because half of the socialization battle is won when you pick the right rat. With Cloud, our most recent adoption, we met the breeder at a pet shop and we carried her out of the store and were immediately surrounded by people on the street, Cloud was calm enough to be introduced to strangers within minutes of being out of her Tupperware carrier for the first time. Cars even stopped on Main Street and my daughter even let people reach out of their car windows to pet her.... And this was a rat we had only known for under 10 minutes... In the car, she did like to climb down under my daughter's back and Cloud has a strong personality of her own now, but she's still very friendly, playful and calm. We had a choice of three really wonderful rats, I suppose we picked her because she seemed to be the most confident and outgoing, but by the time we reached the car, we knew we had a winner with star potential.

Now as some folks have noticed, I do things a little bit differently... and as we all know Santa doesn't deliver rats... I involve my daughter in the rat selection process..... This can be great fun and a great treat for your child, take her to the breeder's and let your daughter pick out her own rats.... This will make for a great surprise for her and give her the opportunity to feel like she's really gotten the rats she wants.

Naturally, I do get very much involved in the process, if I can't sex the rat because it's too young, or it looks sick, or is behaving inappropriately I gently steer my daughter to a more acceptable animal, but we've had our disagreements. My daughter insisted on one mis-marked rat that kept climbing back to her, it had an off center black stain on it's back and had an unusually blunt nose and was oddly square with unusually coarse fur. It was easily the least attractive rat in the batch in my opinion, but my 5 year old daughter was absolutely adamant. I put the little oddball back into the bin three times but no matter how I tried to distract my little girl from that one rat it's the only one she wanted... and it turned out to be Fuzzy Rat, the most amazing true shoulder rat and the rat co-founder of immersion... In retrospect Fuzzy Rat actually tried to get herself picked up and climbed to my daughter on her own, which I should have taken as a great sign, but it was quite remarkable that while I missed it, because I was distracted by much prettier rats, my daughter didn't. She knew intuitively that she was holding her new best furry friend. And she posed one heck of an argument for a 5 year old... "This is going to be my rat, right Daddy?" I gave in and the rest is history....

So let Santa bring the cage or the toys, or your daughter can even go shopping and choose new toys for her rats for Christmas, but take you daughter on that special excursion to pick out her new friends, watch how she interacts with the rats and help her pick the right ones.... It's great fun and something your daughter will remember for the rest of her life. Remember unlike electronic toys rats are not interchangeable, each one is special and the differences are more than skin deep.

Odds are that by the time you arrive home, if you chose the right rat pups your daughter and her new rats will already be playing together... Then on to the carpet in the hallway or a small room and let the fun begin....

Lastly, I do establish clear rules before we go to choose rats... Our rats are going to be true shoulder rats, so they should be able to see as well as possible, so pink and ruby rats are out, we have females at home so boys are out and the new rat should not look too much like a wild rat so all black and agouti rats aren't an option. There's no need to scare strangers with a wild looking rat. We take our rats out in winter, so harirless rats are out and in summer so manx isn't a good idea. I have final say on health and temperament issues, and we have to discuss the choice.... Now that my daughter is 9 years old we talk about what makes a good rat a good rat before we go to see them personality wise so we are looking for the same things... but to be honest, my daughter is already quite a rat expert and a superb rat handler.

Best luck and congrats to your daughter on her new furry friends.
 

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Rat Daddy, question: How do you reconcile this statement of yours--"...Flooding is never an issue in immersion..." with this statement of yours--"...I suppose anything can be done badly..."

Also, when doing extensive "immersion," and in scenarios such as the one where you describe introducing a brand new rat to lots of different humans in one session, how do you scientifically evaluate that the rat is NOT experiencing flooding?

It is not that flooding has zero use in animal rehabilitation or training, and I'm not asking these questions to be challenging anyone--rather as a way of discussing this information in a more objective, factual manner.
 
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