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Hi,

I have adopted 2 young male rats, now 9 weeks old, and they have been with me for almost a month.

Even if the breeder told me that they were handled daily, they would not allow me to pick them up, or even touch them without jumping out in fear. I tried once, didnt force anything and I started the trust training.

They started to come to me to pick up treats, coming onto my hand, small steps.
After a week or two, I set up a free roaming area, with their cage inside open, for them to come and go as they wish. I stay there with them the whole evening every day. I am the giant treat distributor in the corner, and they do come to me for some baby food on a spoon. They come on my hand, but that's about it, no touching. If I try, it feels like I am undoing a whole week of work.
As time passes by, I am getting more and more worried. For example they have their first vet appointement next monday, and i wish they would be ok about being picked up, everything would be a lot less stressful for them.
I fear that I am doing something wrong, and that the more time it takes the less likely they will be tamed.

I am desperate for reassurance or guidance.
 

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Rex, Penny, Sugar, Latte
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It sounds like you need to take every opportunity to get them to associate pets with good. If you can hand feed them then you can use that as a reward for them allowing touch, and of course regular treats too. It may start as just quick pets but it will work up to them allowing and loving full pets. You can put the baby food on your hand so they can get used to your skin. You can also do some bonding time in a smaller space like a bathroom or a bed with no places to hide besides on you (like in a sweater). Are they afraid of anything else besides being touched?
 

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I pick up new rats as often as possible to help them get used to it. Some new rats really don't want to be picked up but after a while, they learn that it's not so scary after all. Some rats can be squirmy so picking them up can require some confidence.

I don't necessarily try to hold them in my hands or pet them too much in the beginning. I just scoop them up, bring them close to my chest, carry them to where I need them to be, and set them down. As they're running around in their play area, I'll randomly and for no reason pick them up and set them right back down again.

Don't be afraid of your rats. Don't be afraid that they're going to hate you. The more you handle them, the more quickly they will get comfortable with you and the more you can bond with them. Don't expect young rats to want to chill in your lap or get pet. That's just not how a lot of young rats are. As you build a relationship with them and they get older, things might change.

What is the vet appointment for? Is there some sort of health concern or are you just wanting to get a basic health check? If they're not currently experiencing any health issues, you might want to put off a vet appointment until you're better able to handle them. I don't personally do "check-ups" with my rats. I only bring them to the vet if there's an issue. I'd never discourage a vet visit but unless it's necessary right now, you may want to concentrate on getting them more comfortable with your hands.
 

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It sounds like you need to take every opportunity to get them to associate pets with good. If you can hand feed them then you can use that as a reward for them allowing touch, and of course regular treats too. It may start as just quick pets but it will work up to them allowing and loving full pets. You can put the baby food on your hand so they can get used to your skin. You can also do some bonding time in a smaller space like a bathroom or a bed with no places to hide besides on you (like in a sweater). Are they afraid of anything else besides being touched?
It sounds like you need to take every opportunity to get them to associate pets with good. If you can hand feed them then you can use that as a reward for them allowing touch, and of course regular treats too. It may start as just quick pets but it will work up to them allowing and loving full pets. You can put the baby food on your hand so they can get used to your skin. You can also do some bonding time in a smaller space like a bathroom or a bed with no places to hide besides on you (like in a sweater). Are they afraid of anything else besides being touched?
Hi,
Thank you so much for your time.
No, they arent so scared of anything else, one in particular feels chilled enough to eat his treats on me, the other still likes to run back in the cage to eat it.
They will be startled with the occasional sneeze. One will be a little suspicious, and run and hide as I stand up and cross the play area to get something, but thats about it.
I might need to be more strict with the treats, they get it as soon as they come to me, or stand on my hand. Then I try to touch them, they get startled and I still let them lick that baby food as a way of saying "sorry"... They might be training me instead.
I will try the bed today, i tried a small free range area a few weeks ago, and it resulted in them huddled together in a far corner. I tried the bathtub, but the ventilation is very nosy, and there was a lot of fear. But I feel they are much more confident now and it might be worth another try on the bed this time.
Thank you.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I pick up new rats as often as possible to help them get used to it. Some new rats really don't want to be picked up but after a while, they learn that it's not so scary after all. Some rats can be squirmy so picking them up can require some confidence.

I don't necessarily try to hold them in my hands or pet them too much in the beginning. I just scoop them up, bring them close to my chest, carry them to where I need them to be, and set them down. As they're running around in their play area, I'll randomly and for no reason pick them up and set them right back down again.

Don't be afraid of your rats. Don't be afraid that they're going to hate you. The more you handle them, the more quickly they will get comfortable with you and the more you can bond with them. Don't expect young rats to want to chill in your lap or get pet. That's just not how a lot of young rats are. As you build a relationship with them and they get older, things might change.

What is the vet appointment for? Is there some sort of health concern or are you just wanting to get a basic health check? If they're not currently experiencing any health issues, you might want to put off a vet appointment until you're better able to handle them. I don't personally do "check-ups" with my rats. I only bring them to the vet if there's an issue. I'd never discourage a vet visit but unless it's necessary right now, you may want to concentrate on getting them more comfortable with your hands.
Thank you for your time, I really appreciate it.
I completely agree about the vet appointment and I am quite torn about it.
One of the boys as been sneezing since day 1. I kept a close eye on him, I thought it might be "new home sneeze", but it has been 3 weeks and a half now and he still sneezes. No other symptoms, breathing is normal, no lethargy, actually a very active boy, eats well, sleeps peacefully.
The other one, is much more gentle, also active but more curious than hyper, and eats well also. He was always smaller than his brother, but there is starting to be quite a difference in growth between the two. There is always food left, his brother doesnt stop him from eating, he is the one that will come for treats 80 percent of the time, but he doesnt seem to grow at the same pace.
I wish I had more time, I might be over-worrying, but I also want to make sure all is alright. :x
I will rat proof the bedroom, and have them on the bed, maybe one at a time (One of them is a true escape artist... Always plotting... Always need to be watched) and try get much more confident at scooping them up, trying to repress the guilt crushing my heart as they jump out in fear! It's gonna be a tough one. But as long as I know that it's not detrimental in the long term, I'll get there.
Thank you so much.
 

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Rex, Penny, Sugar, Latte
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the other still likes to run back in the cage to eat it
For this you can give tiny bits of treats so it takes less time to eat and he can keep coming back for more

One will be a little suspicious, and run and hide as I stand up and cross the play area to get something,
For this you can get them used to your body movement by walking around the free range area and moving things around, even if they end up huddled in a corner or a box you can either lure them out or leave them until they snap out of their fear, if they freeze or puff up their fur then wait until they calm down then reward them for their confidence. You can also give treats whenever you see them exploring, sniffing a new object, or running around since this also rewards confidence. Another bonding method to do is to trick train them, this would require them to pay attention to you and to not be overwhelmed.
 
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