Handling and Training Baby Rats

Topics on behaviour, taming, companionship, introductions, and training
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Handling and Training Baby Rats

Post by PaigeLouiseC » Thu Jul 28, 2016 9:37 pm

Hello again everyone!

Yet another post about Monkey and Mabel - such fab help with the last question I had that I figured why not ask you lot about some other questions we had about our new babies!

So Monkey and Mabel are baby dumbo rats (approx 12 weeks old), who we got from a pet shop on Monday. (Wouldn't normally go to a pet shop but these two were so beautiful and we fell in love!)

As said, we got them on Monday, so it has only been a few days so far and they are doing fantastic - super sweet and getting very confident and curious! My question is regarding how to further train and bond with them as they get more confident in themselves!

They both dislike being held... a lot. We get a display of squeaks and intense wiggles whenever we pick them up (which we avoid doing at the moment as they are so new). We can only assume and put this down to the panicky handling of them when we were at the shop getting them, which was probably the only way they know humans to pick them up.

So how can we train them to get used to being in our hands and held? One is just NOT interested in food at all and it is getting quite hard already to get them both back in their cage after playtime as today they have decided they don't need to go back, despite all the treats they could carry!

We wanna get them used to being held, not necessarily with close grip, but so we can put them in the cage without freaking them out at this stage - I know usually people recommend to just be confident and pick them up but at the moment their panic is quite crazy when we even attempt this! Any tips or tricks to help the girls chill out with handling and returning to the cage?!

Any replies would be greatly appreciated!!

Thanks so much!

xxx :dumbobaby: :dumbobaby:

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Re: Handling and Training Baby Rats

Post by [cub] » Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:59 pm

If you can catch and hold them (i.e. they're not so fast and wriggly that they're constantly slipping between your fingers), then what I would try is this: whenever you need to pick them up, do so and keep them in your hands until they stop struggling, and put them down the moment they stop with the dramatics. Getting the timing right will be tricky, unfortunately, but timing is everything with training!

The most commonly recommended method I've seen here is to just repeatedly pick them up and immediately put them down again, to get them used to the fact that being picked up is no big deal. But if your girls are thrashing around every time you pick them up, I'm worried that if you pick them up and put them back down again while they're still screaming blue murder and pretending to be eels, they'll just think that squeaking and struggling is how you get people to do what you want, which will just encourage them. So hang onto them until they show even the slightest bit of calm, and then immediately put them down. As they get calmer (they will with time; you'll need to be patient as well as persistent) you can start asking them to stay still for just a little bit longer, and then a little bit longer than that, and so on.

If they've only been with you a few days, they may still be getting used to the idea of treats. It often takes rats a little while to warm up to unfamiliar foods, and if they're excited or anxious or otherwise distracted (as they probably would be having just moved to a new home, especially when they're exploring around that new home) they'll be less interested in eating in general. Once they get used to their new foods and new environment, they should be a little easier to bribe.
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Re: Handling and Training Baby Rats

Post by PaigeLouiseC » Fri Jul 29, 2016 9:28 am


Thanks so much! We will definitely give it a go with the girls, here is hoping we can actually get a hold on them when they are in their crazy playtime!

I am slightly worried that holding them while they wriggle may prompt them to bite out of fear/grumpiness - is that something to be concerned about? (or am I just worried after many bad experiences with VERY grumpy hamsters in the past!!!)

As much as I love our girls, I initially found it hard to want to touch or approach them because I am so scared of those painful bites, such as the ones from several hamsters when I was younger. But they really are the SWEETEST little girls and I am getting better each day - actually, I do find their test nibbles very endearing! But the fear is still slightly there when it comes to if they are restrained and uncomfortable.

Thanks! xxx :dumbobaby: :dumbobaby:

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Re: Handling and Training Baby Rats

Post by Helzie » Fri Jul 29, 2016 11:58 am

bear in mind that they are babies and the world is new and exciting and full of all kinds of things to explore - so I'd expect them to want to be off! I wouldn't expect a baby to be content to sit still and he held for long anyway (in fact, I'd be worried!), so don't assume that if they are struggling, its because they are scared -they might just quite understandably have far better things to do! Sounds like it's going fine. I think they'd have bitten already if that was going to be their reaction. The main thing to focus on is that you can recall them and pick them up.
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Re: Handling and Training Baby Rats

Post by squeakrat » Fri Jul 29, 2016 8:30 pm

Even very scared rats rarely bite. I've had quite a few scaredy rescues and have never been bitten when picking them up. So try not to worry about it, because if you feel nervous holding them, the rats will be able to tell, and it will make them more nervous themselves. :luck:
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