Author Topic: What do I need to know about owning rats?  (Read 1443 times)

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ica171

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What do I need to know about owning rats?
« on: March 20, 2013, 04:03:03 PM »
My 8yo son's class got a hamster, so he decided he wanted one, too. When I pointed out that a robo dwarf hamster might not be the best fit, he decided on gerbils. Then we went to the pet store today and he held a rat so now he's decided on that. That's what I was lobbying for from the beginning. Anyway, we bought a 20 gallon long aquarium (we have cats, so I thought it would be safest) but right now it's kind of bare bones. The lid has mesh so I can hang hammocks, but what else do they love? What kind of bedding do you use? I've seen pictures of people building popsicle/craft stick furniture; should I do that or will they chew it up? (I don't care if they chew it, I just don't want them getting sick from it.) Any tips? He has two male rats, named Regulus and Sirius. All of his pets are named after Harry Potter characters; he has a betta named Hermione and two goldfish named Harry and Ron, too.

MerryCat

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Re: What do I need to know about owning rats?
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2013, 04:34:04 PM »
Congrats on your new boys! You know we need pictures now, right?

Popsicle stick furniture is the best stuff for pet rodents! They will chew it up but, unless  you use toxic glues and/or sticks that have been painted with toxic paints, they'll be fine. Use unpainted sticks and white or non toxic hot glue. Bamboo skewers, polar fleece and sisal rope are also safe, and give you a huge range of things you can build. My mice's favorite toys usually involved rope ladders and fleece-lined hideouts.  You'll have to experiment to see what your boys like.

The advantage of this stuff is that it's cheap to make and replace, and you can change things up regularly so that your boys don't get bored. Plus, I'm sure your son will have a ton of fun coming up with new toys and hideaways.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2013, 04:37:55 PM by MerryCat »

MorgnsGrl

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Re: What do I need to know about owning rats?
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2013, 04:46:02 PM »
I would consider the cage you bought to be a temporary one -- for them to be healthy and happy, they're really going to need more space than that. At the very least you'll have to clean it twice a week, because the ammonia from their urine will build up quickly in a glass cage and it will make them sick if you don't keep on top of it.

This is a good site -- http://www.quite.co.uk/rats/ -- it's British so some of the terminology might be a little quirky, but a Harry Potter fan shouldn't mind.  :P

exitzero

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Re: What do I need to know about owning rats?
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2013, 04:52:07 PM »
A cage is much better than an aquarium. An aquarium is not ventilated enough and it will smell awful for the rats and for you.

You've already done the best part by getting 2 rats, they really need to be together.

Wood toys and furniture are ok, as long as you don't mind replacing them often. They absorb odors quickly.

Hammocks are great, all rats seem to love them. 

Have a vet fund handy. Rats are a little delicate and seem to get sick often. Find an exotic vet in your area BEFORE you have an emergency, so you aren't paniced at the last minute.

Rats need time out of the cage, at least an hour a day. You'll need to have somewhere that the cat can't get at them. (Although I've heard lots of stories of cats and rats getting along...just keep a close eye on them!)

Buy a nutrious block food like Harlan Tek Lad or Oxbow. Seed mixes aren't good because they pick out what they like and don't get full nutrition. You can supplement with healthy table food like vegtables and lean meat.

I'll try to think of some other things and let you know.

exitzero

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Re: What do I need to know about owning rats?
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2013, 05:14:53 PM »
I thought of some more. (I can talk rats all day!)

The dollar store is your friend.  Plastic boxes make great hidey houses (as do cardboard boxes). Toys meant for birds, like wooden ladders and hanging LCMs work well for rats. They also love little stuffed cat toys (withou cat nip), but don't expect them to last long!

The best advise I got was to use fleece instead off litter. You cut it to fit the cage, and when it gets dirty throw it in the washing machine. Saves money and hours of vacuuming litter.

Rats are just the best ever. I'm really excited for you!

MorgnsGrl

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Re: What do I need to know about owning rats?
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2013, 05:18:00 PM »
Also, rats are perfect for when you drop a cracker or carrot on the floor. Rats don't care about the five second rule!

ica171

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Re: What do I need to know about owning rats?
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2013, 05:20:14 PM »
Thanks! I have just a cell phone picture, I need to get it uploaded.

When I was looking at pictures of gerbil cages, there were lots with toppers made of other wire cages or old bird cages. Is that something I should do here? Do they like to walk on wire or do they prefer wood/cardboard? I had all my research done for gerbils, then he threw me for a loop and changed his mind.  ;D

I like the idea of using fleece for litter. I have a ton of fleece around, so it has the added bonus of reducing my stash.

exitzero

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Re: What do I need to know about owning rats?
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2013, 05:22:42 PM »
Also, rats are perfect for when you drop a cracker or carrot on the floor. Rats don't care about the five second rule!

My late sweet Calhoun once stole an entire meatball I dropped on the floor. I never did find it.

ica171

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Re: What do I need to know about owning rats?
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2013, 05:26:42 PM »
Sorry for the rat butt picture--the sun was coming in the window across the room and creating glare, so I had to stand to the side. They both have almost the same markings, so we're still trying to memorize who's who.


Shoo

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Re: What do I need to know about owning rats?
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2013, 05:27:53 PM »
I have had pet rats.  My very first one, Walter, was so smart!  He knew his name and would come running when I called him.

Rats will eat as much as you give them.  Not knowing what I know now, I left a bowl of food for him all the time.  He was so fat.  Now, I'd feed him on a schedule.

Rats don't live very long - a couple of years.  Just so your son is prepared, he ought to know that.  I was very sad when Walter died.  It seemed like I didn't get to have him very long.

They are thieves and will steal anything they find, so don't leave your purse open on the floor.  I found Walter's nest under my couch.  In it was the driver's license I thought I'd lost, several pieces of chewing gum, and some other things I didn't even know were missing.  :)

MerryCat

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Re: What do I need to know about owning rats?
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2013, 05:34:06 PM »
Just thought of another thing! Now, my experience is with mice, not rats, so I'm not sure if this will work. But my mice used to love those woven straw nests you can get for pet birds. The ones they loved were completely enclosed but for a little hole on one side.

It may be a bit small for rats to sleep in, but if you cram it full of shredded paper and a few treats your rats may be able to keep themselves busy trying to dig the treats out.

Also, your boys are so cute! I love that coloring.

nutraxfornerves

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Re: What do I need to know about owning rats?
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2013, 05:54:03 PM »
Rats can be more clever than you expect. Be sure that any cage latches are very secure and can't be manipulated by the rats. They are good at being escape artists.

As a, um, hypothetical example, if the sister of the rat owner dreams that someone is tapping fingers on her face, and suddenly awakens to discover a rat strolling across her forehead--well, it could be very unpleasant for the rat owner.

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Carotte

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Re: What do I need to know about owning rats?
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2013, 06:11:05 PM »
I would definitely consider a bigger cage, but it's true that with cats around you have to be extra carefull with where it is, and that it cannot topple down for example.

I also second the fact that they have to spend some time outside of their cage. That means being prepared for the fact that rats love to chew anything and everything. Mine loved rubber, sole of shoes, erasers, rubber feet of chairs... So nothing too valuable or that you can't replace.

When I had to do stuff and couldn't keep an eye on them constantly I would get a fistfull of dry uncooked pasta, leave then in a shallow dish of water (or under a light box, or in a maze..). It would keep them occupied until they had stashed away all the pasta in my room.
It does mean you're left with pasta everywhere (I once found it in my pillow...) but it won't rot, you can collect it again and re-use it for the rats.
Using wallnuts is particularly funny since they're so big and heavy (I would take them away before they had a chance to chew them, I'm not sure wallnuts are good for them).

Mine always did their business in the same corner, so that I only had to regularly change 1/8 of the litter, and never did anything outside their cage
(but do expect copious amount of peeing tho, that's how they'll tell you they love you. And own you :) ).

Read up on commun illnesses and symptoms, a change in behaviour can be quite telling.

I miss having a rat sleeping all snuggled up in my sleeve :( , those expletive are so darn cute I wish I could have some again.

hobish

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Re: What do I need to know about owning rats?
« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2013, 06:42:35 PM »

I was really surpised how well shredded paper bedding worked for my ferrets. I was expecting a mushy stinky mess, but it actually is better smelling and not as hard to clean up as some of the more expensive compressed pellet stuff.

It's alright, man. I'm only bleeding, man. Stay hungry, stay free, and do the best you can.
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exitzero

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Re: What do I need to know about owning rats?
« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2013, 06:54:20 PM »
And wine corks. For some reason, rats love wine corks. They'll have a blast chewing them into bits.

Rats can eat just about anything that humans can. They say to stay away from dried corn (it can have a fungus in it that can be dangerous) and avacado pits.
Rats can eat nuts, grapes and chocolate even though dogs can't. Like any high calorie food, you need to practice moderation.

Rats also can't throw up or burp...they have a flap in their throat that stops that from happening, so it's not a good idea to feed them anything "sticky" like straight peanut butter or really sticky fruit.

I have always put some rat treats in a plastic container, and I shake it before I give them one. They learn to associate the sound of the container with treats and will come running when they hear it. I even have one girl who comes running even though she doesn't like the treats. She just wants to do what everyone else is doing, I guess!

Other people have had success litter training their rats (for poop only...they will pee where ever they want to pee). I never had any luck with any rat I ever had...I try putting the litter box where they go and the move where they go and use the litter box for sleeping, storing food, stacking toys, basically anything but pooping!