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Thread: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

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    Cavy Slave SonicexA's Avatar
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    All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    We have had pet rats for years and years now, and we absolutely love them!
    Here's some of what we've learned (If you have any questions about rats, I'll be glad to help!):

    Cages:

    Rats require exercise just like you and me and they love to climb. A cage that has horizontal bars and two or more levels works great for climbing, and that keeps them entertained (with help from chew toys, their ratty friends and of course yourself). As to size, they like to have room to romp and play, but that doesn't require much - I have six ratties and they live in a three and a bit story cage that's probably not quite a metre long and about half a metre wide. Living close together is a rat's thing, so don't panic too much about that, however make sure you hold your rat and let it have run time. Exercise is important to any pet.
    Also although many people think rats are dirty animals they are actually quite clean and like to be so, so clean your cage at least once a week, depending on how many rats you have.
    Cages with wire bottoms are a no-no. Rats will hurt themselves on such cages and we don't want that!

    Food:

    Rats are omnivores - that means they eat meat and plants and pretty much anything people eat. But remember not to give them anything processed such as "American cheese", or flat cheese as we in our family call it . It isn't good for us, and it isn't good for them.
    Rats should have a dish in their cage that is regularly topped with mixed seeds and grains and also a good mix meant for rats such as Foragers Feast (in Australia you can find it in some pet shops and sometimes supermarkets.). If you live in the country or anywhere you can get clean, fresh wild grass is good for them, but make sure what you pick isn't something poisonous to rats (I'll do some research to make sure what I say is sound, because this could be a bad situation if I'm wrong, and I'll post a list of things poisonous to rats).
    Barley hay and lucerne hay are also good for them. Barley hay can be used as bedding, which they will also eat some of before it gets too spoiled. Some of my rats will eat lucerne hay but they will more often than not, not.
    As to protein, rats will get most of their's through meats, so if you have a moth on your laptop screen, catch it and feed it to your rat. Other insects such as grasshoppers are delectable treats for rats, and are very good for them. Meat scraps from your table are acceptable, but make sure what you give them doesn't have sauce or salt on it, and don't give them too much or they won't eat it and it will go off. Rats love to gnaw (they have to to keep their ever-growing teeth down) and will love you if put a meat bone in for them.
    Lettuce, carrot and other veggies also need to be given to your rat at least once a week for essential nutrients.

    Care:

    In this section I will give you some tips I've found are good.

    Claws: Rats do grow sharp claws and need to be trimmed or you'll end up with scratches. I use baby nail clippers for humans for my rats, and I snip off only the end of the nail or you'll hurt the rat. Holding the rat still may be hard, because rats are small and sometimes they are fidgety. What I do is first I do his back feet while he is eating a treat, then I put my left finger under his front legs and lift his front half up so he's sitting on his back feet, then I clip the front claws without holding the foot, because then he doesn't know what's happening.

    Bath time: You can bath your rat if you think he/she is starting to smell, although they should keep themselves quite clean. If your rat is noticeably dirty maybe you need to clean the cage. I always wash my rats once a week when I wash the cage, so they smell nice and are soft!
    To wash them, first you need a basin of nice warm water - test it by sticking your elbow in it; if it burns, it's too hot, if you can feel it's colder than your elbow, it's too cold. I use just plain human shampoo for my rats, with some conditioner if I feel like making my girls soft. If you want though normal liquid hand soap will work. First hold your rat over the basin and tip with a cup some water over it. Don't get the head wet, that just distresses them, and the rat normally keeps that area nice and clean anyway. Then when she is wet through, place her on a towel by the basin and get some soap or shampoo on your hand. Rub it into the rat's fur, being gentle but making sure you get right to the skin. Then go to her tail and gently rub that. Be careful with the tail, it has stiff hairs running down it and you can hurt your rat if you're too harsh. However that being said, the tail is usually the thing that gets the dirtiest and I like my tails to be pink, not brown.
    When you've finished, lift up your rat and hold her over the basin again. Rinse her off with more water, making sure you rinse all of the soap or shampoo out or your rat will be itchy later on. When that's finished, place her back on the towel and dry her off with a different towel. Remember if you're in a cold climate, your rat is not very big and can easily get sick if she's cold, so dry her well!
    Now you have one clean rat.

    Buying rats: Rats live in colonies and naturally want to be with other rats. One rat can be lonely and depressed, but they can bond even better with their owners if they are by themselves. Bear in mind that all rats need to be played with, but single rats need it especially because they lack ratty friends to romp with.
    I have six rats, but you need not worry - two will be just fine. I just like rats, and would gladly have twenty!

    Male or female?: If you don't want hundreds of little rats you'll want to buy only one sex. I prefer females, because they tend to smell less than males do. The good thing with males is, though, they are more relaxed. If you don't have much time for playing with your pets, you should get males. But just because they are more lazy doesn't mean they don't need playtime! They must have a time out of cage to run, so don't neglect them.

    Sleeping quarters and bedding: Rats love to sleep in hammocks. Just sling a piece of rag up by two ends tied onto either end of your cage, leaving it loose enough that it hangs in the middle. Rats will love to climb in and sleep - if you have lots of rats they will pile in.
    Hammocks aren't the only bed rats like. Empty cardboard boxes are always a favourite. Besides sleeping in them, they love to chew them and will sometimes take pieces of the box to make a nest elsewhere!
    If you don't have cardboard boxes or rags the rats will generally make their own nest. If the bedding is straw or shredded paper they will take mouthfuls to a favourite corner and build a cosy nest. Rats are excellent nest builders and besides, it's funny watching them stumble around with a mouthful of straw in their mouth !
    As for bedding, both straw and shredded paper work well because, as I said, they like to make nests with it. I also put potting mix underneath the straw or shredded paper because it absorbs urine well, and the rats will sometimes dig in it. Cat litter will also work for that.



    Gnawing: If your rat is gnawing outside the cage then it is probably trying to grind down it's teeth. It then needs something in the cage to help with that, so your phone charger cable doesn't get severed. If you live in Australia (as I do) then you might be able to get your hands on a piece of wattle quite easily. This, placed in the cage, will help with the gnawing problem, as rats like to gnaw on wood. However they won't gnaw on dirty wood, so if the branch gets soiled, it's no use anymore and you'll need a new one.
    Alternatively you could buy a seed block (meant for birds, but we don't mind) from a pet shop or supermarket and place that in the cage. Rats may prefer this to wood as it rewards them for their efforts with food.

    Toilet training: Rats are very smart rodents and can be trained to use the toilet on a litter box. To do this, first find a small container and fill it with cat litter or potting mix. Then scatter a few poos on the litter box. Usually the rat will continue to go where he thinks he previously went, but he sometimes needs to be placed on the box next time you think he needs to go. He will soon learn and cage cleanings will become further between.
    If your rat is pooing or peeing on you, then you may need to further train him. However this isn't hard, just next time he releases last night's ratty food on you, quickly pick him up and put him back in his cage. The rat will associate pooing or urinating on you with his play time ending and will learn not to do it. This method has worked time and time again with all my rats, so I know it works. If after he stops going on you for a few days and then one day he suddenly does it again, this may be him forgetting his training for a minute, or maybe you held him for too long. They can't hold on forever!




    Behaviour:


    Here's a few things rats do and why:

    Teeth grinding: This sound is called bruxing, and is made when the the rat is very happy. It has been called purring for rats.

    Eyes bulging while bruxing: Don't worry! Rats do this when they are especially happy, because they are bruxing so hard.

    Chattering: This sound is not a usual rat sound, but sometimes they do do it. I still don't know if they do it because they are happy or what.

    Squeaking: If your rat is squeaking then it is usually being hurt. Rats only squeak if they are in pain, or if another rat is dominating it and it is saying, "I give up! Don't hurt me!" Rats dominating each other is normal behaviour and establishes pecking orders. Don't worry if they push each other over and place their mouths on the other rats neck. Unless they draw blood they are fine.

    Sneezing: I'm not sure why, but all my rats have sneezed at least once and some more often than others. I don't believe it is because they have a cold; I think it is just a way of communicating.

    Closing the eyes half way: Rats love affection and if you stroke them enough they often half close their eyes. It is a sign of relaxation and happiness. Sometimes you can even get your rat to fall asleep by stroking it.

    Yawning: Just like you and I, yawning is a sign of tiredness. If a rat has been held too long often he/she will yawn, opening his/her mouth wide and stretching one paw out. However this can also be observed when the rat just wakes up.

    Running away from your hand: If your rat is running away from you, you may not be offering enough shelter when you are holding it, or maybe you are hurting it. Be sure to never, ever hurt your rat intentionally. Before you start holding the rat for long periods of time, be sure to spend some time when you just hold it for five or ten minutes, and try feeding in pieces of veggies to gain it's trust. Always offer the rat some cover from the world such as a hand held over it's head or a jacket you can hold it in. Doing this a lot over a long period of time will settle the rat and soon it will run to the cage door when you enter the room. Even the most timid of rats will learn to love people - they are very sociable animals. If you wish to learn more about taming your pet rat, look at the Taming section.


    Taming:


    You should always try to buy new rats as babies. They are much more happy to trust you then.
    When you get your new friend, first thing is to let it settle into it's new cage. One or two days should be enough for this. Then you can start picking up the rat and holding it, very gently, against your chest, offering shelter with your free hand. Stroke the rat slowly, talking softly, and only hold it for five minutes or so. Then put it back in the cage and wait a few hours. If you work or go to school you could hold it once before you leave, and again when you come home. After the first two holds it's pretty safe to hold it for up to ten minutes, and offer it foods like carrots, pieces of lettuce or fruit. It will take a few days for it to trust you enough to eat out of your hands, so don't worry if it doesn't take it straight away.
    After a week or two the rat should trust you enough for you to hold it more often and without sheltering it. Within three weeks you should have a fully tamed ratty on your hands and you can hold it whenever you want and even let it go for supervised runs on the floor. After you've tamed a few rats you should get the idea, and become better at it. It only took me a few days to tame my little Muffin.

  2. "Thank you, SonicexA, for this useful post," says:


  3. #2
    Cavy Slave SonicexA's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    Here are some photos of my rats:

    This is Muffin. And yes, she is eating a block of Cadbury chocolate in my shirt, but it isn't good for her, the naughty girl.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    This is Mini. She looks like she's trying to push the bars of the cage.
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    Blossum, here. Sleepy ratty.
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    And this is Martha. She was a rat my brother had years ago. She is having a cup of tea.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Cavy Star, Photo Contest Winner ThePigAlchemist's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    I love rats! I would love to own a few someday. A rat rescue used to visit the local Petco on the weekends near me, so I would always go and hold one.

  5. "Thank you, ThePigAlchemist, for this useful post," says:


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    Cavy Slave SonicexA's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    Yes, rats are great pets. It is a shame so many people misjudge them.

    Edited by bpatters.
    Last edited by bpatters; 09-10-15 at 06:48 pm.

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    Cavy Slave spy9doc's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    @SonicexA...........what a nice overview of the rat world. Like many people, I know next to nothing about rats and have no exposure to them. One of my vets has ratties and her eyes soften and sparkle when she describes them.......much like the look on my face when someone asks about my cavies. Almost everyone I know talks about how ratties really love their humans.

    I've been curious about them, but don't really have a desire to keep them. I think much of that is due to their having a shorter life span than piggies. My oldest cavy has some health issues and I just can't bear to think of the day when he crosses the Rainbow Bridge.

    Thanks for taking the time to write that long post and educating the rest of us.

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    Cavy Slave Icarus_Hermes's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    Aww, cute rat pics! I was planning on adopting a pair, but then Hermes passed away and my focus is now on bonding my current pair of piggies. Soon though. I got to hold a few rats at an adoption event a few months ago, and I love what cuddle bugs the males are.

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    Cavy Slave SonicexA's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    @Icarus_Hermes Aww, I'm so sorry about your Hermes! @spy9doc Yes the post took me a while and looking over it now I see I've missed a few things, but it's impossible to post everything about rats in a single post!
    I'm very happy to introduce more people to the happiness of pet rats, though, so I don't mind.

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    Cavy Slave
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    I love RATTIES!!

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    Cavy Slave
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    I am SonicexA's sister so we share all these ratties, Blossom is kind of my ratty because my last ratty, Bonnie, passed away when she was young. I miss her, but Blossom is a gorgeous baby too. I also have a guinea pig now and she is gorgeous as well. Anyway just wanted to back SonicexA up, RATTIES ARE BEAUTIFUL! And don't you forget it!

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    Cavy Slave katkor03's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    Could you make a cage for them out of CC grids?

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    Cavy Slave
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    Quote Originally Posted by katkor03 View Post
    Could you make a cage for them out of CC grids?
    I'd assume not...they can slip through almost anything. I'm thinking grids would be way too large for them to get through, and they definitely can't have an open top cage.

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    Cavy Slave katkor03's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    I was thinking like two or three levels, but I see your point. I was thinking about getting rats some time.

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    Cavy Slave scoottie's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    Quote Originally Posted by katkor03 View Post
    Could you make a cage for them out of CC grids?
    1/2 inch bars is the best since they cant slip from those it you wanted a cage and it didn't have 1/2 inch bars then you would need to wrap it in chicken wire.

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    Cavy Slave scoottie's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    Quote Originally Posted by katkor03 View Post
    I was thinking like two or three levels, but I see your point. I was thinking about getting rats some time.
    The best cage is the critter nation it has perfect amount a space and the bars are horizontal so they can bar climb.



    Rat Cage Calculator

    http://www.rattycorner.com/odds/calc.shtml

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    Cavy Slave SquigglyPigs's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    Critter nation cages are awesome. You can fill them with so many fun things for rats. I have two ratties that live in a Petco Rat Manor cage and I actually really like that cage, although it's from the pet store. It has more climbing space than the typical pet store cage. We bought it on sale online so it wasn't very much money. I was told it could fit 4 or 5 rats but I can't imagine having more than two in that cage. Someday maybe we'll have a critter nation!
    My rats love to find pieces of hay that the guinea pigs dropped and chew on it.

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    Cavy Slave scoottie's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    The rat manor is just big enough for two in my opinion.

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    Cavy Slave SquigglyPigs's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    Quote Originally Posted by scoottie View Post
    The rat manor is just big enough for two in my opinion.
    Yep I agree with you. If we ever got more than two, we would definitely upgrade.

  23. #18
    Cavy Slave scoottie's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    There is also this cage

    http://www.amazon.com/Prevue-Hendryx...words=rat+cage

    it goes on sale quite a lot which is great

  24. #19
    Cavy Slave Beatrix187's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    Thank you for this helpful post! We would like to get rats someday, they are just so cute!

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    Cavy Slave blessedmom's Avatar
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    Re: All about rats: cages, food, care, behaviour, taming

    We recently added a pair of rats to our family. My daughter just loves them! I like that she can do most of the care herself unlike our GPigs that I care for. I'm amazed at how much easier the rats are to care for and how much they enjoy being played with! The GPigs are my babies and the rats my daughter's. (We have two dogs too). This is Vanilla and Dior:

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