Getting rats!

Discussion in 'Cat and Pet Forum' started by *blackrose, Mar 18, 2012.

  1. *blackrose

    *blackrose "I'm kupo for kupo nuts!"

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    Well, kind of. My boyfriend will be keeping them at his place, as my mom is still dead set on not letting them come anywhere near her house.

    A good friend of mine's little sister bought two rat pups last year...they were small and cute. Then they got bigger and understimulated due to their living environment and she lost interest and refused to take care of them.

    These poor rats have been living in a 20 gallon tank. Nothing but aspen bedding and a water bottle. No interaction, no toys, no hideys, no exercise, no nothing. I've felt horrible for them ever since I realized they weren't getting out of the cage at all (and even offered to loan them my 20 gallon/tank topper cage to give them even that much more space), but I never had the opportunity to do anything about it. They've been trying to get rid of them for awhile now, but I couldn't take them. My boyfriend's gerbil died a few months back and when I saw my friend this weekend and they offered the rats to me again, I asked him if they could stay at his place until I moved out this summer and he agreed (after scolding me - but I'm used to that from my dad, so I'm immune! :p).

    They are two lovely little black hooded females. They said they bought them from Petsmart, but they're both girls so...*shrugs* They're about a year old now. Kind of spazzy (understandably), but friendly and good about being handled. They've been on a diet of lab blocks, too, so at least they've been getting good nutrition.

    I just have two questions. How much longer will these girls be expected to live? I know when I had my mice, Ivy passed away before she turned one due to an illness, and Lilly passed away around two years, I think. I wasn't sure if I should be expecting senior ratties, or if they have a few years left. They seem to be healthy and in good shape (very lean).
    Also, what cage is reccomended for them? I'm going to try and pick something up cheap off of craigslist as I don't have a whole lot of money to spend (and I JUST got rid of my spare cages :doh:), but I am NOT keeping them in that 20 gallon tank any longer than I can help it.
    What kind of toys and bedding and things do they like? Also, they do have a ball...do rats use balls? How about a wheel?

    Pictures to come when I pick them up - sometime Tuesday, most likely.
     
  2. crazedACD

    crazedACD Active Member

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    Woot, congrats! I love rats...but mine didn't live very long :(. Both that I had only lived about a year, they passed within a few weeks of each other.

    I had a big cage for them (a small animal A&E cage). If you are wanting a bigger cage, you could do a critter nation, or a martin's cage? It was hard for me to find something with small enough bar spacing and enough climbing space.
     
  3. lizzybeth727

    lizzybeth727 New Member

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    Congrats!!

    I'm not a rat expert, but I've had several so I guess I know some stuff.

    As far as cage size, you want to get the biggest one you can afford, being mindful of the bar spacing. But with adult rats, bar spacing is not too important, most cages will probably be able to hold them; just be careful with ferret and rabbit cages. Rats like to climb, so taller is better than wider. You can get a cage with a relatively small floor area, but if it has two or three "stories" to climb up, you're doing great.

    I always heard that rats don't really use exercise balls or wheels, so I didn't get one for my girls. What they really need, more than exercise, is a lot of mental stimulation. I tried to give my girls at least an hour out-of-cage time every night. They were free to run all around my room, and for the most part they were well behaved.... didn't chew on too much valuable stuff and such. You can do training with them and teach recalls and other cues if you want; I never had a lot of luck - apparently girls are much more independent than boys - but I had friends who did really well.

    Use paper bedding, absolutely not cedar and preferably not aspen. Paper is less dusty; rats are prone to respiratory problems and they don't do well with dust. Also use a wire cage, and keep it in a well-ventalated area (not drafty), to cut down on the dust as well.

    My rats lived 2-3 years. I've heard they can live 5-6 years, but pet store rats of course have a lot more health problems than rats from breeders who breed for health. I think all of mine had tumors. *sniff* Now I'm remembering why I don't want rats anymore. :(

    They ARE a lot of fun! They're VERY smart (too smart sometimes!) and very trainable. I've heard of them being trained to find landmines; their noses are almost as good as dogs' but they're light enough they won't set off the mine. Fun little critters, I hope you enjoy them!
     
  4. Southpaw

    Southpaw orange iguanas.

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    My female rat passed away last month and she was just over 3 years old. She went through two tumor removal surgeries though so she didn't live a totally healthy life. But hey, from the time she had her first surgery, she lived an entire year past that... so IMO it was worth it!
    So it's totally realistic for them to live another couple years but it likely won't be without issues.

    Whatever cages you find, you can plug in the dimensions here and it'll tell you roughly how many rats it'd be appropriate for: http://www.rattycorner.com/odds/calc.shtml
    To give you an idea, my cage was 30" x 18" x 24" and I thought it was the -perfect- size for two rats.

    I used aspen for mine. Pine and cedar are the ones you want to avoid (any softwoods). Paper pellets are fine, like the Yesterdays News cat litter. For a while I was even using towels and fleece to line the cage, and I actually really liked doing it that way, but my girls were always chewing holes in the towels so I finally got sick of having to replace them lol. I wouldn't do the run-about balls, and wheels are hit and miss. I had a Wodent Wheel for mine, and one of them would run in it every single night, and the other one never set foot in it.

    Bird toys make pretty good rat toys. Jingly cat balls. I gave mine stuffed Kongs, too... haha there's lots of stuff to give them.

    They are super fun :D
     
  5. SarahHound

    SarahHound New Member

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    Rats are fun little critters :) I actually considered getting some, but unfortunately, their health puts me off.

    Take some photos when you can!
     
  6. *blackrose

    *blackrose "I'm kupo for kupo nuts!"

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    I don't have a lot of money to spend on a cage, so I'm really hoping craigslist comes through and someone has an old one they are willing to sell. I want them out of the 20 gallon for sure, but I can't really afford to drop $80 on a new cage for them. I'm kicking myself that I just sold all of my spare cages! My boyfriend has a HUGE modified plastic bin that he kept his gerbils in and my initial thought was, "Oh, that'd be perfect!", but then I realized that rats chew...lol Drat.

    I may just pick up a small(ish) wire cage and use it as a tank topper like I did with my previous cage. It'd still be small, but at least they'd have multiple stories and it would double their current cage size and I could do it for fairly cheap. Be better than nothing, that's for sure.

    (But, on that note...Midwest now makes a Guinea Pig cage modeled after the C&C cages! Whoot! 8sq feet of space and side doors, and only $35! Brilliant! This makes me happy for when I get piggies again. ^^)
     
  7. lizzybeth727

    lizzybeth727 New Member

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    There are cage toppers on the market, some of them are quite nice. I used to have one for my hamsters when I was little. :D I think Petco had one about a year ago - don't know if they still do - that fit a 10-gallon aquarium. It might be cheaper to get a $10 aquarium and a topper, than to get an $80 cage. :eek:
     
  8. AdrianneIsabel

    AdrianneIsabel Glutton for Crazy

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    I loved my tank toppers for gerbils but I don't think they give rats enough space. I recommend the bigger the better for rats, they're busy, easily bored animals.

    This was my cage for my two girls. IMO they should have had a bigger, more interactive cage but I let them out often to sustain them.

    [​IMG]

    Here is one of my tank toppers. I had another, black and smaller, which I got at petco. I liked them both for their own reasons.
    [​IMG]

    Here are both of my tank toppers..
    [​IMG]
     
  9. ravennr

    ravennr ಥ⌣ಥ

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    My rat was one of my favourite pets. He was about three when he finally passed, I was depressed for weeks, honestly. I haven't read through so I'm just typing out what I did.

    His bedding was carefresh bedding. He seems to like that best as a nesting material/litter. He was also fond of pushing it out of the cage, though. He'd wait until nobody was looking and he'd start shoving really hard.

    Wodent Wheels are good for rats, so their feet and tails stay safe, and they make a big size for them and they're pretty quiet as well. I never put Ronin in a ball. They are fine to move around if no threats are out there. Ronin would walk around on the bad or just perch on my shoulder, but unlike most rats, he'd never eat anything I gave him outside of his cage. He wouldn't eat unless he was in his cage. He was strange like that.

    Don't feed them through the bars, it will encourage nipping and snatching. I had to re-train Ronin when I went away for a week or two and everyone had been shoving food in through the bars and yanking it out to tease him. :( He never bit though, not once. He would very very lightly mouth my hands, but only me. He was such a sweetie.

    One of the best toys to make is taking a toilet paper roll and pinching the ends so it makes a sort of pocket. You can stuff treats inside, and then pinch the ends shut and use a NON-TOXIC glue to seal it lightly, the rats will love ripping and shredding it open to get to the goodies inside. Raw. hard pasta was one of Ronin's favourite special snacks. He seemed to like it because it was so loud.

    Make sure the cage has a solid walking surface, not wire, so you don't have to worry about bumblefoot.

    This is the cage I bought for my rat: http://www.petsmart.com/product/index.jsp?productId=4470998

    He was a single rat so that was enough for him, but using a rat cage calculator, it told me that it wasn't big enough for two.
    Here's the calculator if you're curious as to how big it should be: http://www.rattycorner.com/odds/calc.shtml
     
  10. *blackrose

    *blackrose "I'm kupo for kupo nuts!"

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    Due to my lack of funds, I basically have two cage options. Which would be better? I know neither one is ideal, but it will still be better than the 20 gallon they're in.

    I can get this cage and modify it to include a shelf. A lady is willing to sell it to me for $20. She said her female can't get out of it, although the bar spacing is worrisome to me. It is 28"x16"x15".

    Or I can get a 20 gallon tank topper, most likely home made like I did for my STO:
    [​IMG]
    So it would be a 24"x12"x33" cage, with two stories and I could potentially add a shelf to the wire top.

    I can afford something better this summer, but currently I'm just looking for cheap and easy that will improve their quality of life more so than what it is now - and I have about $40 to do so.

    And I'm picking up the ratties either tomorrow evening or Thursday. :)
     
  11. ravennr

    ravennr ಥ⌣ಥ

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    I'd go with the first option. Lots of ventilation. If the rat spends lots of time outside and have a play area, that will be best. You can put toys and such in the cage. Provide lots and lots of enrichment.
     
  12. *blackrose

    *blackrose "I'm kupo for kupo nuts!"

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    Yup, they'll be handled as often as we can and I plan to cycle through toys and things to keep them stimulated. I'm going shopping tomorrow and will be picking up some things for them. I'll keep an eye out for a bigger cage as well and I'll get one as soon as I can.
     
  13. PitBullLove

    PitBullLove Member

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    Oh those poor babies :( Good thing you came along!

    Can you put them up to your ear and listen to their lungs? A clear airway will be obvious. I will be surprised if they show no respiratory disease symptoms from the housing they have been kept in thus far...if they don't they're very resistant. See, all rats are born with Mycoplasma pulmonis, which causes a respiratory disease called Mycoplasma. The only way to get rid of it is if the babies are birthed through c-section. This bacteria in the lungs usually isn't harmful to them, unless it is aggravated by poor ventalation or a dirty cage, and sometimes just old age and a weakened respiratory system, which can then lead to a slow, painful death with fluid lungs (which develop scars and some rats die because of the extreme scar tissue) or it can develop into pnuemonia quickly. Their respiratory systems are sensitive as it is. This is why many older pet store rats have head tilts and red stuff coming out of their eyes and nose. This is a HUGE concern for rat owners. I clean my boys' cage every other day, with the ladies I only cleaned it twice a week. They don't pee or stink nearly as much as the boys. I have spent hundreds of dollars at the vet for this because pet store rats develop the disease easily and are usually not resistant to it. The goal of any good rat breeder is to breed mycoplasma resistant rats... I have NEVER had any problem with rat health besides this respiratory disease which often develops with old age in rescues or pet store rats, or rats keep in poor housing.
    My last two rescues died a horrific death gasping for air from it after emergency vet and antibiotics. Once it gets bad and you notice it, it goes down hill FAST. One day it can be minor sneezing, chattering, not being active, and then the next day gasping for air. The only other health problem I've had is mammary tumors, extremely common in female rats...
    I'll attach some links you can read up on Mycoplasma, its important to be educated on as a rat owner :) I have had many heart wrenching losses due to Mycoplasma and one day would like to have a c-section done to create a Mycoplasma free strain of rats (there are only 2 or 3 Mycoplasma free strains in existance, in research labs).

    As far as the cage goes, I'd decorate the rabbit looking cage you can buy with tons of toys and ledges. There are studies that show rats with enriched enviornments actually have different brains than those who are kept in a cage with no toys or enrichment! If you use the glass cage you need to clean it A LOT. I'd get a ton of hammocks from the pet store and some shoe boxes with blankets for them to hide in..

    Also bedding is a concern...even a slight amount of dust can cause a Mycoplasma flare up, believe it or not. Even that Care Fresh bedding won't do them any good. Use shredded paper, newspaper, and if you want to have a litter box use YESTERDAYS NEWS nothing else...I pour it in the litter box in a different room...I know I'm a freak, but wait till you lose a few to Mycoplasma, it is horrific. After losing my boy Monkey a few months ago, I am being EXTRA careful...

    My baby girl, Star, she was a rescue...dumped outside a feed store with her babies! She was outside of the box her babies were in and sat there in the rain until someone picked them up! I worked with a rat rescue at the time and adopted her. She was such a sweetie. Potty trained, came when she was called, slept with me, and cleaned my hands, face, and hair! She continously developed mammary tumors and eventually had to be PTS.
    [​IMG]
    Olympus 017 by ohmanlookatmylife, on Flickr

    Java, my other FAVORITE rat...I got her when she was 3 weeks old from the pet store. She also came when she was called, slept with me, potty trained, had free range of the house, etc. One day she started peeing blood and I took her to the emergency vet, 6 tumors the x-ray found at only 8 months old :( Due to horrific feeder breeding
    [​IMG]
    33ddd56c by ohmanlookatmylife, on Flickr

    And my baby Monkey
    [​IMG]
    Uno 020 by ohmanlookatmylife, on Flickr
    [​IMG]
    Uno 014 by ohmanlookatmylife, on Flickr
    [​IMG]
    Uno 003 by ohmanlookatmylife, on Flickr


    Here are some great articles on it...
    http://ratfanclub.org/resp.html
    http://www.ratbehavior.org/AmmoniaMyco.htm
    http://www.ratbehavior.org/Broderson1976.htm

    And the one good forum I have found so far...
    www.fancyrats.co.uk
    You have to go to the link to their new forum some where on there (I have to get back to my homework, just saw this thread at school and figured I could help a little!)
     
  14. *blackrose

    *blackrose "I'm kupo for kupo nuts!"

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    I'll definitely be sure to check their respiratory health when I pick them up tomorrow, but from what I am aware of, they are healthy. Can't say I've ever listened to them breath, but their eyes/nose are clear of any discharge, their coat and weight is good, and they're active.

    On that note, I'm picking them up tomorrow! :D
     
  15. ~Dixie's_Mom~

    ~Dixie's_Mom~ ♥Chloe & Violet♥

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    So excited for you! Please post pictures! I've always wanted a rat but my parents won't let me :(
     
  16. *blackrose

    *blackrose "I'm kupo for kupo nuts!"

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    No pictures yet (well, two crappy cell phone pictures but no way to upload them yet), but I has the rats! :D

    Picked them up yesterday afternoon. I had to take them in to work with me and everybody in the clinic was in love with them. The techs took turns carrying them around in their scrub pockets. :rolleyes: My boyfriend really likes them as well, and can't get over how big and friendly they are. He was used to a little speed demon gerbil, so these are a nice change of pace for him, as he likes to handle them and interact with them.

    We aren't 100% certain they can't get out of the wire cage as the bar spacing is an inch and the girls are rather small, so they're currently staying in my boyfriend's bin cage as it is way bigger than the tank they were in. We're hoping they don't decide to chew it, and we plan on rotating the wire and bin cage to give them different environments to play in and such, but they stay in the bin when we can't supervise. They're both in great health, super inquisitive, and really smart! Whenever they hear us talk or we walk by their cage they come over to investigate what is going on. I <3 them, and now I'm super bummed that mom never let me get rats before. Heck with dwarf hamsters, rats are much more fun. LOL I didn't realize their tails were so muscular and useful. I just thought they were kind of drug around with no purpose, but when you hold them they really use it as a form of balance.

    They're both dark chocolate and hooded. The bigger girl has more markings down her back, and we've named her Choco. The smaller girl with less markings has been named Bee. So we have Chocobee (Shin Chan reference), as well as a Chocorat (Fable III reference). :p
     
  17. ~Dixie's_Mom~

    ~Dixie's_Mom~ ♥Chloe & Violet♥

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    Lol love the names! I can't wait for pictures! I'm super jealous!
     
  18. PitBullLove

    PitBullLove Member

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    How are they
     
  19. *blackrose

    *blackrose "I'm kupo for kupo nuts!"

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    Some pictures I took! (Crappy cell phone pictures, sorry.)

    Choco says, "Hi!"
    [​IMG]

    Hi, again:
    [​IMG]

    Both of them (they loved that little tunnel/hammock thing):
    [​IMG]

    Now Bee says, "Hi!"
    [​IMG]

    Bee can indeed get out of the wire cage (we left them in it and went out last night, and when we came back Bee was running around on the table), so we'll only be using it as a playpen/exercise cage for when someone is home and awake to supervise. If we're out or asleep, they will be staying in the bin cage (and hopefully by switching them in and out, they won't get bored in the bin cage and decide to try to chew through it).

    We've also discovered that Bee is a LOT more spazzy than Choco. We had them out last night and were letting them run around on our laps and in the reach of our arms on the floor, and Choco was content to do a little exploring and a little chilling. Bee was on crack and tried to be everywhere at once.

    Mike loves them, though. He can't get over how intelligent they are, and how docile they are (compared to his gerbil).
     
  20. HayleyMarie

    HayleyMarie Like a bat outa' hell

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    aww they are adorable.

    I really want a pet rat, unfortunatly they are illegal to own in AB, but BC they are legal to own, but I have no idea what I would do with them when we go home to AB to visit family. :(

    They just seem like amazing, loving pets. And even if they dont live long. It sure seems worth it!
     

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