Get rid of your cat if you own one, or put your new pet’s cage…

Get rid of your cat if you own one, or put your new pet’s cage where the cat can’t reach it. But seriously, just get rid of the cat. Anyways…..Pet rat! He will be trained to do tricks, he will love you, he will sit on your shoulder. But before you get him, get rid of all mouse traps! You want a female, because she can learn any trick very fast, so she’ll sit on your shoulder in no time at all. She’s going to be tough, fierce, and adventurous. You must remember to spay her. You may consider getting a male, but you should not. The males are lazy bums that will not work for anything. He could be stabbed and not bother to move until it’s too late. Yes, do remember to spay her, because if she goes for an adventure and finds a “friend,” she may have up to 12 babies every 4 weeks! And you must, must spay her, she may eat her babies if you do not! Your rat may live for 5-6 years. Be prepared to say goodbye after about 1800 love and fun filled days. You should buy your rat from a responsible rat breeder. But her as a baby to get the lifelong rat pal experience. You may name her things like Chopsticks, Wombat, or Tongs for no reason if you chose. You may name her Twitch, Blinky, or Gobble because of the things she does. You may name her Abigail, Brittney, or Maybelle because she is like your human pal. You may also name her Rasty, Mouser, or Cheese because of what animal she is. Another great name choice is things like GusGus from Cinderella, PipSqueak from ZhuZhuPets, or something similar. You will also need to spend some moola moola on her essential needs.You may also, if desired, spend a small fortune on her essential and not-so essential needs. First off, she will need someplace to spend time. Call this her hut, of if you chose the path of the small fortune, (the path of the SF, as we’ll call it.) If you chose SF, you can instead get her a sanctuary. Buy a large cage with solid flooring, levels, and ramps. Wire flooring is painful for your rat.The bar spacing should be no more than half an inch, and the bars themselves should be powder coated to avoid rat urine corroding the bars. If the spaces between bars are larger than that, chicken wire can be used to close the gaps. Rats are excellent jumpers and climbers and should be able to execute their acrobatics in their cage without flying through the bars.

An alternative is a perspex or plastic house, such as Rotastak cage. These usually have a colored base (which helps the rat feel more secure) and clear walls so that you can see your pets. They are designed to be interconnect with other units so that you can build a complex and interesting rat city for your pets. The rats can also be restricted to one area while you clean the other attachments. Cleaning perspex or plastic is easy because of the flat surfaces (rather than all the nooks and crannies in chicken wire or metal bars). You are also going to need something to hold Squeak’s food and water. (We’ll pretend her name is Squeak for now.) You must get a sipper bottle, say, plain pink colored, and fill it with water. Put that in Squeak’s cage if you are taking the NSF (Non- small fortune) path. If you are taking the SF path, buy her a designer water dish and put that in her cage. Also in the SF path, buy her a matching designer food dish. If your going with the NSF path, just buy her a small plastic or ceramic food dish.You will now need to get her some bedding. The bottom of the cage should be lined with a soft, absorbent material. Use a wood-shaving bedding found at a pet store for your cage’s bedding. Be sure you’re not using pine, aspen, or cedar shavings, though, because the fumes from the shavings mixed with rat urine can be fatal for your pets. Pine, aspen, and cedar are dusty and contain oils that can cause respiratory irritation and breathing difficulties. Such bedding materials should be avoided. Fleece or towels are okay, but they are not recommended as it can get smelly and you need to wash them a few times a week. You can also purchase paper shavings, but it is expensive and smells. Newspaper is a good option and very good for the environment, but the ink could stain light colored rats. Hay smells really bad when mixed with urine as well. Another good option is Carefresh, a reclaimed cellulose bedding available in many pet stores, or recycled newspaper bedding like Yesterday’s News. Don’t use your paper shredder and just shred your own paper, though–some of the ink can potentially cause illness in rats. In her cage you must provide her with a nest. Nests are used for sleeping or alone time. You can either buy the typical plastic houses that are commonly found in pet stores if you want to take the NSF path or you can get wicker balls that have a entrance holes. These more closely mimic what a rat would choose in the wild, and you should chooses them in you are taking the SF path. Little Squeak will need a potty. Just like dogs, rats don’t like to soil their sleeping and eating quarters, and you can use this to your advantage by providing a rat toilet. Rat toilets are small plastic boxes with an entrance hole. You can purchase the rat equivalent of kitty litter and put about an inch in the bottom of the rat toilet. Place the toilet in the opposite corner to the nest and food bowls. Most rats quickly work out what the box is for and are delighted to have a place to go and keep the rest of their accommodations clean. For best results, wait and see if your rats choose a corner of the cage to ‘go,’ before placing the litter box. However, not all rats are quite so neat, so just placing it in can also work. Rat toilets also make cleaning their cages easier, because every couple of days you can simply empty out the toilet, disinfect it with a spray disinfectant that is non toxic to small pets, and refill it with rat litter. Buy toys for your rat. Supplement your cage with toys, hammocks, and places to hide.Rats love to be busy and will play with toys while you’re away. Toilet paper rolls, small stuffed cat toys, ping-pong balls, hammocks… rats love to play, and anything will suffice to entertain them. Find little trinkets (not too little, though, or your rates might swallow or choke on them) around the house to decorate and make their cage look like a home. Don’t put things like yarn or string in for toys–they can choke your rats. Use common sense when choosing toys and make sure your rats will be safe with the item in the cage. Obviously, chose the biggest and best toys for your rat if you’re choosing the SF path, but for the NSF path, you can settle for just “eh” toys. You obviously know to feed and water Squeak, clean her cage, take her to the vet when sick, play with her, etc. Have fun with Squeak!

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Alana Wood
2 years ago

This was very good to learn, and must have took a very long time to do, but I was wondering if you could give us mice tips?

Kelly Furgason
5 years ago

Very informative for all the new comers for rats…great job!
~kelly