Have possibly narrowed it down to rats, but have some cage questions

(5 Posts)
ImpYCelyn Sun 23-Oct-16 08:52:17

Hello,

The boys are desperate for a pet, but I firmly believe children don't get pets, adults do (much like they were desperate for a baby sibling, ultimately our choice and responsibility wink). Unfortunately for them I have issues with animals. I'm scared of dogs after two nasty incidents when I was a child. I'm allergic to most cats apart from one specific breed, which are hard to find from a reputable source, and can have problems. I'm allergic to GPs. Mice and gerbils really don't do it for me. Chickens and rabbits are common outdoor animals here, and a dwarf rabbit is a possibility, they don't really play. Also there are weasels locally, and I'm very worried about potentially putting an animal at risk. And I've had fish, but if I'm honest I found them dull. So I would like a pet which is none of those, which can be fun for me for the boys, has a personality, family friendly etc.

So I think rats could be it. In which case we'd be looking at getting three from a reputable source. I think preferably female. Although I'm not mad keen on animals I have a similar approach as to children, I want them to be happy, healthy, and to do my best for them. So, realistically what size cage should we be looking at? I would rather wait and save to buy a bigger one, than just buy a small one cos we can and need a bigger one. Also, what do we need to equip it with to have happy rats? I don't just mean bedding, but for them to play with? Higher is better, I think I read?

I'm also looking for advice on where to keep them. Not the boys' room as I'll be doing most of the work, but also because I don't trust them not to leave something close to the cage which could be eaten or hurt them. I've read they don't really like sudden noise, or loud noise, so the playroom is a no. We have a wood burning stove in our living room. It's our main source of heating and the room can get very warm. I've read rats can overheat, at what sort or temperature? Also, can they be trained to avoid it when they're out? I don't want them to get burnt sad

Finally, we live in the middle of the countryside, and in the past we have had rodents in the house (not the pet kind). Mice, and I think voles once. We haven't had any for at least a year, we changed doors and windows (some of the house had basically barn doors to theoretically separate areas, but there were connecting doors). Could that pose a threat to the rats? I'm guessing there could be communicable illnesses or parasites? They shouldn't get in again, but you never know... or would the smell of rats put them off?

Sorry if these are stupid questions. I am on overthink. But I'd also rather never have pets than do it badly, or just assume it'll be fine because they're cute and we've shoved a cage somewhere.

Oh, can you get pet insurance for rats?

Thank you so much!!

ImpYCelyn Sun 23-Oct-16 09:27:28

Oh, would the utility room be a possibility? It en route to other parts of the house, so they wouldn't be shut out there and ignored. Or would the noise of the washing machine etc annoy them? It would be cooler than the living room.

RattieOfCatan Mon 24-Oct-16 12:10:15

Rats are lovely pets, good choice wink

You've obviously read up a bit already which is great. Cage-wise: as large as you can get away with basically. Some things are down to personal preferance though.

Aviaries make brilliant rat cages, they're big, tall so lots of climbing space, all metal so no chance of chewing to escape, generally cheaper than specific rodent cages and the bar spacing is usually consistent. However aviaries usually need fleece or another fabric instead of substrate as the bottom of the cage is usually bars. This can lead to more frequent changing of the fleece, slightly smellier cages and if you have rats that like to pull at fabric, rats under the lining of the cage which is fine but can be annoying. We used to buy binder clips in bulk to hold fleece down and the girls would still go underneath it.

Rodent cages are hit and miss but you just have to be a bit more careful with purchasing decisions. Many just aren't big enough, or the bar spacing is all wrong for young rats/females and there is a risk of plastic chewers chewing a hole through the cage. However they can hold substrate well and they are designed for rodents. The Ferplast Jenny is the bog standard rat cage that pet shops stock, it's expensive for what it is IMO but it is a decent size for a small mischief, well reviewed and easy to find. I've never had one but I'd heard that it's fine.

Savic do one called the Zeno 3 which is a good size and we've heard great things about it, planned to buy it ourselves tbh. We had a Coco Rat cage which was the same size but a bit shorter, so we were looking at a sideways switch really as our Coco was old, a bit broken and I was really struggling to clean it out as the metal frame just falls apart as soon as you lift it and as I was getting bigger (pregnant) I couldn't actually put the metal frame back onto the base without help. The coco is a fair sized cage though, especially for the relatively low cost, but has wide gaps at the sides, we had our smallest adult female (300g) in it for a while and she never escaped, but I think that's as much because she wasn't interested in trying to escape! I think she could have if she wanted too!

The Furet Tower is a popular cage, this was another one we seriously considered though our breeder had nothing good to say about it, apparently cleaning it out is a tad difficult, which is something we read from a lot of reviews and was a key reason why we didn't bother in the end.

One of the best cages available cages in the UK is the Savic Royal Suite, we upgraded to this in September and I do not regret it, but it's got a hefty price tag. At the moment zooplus is selling it for £200 which is a great price for it, we paid £240 for it from them, and you can get cashback from TCB on your first purchase at zooplus too. You do not want to try sourcing a second hand one unless you know what you're doing with refurbing a cage for rodents: we made that mistake this summer, got a second hand one and it was in a worse state than we or the owners could originally tell (they are people we trust and sold it to us for much less than they could have gotten for it so we trust them!) and, unfortunately, it needed sand blasting, something we don't have the tools to do and to do it would have put our expenditure on the cage up too high. So we caved and bought a brand new one.

It's piss easy to clean out, I'm 8.5 months pregnant and am able to strip it, scoop out the majority of the substrate, get the trays out, wipe the whole thing down and get the trays back in ready to redo the cage in less than 15 minutes per section. It'd be less if I didn't have the little sods running around my ankles as I did it grin It can hold a lot of rats, we have 3 boys in the top and 5 girls in the bottom at the moment. I will say that the substrate flies out easily though, we have to hoover around the cage most days but it doesn't take long. I have been told that B&Q do cement trays that fit exactly for under £20 which have higher sides but I haven't bothered as our Henry sits a metre from the cage, so I just plug it in and quickly sort it. It is an investment cage though so you need to know that you really want rats or other large rodents in future! You can sell them on for a good amount when you're done, not many come up second hand and when they do they're often gone within hours of being posted, I've heard of people travelling from Brighton to the Midlands to pick these things up before.

We've also owned a Fiesty Ferret, which we did have a baby rat in, the bar spacing was possibly slightly too wide but again, she never bothered trying to get out (our smallest girl actually!). It was a pig to clean out as you had to lift the trays up and onto their sides to get them out of the door, only one side of the front actually opened. It was wired on the bottom so needed fleece, but using binder clips to keep it down was virtually impossible as they'd get the whole tray stuck, but without them the rats pulled it up in minutes. We switched to vetbed when using it but even that was a pain as food gets caught in it.

We've had this before too which I can highly recommend, the hamberley aviary, however it's a tall cage and I would have old rats in it as I'd be worried about them falling! We bought a second one as we liked it so much though and did plan to take out the mesh on one side of each and put them together, though plans had to change unfortunately! I'd seriously consider doing that again had we not got the SRS tbh!

We have had plastic chewers in the past which is why I have gone through a few different all-metal cages!

You'll also want to think about getting a second, smaller and preferably single level cage as a hospital cage, just in case you ever have one that breaks a bone or injures themselves in another manner. Breaks and sprains heal very fast, but they are prone to reinjuring themselves by continuing to climb around despite their injury because they're stupid like that sometimes so if you have a particularly tall cage especially, you'll want something shorter to stop them doing that. We have loads of spare cages for all sorts of reasons. We have a tiny cage that was bought as an emergency hospital cage back when one of our first pair had a freak accident, but now gets used a lot as a short-term cage as it's slightly bigger than a carrier and has a flat bottom, so it just fits our five girls in together. It gets used for short periods like going on a drive, going to the vets, keeping them contained if I'm cleaning the cage and they're being particularly mischievous, etc. It's tiny so not at all suitable for more than that, but I actually use it very regularly! I have a Mamble 80 which is a great holiday cage, the Mamble 100 is a better size though admittedly, but it's fine for a week for two or three rats if you are taking them to somebody else to look after. The Grosvenor is the biggest single level cage you can reasonably get a hold of, or it was when we needed one for a special needs boy who couldn't have a higher cage.

A note about the Little Pet Warehouse: It has a lot of things on it that it claims are suitable for rats, do not buy anything from them without checking that they actually are suitable though! A lot of their wheels spring to mind but some other bits and pieces on there are dubious, they're really good otherwise, very cheap, deliver very promptly, they just have low standards for suitability!

RattieOfCatan Mon 24-Oct-16 12:59:30

RE your other questions:
No point getting insurance for rats tbh. We put aside the same amount each month and unless you're particularly unlucky like us you shouldn't really have to spend much, just be prepared to spend if you need too. I try to keep a minimum of £50 per rat in reserve for vet trips, but £150-200 in the bank is a good amount to have sitting for a pair or trio IMO, I have 8 now which is why I aim for slightly less! It's enough to cover three emergencies and a standard trip or two!

Things to be aware of with rats and illnesses/injuries:
Respiratory problems are common, generally, mild respiratory problems they can be left untreated and they'll resolve themselves, like a human with a cold. Equally, they can get worse very quickly. If it's a very quiet noise when they're breathing and slight porphyrin it's worth leaving for a day or so to see if it's actually a problem or if it's a reaction to something (weather changes, temperature changes, substrate changes, stress, moves, new rats, etc can all trigger respi issues). If the rat is breathing audibly, particularly rattling noises, you need to see a vet ASAP. Young and generally well rats recover from respi problems within a day or so when treated, but untreated can lead to bigger problems. We were hyper vigilant of respiratory problems when we first got rats, especially because our first pair were constantly ill with them, but now we have experience with them we're more comfortable making judgements about whether it does need treatment or not and working out whether it's actual illness or reactions to things.

Mammary tumours are common in rats too, particularly females. Spaying before 12 weeks can reduce the frequency of these but it's a very personal decision. You can get tumours removed but again, that's another very personal decision. Some will, some won't bother. We had a rescue operated on and they came back within weeks, but they were cystic tumours. She was operated on a second time but not a third and we had her PTS. We have one with numerous tumours now, after the first experience we decided to leave it to see how it developed, only for her to get two more very soon after. She's over two so isn't exactly a spring chicken, which has lead us to decide not to have her operated on as it holds higher risks for older rats and they don't recover so quickly and these things have a high recurrance rate, which we feel may be much more stressful for her. She's comfortable and happy at the moment and we'll leave her until she's not, at which point we'll have her PTS. If she wasn't nearly two when she got the first one I likely would have had her operated on though. Both of these girls came from pet shops originally (we rescued them).

Sprains and breaks are also common injuries for rats. The only thing that a vet can do is provide painkillers and they heal extroudinarily fast. One of our younger girls sprained or broke her wrist in September, I took her to the vet for painkillers and she was fine in a few days. Last week one of our older girls broke her foot quite badly and I just gave her some leftover painkillers and she was fine within a few days too gave me a hefty nip for trying to look too the grumpy cow.

I don't know if outside rodents would pose an issue, accidental breedings between wild rats and pet rats happen occasionally but I've not heard of illnesses being transferred, I'd be wary though.

I wouldn't free range my rats in a room with a wood burning stove tbh, just through sheer fear that they'd do something stupid. I think they would probably avoid it as they probably would realise it's too hot, but I still wouldn't risk it.

They can overheat, but a normal house temperature would be fine IMO. This summer ours turned into puddles in the heat but it was ridiculously hot.

A playroom would be fine I would think, unless your children are particularly screechy. Though can you trust them to leave the rats alone if not supervised? And can you trust their friends to not poke their fingers in the bars? Whilst many rats won't nip through the bars, some will. Three of our eight will properly grab a finger and could potentially break skin if it's poked at them through the bars, they are all well bred rats who wouldn't nip ordinarily and who we have never fed through the bars, but they would anyway. DH often does it to those three and gets grabbed slightly more painfully than usual hmm twat wink

Utility room may be worth a try as well, but you'd have to make sure that you have a space to free range them too as you don't want them to find a way under your washing machine! I can't imagine that the noise would be too much of an issue unless it was on very often?!

ImpYCelyn Mon 24-Oct-16 13:55:50

Wow Rattie, thank you so much for such detailed answers. That must have take you ages!! flowersflowers

The boys aren't screechy, just a bit loud. But they're pretty trustworthy, the eldest takes things very seriously, so I think they'd be okay. So perhaps we could keep the big cage there and remove to smaller cage elsewhere if other littles were in the house... I was also worried as DC3 is due, but I can't abide small children annoying animals and 1&2 know it's zero tolerance, so hopefully 3 will fall in. Hardly going to be left unsupervised for a good long while though!

We've never had wild rats (thank goodness!!), and haven't seen anything for a while, so we'll keep an eye out, but should be fine.

I'm going to reread all that again and look at the links. Thank you!!

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