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Rat owners - how much freeranging time do yours have?

(12 Posts)
Indiestarr Mon 19-Sep-11 14:03:42

My DD has two little girl rats - one is 12 weeks and the other is 6 weeks. We did have another one that was 12 weeks but unfortunately she met with an accident when freeranging in our dining room/kitchen in spite of constant vigilance. So I am very nervous the whole time they are freeranging and would like to restrict it somehow. But my DD, who is 8, wants to get them out all the time and have them wherever she is. We're keeping them well away from the dining room now and I would really like to just let my DD play with them in the bathroom but she is reluctant to shut herself away in there on her own for too long and wants them in the living room, which neither myself or my DP are keen on. I want them to have adequate time out of the cage so they don't get bored and I also want my DD to bond with them and enjoy them as pets but I don't want to feel nervous the whole time. How do other rat owners manage this?

notjustme Tue 20-Sep-11 22:29:15

In hindsight, you should have got boys as opposed to girls - I breed pet rats and I'd think twice about homing girl rats with any child younger than teens, unless they were REALLY rat-savvy. They are just too active and too good at getting themselves into trouble really.

The best way to deal with this would be to build them a playpen. Go and buy 4 or 6 sheets of mdf at least 3ft high and some duck tape. tape all the sheets together using the duck tape to form a sort of movable 'hinge' (i.e. don't overlap the sheets). The idea being that you are creating a flexible, flat-packable smooth sided playpen big enough for your daughter to sit in or next to, but high enough that they can't climb out. A minimum of 3ft is a must as rats can jump less than 3ft with little difficulty.

With this type of playpen you can then have them in the living room without causing nightmare issues like chewing or them getting stuck behind furniture. put a rug down on the floor and fill it with toys (empty cardboard boxes etc) and they'll be perfectly happy in there.

The simple answer to your question is that rats need as much handling and time out of the cage as you can manage to give them with a minimum of 20 minutes handling time per day.

I can thoroughly empathise with her reluctance to free range in the bathroom - I don't like it either!

notjustme Tue 20-Sep-11 22:35:08

By the way, it's also worth saying that 6 weeks is also very young for free ranging, and even 12 weeks I'd be iffy about. If they haven't bonded with your DD or you at this stage then I definately wouldn't advocate unrstrained free ranging. With kids I always recommend investing in either a ratty old dressing gown or making a carry bag or safe bag like an old pillowcase or similar. Get her to sit on the sofa or somewhere equally comfy, with the rats on her lap, in the dressing gown or in the bag, where they feel safe and protected. It;s important that rats learn that you and your DD are safe places when they are in danger as opposed to just frantically dashing about when scared and putting themselves in the path of trouble. The playpen will help with this too, but I would be concentrating on getting them bonded with your DD at the age the rats are - they are babies at their age and (assuming they are from a pet shop) there is so much in life they've never seen before.

Indiestarr Wed 21-Sep-11 07:19:26

Hi notjustme, thanks for the great advice. The playpen is a fantastic idea. That would definitely solve a lot of problems. The rats are from a reputable breeder rather than a pet shop and the 12 week one is very confident and well and truly bonded with my DD. We only got the 6 week old one on Sunday so she hasn't been out much at all. I'll hunt out an old dressing gown as I can see this would be a useful thing to have. Thanks for the help!

notjustme Wed 21-Sep-11 11:41:44

Well done for getting them from a reputable breeder - it's rare I get that as an answer! It's good that they are confident (though I still wouldn't be letting them free range, only because they are just very small, very quick, and inexperienced at the dangers of life and as you've discovered it takes only one misplaced foot or piece of furniture or hole in the floorboards for a rat to be dead or lost). Let them grow with each other for a bit and use a playpen, when they are bigger (physically) and your DD has got more experience of keeping them under control (believe me, that's what keeping girl rats is about!) then she'll probably want to have them out of the playpen but until then the playpen is the optimal choice for keeping everyone happy. Not to mention if you can get them litter trained (hit and miss but definately a possibility) they could be in the playpen for however long your DD wanted providing they have a source of food and water.

Indiestarr Wed 21-Sep-11 13:30:04

Thanks, that all sounds really workable. They are sort of litter trained and they have a litter box in their cage, so I could use that. Wish I'd been better prepared from the start - it's been such a big learning curve.

sprinkles77 Wed 21-Sep-11 13:55:40

be careful. I had freerangeing females. Once I couldn't catch one and she stayed out all night. She was back in her cage in the morning, but 3 weeks later there were babies.

notjustme Wed 21-Sep-11 15:19:06

I've been breeding rats since 2004 and I'm still learning Indiestarr smile

Sprinkles77 - you must have been incredibly unlucky for her to be on heat AND have her manage to find a wild rat on the same day!

sprinkles77 Wed 21-Sep-11 15:53:14

I think she went out looking! Was living in a horrible student house, so would have been lucky not to have found a wild rat!

notjustme Wed 21-Sep-11 16:04:05

What a little mare! What were the babies like temperament wise? I've never had half-wild babies here myself but I know it's happened before for others and the babies definately had an inherent 'aloof' wildness to them.

sprinkles77 Wed 21-Sep-11 19:55:19

Frankly, they were a bit feral. Mother was not the best natured rat I've ever had (not bitey just not that cuddly compared to some).

lljkk Wed 28-Sep-11 19:46:58

Were babies the only visitors? She didn't come up with any extra crawlies? I'd be afraid of Weil's disease after contact with a wild ratty, sorry.

Our free-range rats did A LOT of damage, I just didn't have time to be that vigilant.

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