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Ratty people, scamper thus way....

(32 Posts)
QueenofLouisiana Fri 17-Apr-15 18:58:41

....and tell me about rats as pets. DS has almost finished the month of oet care he had to do in order to get his own pet. He wants rats (a pair).

I'm fine with that, but what will we need?

All advice welcomed.

RattieofCatan Fri 17-Apr-15 22:56:07

Hi Queen, your son has good taste! grin

You'll need a big cage for starters. The Ferplast Jenny is a common one, but aviaries are also brilliant cages. I have my two groups in Hamberley aviaries here we bought this initially for our girls as they were big plastic chewers and so plastic bottomed cages became unsuitable for them, but got one for the boys eventually too. Height is good for rats, they love to climb and climb well.

Next you'll need accessories, rats generally love hammocks and your cage will be full of them. We don't have shelves anymore, just hammocks. Ours range from lovely handmade hammocks like these (though we get most of ours from our breeder these days as she knows somebody who makes them and the profits go to her rodent rescue) to just old cut up t-shirts. We have a lot of fleece too, ikea sell a fleece blanket for £1.50ish which we stock up on every few months but we also use fleece on the bottom of the hamberley cages too instead of substrate. You need to cut big drops using hammocks or shelves really as they can get injured. We have a girl who is recovering from a broken wrist, we're assuming she fell. Last year she managed to sprain a wrist, break both and then break her hip within 6 weeks, mostly fluke! The hip I really have no clue what she did given that she was in isolation with me at the time!

Toys are great, if you want a wheel you need to go for one that is big, the silent spinner 12inch is quite good, but pricey. Ours use the wheels as glorified toilets tbh though, totally not worth it. We buy wood toys occasionally and wooden bird toys are great for rats. We make a lot of their toys though. Loo rolls get stuffed with treats, small boxes get stuffed with treats and closed, aboxes generally are thrown in for them to do with them what they will (usually tearing them apart and/or nesting in them!)

If you have a plastic tray type cage you'll need substrate, we use paper pellets for our loner's cage, some wood shavings can be okay (in the UK at least, it's to do with the wood used to make the shavings as the oils and phenols can be damaging to a rats respiratory tract) but a lot aren't so we avoided it until our boys became allergic to every other major substrate available including carefresh. Ratrations has a lot of substrate options that are similarly priced to shavings though. They do food too and are a good site for most things!

Foodwise you need to look into really. Most people I know follow the Shunamite and either make up their own or buy it from people who make it up. Just pellets aren't very interesting for rats but they can be fussy with muesli. I make my own mix and it's catered to my rats, over time I've worked out what they will and won't eat, I add things specific to their needs (older female, boys with constant URI problems, boy with epilepsy, etc) and it costs me around £60-100 every 5ish months I think using ratrations and buying cereals from lidl and asda. So not bad for 7 rats!

A large hamster cage is good for a hospital cage and/or travel cage. We have tonnes of the things now!

Finding a vet who has rodent experience or is a rodentologist now is good. We're lucky enough to have a rodentologist and she's fantastic. We've had to see her a lot!

Find a good breeder. The NFRS has a list of them. You may need to travel to get rats, we travelled 2/3 hours to get our boys (well, DP did! there were some closer but some weren't breeding at the time and others had waiting lists for their waiting lists!) but we got lucky the next time we got babies as we found an amazing breeder on our doorstep, if you're near Brighton I can wholeheartedly recommend her! Here is the FB group of my local breeder. It's worth joining as there are a lot of people with a lot of good knowledge all over the country on there.

I wouldn't recommend getting rescues as your first pair/trio. You don't know their history and they can be very difficult. They are very rewarding and my most rewarding rat was a rescue but it was hard work. I have 5 rats who I got as babies and have 2 rescues currently but had another too (the very rewarding one, she died last August from a tumour).

Look up the sounds of rats with Upper Respiratory Infections and read the symptoms lists. It's the most common illness in rats and whilst it can be mild and not need treatment, it's good to know when you need to seek treatment as it can kill them if it gets to the lungs and they can deteriorate fast. Another thing to know is that rats can get something called porphyrin. It can be caused by stress, irritation to their respiratory tract, URIs, etc. It can come from their nose or their eyes and it can look like blood as it's bright red. Do not panic if you see it, a lot of people do and it's perfectly normal! Though only once have I seen one of my rats get it from their eyes and it was a little weird!

Tumours are also common in rats, especially females. Usually they're benign and many rats live perfectly fine with them, but it's worth checking with vets how much an op to remove them would be in the event that you get one that needs removing. Spaying a female decreases the risk of them getting tumours if done before they are 12 weeks, but it's a choice you need to weigh up.

I'd consider getting three rats to start with. If there is an emergency or an accident you don't want to be left scrabbling around looking for a rat to join the rat left with little notice. It's not likely to happen but it can happen. Our Howl had to have his eye out at a young age, no more than 15 weeks IIRC, his brother poked it when they were play fighting and caused it to rupture. We honestly thought that he wouldn't survive the op. A year on he's fine thankfully! Had a few accidents since but nothing too major <<touches wood>>

There are differences between males and females usually. Bucks (males) tend to be lazier and more cuddly. Does (females) more energetic and hyper. But whilst I find my boys lazier, my two big bucks don't like cuddles. At all. They get forced into them for short periods but would rather explore. Our girls are more hyper but they will happily sit in a shirt or bra for a good hour having a cuddle. I have a runt boy as well who is very cuddly, but that's more because he's a runt than because he's male.

If you aren't fussy about colouring or varieties then you'll likely be able to skip the waiting lists a bit, as many rat owners have types that they are after. Like I know that my next baby will be a female silverfawn preferably and so I'm waiting for the second litter of them from my breeder (the first is due this week so it's a few months from now as DP has vetoed anymore for now!). Girls also seem to be more available down my way too, I think people prefer boys generally speaking.

The photo is of Ashi, my runt. He's my heart rat, absolutely love him!

Sorry for the essay, let me know if you need to know anything else!

QueenofLouisiana Sat 18-Apr-15 06:55:33

He's beautiful! Thank you for all that information. I'll have a look at the cage you suggest as I want a home for ratites to move into as soon as they come in, I would hate them to be stuck in a box while we set up (setting up for gerbils took seconds- rats need more organising by the sound of it!).

Do your rats have a play pen for playing outside the cage, which I have seen suggested elsewhere?

RattieofCatan Sat 18-Apr-15 08:41:40

You have to be weary of bar spacing for little ones and females. The cage I linked to has fine bar spacing, but some are too big and they can get out. That site is brilliant to buy things off of cheaply, but they do say some things are good for rats which really aren't (their wheels are my main concern, but some other things too).
Tbh, set up the first few times can take a while, but it gets quicker the more you do it. We use baby rings from amazon to hang hammocks but you can use pear clips (buy in bulk on eBay) too. With using fleece on our cage floor we use binder clips to hold it down, bought in bulk again. It can be expensive to set up depending on what you go for but easy to maintain after that.

We have a playpen but it only got used when they were tiny tbh! Our girls and Ashi free range. Complete freedom over our main living space. Or big boys did but we had aggression issues with our alpha and our breeder suggested not free ranging the alpha and it has helped. he's actually getting nneuttered on Tuesday as he has been gradually getting worse and its a last resort and hopefully he'll be able to free range again after that. Hes very sweet with us but bullies his brother way too much and accidental injuries have occurred! Its not common to need to get to that point though!

Another thing to be aware of is that rats nip, baby rats moreso. Its their way of exploring, like toddlers use their mouths. If they nip too hard then eeping at them helps them learn what you see as acceptable in terms of strength. Rats have amazing control over their teeth and the pressure they use, so them accidentally biting is not going to happen. Two of our girls like wrestling with us and nip our fingers during that, they rarely do it hard enough that it hurts these days as they know what they can get away with. Only one of our rats has ever broken the skin and that was one of our rescues, she was very protective over her sister when we got her and broke skin a few times! Now she's fine, still tetchy when tied but doesn't nip too hard.

RattieofCatan Sun 19-Apr-15 08:32:44

www.joinrats.com/EarningTrust/RatsUsingTeeth/

I thought I'd link that as somebody has just posted it to the fugly page, it's about rats and nipping and explains yet use much better than I did!

With toys, I forgot to say but googling "homemade rat toys" or ferret toys brings up loads of things suitable for both. Your son will probably enjoy making them too which is a bonus!

70isaLimitNotaTarget Sun 19-Apr-15 15:43:37

Very interesting link about the teeth Rattie (see , I didn't say biting grin )

All rodents (and lagomorphs, because rabbits don't come under the class of Rodent) have potential to bite and I am always very mis-trustful of these sellers (my main interest is guinea-pigs but I've kept mice too) who say "They never bite".

utter bollocks A bit misleading.
We've been "bitten" mainly it's an error when they smell food on skin and are disgusted when they find flabby old flesh not celery.
Or if we touched our boar on his right side, a warning 'snap' and if we ignored it, a kick and/or a bite.
They gnaw, that's just then expressing their interest and love (I hope)
And if they are ever picked up wrongly, though we do our level best to handle animals properly, if they feel threatened or unsafe, they may well bite.

My sow is a bit toothy, but as an adult, I am fine, a child might say "She bittt me"

Love the rat and broccili video , the owner of that hand deserves to get bitten.And peed on wink

RattieofCatan Sun 19-Apr-15 20:57:52

70 Yes, "they never bite" is misleading, they're very unlikely to bite still though. I think it depends on what people consider a bite though, I think a bite is a full on nom on a finger, everything else is a nip really! grin Even with Nibbles breaking the skin she was obviously not trying to hurt us seriously, she was warning us. But she had the potential to give us a nice proper bite!

I love the Dexter video, there's another two too grin Here's one:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=7C8OUBqc7t0

QueenofLouisiana Mon 20-Apr-15 07:09:05

Ooooh! Lots of ratty knowledge to learn from- thank you so much.

Has anyone got a Mamble 100 rat cage? If so, is it any good?

RattieofCatan Mon 20-Apr-15 07:23:40

That's similar to the one my boys go in when they stay with the rat sitter. It's a decent size, not ideal for height but the floor space is good! Height is difficult to get without going upwards of £60.

Cons of it would be that your son will need help cleaning it out most likely, the roof going back on can be a little fiddly (I had a cage with a similar roof, we'd get one side down and the other would dislodge!) but it's not too much of an issue. The rats may be able to figure out how to open the doors if they're clever enough. My boys can't because they're idiots a bit dumb wink I've only known of one rat to open doors like that and considering my breeder uses cages with similar doors for her babies and breeding pairs it's not a huge thing to worry about! Just something to bear in mind (adding a paperclip or binder clip will stop it opening if it becomes an issue).

RattieofCatan Mon 20-Apr-15 07:27:10

Funny how we were talking about nipping last night too, our new rescue gave DP a nice nip on the palm of his hand last night. His fault, she'd just had a dominance scuffle with our old girl, he was stroking her and then decided to tickle her belly hmm Bearing in mind that this girl has only just started letting us handle her and even then it's only really him allowed to, she doesn't like me! He's a twod. He also pokes his fingers through the bars at our old lady rescue, who was obviously fed through the bars before we got her as she grabs on very quickly when you poke her through the bars!

QueenofLouisiana Wed 22-Apr-15 21:09:19

Ratty house arrives tomorrow. grin
Ratties will settle in at the weekend. Yay!!

RattieofCatan Wed 22-Apr-15 21:33:42

Great! What did you go for in the end?

& have you managed to find a breeder or are you buying the ratties from a shop? Males or females? Are they babies or rescues? grin

My two big boys in the photos, Howl and Haku hammocking together and Howl with his bone grin

70isaLimitNotaTarget Wed 22-Apr-15 22:01:31

Awww they are so sweet, their cute little paws all tucked in .

Do your rats eat boiled eggs Rattie - I've ben told they peel them and eat them.

You could take a photo of them doing this (if they do) and post it.

Guinea pigs don't do holding or peeling grin

QueenofLouisiana Wed 22-Apr-15 22:02:13

No rescue ratties to be found locally, which is a shame as we'd prefer to be a forever home, just as we have been for Mutty Dog.

It looks as though these ones will be pet shop ratties, perhaps branching out to specialist types later if DS gets the rat bug.

We got them Mambles cage as it came within budget and gives space to put toys in. We have hammocks, tubs and an igloo- oh and a wheel. These rats will have a more comfy life than me grin

70isaLimitNotaTarget Wed 22-Apr-15 22:03:54

Was it Oreo that bit your DH ? Must be the name - my baby Oreo is the nippiest guinea-pig I've ever met. (Her cagemate is opposite)

I was trying to check her teeth today and she was "They're all ther Mother I'll prove it" OOuch.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Wed 22-Apr-15 22:10:22

Queen we used to have a really good local Petshop, they handled the animals regularly.
The owner let my DS cuddle one of their rats (they recommended boys as they're lardier)

We ^don't6 have rats but I think with most rodenty types the boys are cuddlier if a bit stinkier, though that depends alot on their cage hygiene too.

Whenever we see male rats in Petshops, they're always sleeping like Ratties boys photo. The girls are swinging round like Total Wipeout grin

RattieofCatan Wed 22-Apr-15 22:51:43

70 we gave them boiled eggs last week for the first time. The girls fought over them but three seemed to try to eat the egg without destroying the shell, then Zhaan came and smashed the two eggs to pieces grin

Ashi wasn't interested in the egg piece I gave him and the big boys just ate what they could between snatching pieces off of each other. None of them were able to break the shell without help though.

It was Oreo who nipped DP, she did it again last night which he's unimpressed with. We are so complacent having had 6 rats who just haven't nipped in ages that we've both "forgotten" how to be wary around a new rat blush It's just getting back into the habit of not constantly touching/playing with her and giving her space until she's settled. The four girls are still working out the heirarchy so it may be a while!

Queen I'd actually say it's better to have non-rescues first, rescues can have issues and it can put you off of rats for life trying to deal with a nippy, stressed and scared creature who seems to be terrified of you!

Where in the country are you? There will likely be an NFRS breeder near you. All fancy rats are the same breed, they just have different varieties (colours and patterns). You'll get more standard varieties with breeders and mismarked rats from hobby breeders/pet shops usually, but the opposite can happen depending on the parentage of the babies!

A pet shop rat is (theoretically) more likely to get ill and more likely to have behavioural issues, purely because of their upbringing.
However, saying that, one of my pet shop rescues (Nibbles, the one I've had for a year) has never had to see the vet and whilst she was nippy when we got her, after a few months of work she's now the sweetest girl! I know people who have gotten pet shop rats who are lovely from the beginning, and my two oldest boys are from a breeder who is supposedly one of the best in the country, but both are quite stand-offish behaviour-wise. I would always advise NFRS breeders if possible, but with time and effort all rats can be lovely companions smile

QueenofLouisiana Thu 23-Apr-15 07:17:22

I've found a local breeder and will contact them- our rural location made me worry about transporting poor ratties for miles, but actually it's only 6 miles or so. The are on the NFRS site so I hope they are good.

DH still not totally sold on the idea- despite looking at all your beautiful photos. However, he wasn't sold on guineas or gerbils before we had those either smile

RattieofCatan Thu 23-Apr-15 08:41:06

Oh dont worry about travelling! Ours come to and from our parents often, a three hour drive! They're good travellers really smile

rattie, such gorgeous pictures! Im getting rat envy from this thread.

Good luck with your local breeder queen We wanted to venture into rats, maybe. Our locals breeders which I found on the NFRS site don't seem to reply to any form of communication (bar one- I contacted 4) and she won't have any kittens any time soon, maybe late autumn. Sorry to jump into your thread, I am having a day of frustration over trying to choose pets and we have almost given up on rats for not being able to get any and turning to guineas or rabbits sad We're north west.

RattieofCatan Thu 23-Apr-15 19:46:52

dreaming That sucks sad We had similar issues with our most local breeders which is how we ended up getting our first pair from so far away! It may be worth asking local pet shops where they get theirs from, some are stocked by local breeders who may not be NFRS, but are better than where the pet chains tend to get their rodents from. Then you can go to those breeders directly.

These are my three from my local breeder. I'm very lucky. She's having an open day/Show on Sunday which I'm really looking forward too grin The two girls, Zhaan and Aeryn (Aeryn is the brown, Zhaan the black) are actually Ashi's big sisters too, the girls are from the same litter and Ashi was born a few months later.

QueenofLouisiana Thu 23-Apr-15 21:53:13

More ratties! Very cute faces. Rat cage, wheel and bedding here- do you want to place bets on how long it will take me to put it together?

70isaLimitNotaTarget Thu 23-Apr-15 22:21:05

Your rattie boy was just born to pose for photographs wasn't he? grin

"Quick, Camera" the rats chortle "Look cute"
"Okay Dokey"

Seems a long time ago that your two boys escaped behind the fridge (little toads) .smile

RattieofCatan Fri 24-Apr-15 08:09:23

The cage is a bitch the first time! Have fun ;)

Ashi really is a poser, he is so easy to photograph. Withte others its luck, but with him you can just get a good photo every time.

It was January last year that Howl got behind the fridge! We'd had him for a few hours and he hadn't even set foot in his cage yet grin We've finally fixed the spot he got through too, a year later hmm and he is still troublesome!

MrsTrentReznor Fri 24-Apr-15 08:22:21

Oh god I miss my boys. sad
I spoke to you about rodentologists in Essex ages ago Ratty (probably a different name... grin )
Did you use them at all?
One day I'm going to get gorgeous squishy boysies again. I shall have a heated room with tubes all over it and several squishes lazing about. smile I can daydream...

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