Any rat owners?
Moms View Message Board: General Discussion: Archive October 2006:
Any rat owners?
We've decided not to get the beagle right now, mostly due to all the construction and upheaval going on right now, but my oldest dd would like a pet to be her own. She'd like a rat and we have a friend that has owned several and is very positive about her experience with them. DH and I would like to get her one tomorrow and surprise her with it. Is there anything in particular we should know before we buy it and are there any specifics about what we should buy as far as food, bedding and cage size? We'll be getting everything for it at once so if there is a type of bedding that isn't good for them or a particular food that is best I'd like to know now before we spend a fortune on the wrong things tomorrow. TIA
Scott works with lab rats all day every day. I will ask him when I get home tonight. (He also has a few in a cage in his rooms, and they seem very healthy.) I remember that my ex brought home a white rat from an exhibition he attended and we kept it in a hamster cage quite nicely for as long as it lived (they are not long-lived). The only thing was, we had to put a small padlock on the door so my then 4 year old wouldn't let the rat out, as we had a cat.
We don't have any intentionally, but I would be happy to send you the ones that destroyed our hot tub and chewed the wires in my car. As for bedding, they really like the insulation found in hot tubs. ;)
By what my FIL says don't get a male... They have rather large "manhood" that is very visible as they get older and I doubt that you want to explain that to your dd right now. But he has had many rats as pets and absolutely loves them. He says they are easy to train and tend to be clean.
He likes using an aquarium as the cage but I am not sure if that is because it is better or because that is what he already had.
We have friends that own a rat. They really seem to enjoy her. They also have their's in an aquarium. I really don't know much else about them.
Eeew, Melanie! No, thank you!
Tara, I've heard the same and remember our 6th grade class rat had that issue. It still gives me the creepy-crawlies to think of that. I've also heard males are more aggressive so we'll stick with a female.
Oh and another thing my DH just told me. Cedar Chips for bedding because they like to dig and burrow sometimes. He says that when he lived with his parents over the years they had many rats and with males they are only more aggressive if you have 2 males in a cage together (then they fight for about 5 seconds and they are done).
As for what to feed them, they will eat absolutely anything. He said that they had rat food (I guess you can buy it at the pet store) but they also gave the table scraps sometimes too.
If you have more questions let me know and I can get DH or DFIL to answer them.
OK, here's what Scott says (and he has been working with lab rats - white rats - for about 7 years. The comments in brackets [ ] are mine.
lifespan: ideally, 2 years.
max weight: about a pound, maybe bigger.
intelligence: may be trained to respond to name, provided that it's a short name. Won't always come when called. Extensive training can yield surprising results. They're pretty smart and inquisitive, but not terribly loyal.
Pups can be sexed at birth; gender is obvious by one month of age.
weaning age: one month.
diet: ideally, rodent chow (25% protein). Avoid meats and dairy as staple. Nuts, vegs, fruit OK. No caffeine or chocolate [generally no sweets - overweight rats are unhealthy rats]. Avoid onions, garlic, leeks, &c. No particular requirement for vit. C, D as in other rodents. Water all the time; bottles are preferable to water dishes [because the water stays clean and doesn't get splashed around the cage or become a swimming pool or pose a drowning risk]. Peanut butter, sunflower seeds and cooked bacon (in the tiniest, tiniest amounts) can be used as training incentives.
housing: one or two rats can live comfortably in a 10-gallon terrarium cage. A hide box should be provided. [Scott took a rectangular 1 pt plastic milk bottle, cut one side off, cut a hole in one end and completely cut off the other end, putting the open end near the back wall of the terrarium cage. That way it can be washed. They really need a hide box or they can panic if they don't have a place to hide.] Exercise wheels won't get much traffic. Crawl tubes (inside diameter appropriate to size) are more fun than wheels. A hard wood chew block should be provided. [Scott tells me rats teeth keep growing throughout their lives and they need the chewing block to wear them down. If they are not kept worn down to a reasonable size they will keep growing, can curve and pierce the animal's mouth.]
bedding: plain wood chip is recommended. Cedar and scented wood chip have been linked to various pathologies; ask for details. If you don't like the smell of the cage, change it more frequently. Wire mesh flooring not recommended [their feet and/or nails can get caught in the mesh and can result in a broken limb or torn out nail]. [It's good to have a container of some kind you can put the rats in while you are cleaning their cage - a large plastic bucket that you can put a lid on works, with some litter in it so they can burrow and feel safe.]
This to watch out for: malocclusion: bent teeth. Rodents' teeth are constantly growing. If they don't have something to chew on, their teeth can outgrow their mouths. Crooked teeth may curve back into the mouth and make eating difficult at best.
parasitology: mites, pinworms, fleas, enteroparasites. Talk to a vet.
signs of disease: red, crusty eyes or nose
unkempt fur (this may also be seen on old and/or overweight rats that can't lick their backs) dull, flat or cloudy eyes salivation, nasal discharge, diarrhea, anorexia/weight loss rats <4 months old: circular constrictive lesions on the tail may result from high humidity (less than 30%) ("ring-tail"). Treat with topical humectants at first sign. Advanced cases may require amputation. (Spinal Sx; don't even think of trying this at home - it is a job for a vet or vet tech.)
Ginny says: I would strongly recommend going with only females. Two males will sometimes fight. A male and a female - well, the gestation period for rats is about 21 days, and a normal litter can run up to 12. No thanks! And, you should definitely have two or three - a single rat gets lonely and a bit looney sometimes.
Here's an interesting web site I found also, that your daughter might enjoy reading. Rat FAQs
Do note what the web site says about where to get your rats. If you do go to a pet store, I would recommend one of the larger chains, like PetSmart, that works with animal shelter groups. I don't know how you would find a breeder.
I had a rat as a teenager, and she was the best! So smart and clean! I had all kinds of rodents (mice, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, a chipmunk... ) the rat was far superior in behavior and cleanliness, but not as cuddly as perhaps a hamster. I would also get a female, to keep the odor down. Let's face it...males are smelly, no matter what breed they are!
I was told at the pet store to not use cedar chips b/c the aromatic oils were overpowering for the small rodents and could harm them. They said to always use the aspen chips or that other bedding stuff. The wood chips are comparably priced. That other bedding they sell is a bit more expensive.
Thanks for all the info. I can't wait to see her face when she sees all the stuff we've gotten for it.
We've never had a rat, but we have a guinea pig (which I highly recommend) and we HAD a bunny for nine years.
I think rats are cute in the pet store, but I couldn't have one as a pet. I can't get past the rat TAIL. However, there is a pet for everybody. LOL!
I hope that your DD is surprised and happy with her pet.
And your are SO right, Janet. Males of every specie are smelly. LOL! Our "piggy" is a boy and he is much dirtier than a girl would be.
Let us know what her reaction is!