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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We're thinking of getting DS a rat for Christmas. I've had hamsters before, but never a rat. Is there anything special I need to know?
 

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Get as big of a cage as you possibly can. I wouldnt do just one as they are pack animals. They like a lot of interaction and need some out of cage time. They are wonderful and a lot of fun
 

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rats are totally cool! if you get a male get it neutered, it's fairly cheap and they make better pets. i second getting two, they are social creatures, we had a neutered male and a female.

also, make sure they have out of cage time to run around with you, they are so smart that they get really bored in a cage all the time. you can make them really neat things to do in the cage, like a tightrope, paper towel tunnel, i'm sure you can find other ideas on the web.

i've had bunnies, guinea pigs, and rats and hands-down the rats were the best. from what i've seen with hamsters rats like interaction more and are more friendly.

they often get cancer so watch out for lumps.
 

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Try to find a local rattery (rat breeder) to get your rats from. Rats at the pet store are often VERY poorly bred and thus extremely prone to genetic disorders and cancers. In many ways it's worse than backyard puppy breeders because rats - as pocket pets - receive even less consideration.

Be prepared for a fairly short lifespan. I loved my rats but have always had a hard time (emotionally) with pets that don't live more than about three years. Also, as a PP said, keep an eye out for tumors - mammary tumors, both benign and malignant, are pretty common. They can get big FAST. Proper care is likely to involve surgery, which can be pricey. Not saying this is you, but a lot of people overlook the fact that vet bills can still be in the hundreds of dollars for a pet that cost less than $10!

Debbie downer stuff out of the way, rats are SO fun. They have awesome personalities and are sweet little creatures. They can be very rewarding pets.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by laurelg View Post
Try to find a local rattery (rat breeder) to get your rats from. Rats at the pet store are often VERY poorly bred and thus extremely prone to genetic disorders and cancers. In many ways it's worse than backyard puppy breeders because rats - as pocket pets - receive even less consideration.
We're getting it from a friend. He had been breeding them and selling them to a pet store, but had to stop, so now he's just trying to get rid of the animals. I know the guy and I know he takes good care of animals.
 

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I have five rats and I really enjoy them. They can be fun pets if you take the time to socialize them to humans at a very young age. I don't know how old your son is, but rats really don't make great pets for very young children. My daughter is five and enjoys the rats very much, but I can never leave them with her unsupervised, and she finds it very difficult to keep track of even a single squirming and active rat. I have to be right there with her to make sure the rat doesn't run off to explore the house!

I agree: rats are very social. Unlike hamsters solitary rat will never be happy: you need to have at least two. They thrive in groups, and can get very lonely and depressed if kept alone. Single rats need hours of human attention a day to keep them from being bored, and most people simply do not have that kind of time or desire to give that much attention.
If you get more than one make sure they are both of the same sex! Rats can have 4-6 litters of babies a year, with up to 20 babies per litter (less is more common, though). That is a lot of homes to find babies for.
Rats can breed very young, so make sure the babies were separated at the proper time. A female can get pregnant at just six weeks of age, when she is still a baby herself (rats don't reach adult size until 5 months or so)!

Males are larger than females, and tend to be more lazy. This can be good if you want a more cuddly rat. Females tend to be smaller, and they are much more active and quick, which can make them harder to sit down and hold. Un-neutered males do have a stronger odor, though, and they are more messy.

I have four girls and one neutered buy. The girls are definitely more active, and while two of them enjoy being held a lot it is hard to keep track of them as they love to run around and explore!

The cage needs to be a lot larger than you'd think. The Rat Manor from Petco is an okay size for two rats, but no more. The Super Pet First Home for Exotics from Petsmart will happily house three rats. The more space the better! I have my five rats in a two story Ferret Nation cage which is over 5 feet tall and three feet wide. http://www.ferret.com/item/ferret-na...tat-model-142/ .

Be careful when using some ferret cages. Rats need 1/2-3/4 inch bar spacing. A lot of the ferret cages use 1 inch bar spacing. Adult males and some adult females (over 300 grams) can't fit through that, but young rats and smaller females can and they will escape!

Aquariums make horrible homes for rats and should never be used. Rats have incredibly sensitive noses and aquariums trap the ammonia from their urine and can cause a lot of irritation. Likewise, cedar or pine shavings should never be used for rats as bedding: the scent is very irritating to them. Bedding made out of recycled paper, like Carefresh or Yesterdays News is an option. I simply use towels and wash them, as this is much cheaper and is less messy.

Rats are very intelligent and need stimulation, so figure in plenty of room for toys. They also feel comfortable in nests and at height, so plan on room for hammocks. Not all rats use a running wheel, but some do, and it is great exercise. Two of my five rats use it all the time.

The rat/mouse food that is sold in most pet stores is sub-quality and I don't recommend it. Any food that is seed based is not too good. I'd look for a high quality lab block food, like Harlan Teklad. Unfortunatly it can only be purchased online at certain rat rescues, but it is a great food. Regal Rat, by Oxbow, is also of good quality, and it can be found in some stores. The best chain pet store brand is the Mazuri block, but it isn't that great.

Also, rats are notorious for having certain health problems, so be sure to have a good exotics vet and be okay with possibly spending several hundred in vet bills over the life of the rat. Rats are often prone to tumors, which can be removed surgically, or sometimes being put to sleep is the only option. Both cost money.
Almost all pet rats are also infected with a certain organism called myco (mycoplasma pulmonis). It is harmless to humans. It is usually dormant in the rat, but it can become active when their immune system is lowered or if they get stressed. When a rat becomes sick with myco it affects their lungs, and lots of secondary infections can result. Then the rats need to go on antibiotics, which can add up $$.
One of my favorite rats, Snow, had a bad myco flare up before I adopted her. It damaged her lungs so that she now has a lot of health issues.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by minkajane View Post
We're getting it from a friend. He had been breeding them and selling them to a pet store, but had to stop, so now he's just trying to get rid of the animals. I know the guy and I know he takes good care of animals.
Perfect!
 

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My only advice is don't buy rat food. Feed the rat what you eat (assuming you eat healthy). Their dietary needs are very similar to ours. What's healthy for us is healthy for them.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by minkajane View Post
Is there anything special I need to know?
Rats are special! They can thrive on the same food you eat. I have had many at once and also kept them solo. I find solo they bond to you better but do need a lot of attention. I let mine roam a bit and she would ride on my shoulder most of the day. They can be trained to do all sorts of things if you really put the time into it and get them young enough.

They are not nearly as fragile as a hamster is. They are basically squish proof and they don't bite unless necessary so are a good choice for kids. I love rats!
 

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tinuviel_k has a ton of good rat advice!
I've had rats for about 3 years now (5 different girls) and they are the best pets I've ever had (this coming from someone who has had pretty much all the kinds of pets imaginable). My rat cage is about 3 feet wide, 2.5 feet tall and 2 feet deep and it currently holds 3 rats (most it's ever had). I use a pelleted paper bedding (like Yesterday's News, but a different brand as YN is made by purina...owned by nestle). I've used Carefresh and just large pieces of fleece and I'm liking the paper pellets the best.
As for food, mine eat a high quality, low(er) protien dog food (Innova Senior) as their staple and get a bowl of fresh human food every night. Leftovers from dinner, fresh or frozen veggies & fruits, rice, nuts, oats, applesauce...whatever I have on hand. They've had the Regal Rat food but didn't like it as much as they like the Innova food. In my area, it's easier to find the Innova than the specific high quality rat foods.
As others have mentioned, girl rats and boy rats are very different. Boys are pretty calm and snuggly, but their pee smells slightly offensive. Girls are very active and curious and they don't smell so bad. I'd definitely try to get 2 rats. 2 aren't any more work than just 1 and they really need the social bond with other rats. If you get a male and a female, it's much easier to have the male neutered than have the female spayed (it's a rougher surgery on her).
They're really great pets! I hope you and your son enjoy them!!
 

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You've gotten a lot of good advice, I just wanted to add that I LOVED my rats! The only downside for me is that they don't live terribly long and can be prone to cancers...mine got pretty bad after about a year and a half-2 years. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
We got the rat tonight. The male got sick and he's very old anyway, so we ended up with the female. We've decided to name her April and I love her already! She really likes me, which shocked our friend because she's always been really shy before. She spent like half an hour sitting on my shoulder getting acquainted. Her cage is nice and big with a wheel (wire, but we're replacing it) and a little house and a couple of toys. In a few weeks, once she's used to us, we'll get her a friend (female, since she's not fixed).

Yay rats!
 

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get a big "hamster" ball - they make huge ones for rats, chinchillas, and ferrets.

I've had pet rats for 12 years, ever since I met some at the animal shelter I volunteered at. Everyone except for one has come from animal shelters. Most have lived at least 2 years with minor medical issues. One female lived over 3 years in spite of at least 2 surgeries for mammary tumors.

The one that we sought out from a reputable breeder had a brain tumor, and she died at 6 months old, after we treated her ($$). So, don't assume that breeders are the best source.

Our current female rat was initially purchased as snake food - and she escaped! Other than some initial distrust of people, she's been great! We keep talking about getting her a friend, but there haven't been any rats at the shelters in a long time. I refuse to buy a pet at a pet store, on principle.

The most we've had at one time was 3 girls and 2 neutered boys - all happy to live together. I've never had issues introducing rats to each other. I also refuse to allow pets to reproduce in my home, so they either live in single-sex colonies or get speutered. It's cheaper to neuter a boy-rat, and sometimes it does improve their disposition, but the health benefits of spaying a female are greater, so it's a toss-up which one to do. I would only "bother" if the rat was under 6 months old.

And, FWIW, my 2 daughters are just as in love with pet rats as I am. They often drag out the poor rat (named Princess) and freak out visitors.

--janis
 

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Oh, as far as food, I make a homemade diet from the rat book...I have to look up the actual name. I also use some Nutro Lite Dog food, which I feel a bit guilty about as I wouldnt feed it to my dogs, but a lot of rat people really like it. Since they are getting tons of fresh grains, veggies, and fruits in addition, I guess its ok
Better I'm sure then the prepackaged pellets in most stores.

Check out some of the rat forums like ratsrule.com and have fun!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
OK, having a bit of a problem with her now. She's meticulously taking her bedding over to one particular spot on her cage and shoving it out the side. There's a HUGE mess on the floor. Could this be because it's not clean enough or she doesn't like the type?
 

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Quote:
get a big "hamster" ball - they make huge ones for rats, chinchillas, and ferrets.
Have your rats actually enjoyed their ball? I ask because in my travels on rat boards those balls usually get a resounding negative review....the rats dont like them, dont use them....they would far prefer to be exploring their environment able to use their sense of smell, taste, touch instead of in a big plastic ball. We have one, and they wouldnt use it, they just sat there.....The large ones are kind of expensive, so i wouldnt recommend buying one unless you're sure the rat will like it.

Katherine
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by minkajane View Post
OK, having a bit of a problem with her now. She's meticulously taking her bedding over to one particular spot on her cage and shoving it out the side. There's a HUGE mess on the floor. Could this be because it's not clean enough or she doesn't like the type?

Its probably her just being a rat. They do stuff like that. She might just be entertaining herself. You might have better luck putting the bedding in a small litter box (they have really tiny ones at the petstore, for kittens, or you could use any kind of plastic box you have on hand) rather than lining the whole bottom of the cage.

Katherine
 

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