Happy Ratty Christmas!

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Merry Christmas from the Ratties!!

My clever mum made these xmas mice, although they look more like rats to me!

The boys have a brand new home: A glorious Explorer cage from Pet World Direct. It’s fabulous. It’s well built and sturdy, with plenty of room, while having a much smaller “footprint” than my previous Furet XL. The bar spacing is great – it would suit young rats from 6 weeks old. The price was fantastic. So easy to clean! The only draw back with the cage that I can see is that it’s very heavy, so it’s not so easy to transport – but you can unscrew it all and flat pack it. I’ve thrown these cage furnishings together, so it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as it could be, but here it is:

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The rats are extremely comfortable in their new abode, as you can see here:

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Stripe taking it easy

Jinx and Dublin live in the top portion, and Shy-Shy, Stripe and Pip live in the bottom.

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Jinx peeps out of his new house

Today my lovely rats are mostly dreaming of eating Christmas dinner!

Naughty Smelly Rats

Yet again I’m having to modify the rats’ cage! Recently one or two of the rats have for some unknown reason decided to “tidy” all the poos in their cage from their toilets to the large “Acroplatform” which is supposed to be a kind of general run around area. Not only that, they have been diligently urinating over the same platform/shelf, so that when it comes to cleaning time, I am almost reduced to tears with the sheer stench of it! I must add that I give their cage a thorough clean every week religiously. The main culprit is Shy-shy, who among other things, has obsessive nesting instincts, and territory issues! An example of this would be the time I tried to remove some spoiled bedding to replace it with new stuff, and Shy-shy lunged at my fingers, mouth wide open and teeth flashing! He didn’t bite me but I didn’t give him much chance! He’s the only rat that is defensive about is home, and is never aggressive outside his cage or to his cage mates, but I give him a healthy respect, and “knock before entering” the cage (let him sniff my hand – and never try to move bedding/food/stuff once he’s claimed it as his!) I’m sure it’s quite common this behaviour and it’s just a natural instinct which serves wild rats very well.

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Shy-shy “redecorating”

To combat the problem of messy cage habits, I had the ingenious idea of adding a couple of new levels to our huge cage, which have been filled with cardboard litter to absorb the yucky rat by-products! I have removed the Acroplatform for now and got hold of two cat litter trays which I’ve drilled holes into. The trays are attached to the cage with metal loops. So far so good, the ratties haven’t turned their home into a tip quite yet, but it’s only Monday!

Today my rats have been mostly eating their boring old rat food again!

Rats Moving House

At last, we have completed work on the shed, which included putting in insulation, plywood, electricity, fittings and lino flooring to make the space “rat-proof”. Thanks to John Clegg for all his hard work installing the plywood, which was a huge task because of our garage sized shed. It looks fabulous, and the rats LOVE it, as do I!

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The shed is split up by a four foot chipboard wall, accommodating our bikes, and general storage in one side, and the other portion is devoted just to the ratties! Now my boyfriend who has been suffering silently with his allergy to the rats, can breath freely in his own home at last! Hooray!

We have bought a frost control fan heater to warm the space during the winter months, and it works beautifully. The heater is thermostatically controlled, which is a must if you have pets outside. It gets very cold in the winter months up here in bonny Scotland, so I wanted to ensure the boys were warm enough. A rat thrives at temperatures not below 7 degrees C but I have the heater set to kick in at 10 degrees C minimum, which has proved to be just right.

In fact the rats seem to prefer the cosy space of their new home and are always waiting at the top of their cage for me, ready to come out and play. Even Pip, our shyest rat bounds around the floor and does little excitable “hops” everywhere. I found that the cardboard tube from the lino flooring is just the right size for male rats (even the fatter ones!). I have cut it into three pieces and made large holes here and there for the boys to run in and out of. It might be an idea to ask carpet merchants and fitters if the could spare a tube or two, for anyone who owns rats.

Today my rats have been mostly eating broken up rice cakes.

Ratty Bed

At the beginning of the summer we decided to buy a shed, due to my poor long-enduring boyfriend’s allergy to our little furry friends. Well, it seemed like a simple objective at the outset, but we would never have guessed the frustration, anguish and utter bewilderment it would evoke. We bought shed number 1 from a well known DIY store, it arrived late and water damaged with rust on all the fixings, so we asked for a replacement. Three weeks later, no new shed materialised, so we asked for a straight return and refund, which the store agreed, and a full refund was made, but no one arrived to pick up the damaged shed. After another phone call the store promised to send someone out to pick up the unwanted shed. It’s autumn and we’re still waiting, and there’s a big fat pile of wood in our back garden. Well, undeterred, we ordered shed number 2 from another company which specialised in shed stuff. Shed number 2 arrived on time, but considerably smaller than the size we ordered and it was black and damp with weather damage. We refused to accept it and the grim shed stayed on the lorry, and was sent back. Third time lucky, shed number 3 is being built by a local carpenter who makes good sound, only more expensive sheds!

My main concern for the rats living in the shed is the temperature. It gets pretty cold here in the winter months, so I am anxious to find a good solution to keep the cold at bay. Rats are not hardy animals like rabbits and guinea pigs, and thrive best at temperatures not below 6 degrees celcius. At the moment I am adding loft insulation to the shed, which is getting more even expensive and time consuming, but it will be worth it! You can get small wall mounted heaters, so we’re going to try that.

In the wild, rats live in complex burrows with bolt holes, larders and sleeping areas, which gave me an idea – I wanted to create a burrowing box for my boys to sleep in. I thought that ordinary hammock-style beds would be too draughty, so I bought a couple of large plastic food storage boxes. I drilled two holes (big enough for the rats to get through easily), one on either side, so that they had an “entrance” and a “bolt hole”. I drilled lots of small air holes, and four slightly larger holes to hang the boxes up with, because my rats like to sleep high up in their cage, and never on the floor. Then I added their cardboard litter, and plenty of clean hay.

The result was – all four boys were snuggling in the one box the next day, and seemed happy to burrow into the hay, which should keep them warm and toasty when I transfer them to the shed. Hurray!

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Today my rats have been mostly eating porridge oats.

Cages

Shy-Shy seems to be clear of his myco infection at last. The boys have grown a lot over the last few weeks and are looking more like feisty teenagers than fluffy babies. Their fur is more coarse and shiny (females have softer, sleeker fur than males and tend to be smaller).

Ten week old scary beasts!

I cleaned the rats’ cage out today while they slept in their carrier tank. They will be too big for it soon. When they finally got back in their home, they explored it with great gusto and excitement! I always make slight variations in the cage layout, because fancy rats are clever and seem to love to explore new things. I always put some nice tasty treats in there too to give them something inviting to do – eating (a rat’s favourite pastime!)

Ferplast Furet Extra Large cage. Roomy!

There are plenty of cages on the market for rats, and alot of breeders use large aviary-type cages. You definitely need a good-sized cage for rats, because they are very active and need plenty of stimulus (ie hammocks, tubes, ropes, ladders etc). I have a Ferplast Furet Extra Large ferret cage – it’s huge and has ample space for four male rats. You need to be careful of bar-spacing though when you are considering buying a ferret cage. Usually the spacing is far too wide (about 2.5cm) for baby rats or small adult female rats. However, for larger females or grown male rats they are wonderfully spacious. The Ferplast Furet E L has a much narrower bar-spacing – about 1.7cm which was perfectly fine for my male rats from 6 weeks old. It is so large I had to fill it with 3 corner shelves, a large ‘acroplatform’ from ‘Acrorats’ (a superb on-line shop selling made-to-measure sturdy hammocks, platforms etc.), hammocks and tubes etc. The rats love it! There are two large doors, so it’s easy enough to clean (especially if you’ve got orangutan long arms like me!). The only trouble I’ve had with the cage was that when the rats were more timid, it was difficult to get them out of it! If I got baby rats again (a distinct possibility!) I would get a smaller ‘nursery’ cage to start with (with bar spacing 1.5cm or less).

Today my rats have been mostly eating broccoli and porridge oats.