Adoption Gone Wrong – What To Do

“Oh, no! I adopted some new rats and now they are sick/mean…etc!”

Pet Rat Adopters can save themselves a lot of trouble if they just do a bit of research before they adopt rats from someone/somewhere; but sometimes they find themselves in a tough spot with rats that are not all they hoped they would be. So what should you do if you end up with rats that are less than perfect? Here’s some tips on rat adoptions.

 

First – Know who you are adopting from. Look for breeders with websites and Facebook (FB) pages (pages not profiles – pages can have ratings and reviews from previous adopters) that tell you about them. Why are they breeding rats? What is their focus – are they breeding for health and temperament? How are they doing that? How long have they been breeding rats? How long do their rats generally live? Are there good reviews on their FB page?

Second – Understand that all rats are not the same. I know people do not want to hear/admit this, but it is the absolute truth. Sometimes feeder bin rats are absolutely fine but sometimes rats are in the feeder bin because they have genetic issues or are sick and can not be sold as a pet. Buying a baby rat that is not weaned from a feeder bin is not doing that rat any favors as it is very hard to keep a “pinky” or “fuzzy” rat alive without a mother. This “rescue” usually just amounts to a slow death for that baby rat and that is cruel. Health and temperament issues are the most common complaint for a lot of rat owners and I can tell you that a reputable breeder will not let you have a rat that has not passed temperament tests and that they know comes from a healthy line. Buying rats from a feeder bin or from an unknown person with an “oops” litter is very risky for you and for any rats you have at home. One nasty virus brought into your home with a new rat can kill all of your rats in an amazingly fast amount of time.
Third – Be up front and honest with the breeder/pet store. If you have problems with your rats after getting them first try to work it out with that breeder or pet shop. Usually whatever problem you have can be worked out if you contact them right away and are just honest with them. Unfortunately, sometimes that means exchanging the rat for a different one and most people say they don’t want to contact the breeder because they don’t want to give back the rats. You don’t have to give your rats back if you don’t want to… but it is not fair to complain behind their back if you are not willing to give them a chance to do something to help you. You must let the breeder or pet store know right away if you are having problems with your rats. ***
Fourth – Be up front and honest with your complaint. If you feel you have been wronged or someone did something wrong and you can’t work it out with them, then at least stand up for yourself and your ratties. I get PM’d complaints about breeders sometimes and everyone often wants to remain anonymous, but this just helps those with bad breeding practices just keep doing the same things to other adopters. One breeder I have been told about a few different times has a Facebook (FB) page filled with only glowing reviews and ratings. If the people with legit complaints would just rate and comment that complaint on the website or FB page, then that would not only serve as a warning to other adopters, but it might make that breeder have to change their ways. I know that people don’t like confrontation, but hiding behind anonymity doesn’t help anyone… with no one willing to back up the story, that story is simply gossip.
***most breeders will take back the rats you have adopted from them, but often you must have the breeder’s permission to re-home those rats.

A Word About Cages

I hear from a lot of rat owners with questions and complaints about cages. Most of the time they are first time pet rat owners and they bought a cage (or made a cage) that later was not a good choice for their rats. Because your rat cage will be one of the most expensive things you buy for your pets, it can be pretty upsetting to find that it stinks to high heaven or your rats have chewed through it or even have been injured in it.

Professionally Designed Cages Are Best

The cage your rat lives in is VERY important for their safety, health and longevity. Choosing the appropriate cage  is vital for their happiness, especially because they will spend the majority of their waking hours (at night) playing, exploring, chewing, peeing and pooping in there. I never recommend homemade cages because they are usually made of less desirable materials and can present safety and sanitary issues. Good store bought rat cages are made with all the needs of your rats in mind. The best are made of wire and metal simply because rats chew up wood and plastic… and whatever they are chewing on needs to be natural and not treated with chemicals that can harm them. Also wood cages can absorb rat urine in the walls and flooring, which has a strong ammonia smell, and that smell can irritate their very sensitive respiratory systems and cause an upper respiratory infection. Metal bars need to be powder coated to be safe for rats and a lot of hardware cloth sold at DIY stores is not coated and often has sharp edges when cut.

Bar Spacing for a rat cage should not be wider than 1/2″, as smaller rats can escape through bars that are wider. Cages designed for larger pets such as ferrets usually have 1″ bar spacing that young rats and smaller females can easily slip through.

Cage Size Guidelines

The cage you choose will depend on how many rats you are going to house in that cage. General guidelines are 2 cubic feet of space per rat, with a minimum of 2 rats housed together. To make sure the cage you are considering is the appropriate size, you can use a cool online tool, the Ratty Corner Cage Calculator. Just put in the dimensions of your cage and it will tell you how many rats you can house in it.

Too small of a cage is harmful for the well being of your rats, however too large of a cage can cause some issues too. Some instances of rats becoming “cage bound” have been observed in rats that are housed in too large of a cage. Cage bound rats can go from being very social with humans to being anti-social; hiding and running away when you try to take them out. Some people have even reported getting bitten by previously friendly pet rats after being housed in a much larger cage. No one really knows why this occurs, but there is speculation that it is because the rat (evolving as a prey animal) feels exposed or insecure in the large space. The solution to that is to clutter up the cage as much as possible with hidey holes, boxes, tunnels, cubes and hammocks to make the rats feel like they have lots of safe places to hide.

Another thing to consider when deciding on a good cage is that wild rats are tunnelers, not big climbers. So though your ratties do love to climb around, your pet rats have the instinct to tunnel. A cage with a lot of floor space and with a litter pan at least 2-3″ deep is best for tunneling. They also do well with a wood store bought bedding as it absorbs the urine smell well and that helps the ratties’ lungs to stay healthy.

So be careful when you are choosing your rats’ cage and you and your pets will be happy with your choice for a long time to come.

For more info on rat care, housing, bedding and diet, check out this post on Rat Care

This is my main cage. The Triple Critter Nation.

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Enjoy the Holidays with Your Rats… Safely

Well, it’s that time of year again… the tree, the lights, the ornaments, the pine, the decorations, the goodies… um, I can almost smell the cookies for Santa! So can the ratties! For those of us who are pet parents of ratties, we are also very excited to share the fun with them. But watch out for their best interest and keep it safe for your little ones.

  • Seasonal plants and decorations. Many holiday plants like poinsettias and pine can be harmful to our pets. Poinsettias are particularly toxic and the sharp pine needles can cause a choking hazard or injury to your little ones.Mistletoe and Holly have also been know to be severely toxic to animals as are lilies of any kind.
  • Christmas trees should be secured so they can not tip over and it is a bad idea to let your rat babies explore a decorated tree. Nibbling on the branches or light wires can have deadly consequences. Also the water in the base of the tree stand often has sap residue in it as well as chemical preservatives, it is important to keep the ratties from playing in it or drinking it.
  • Tinsel is also a hidden danger for your ratties as they can swallow it and get a digestive tract blockage. This can require surgery or cause death, so keep your little nibblers away from it!
  • Lighted candles should never be left burning around your ratties. Nor should lighted candles ever be left unattended. If you are lighting candles make sure your ratties are safe in their cages so they won’t be tempted to investigate the candle and get burned! And when you go to leave the room, put the candles out.
  • Some treats for humans are not good treats for your ratties so keep plates of food and goodies away from your ratties. It is great fun to share a piece of holiday cookie, but be careful that your babies are getting overloaded with sugar. Always check over the list of safe and dangerous foods before giving ratties something new.
  • Sometimes parties and guests can get too noisy and be scary for your fur babies. Have a quiet and safe room you can lock their cage in to keep the ratties safe while you celebrate.

We hope you have a very happy holiday season with your rat babies, fur babies, family and friends! 

 

Bonding With Your New Rat

Bonding With Your New Rat

Note: Before you adopt a pet rat (or rats) make sure you have an appropriate cage, bedding, water bottle, food, and wood chews (from a pet store) ready for him.

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When you first bring home your new rat, it is very common for him to be scared or shy, after all, your home is a totally new place full of unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells that he is not used to. It is best to leave your new pet in a nice clean rat cage (with appropriate bedding, fresh water in a water bottle and some quality rat food) that is kept in a quieter part of your home for the first 24-48 hours while he gets used to being in a new place. The loud noises and activity in your house may make him feel more scared and should be kept at a minimum while he is adjusting to being in a new environment. It is also important that you keep your new rat quarantined from other rats/pets for about 14 – 21 days to ensure that no illness is transmitted between your pets and be careful to introduce them correctly to ensure they will get along with each other.

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During those 14 days, you can begin bonding with your new little friend and help him to feel more comfortable. If your rat is a baby (12 weeks old or younger), you should be able to gently pick them up and hold them and socialize with them. If they are older or if they are afraid you may have to take a slower approach. Begin by speaking kindly to your rat and letting him get used to your presence, your scent and your voice. Try just laying your hand in the cage. Don’t try to pet him right away, just let him smell you and get comfortable with your hand being in his space. Then you can move on to offering the new rat treats from your hand. Don’t worry if he won’t take it from you at first, as you build up trust with your new pet, he will begin to take the treats from you. Never offer treats through the cage bars as that will lead to biting behavior issues. Do not try to force your rat to interact with you when he is not ready, that will definitely set things back. If your rat won’t take the treat from you, just try again later, eventually he will get more curious than frightened and will give it a try.
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When your new rat is comfortable taking the food from your hand offer the food to them at the cage door (with the door open) and see if he will come to you for the treat. Once he is comfortable doing that, you can start trying to gently pet him and stroke his back. While you are petting him, if he shies away from you, let him retreat… remember you are building trust, you do not want to force yourself on him. If he accepts your petting him see if he will crawl onto your hand. If he is comfortable with that you can gently pick him up – making certain to hold him in a supportive and firm way but not too tightly or aggressively. If your rat begins to act scared, gently put him back in the cage and give him a treat for the experience. Repeat this trust session everyday until he is comfortable with you holding him. If you give up and leave him alone for too many days, you will have to begin the process again from the start.
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When your rat is happy to be held by you, take some time each day to spend time with him, give him treats and play with him. If you have more than one rat remember to bond one on one with them and not only in a group. Once they are used to you and trust you, they will enjoy spending time with you outside of the cage.
You can also try some training techniques with him. Rats are very smart animals and can learn to do many of the tricks that dogs can do!
Links:
How To Tame Rats:
How To Introduce Rats:
Rat Activities:
Rat Tricks:

Naming Your Rats

The Best Rat Names!

Find your rat the perfect name.

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So you have a new rat, or two, or ten… and you are having a hard time trying to decide on just the right name. Well never fear, I have some great tips for you to help you choose a great name for your new rat babies!
Whether you have new rat babies or have just recently adopted an older rat, the act of naming the new pet helps us to feel connected and to feel like that pet really does belong to us and is now a part of our family. Choosing just the right name is not only fun, but important for us to feel bonded with the new addition(s).
It helps to get to know your rat babies, what kind of personality do they have? Some may be soft and sweet or energetic and playful while another may be more subdued. Others may be extra curious and some are definitely daredevils. Having a good idea of what kind of personality you see in your pet rats will help you to get started thinking of what kind of names will best fit.
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Studies have reported that animals typically respond best to names that are one or two syllables long, and it likely that your rats will be able to learn their name if it is easy for them to recognize. Try to settle on one name and maybe one nickname… rats are highly intelligent pets and will learn their name more easily if you just stick to one name so they are not confused and will catch on quickly that this word is what you say when you are talking to or about them. You can even train your rat to come when you call their name!

Some sources for great inspiration for names can be your favorite, books, movies, anime characters, or video game characters. A quick google search can give you some rat name ideas as well and there are many good websites that have lists of great pet names. Searching for the origin of the name you choose can add additional meaning  and insight.  Whatever name you choose, take your time an find a great name that will be meaningful for you and your pet. You are going to make a lot of memories with your rats and their name is a big part of that experience.

 
Helpful links: