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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-25-2013, 03:46 AM Thread Starter
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Smile New rat owner need advice

Hi all my name is Pat and I am getting my 6 year old daughter two rats for now, she was at her aunts who has rats and fell in love and i am a big softy and ofcourse said she could get some. she is my only girl so its common for her to get everything
So i was just wondering on what the best set up and some good diet tips would be?

My sis gave me one of her older cages a forgive the spelling pervue hendryx 495 i believe. Its all metal except for pan but she said that its a good size and perfect for rats. 3/8 inch spacing just measured and all flat surfaces. has main floor then ramp to another level then another ramp to another level.

Trying to figure out what bedding would work best she uses flannel i think and then yesterdays news for litter pan she said that its a most to litter train them.

from my own research alot of people do some type of cloth bedding over she said carefresh ultra her choice if not cloth.

She put me in contact with her breader but ofcourse like a 7 month waiting list but she said our local pet store is prety legit family owned and not supposed to be from a mill and they have a few litters there.

sory for the long post trying to sum it up, so have the cage a thing called space pod and a hammock, a wheel, rope thing dont know the other thing she said you hang treats and chew toys on it, a nice hidey log.

any advice would be great before i dive into this mess. Oh and the wife is on board thank god so I did get that blessing so will have help with giving lots of attention. oh duh looking at just getting two for starters.

thanks for your help
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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-25-2013, 09:35 AM
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Hi Pat!

Welcome aboard.

I love the idea that there is a budding rat lover in your house. Anyone who treats a rat well given their cultural reputation, is a good hearted person, so you've got a big hearted little sweetheart in your house.


I'll be happy to see if I can answer some of your questions. Others will have their own tips and probably better advice as well.

My youngest was five when we got our first rats. He's now nine and loves them to pieces. He had a gentle touch with them from day one and a sensitivity to their needs much larger than most children his age. That said, I found that we were best served letting the rats be "Family Rats" instead of "his" rats, and he only has interaction with them under my direct supervision, even today.

This is because of rats' susceptibility to injury, not to mention how fast they can move and jump if they choose. And while rats are absolutely the least likely to bite of most any rodent (No one in my family has ever been bitten with aggression or fear by any of our rats), like any animal they can bite and they do have a very powerful bite that can cause nerve damage with enough provocation. They also have non retractable claws. The claws will only leave superficial scratches, but you will be guaranteed to be scratched at some point while they crawl and limb on you. This can startle a child and cause them to react in a way that will harm the rat. So basically with all that, I'm just saying it takes some adult common sense to help any child interact with a rat as a pet.

My son eight years old now, and I don't think I will let him have full unsupervised responsibility of his own rats until he is about ten during which I will monitor him in the background just to make sure he remembers to feed and clean and interact with them regularly.

I'm a librarian (read: Compulsive Researcher) by trade. So when I started researching rats as pets, I collected everything I found together and make a series of blogs with new rat owners in mind. I'll give you links to some of them here. They will go into more detail for many of your questions as well.


The Hydrax is a great cage. My only real complaint is that the bars are lined vertically and not horizontally. Rats love to climb, and this makes it difficult for them to do so. It won't take much on your part to adapt the cage to give them more climbing surfaces by adding climbing branches and such.

Link cage ideas, including DIY decorations, sizing considerations, safety considerations. Specifically follow the dapper rat links for upgrading existing cages and making cheap toys: http://www.paw-talk.net/forums/blog.php?b=3943

Your sister (aunt) has the perfect rat bedding with flannel and unscented yesterday's news (found in the cat litter aisle of most pet supply stores). Rat bedding should be low in perfumes, noxious oils, and dust. They have very fragile respiratory systems. In general, avoid all soft wood shaving beddings except Aspin. I've found that felt/flannel doesn't snag ratty toes in threads, absorbs urine, is washable, cheaply replaced, and low perfume and dust. Perfect.

For source, for your ultimate happiness, I would personally recommend going through the breeder. The wait seems long until you get the rats, and in the meantime you will have, knowledgeable life long support with your babies, hand raised babies with (ideally) lower instances of super expensive health issues that are common in rats. By super expensive...you can expect to spend between 90-and 600 on vet bills over a rat's life span if they are properly cared for.

I have yet to find a pet store that didn't get their rats from some sort of mill or back yard breeder accidentally breeding. I have yet to find one who was being honest if they said otherwise. I'm a bit cynical there, but while you can get them easily, and you might luck out with a perfectly good experience....you will more likely have a higher instance of illness, genetically weak immune systems, mites from infested bedding, an already pregnant rat, tumors, and fearful rats requiring extensive trust training training on your part, not to mention a higher instance of hormonally induced aggression issues (caused by poor breeding).

Another option is to go onto pet finder or craiglist online. With a little research, you get the rats quicker than a breeder, you safe a life, and you might be able to avoid the worst of the issues caused by pet store purchases as long as you're sensible in interviewing the seller, examining the rats, and willing to walk away.

Food wise: Here's what I feed my rats:

Nutrition and Diet: http://www.pxrats.com/ratfood.html

Where To Purchase Nutritionally Complete Lab Block Cheaply:

Mainely Rat Rescue: http://www.mainelyratrescue.org/store2/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Native-Earth-P.../dp/B00132ROS0





And here's a few links for you:

Where to Get A Rat: http://www.paw-talk.net/forums/blog.php?b=239&goto=prev


Selecting The Right Rats: http://www.paw-talk.net/forums/blog....3936&goto=prev


Rat Proofing Your House: http://www.paw-talk.net/forums/blog....3936&goto=next

Bringing Home Baby: http://www.paw-talk.net/forums/blog....3939&goto=next

Expected Cost of Keeping A Rat: http://www.paw-talk.net/forums/blog.php?b=239&goto=next


And a couple of more links below. They aren't needed as advice, but are a couple of pieces I wrote for me that you might find interesting/informational:

Marketing and Rat Mills: http://www.paw-talk.net/forums/blog.php?b=167&goto=prev

Black Rats, Norway Rats, and The Plague: http://www.paw-talk.net/forums/blog.php?b=165&goto=next


I hope this helps! And please hang out and keep us updated! This is what we live for!


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Last edited by Storyseeker; 01-25-2013 at 09:41 AM.
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-25-2013, 04:51 PM Thread Starter
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Ok That is alot of info. First off thank you so much for the response, i see i have a lot more research and decisions to make. I did find out that the local pet shop they breed their own rats they are exotic animal hobby people rats, chins, glider, hedge hogs they have a lot and my sis said two of her males are from them and they are both over 3 which i guess is really old for rats and man are they big and lazy. Is that common for the males to be lazy because she told me that the females are better if you want a more active and trainable rat???

She feeds them oxbo is that good? also she stocks up on that 4018 nature stuff but says its hard to find. she said to freeze the food in like 3 pound bags each to keep it fresh. I was mistaken in saying she used flannel she told me that it is fleece and that is her pref so probably leaning that way dont want a bunch of bedding mess all over my floor. She changes hers out daily no more than every other day is that normal. she has like ten sets then does a big load of rat laundry.

she has giant home made cages but i dont think i am ready for all that yet but i did buy a critter nation cage from her breeder friend they say that its the best you can find without building your own and it has the horizontal wire. its big like i gues 5 ft or so looks like two cages stacked on top of eachother only paid $65 and online they are triple that so i gues it will do.

So now they pet shop well breeder to i guess wants us to come in for like a couple weeks with my daughter and have her play with the rats and see which ones take to her the most. which made since to me just want to make sure its normal?

So really need to know if fleece is the best for bedding and the whole litter pan training how do you even do that?

Thanks again
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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-25-2013, 08:24 PM
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I should come with a warning with my newbie rat owner infobombs. LOL Take your time perusing through it. It's nothing that isn't available all over the internet, but hopefully will keep you from having to do the footwork yourself.

Further questions. Whether to get from the breeder or the pet shop, in the end it's what works best for you. Going with a breeder is what worked best for me, and for someone else, going with a rescue works for them. Hopefully through the links I shared, you can make your decision fully informed.

Getting from a pet store won't guarantee you'll have a worse experience, and getting from a (reputable) breeder won't guarantee a great experience. But the odds are stacked towards the former and latter respectively. So, if you get from the pet store, just take your time with the selection, as it sounds like you are doing. I love the advice of visiting several times and waiting to see which rats bond with your daughter. That really is the best way to do it. You'll get familiar with different personality types as well.

This page gives more tips on how to select a healthy, well adjusted rat: http://www.paw-talk.net/forums/blog....3936&goto=prev

Your sister is right about males and females. I've had both and loved both dearly. The differences at a glance:

Males:

Smell like corn chips.

Bigger and more likely to be fat lazy loving squishes who will sit on your shoulder or watch TV in your lap by the hour. If you want a snuggly lap rat, go with a male.

They will produce an orangish, musky corn-chippy smelling stain on their fur called 'buck grease', which can be greatly decreased by feeding a drop of olive oil on a small bit of bread once a week. They will scent mark with urine a little more than a female.

Healthwise, males shouldn't be fed oranges or other citrus because something in the citrus interacts with an enzyme unique to male rats, and this has been found to make the boys prone to cancer. Females can eat citrus just fine.

Females:

Smell like grape soda.

Overall, more silly, active, and curious. Tend not to like sitting still for snuggling, but are a little more receptive to trick training than lazy boys. They come into heat every 4-5 days and are a little more prone to chewing on things than a lazy male.

If you want silly entertainment and aren't concerned about whether the rat wants snuggle with you, a female is the way to go.


Both males and females are equally social and get along fine with one another, but after four months of age it is much harder to introduce male rats to new male rats as they will become very territorial against new boys. Males already introduced to one another will not be a problem. Introductions with new rats should always be done slowly, and with supervision with both males and females.

You mentioned getting one rat. Rats are extremely /extremely/ social. It is a necessity for them to have rat companionship to prevent them from becoming neurotic, depressed, and nippy. While they can be kept alone if they have an owner able to devote 6-7 hours a day interacting with them, that is impracticable for most people.

You will want to keep at least two rats, but if you can handle a trio, that way if one dies, the survivor won't be left alone and you won't have to struggle right away with introducing strange new rats into the colony. The cost of upkeep and time spent won't be noticeably higher for two or three vs. one. Four was the number I started noticing a price and time spent difference.

Also, unlike some other animals, keeping more than one rat will make zero difference in how well bonded the rats will become to you or your daughter. The time you spend with them will be the only deciding factor. In fact, having other rats may make them feel more confident exploring new situations, and so they'll grow to accept and love on you that much quicker. (Plus, they're so silly interacting with one another. I'd never want to keep just one for that reason alone. )

Get two (or three) same sex rats, or you can, get a spayed/neutered male/female mix. I kept a mix colony of rats with neutered males and intact females.

Critter Nation Cage: You lucky, lucky duck! The rolls royce of prefab cages. I've got a double critter nation too (yours has two main levels and stands about 6 feet tall right?) That is the perfect rat cage and will be so easy to clean!

As for fleece/flannel/felt: I always get those names interchanged in my sad little head. Yes, fleece is what you want. That's what I meant. Really judicious owners change out their fleece daily or every other day. I do mine once a week.

Just to give you an idea of what I do with my cage, here's a couple of pics for you (feel free to ask questions):
Top Level:


Bottom Level:



Food: Oxbow is generally fine. Lots of rat owners use Oxbow. My breeder suggests oxbow only for adult rats of 1 year old or older, though many folks use them for younger rats too.

Harlan Tekklad is the best diet on the market, and can be purchased from manely rat rescue in smaller amounts and formulas specific to the needs of different ages of rat.

Supplement with veggies and some fruits. Here's the link to a suggested diet. If you scroll to the bottom it will give you a suggested daily menu (mine isn't that extensive), as well as foods that are safe, foods that should be fed only sparingly, and foods that are dangerous: http://www.pxrats.com/ratfood.html


Lastly, litter pan training: I've had mixed results with it. If the rats are exposed to it as kits with their mother, they tend to take to it right away. But I also had a pair of cheeky hairless rats who seemed to glorify in marinating in their own man-stench. I grew to love them anyway.

Tips. First, offer different 'surfaces'. Use pans with the yesterday's news in them for the litter boxes, and fleece for every other surface. They will soon equate surfaces that feel like yesterday's news as preferred potty places.

Second, rats tend to go in corners and at the bottom of ramps. Place two or three litter boxes in these places. If they choose another spot primarily, then shift the box there.

If they poo where they aren't supposed to, put the little poo raisins into the litter box to reenforce with scent the correct place.

Understand that they will never be flawless with their litter training, but every little (litter?) bit helps.

Oh and lastly, while you can train a rat to poo in specific places, you will never train them not to pee everywhere.

This is because rats use their urine to recognize what belongs to them. If a rat who is comfortable with you walks across you hand and dribbles a few drops of urine there, it's his way of saying "You are special and you belong to me". Gross, yes, but you get used to it. Also, of every rodent I've dealt with, rat urine really is the least noxious/most inoffensive.


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Last edited by Storyseeker; 01-25-2013 at 08:32 PM.
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-30-2013, 05:00 PM
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Welcome to the Rat Forum!

Wow, Storyseeker has already given you so much wonderful information so it is very hard to think of anything she has not gone over already (excellent posts as usual Story!)



I would personally love to re-emphasize that you absolutely need to have 2 rats minimum and Story already went over why it is so important for a rat to have company with another rat.



Also, I wanted to re-emphasize that taking care of rats definitely needs to be a family affair, with the adults being in charge, to make sure your ratties get all the attention to their cage,food, bedding and general well being, in addition to all the other countless details that need to be seen to. And yes, as Story said, never ever leave your rats unattended or unsupervised with children.



Also, remember that rats absolutely need daily outside time, meaning, outside of their cage, to play, "stretch their legs" so to speak and to interact with their people (you) for their happiness and well being. Keeping rats locked away in their cage with no daily outside time is definitely a no-no.



Also, make sure you decide on a good location for the rat cage, as rats like to be close to their people where they can feel like they know what's going on, and see and hear you. Not neccessarily in a major traffic/noise area of your house, but somewhere that you spend a lot of time in your home, i.e. den, living room. If they are kept in a separate bedroom or area that no one spends time in, they will be lonely for your company and it can cause depression. Rats are very intelligent and social, both with their own species and with their humans.


My husband and I have two male rats and we think of them as a cross between a human child, dog and monkey. Consider their care and well being as no different from how you would approach having a dog or cat. Rats are complex and have many needs to attend to.



That being said, I am excited for your family about your new additions and I know you will just love your rats. They are amazing, and they have so much love to give. Keep us posted!

Vlad

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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-30-2013, 05:27 PM
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Another side note, regarding Story's description of males vs females...

My husband and I have never had female rats, just males, but we do indeed give them a weekly bread chunk with some olive oil on it and so far, with the four male rats we have had over the past several years, I have never seen the "buck grease" issue arise. So maybe that olive oil actually does the trick!


And as for urine marking, well, it is barely noticeable to us and when we sometimes get a small drop of ratty urine on our hands when one of them wants to mark us, it does not smell and we always take it as a compliment. It is our boys saying, "We love you and we are marking you as part of our rat pack!"

Also, we LOVE the warm corn chip smell of our boy rats. It is an appealing fragrance to us. Also, the cleaner you keep their cage, the better and rats should never really have that strong of an odor if their home cage is kept nice and clean. I have never noticed any kind of "bad" smell from my boys.


We have never been interested in trick training or anything like that, as we just love our big squishy lazy cuddle bug rat boys so much and all we ever ask is for a furry baby to cuddle, so male rats work great for us, but as Story said, if you want rats that run all over the place and act silly (I mean that as a compliment) and have lots of energy, then girls are for you!

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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-31-2013, 08:07 AM
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Hahaha. Yes, I love the corn chip smell of ratboys too. You really do have to neglect a cage for there to be any kind of overpowering smell from rats.

Girls really are so different. The silliest girl I have is Aggie. She just cannot be still, and is always up for a tickle or a tease. She's the one who likes to grab clothing through the cage wires when you get to close. She also is the first to scale things or figure out obstacles can be overcome. I'm waiting for her to figure out the latch on the cage. LOL She reminds me of my old Indiana Jones rat Jeffrey, except she's turbo charged.


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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-31-2013, 02:33 PM
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Well it seems that just about everything has been covered already, but I guess I could add a few things.

I agree, a trio seems the best and easiest group size so that the first one who passes doesn't leave his friend alone.

I've also had mixed experiences litter training. The first rat I ever managed to litter train was an adult female rescue who came from squalid conditions. Despite having spent a year of her life with no litter box, she took right to the box and used it exclusively afterwards. She was also pregnant, and without any training all of her babies took right to the box. I ended up keeping one of her offspring whom I named Doughnut, and over the years after her mother's passing all of the new young rats that came to live in Doughnut's colony took right to their boxes with no training as well, following her lead. But almost immediately after Doughnut passed, these younger females which are now getting old themselves completely forgot their litterbox training and barely use it at all anymore. I'm not sure what's up with them.

And I've never been able to littertrain a male, ever. They wanted no part in it.
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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-31-2013, 05:28 PM
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As far as litter training goes, my boys have usually been fairly good about using their litter pan. There are ALWAYS little poops here and there that I need to clean out every day, but a good majority of their poops (or "raisins" as people have nicknamed them) land in the litter pan.



I always start out by seeing if there is a general area that they tend to go, then put their litter tray there, and give them the idea of what it is for by putting a few of their "raisins" in the litter pan, so they associate it with that. I also make sure the litter pan is low enough on the edges so it is very easy for them to climb into to do their business.



As I said, I have never had a rat that was 100 percent perfect with getting ALL of their poops in the pan, but more often than not, they do very well with getting a lot of them into their litter tray.

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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-04-2013, 05:59 PM
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Don't get discouraged with the litter training! With my boys it was a very fast and easy process (poop only; urine is virtually impossible to train them to do in just one spot, since males like to mark everything anyway). They rarely had "accidents" outside of their litter box until well into their senior months, by which point I wasn't offended if they chose to go in their bedding, since they were little old men.


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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-09-2013, 12:07 PM Thread Starter
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Well thank you to everyone for all the info and help you guys (and ladies) are great. My little girl has visited the breeder 3times now and has taken to a group of males so we have decided to go with three for this go around.

My daughter is ecstatic we have only had them for three days now still working on names for two of them the bigger guy I call niko. I will keep attempting to capture some good pics to post.

I went with the fleece bedding, nice and cheap from Walmart hold it down with binder clips, yesterday news for litter and I must say the breeder is awesome because he starts litter training from the get go so a few pieces a day I pick up so that's been nice. They get plenty of out of cage time my wife has them out seems like all day which is good cause she works out of the home office.

Oh since I have two cages the wife didn't want the big critter nation cage in family room so the smaller preview cage is there and critter nation is in bedroom den is it ok to have them in two cages so they always around us? Thanks again
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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-09-2013, 04:34 PM
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Congrats on your three new boys! That sounds just super.

The fleece for bedding with clips and Yesterday's news for their litter pan sounds perfect. Your boys will be very happy with comfy fleece.


It is also great that your wife works from home so the new boys will have lots of human company around during the day, hooray!


As for keeping two cages instead of one, the problem I see with that is that you would not be able to keep all three of your boys together so they have each other for company, unless you have something worked out where they get to be together all the time, just going between two different housing compounds.

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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-21-2013, 09:32 AM Thread Starter
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Well everything is going great so far. we have names for all the boys now nico and remi our white and tan guys and the zeus are black dumbo, i must say my fav also. I have the two cages set up so they can always be around us if we dont have them out i keep the three together all the time. does make for some extra cleaning but i got fleece cheap at walmart 70 cents a yard so i stocked up. Did have a few more questions their nails have gotten long and pretty sharp is it ok to use a file on them or better to clip them. any hints on how to keep those nails trim i see some people put like granite pieces or something in their cages? trying to figure out how to post some pics so bear with me on that. The hubby will probably have to do it. Thanks again for all your advice i love this site and my new boys. they love sitting on my shoulder and watching work in my office.
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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-21-2013, 12:30 PM
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Great to hear your update and I am so glad you like this forum! It really is a terrific place for rat lovers. And I can see you have discovered the charms of rats for yourself! And your fleece pieces sound terrific! I am sure your ratties will love the fleece. So snuggly and dust free!



I bet your little furry kids LOVE sitting on your shoulder and being with you when you work! Rats are such huge people lovers. They really thrive when they get to interact with their people. They definitely become one of the family.



Yes, as for their nails, you have the option of clipping or filing their nails yourself with a regular emery board/nail file, or having it done at the vet's (a vet who specializes in small animals of course, not the usual dog and cat vet).


(In fact, when we had to take our boys in to see their small animal vet, while they were there, I just asked if they could please clip their nails for me, so that was nice. There is a charge but it was worth it.)



I can tell you that I am a bad person to ask about this because my husband and I are horrible about trying to clip or file our own boys' nails because we can't stand having to hold them still to do it and they squirm and don't like it and it broke our hearts...we are big softies. SO, after trying it ONCE, we gave up and did not have the heart to do it to them!


BUT, there are some other options. You mentioned the granite thing. Many rat owners like to put a rough rock or a brick inside the cage and put it somewhere where the rats will step onto it, or climb over it and the theory is that it will naturally act as a file on their nails when they put their little hands and feet on it. I actually went to Home Depot and found a half brick that had broken off, and they just gave it to me for free since it was broken in half (yay) and we have it right at the front door of our boys' cage door, so they are always stepping on the brick when they want to come out to see Mom or Dad or get a treat, etc.



So that is what we do personally. Their nails are a bit long and they can scratch our skin sometimes, but they don't get overly long so we leave it at that. But again, we are wussies when it comes to having to actually clip or file their nails manually. So, yes, you can always try a brick or something similar. Many rat people do this.


I cannot wait for pictures!! By the way, Nico, Remi and Zeus are great names! I love it!

Last edited by Vladina; 02-21-2013 at 12:34 PM.
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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-21-2013, 04:04 PM
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Hi again Pat,

I thought it might be helpful, since we were talking about bricks in the ratty house for helping with keeping the finger and toenails filed down, that I could show you a photo of how I have our brick laid out in Achilles and Maximus' house. I took a full on photo of the entire cage set up to post first, so you can get an idea for where this brick is laid out.




Here is a full view of the house




And this is a close up of their brick...right at the front door where the door gate opens. They are on this brick every time they go in or out of their house, or just to use as a step stool to perch on.

I actually pull a bit of old sock over the end of the brick to buffer the sharp edges so my babies don't accidentally bonk themselves on a sharp corner. Sort of like putting padding on the corners of a glass coffee table with toddlers in the house.





And just as an FYI for when you are litter training your ratties...I keep their main litter pan on the ground floor (you can see it behind the brick, under the bottom ramp) but when I noticed my boys were doing some extra pooping upstairs, I also put in another shallow Tupperware upstairs where I was finding extra poops, and just clamped it onto the bars with a black binder clip, so they don't tip the pan over when they climb into it.



I took a few photos of this as well to give you an idea. It has worked great! The boys are using the pan wonderfully and I have barely seen an upstairs poop ever since I put that in there. The key is to figure out where they like to do their business, then put the pan (or pans!) in that spot. Storyseeker already probably gave you excellent pointers on this already! Well, here are a few photos of the upstairs "bathroom".




Upstairs litter pan, at the rear by the igloo.



A close up.


Just thought some visuals with the brick and the litter pans might help!

Vlad

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You will always be with me, my sweet boys. I will see you at the Bridge.
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