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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-29-2013, 12:32 AM Thread Starter
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Question Rat Food and Bedding

Hello ,
This is my first time visiting this site, so I apologize in advance if people have already asked and answered this question. So I have six rats currently, two older boys in their own cage and one middle aged girl and three young girls in their own cage. I have looked up on multiple sites and there seems to be a lot of people saying that Harlan Laboratory foods is a great cheap option for rat food. I have taken animal nutrition classes and I want what is best for my rats and I know that many pet foods you buy in the stores are not actually a well balanced diet for that animal. Has anyone had any experience with Harlan Laboratory foods or any other well balanced foods? Also on the Harlan Laboratory site, they have options for bedding on there, has anyone tried their bedding or have any comments on it?
Thank you for your time.
Bonnie
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-29-2013, 11:12 AM
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Hi Bonnie and Welcome!

Yes, Harlan Teklad is a great ratty food staple and many rat people use it. I have never bought it from the actual HT (Harlan Teklad) company as I always assumed they just sold their lab blocks in bulk, but maybe that has changed?


I buy my HT blocks from a small online company called The Crafty Rat. They sell different HT blocks in 5 pound and 10 pound bags. Maybe even in 1 pound bags, if I remember correctly?


There are several small run ratty supply stores online, and they usually are also rat rescue type operations or they fund their rat rescue operations in part from the proceeds they get for selling the HT blocks and other supplies, so it is a nice win-win situation in my book.


I usually use Harlan Teklad 2018 (18 % protein) for my rats while they are still growing and once they get to around 8 months of age, which is their adult transition, I switch them down to HT 2014 (which is 14% protein). The lower the protein content for adult rats the better. Too much protein is not a good thing for rats. Some animals DO need more protein and thrive on it (like ferrets for example) but not the same for ratties.


But there are some people that use HT 2016 and so on. You can decide what level of HT you prefer for your kiddos. Ratties seem to enjoy 2014 a lot though, and it is great, since the protein is also lower with that.


You are correct about pet store rat and mouse food. It is horrible, full of fillers and junk and I still wonder how companies can get away with selling that and calling it rat food. Steer clear of those. One exception is Oxbow Regal Rat. Oxbow is a great company that sells good quality food for small animals and ratty people give a lot of thumbs up for Oxbow's Regal Rat lab blocks.


Sometimes pet stores sell Mazuri brand lab blocks and while it is an improvement on the mixed seed junk that sells in stores, it is sort of better to think of Mazuri as a temporary emergency back up. I started my first two rat boys on Mazuri for a short time before I learned about Harlan Teklad and other brands like Oxbow. Live and learn!


I have never purchased bedding from HT labs before as I had no idea they even sell that! But I have always used fleece and flannel for my rats rather than litter, as it is not only comfier for my ratties, but eliminates the dust and chaff issue that can come with standard litter, and ratties have delicate respiratory systems so I stick with flannel and fleece cloth and just do a big load of ratty laundry every week.



I hope I helped a bit? If you have more questions, let me know! And there is so much to learn out there about rats, so there is no such thing as a "dumb" or silly question. I asked MILLIONS of questions on this forum when I got my first two ratties in 2007! And I am still learning new things every day!

Vlad

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Last edited by Vladina; 03-29-2013 at 11:15 AM.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2013, 12:03 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for all of the input Vladina you were really helpful. I checked out the site that you sent me the link to and compared it to the one that the company told me to use and actually the other site was cheaper, but I could only get 40lbs and the 18%. It ended up being a little less than a dollar a pound to buy it. Our rats are mostly younger, so this will work for them. I will be getting the 14% for when they get older though and for our older boys. I actually found out that my college uses this the HT feed for their lab rats. That to me makes this food sound even better as research rats need to be healthy to have accurate results in the research. I'm still undecided on the bedding, but I am looking into the fleece or flannel cloth. I'm worried the fibers might get tangled in their toes or claws and hurt them.
Daltonhartman2 I appreciate your concern, but I do not like the implications that you are making about me. You are making me sound very irresponsible with my pets which I am not and if I was I wouldn't be trying to learn everything I can to make their lives better. For your information I actually adopted these rats from a guy that could no longer afford to feed them and they had been living off romen for a couple weeks. We have made our rats lives a lot better from that situation and are continuing to do so. They were also living on cheap wood bedding which we immediately got rid of and bought new bedding.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2013, 12:11 AM
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You are so welcome Bonnie_Clyde!

Yes, that was great that you immediately got your ratties off the wood shaving bedding, excellent!

I understand your concern about your babies getting their little toenail and fingernails caught in fabric, and that is a valid concern, but normally that is why people that swear by fleece and flannel use those exact type materials, as they do not have those little loops in them (like a bath towel type of fabric) that can catch on little toes. Flannel and fleece do not have those loops so it is very safe for ratties. But, all rat people are different and if you decide you feel more comfortable using a good low dust type bedding (like maybe Carefresh Ultra) or something similar, that might be an option for you. I love using fleece and flannel for my boys and since I have had rats (2007 we got our first rats) they have never had any toe snag accidents or anything with fleece and flannel. So cuddly and soft too.

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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2013, 09:50 AM
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Harlan Tekklad is indeed a great all in one staple food choice for rats. Others also swear by Mazuri. Both are fine.

Harlan Tekklad company doesn't sell to individuals. They mostly sell to laboratories in bulk as Vlad said. I think different rescues get it in bulk from the labs usually. In addition to the Crafty Rat, Mainly Rat Rescue is another source for harlan tekklad.

Also, the cheapest way to get Harlan I've found is to go through Amazon. HT is sold in 40 lb, 18% protein bags under the commercial name Native Earth.

While there are many grass roots rat community diets you can try, I've found HT supplemented by veggies and fruit to be the cheapest and easiest healthy diet to maintain.

Phoenix Gate Rattery has a nicely detailed, easy to follow nutrition page: http://www.pxrats.com/ratfood.html

It lists safe foods, dangerous foods, age nutritional needs, sample weekly diet, and alternative suggestions.


For the bedding, I'm in Vlad's camp all the way. I love fleece and flannel. Fleece, flannel and Felt don't have woven fibers to get feet tangled, it absorbs urine, is washable, has zero dust to irritate respiratory tracts, and doesn't get kicked all over the floor to make a mess.

The only caution is that as they chew it, you need to be observant to change out hammocks as they get nibbled so that if they fall through a hole, they don't get strangled by getting stuck in the hole they made.

Even the chewed up linings are good, because I then cut them into bits and fill up a cardboard 'digging' box so they can root and hide in the pile.

I get mine from the remnant section of our Joeann's fabric store. It's always %50 off or more and comes by the yard.

As for Dalton, I could be wrong, but I do get the impression he/she's trying to genuinely be helpful and not pointing a finger at you specifically. It just wasn't as well worded as it could have been to avoid misunderstandings. Ah the joy of text communication.

Welcome to the forum Bonnie/Clyde. Post pics of your babies as soon as you are allowed!


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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2013, 09:55 AM
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Oopsie. I take back what I said about Dalton. I was assuming they were a young kid offering overzealous advice. But I checked their profile page and it has suspicious links plus every single post they've made on the site is of the 'smart spambot pretending to be human' variety. Don't click on their links. Reporting them now.


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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2013, 05:07 PM
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Ahh, good point from Storyseeker about holes in flannel and fleece that you need to be careful of! Good tip Story!

Yes, ratties love to make "ratty lace" from their fabric and so you DO need to keep an eye on fabric that has gotten holes in it that get to be a certain size. Don't want your babies getting their heads caught in one of those holes and choking themselves!

I do the same thing with my cloth pieces that get too "holey" and cut them down for a scrap cloth digging box for my boys too.

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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2013, 11:50 PM Thread Starter
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There seems to be too many spam posters on here. I posted on a cat forum and three out of four of the responses have been really weird stuff that looks like advertising and spam at the same time.
Thank you for all of the advise I will keep that in mind when I get paid. How often do you change the flannel or fleece bedding?
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2013, 11:51 PM Thread Starter
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Also, how will you know if your able to post pictures? Or how would I do that?
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-12-2013, 12:21 AM
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I think you need to have 20 posts on here before they let you post photos, so it looks like you are at about 9 posts so far. But it will get to 20 before you know it! I usually use the PhotoBucket site to help post my photos, but there are probably a zillion different ways to post pictures.

As for how often I change the bedding for my boys, well, it depends. Every day, either myself or my husband will at the very least do a spot clean, i.e. picking up any stray poops that don't make it into their potty tray, and sniffing all of their fabric to see if it smells good or smells a bit "ripe" and replace any pieces that need replacing on a daily basis. I find that is a good way to go, so that the boys always have a clean smelling home. Using my non scented baby wipes to do a daily wipe down of their platforms and ratty toys, furniture,etc, is also a good idea. Probably a good two times a week minimum I do a complete clean out of everything.

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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-12-2013, 12:33 PM
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Vlad is probably one of the most conscientious rat moms out there. She is what I wish I could be. LOL

I'm not quite as good at changing my fleece in as timely a manner. I've owned as many as 9 rats as once, and as few as 2 rats at once. The size of the cage vs. the number and gender of rats affects how often you'll see the clear need to change bedding and clean. Non-neutered boys tend to be muskier smelling and pee mark more often. Spayed females much less so. Also to consider is how destructive your individual rat is about chewing. My big black boys were never big on chewing. My girl Aggs chews enough for all of my rats put together.

A good rule of thumb for sanitation is to minimally clean the cage well once a week, though I have gotten away with two weeks once when I had only 3 rats in a 12 rat capacity cage. You can change out your fleece at the same time. I also deep scrub and sun dry my cage monthly or every other month outside to kill lingering bacteria (winter time gets less outdoor cleaning time).

As for changing it out for safety, if you see hammocks or bedding that look like they could be a physical hazard, it's time to trim them, or throw them away and replace them. I usually toss one hammock every other month.


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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-12-2013, 07:50 PM
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Awww Story, you make me blush!

You know, my boy ratties have never been huge chewers either. They have always done their share of ratty lace projects on their pillowcase blankies a bit, but their hammocks, never! I have never once seen a hole or nibble of any kind on their hammocks. Kind of weird!

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