So as you have read from my last post, I am considering getting a new addition to the family. Preferably two because I feel with three pets in one cage, one of them can become the third wheel and I wouldn’t want that for any animal. The point is to make their lives better, not worse. I have several reasons to consider getting 2 more ladies into the mix.
1. I am away from home more and more lately, as I took on a second job and will also be starting school in a few months, so less playtime for Koko and Ruma.
2. I have a GINORMOUS cage that would easily house up to 8 rats, why not use the space to it’s full extent?
3. There are so many poor ratties stuck in either bad situations or shelters because people didn’t know how to care for them or didn’t want them anymore.
But before I can actually go out and get me some new ladies, there are so many factors to consider, even more than I thought of at first.
1. Space; do I have enough space for 4 rats? (Yes, I do). It’s very important that you keep rats in a BIG cage, they need a lot of space to run around, explore and keep themselves busy. Also they need to be able to avoid each other now and again. The cage needs to be in a place where they can see what is going on, it can’t be in a draft or too hot and never in direct sunlight for the whole day (a few rays now and then are fine, they love to sleep in the warm sun). I will do a whole topic on proper cage set-up soon!
2. Cleaning; cleaning a rat cage is QUITE a project. First you have to take the whole thing apart, take out all the loose (and tied up) elements, clean everything separately, clean the top (bars) part ( I usually just put it in the shower), throw away the used litter and clean the bottom thoroughly. Then, once everything is dry, you have to re-assemble the cage and try and mix it up every 2-3 weeks so the rats stay challenged. With two rats I can clean every 7-10 days ( but I take out the litter every 4-5 days), with 4 rats I’d have to clean every 4-7 days. Cleaning the whole cage takes me about 1,5-2 hrs.
3. Food; Rats eat. Rats eat ALOT. You have to make sure you have the time to feed them everyday, feed them properly and that you can buy their food as well. I feed my rats a mix of veggie/fiber blocks, with dry catfood and fresh veggies/fruit on a daily basis. As treats I give them millet, yoghurt treats, or small dog treats. Besides that they often get some fresh wood in the cage to gnaw on. Fresh water everyday and during the summer I give them icecubes and frozen fruits (and sometimes shrimp) to keep them cool.
4. Vet money; You need to make sure you have enough money to cover the vet costs in case all of your rats get sick at the same time. In case of an infection, costs won’t be that high since you can give all of them the same antibiotics, but the costs of operations can run quite high! You need to know before you begin what you are willing to spend. My policy is that if they need operations that will cost more than eight times what I paid to get them, I am not willing to invest, Operations often have such a major impact on rats. When they return, if they return, you have to keep them separate from the others for a while so they can recover and the wound can heal. This also means cleaning their recovery cage every day! I love my rats very much but if it comes to that point, I might choose to let them go easily.
5. Attention (time); rats need playtime everyday if you want to keep them tame. You need to handle them everyday, make sure they know your smell and the sound of your voice. Start doing this the first day you get them and they will become very tame. They also need free ranging time every day, depending on how much cage-space they have this varies from 45 minutes to 2 hours. You have to not only have the space to free range but it has to be rat-proof and you have to stay with them. My ladies run around my single room apt for at least an hour a day and thank heavens do not seem to have that much interest in power-chords (unless it’s my laptop), but they manage to get into trouble every single day, so I have to be there when they run free.
6. Toys; rats are very intelligent creatures and they need to be challenged one way or the other. Most rats like wheels for exercise (not my Koko though), they like wooden toys to gnaw on and sometimes you can train them to play fetch. If you really have a lot of time, you can train them to do all sorts of neat tricks, just like dogs. If you don’t have that much time or patience, you need to keep them entertained. Toys can be: gnawing toys or wooden toys for birds, balls, tubes to run around in, ladders and other climbing gear. I’ve tried a ‘hamster-ball’, that worked so well it is being used as their current nest (and has been for several months).
7. Where to get them; Koko and Ruma both come form a pet-store. NEVER AGAIN! Both girls were so poorly when I got them and I had to put them on antibiotics when they were still so small, not even 2 months old. This was very stressful for them and not contributing to making them tame. If you get rats from ebay or something, from people who want to get rid of them, you never know what you’re gonna get. Even though I may feel bad for the little critters, they might be sick and infect my other girls. The best places to get new rats would be either a shelter (where they make sure the rats are very healthy before they are adopted) or a well-known rattery. But this usually also brings quite a few expenses along as well.
8. Socializing; when you already have rats and you add more to them, you need to take time to socialize them. With Ruma and Koko this was dead-easy as they were very young and Koko was still alone (only for a week), so very happy to get a companion. But now, they have their own hierarchy and if I add new ones, this needs to be settled again. This can often be accompanied by a lot of squeeling, some fighting and in some cases even biting. So you have to be there to monitor the process. First put them in a small cage together so they can’t avoid each other. Once peace seems to be restored, they can be put in the bigger cage which needs to be cleaned first, so no dominant smells will be present. But what if they don’t get along? Then the two sets will have to live separately in different cages. I don’t have the budget or space to get another one of those monster cages, so I’d have to divide this one up into to smaller cages, still more than enough room, but completely past the whole point of why I wanted two new ones in the first place.
So all-in-all a LOT to think about. What do you think, did I forget other things I should consider?