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Old 11-02-2005, 08:52 PM   #1  
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Default Anyone have a pet rat?

Okay, I know I'm nuts, so let me explain:

I'm taking this horrid required course called "Laboratory Animal Science." And I hate it. But that's not the point...the point is that this woman (the prof) brings in groups of rodents for 3 - 4 weeks at a time so we can learn about them, practice restraint, physical exams, and husbandry, etc. Now, when the unit it over (ie: mouse unit, etc.) these poor little buggers have to be adopted or else they're gassed and sent to The Big Hamster Wheel in the Sky. The whole thing is utterly appalling -- and considering the fact that everyone in my program (and thus, in the class) is there because they LOVE animals, you can imagine the state of our collective morale at this point....

ANYWAY. The rats are next in line to be gassed. There are TWENTY of them, including five babies. And considering the fact that there are only 18 people in the stupid class, these rats ain't all gonna be adopted and rat mass-murder looms on the horizon.

SO, Kate is feeling the need to rescue 2 of these little guys. Has anyone out there ever had a pet rat (or rats)? My prof keeps saying "Ooooh, they're such WONDERFUL pets!!" but this is the same woman who really seems to enjoy squishing them (as they scream) into these barbaric-looking "rat retraint devices" all the while telling us "OH it doesn't hurt a bit!" so I don't believe a word she says.

So my question for you is: do rats make good pets?

Also, I told her I had 3 cats and asked her, "Wouldn't that kinda freak out the rats?" To which she responded, "Ohhh, no! The rats won't even know the cats are there -- and it's good entertainment for the cats. Mine sit on top of the rat cage for hours." Any thoughts on THAT?

Thanks
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Old 11-02-2005, 09:26 PM   #2  
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By the way, this is the type of rat I'd be bringing home. Grass skirt and lei not included, of course .

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Old 11-02-2005, 09:34 PM   #3  
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Like...no...I don't/haven't/won't have any rats for pets.

BUT...

I have been told that they are excellent pets and that the 'dumpster/alley variety' gives the nice variety a bad rap. I have a cousin that is married to our town's 'snake lady'...meaning that she has dozens of snakes and does shows with them and displays them, etc. Anyhow...guess what the snake food is. RATS. They have sheds of rats they breed soley for the purpose of feeding the evil snakes. It's horrendous. I've been there ONCE. I didn't even go inside. BUT, my cousin also said that they make great pets...but, similar to your professor, my cousin also takes these live rats and drops them in a snake cage to their sealed doom. As I said, I've been so this cousin's house once and will never go back again...it's like the little shop of horrors.

Anyhow...my cousin isn't the only person I"ve heard say that rats make great pets. I mean...as rodents go, that is. Actually, they aren't much different than squirrels other than their tails aren't fluffy. Right? But, then again, squirrels aren't known to be good pets.

Well, good luck to you...
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Old 11-02-2005, 09:45 PM   #4  
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There used to be a poster here named Noodles that has many pet rats. She loves them, and talks about them all the time.
As for the cat bit: well, I dunno. A friend of my mother's has gerbils and hamsters with cats. She has those little hamster balls for them, and every night the gerbils/hamsters get in the balls and go on the floor. The cats stare at them and occasionally bat the ball back and forth. The rodents can run (roll) away from the cats and aren't harmed by the experience.
My own cat freaked out when I tried to bring home a gerbil. The ESOL science teacher in the room next to me raised them, and the kids could take them home if the parents sent in written permission. She had a lot at the end of the year due to some janitorial staff not understanding that MALE gerbils and FEMALE gerbils were in separate cages! She released a lot of them into the fields behind the school because she couldn't find homes. I'm sure they are still there: the school had several fast food restaraunts nearby to provide food.
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Old 11-02-2005, 09:54 PM   #5  
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I don'thave any pets now, but I've had rats in the past, and they make FANTASTIC pets. I was a psych major in college, and learned to love the little guys. Their personalities are sort of a cross between a cat and a dog. They groom themselves a lot, like a cat, and they're usually very quiet, but they learn their names, and can even be taught tricks (You can get books, they have to be trained a little different than a dog). Males tend to be a little less active (real couch potatoes) so are more likely to be lap rats. Females are more curious.

Both of mine were females, though my first rat Gussy was a couch potato and loved sitting in my sweatshirt sleeve or pocket while I watched tv and pet her. My second rat, Pinky was a little more of a wiggle worm, and she would cuddle and sit to be petted and held for ten or fifteen minutes, and then wanted to explore. Though she would sit on my shoulder, sniffing my ears.

My husband and I fed treats from different sides of the cage, so Gussy learned to run to the "right" spot when we walked in the room.

It is really best to keep at least two (same-sex) rats, especially if someone will not be home all day to play with him/her alot. Females will often get along with non-littermates, but males that weren't raised together often fight. You don't have to worry about them not bonding to you, if you feed them by hand, handle them, and play with them, they will start to see you as another rat. Having two, they can amuse themselves when you're not around.

They're so much fun! Do a google search, and you will find bunches of sites on rat care and how great they are (yes, they're a little biased, and so am I).

Rats are great for people who wish they could have a cat or dog, but live in an apartment or don't have time to care for bigger pets.

A few months ago, I talked a woman and her son out of buying a gerbil at a petstore. Gerbils, hamsters, and mice are cute, but you can't really play with them much. Guinea pigs are a bit sturdier, but they usually are biters, where very few rats will bite, even when very scared (they're more likely to "wet" or leave a little pellet if they're frightened).

As for rats and cats, unless your cat has mousing experience (was a farm kitty, for example), you probably won't have any trouble at all. I would bring my rat to my mother's house when she had a dog and two cats (all around the 8 - 10 lb range), and they were a little curious about the rat and it's cage, and would sniff him nose to nose, and the cats would occasionally bat lightly at the cage. The rat having no experience with predators, wasn't afraid of the bigger animals, either. I could even have the rat in my lap and the dog or cat would come up and sniff the rat all over, like it was a puppy or kitten.

On the rat websites, you will even see photos of dogs or cats with a rat or two crawling on them, and seeiming to like the rat just fine. I think that can be a little dangerous because even if they get along in your presense, the rat's natural behavior might trigger predator responses.

I have never yet met a person who had a pet rat, that regretted it. Even my husband's grandfather brags about the rats he raised as pets when he was a kid.
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Old 11-03-2005, 12:50 AM   #6  
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Poor babies! Why don't they at least try to adopt them out? I've heard too that they make great pets. I'm a little freaked by rodent teeth but with some of the dog rescue stuff I've done I've come across tons of people with pets of all varieties that live well together. Good luck, whatever you decide. If you get them, post pictures.
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Old 11-03-2005, 12:59 AM   #7  
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i used to have pet rats. They were awesome. My cats did ok with them. I couldn't leave the cats in the room alone with the rats, or they would bug them all day, but the rats really didn't seem to mind. My 3 year old son even held the one rat, and played with him. The other one wasn't as calm so I didn't let him hold that one.
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Old 11-03-2005, 01:13 AM   #8  
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Another cool rat fact, they come in all sorts of varieties. There are hairless (eww, I know), curly fur, long silky fur, low "dumbo" ears, tailess, and all sorts of colors, even siamese and himalayan (with markings just like the cats). They have husky and dalmation coat patterns (just like the dogs). My two rats were fancy rats. One was a soft pale "sky blue" gray, and another was champagne (sort of a peachy beige).

The females grow to be about 3/4 to 1 pound, but the males (especially if you feed them too much) can get to be 2 lbs or even more! My husband's pet rat he had when he was younger, looked like a "wild" rat. Technically the house rats (Norway species, I believe) are the same species, and can breed with the domestic rats. I saw one lady's website where she said that her dog had found a litter of baby rats in her barn, and had killed the mother. She raised the babies and bred them with her fancy purebred rats.

Wild rats can also be tamed, but I wouldn't recommend either because of the diseases wild rats can carry. When prisons were more barbaric, prisoners often made pets of the rats by sharing bits of their meals.
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Old 11-03-2005, 01:19 AM   #9  
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My daughter currently has a rat (same as you pictured) and I have had them before, THEY MAKE WONDERFUL PETS!!!!

The one she has actually opens its cage (who knows how) and is usually caught wondering around the house!! ( Once I nearly walked on it in high heal shoes!) Sometimes they can be smelly (not as smelly as mice). My daughter LOVES it.

They only live about 3 years (thus my choice for her pet to be one that doesn't live forever!)

Most people cringe at having "RODENTS" as pets, but they do make nice pets, and can be quite affectionate, you can even kitty litter train them! just put a chinese plastic tray in their cage (where they are pooing) put some litter and some of their poo in it, and soon they will only go in the tray, which makes them smell much better, and easier to keep clean!

And I have had a cat and rats, and the rats used to chase the cat most of the time! Just be careful when you start introducing them, and watch, if the cats just wants to get the rat, just keep them apart.
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Old 11-03-2005, 01:30 AM   #10  
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I too have rodents, but they are guinea pigs. I've had gerbils, mice, hamsters, pretty much everything but rats. All these little critters make great pets. They are really sweet and hardly every decide to nibble. I'm sure your cats will enjoy them too. I can just picture them sitting in a row with their tail tips twitching! My dog LOVES the guinea pigs and just hangs our with them all the time. Their cage top is open and on the floor (about a foot high) since they can't climb and the dog actually sticks his head in and them licks them! Anyway, I would highly recommend getting a couple. As someone else said rodents are social creatures so you would be best off getting a couple females or a male and a female if you get them/one fixed.
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Old 11-03-2005, 08:00 PM   #11  
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nope but Michael Jackson wrote a song for one "Ben" next question can cats and rats become pals like dogs and cats can well at least sometimes
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Old 11-03-2005, 10:39 PM   #12  
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I don't but to answer the cat vs rat question...There's a guy (vagrant?) who hangs out on the streets of Gatlinburg, TN - a huge tourist area - and has a fairly large dog that walks around with a cat riding on its back. The cat, in turn, has a rat that rides around on its back. They all do tricks with each other. It's all in the socialization.
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Old 11-04-2005, 06:58 PM   #13  
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Default Update :-)

Thanks for all your replies

I'm sold! I bought a "Rat High-Rise" yesterday, so I guess I really am committed. I'm excited because they're babies so I can really try to socialize them well . I'll be bringing them home in early December.

Thanks again everyone !
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Old 11-04-2005, 08:36 PM   #14  
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Ooh Kate,

I'm so excited for you. You will have so much fun with your ratties. The cage I had might be similar, it was three stories tall (the bottom being an aquarium).

If you search the rat owner websites you will find a lot of great toy ideas.

I bought a rope perch for parrots (the kind that can be attached to the wire side of the cage). You can cut off an old sleeve (from a fleece sweatshirt is perfect) and thread it through the rope. This creates a cute little hammock. If the rats don't figure out it's purpose, you can hide a few treats (like raisins or cat treats) in the sleeve, and they will figure it out. My Pinky loved sleeping in the hammock, especially when the room was a little cool. In the summer, you can use a cotton workshort sleeve.

I handwashed the sleeve every week.

I also bought a pair of little cat toy balls (with the bells inside). I threw one in her cage and used the other to ring before I gave her a treat. She completely ignored the toy at first, but after I'd been using the other as a dinner bell for a while, she started to play with the one in her cage - mostly in the middle of the night, or when I would first come into the room. I wondered if it was her way of trying to get a treat from me, or whether she just learned to like the sound of the bell, but because of when she seemed to play with it, I think she was trying to train me!

Are you picking girls or boys, do you know? Do you have names picked out yet? OMG, I am going through furbaby withdrawal (we can't have pets, and we won't be moving for a couple years - Darn it!).

Colleen
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Old 11-04-2005, 10:31 PM   #15  
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Hi Colleen

I was just reading a bunch of rat owner webpages, and it was cool to come back and read your post! A lot of the sites say that hanging bird toys, ladders, and perches are great rat toys. I'm getting a crash course in good bedding, litter, etc., too! Thanks for the tip on how to make a hammock! I've seen a bunch (mostly for ferrets) for sale online, but it would be great to make one myself. Question....wouldn't the rats chew at the material? Or doesn't that matter? I suppose they chew just about EVERYTHING, right? Is there any specific material (cloth, plastic, rope, etc.) I shouldn't put in their cage? I know cedar and pine are bad for rodents, but other than that I haven't a clue.

And what about feeding? My lab animal professor said regular commercial rat chow was fine, but when I looked online for rat food there were all these fancy food mixes, etc. Any opinions on that?

The cage I bought has 3 levels -- it's very cute, with ramps, etc.

I'll be getting two little boys -- I'm not sure of their ages, but they're pretty young. All my pets are named after TV/movie/or historical figures (yeah, I'm a dork). So I'm thinking of calling these little guys Hector & Paris from "The Iliad." I taught ancient history for 8 years, so it's somewhat appropriate. Plus, they're brothers...Then again, I was also thinking Hector & Achilles...or maybe Hector & Troy. I dunno.

Thanks for all the tips, Colleen! I really appreciate it! Please give me all the advice you can think of! I've had dogs all my life, but I'm a total newbiw when it comes to rats!

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