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Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Rat Paraphernalia

By Shellyane Bryan
A rat owner from England shares tales of living with her first rat, Queen Dumbo Duncanson-Bryan, and a rat named Mouse.

rat out of cage
Photo Courtesy of Shellyane Bryan
Though proper housing is important, rats need plenty of out-of-cage time.

After my friend Jessica decided she was interested in getting rats, we started looking at some suitable cages for the future pets. This reminded me that I never liked the cage I got for my first two rats, Dumbo and Fidget. Unfortunately, it was the only one I could get. It’s this hulking, yellow eyesore that barely fit in the car when bringing the new arrivals home. It was equipped with a little yellow shelf, a metal bowl for food and a very drippy water bottle that was eventually discarded. I put water in the metal bowl instead. It also came with this little corner shelf attached with little matching bolts that look like they were made for a child’s play set.

The cage takes up too much room and is a pain to carry. Carrying it comfortably requires two people, and there are rarely two people around when it comes to loading my car to go home (everyone seems to disappear at times of heavy lifting). One of the good things about the cage is there isn’t much space between the bars. I saw a video recently of a baby rat managing to squeeze between bars that were only an inch apart.

The shelf was a nightmare. Two months in, and both Fidget and Dumbo had taken to weeing on it every day, several times a day, for no fathomable reason. To spare having to clean the thing incessantly, I just removed it (Me: 1 Rats: 0). I have never been able to afford another cage. It would be great for three or more rats, I imagine, but it’s too big for just two. It’s not tall enough and it’s shaped in such a way that makes it difficult to find ladders and shelves that adequately fit into it.

Rats need a certain amount of mental stimulation if they are going to be in the cage for any extended period of time. Admittedly, I don’t have enough toys for mine (I am a poor student, and they are pricey) but to make up for this, my rats are pretty much out whenever I am in the room. Normally, I shove anything into the cage that isn’t toxic, like crisp tubes, plastic pots and cardboard boxes.

My sister-in-law, Liz, has a cage that would be perfect for me to travel around with. I’ve tried to bargain with her and swap it for mine, but getting it on the train would be impossible, and getting it in my car is a bit of a task. At the moment, I have to shift my current rats, Dumbo and Mouse, into a cage that isn’t really big enough for them when I want to go home. Liz’s cage is nice though, and very easy to hang things in or slot shelves into. It came from a local pet store, which probably explains why it was such a bargain in the end, compared to the £70 (about $110) monstrosity I got. I was disappointed in the pet store I went to for its complete lack of cage options. I felt a little conned too, because I had just picked up these rats and couldn’t go home without a cage for them. In hindsight, it would have been better to get the cage prior to getting the rats, but it was too much of a spontaneous decision.

The store where I bought the cage has quite a poor selection of toys for rats, and the ones they do have are very expensive, considering they get chewed to pieces within a month.

Maybe it’s just the area I live in, but I have never really been able to find a store, local or chain, that sells decent toys and furniture for rats. I haven’t been able to find a simple sputnik for weeks now and think I may have to resort to purchasing one from eBay at a silly price. Maybe I can get a new cage from there while I’m at it.

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