Everwild Rattery

Fancy Pet Rats * New York Rat *Breeder Everwild Rattery

Rat Care Information

This section describes the care, feeding and handling for standard and dwarf rats. 

Please consider the articles below as a starting point. 

Rats Live in Groups

Rats are social, they need to live in groups of two or more.  This article, from the National Fancy Rat Association explains why:  Want to know to know more?

Which Gender Is Best For Me?  Males or Females

There are many pros and cons that come with owning either a male or female. In some cases, if you are willing, you can also have a rat neutered or spayed, and in doing so, keep a mixed gender group.   No matter which gender you decide on, your new friends will surely love and bond with you!

Males

  • Less active
  • Generally want to cuddle more.
  • More scent marking
  • Larger in size

Females

  • More active, more serious
  • Less likely to want to cuddle.
  • Less scent marking
  • Smaller in size

Dwarf Rat-Size Matters!

Which to adopt?  The Standard-sized rat or the Dwarf Rat?  That is the question!  While they both intelligent, sweet and beautiful, the dwarf is certainly not for everyone.  If you are considering adopting a dwarf click on the picture to learn more about this amazing type of rat. 

 

Preparing for Your New Comer

Before you bring your new friend home, you need to have a few things set in place.  Make sure that you have already set up the cage.  Here is a list of things to think about and simple supplies to purchase.

  • If you have a rattie at home already, you must quarantine the new-comer.  This means placing the new rattie in another part of the house or another "air-space" if possible.  Make sure that you take care of your rats first, before you adopt the new rat. Germs can be breathed in or carried on your skin and clothing. 
  • Cages-Purchase a proper sized cage.  See Home Sweet Home below, for more details. If you are buying a new rattie and you already have a rattie at home, then you must purchases a new cage/tub for the new ratties, for reasons stated above. Looking for a good cage?  Visit Martins Cages.

  • Waterbottle(s)- depending on the number of kittens you adopt. I would suggest large glass water bottles.  They don't drip as much and are less likely to be chewed.  Try to purchase one waterbottle per two rats.

  • Toys-there are million types of items all around the house that ratties will think of as a "toy" consider boxes, packing peanuts, paper rolls, dryer tubing, bags, old clothing, rolled up paper balls, the possibilities are endless.

 

  • Bedding: Pine is thought to be toxic to rats.  Please see the links on "Bedding" in the paragraphs below.  We use some Yesterday's news; however, we no longer use Carefresh bedding.  It is too irritating to all of our noses, due to its dustiness. We do recommend Aspen! 
  • Food-is often a complicated topic.  There are many theories on how a rattie should be fed.  I try to make things simple for myself and for you.  Diet; however, is extremely important.  Please read the paragraph on feeding below. 
  • Food Dishes-They are optional.  Some of my cages do not have food dishes.  Rats like to move food to various locations and sometimes use food dishes for a toilet area.  If you want to use one, purchase a large one meant for rabbits that will not tip when they stand on the edge.  You can use separate food dishes for dog food/grain mix and fresh foods if you like.     

Feeding Your Rattie

Many, if not most, of the pre-packaged so called rat food diets are is not an appropriate diet for ratties.  Mainly because, it doesn't have what they need and has a few items that rats really shouldn't have, such as corn.  

Here is a list of items you can gather that will allow you to create your own mixture. This is the list we base our diet off of.

  • Science Diet Senior Dog Food
  • Total and Puffed Rice
  • Wheat Bran Cereal
  • Barley Flakes
  • Wheat germ
  • Dried pastas
  • Oat meal
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Dog biscuits
  • Raisins
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Harlan/Mazuri Lab blocks

 The diet is supplemented (30-40%) with yogurt, fresh fruits and veggies every day.  Email me if you would like to learn more about foods that rats should not eat!  Always inquire first, if you are unsure because some foods can be dangerous!

Don't have time to mix this diet?  Visit our Rattie Boutique and purchase the mix made fresh, brought on ratlet pick-up or shipped to you! 

Growth and Development

Growth and Development: Click on this link (picture to the left) to learn more about how rats grow and develop from birth to adult hood.

Color Development in Rats: If you would like to learn more about color development in the rat from birth to several months of age click here!

Socialization, Behavior and Handling

Introduction:

It is always best to learn as much as possible and do your very best for your pet rattie to head off  any problems (as they say, prevention is the best medicine).  This is very true when it comes to understanding behavior and handling for the development of a strong bond with your new pet.  Rats are not very complicated but, like the dog, do not speak humanese.  Therefore, it is up to us to meet them half way by learning a little about how they communicate, with their own kind, to enable us to show love and make them feel safe. If we do this right from the start, we will eliminate possible behavioral problems, unless they are genetic, enabling us to have wonderful experiences with our new friends!  

With this section, I intend to provide a very simple article on the amount of time, how to interact, pick up and handle your rat.  There are other methods available and explained on various websites.  I plan to discuss what has worked for us over the years. Feel free to visit other sites to continue your learning.   Discussing problematic behavior is beyond the scope of this article and a subject that will be treated in the future.   

Time Well Spent:

  •  People often wonder how much time they have to spend with their rats in order for them to be happy.   I like to think of it as, "How much time do I get to spend with my rats, so that they each get what they need." To best answer this question, you have to really know your rats.  Each rat has it's own personality.  I think any rat owner would agree that some rats are very bonded to their people, while others, are only bonded to  rats!  To provide what is best for your rat, spend some time with them.  I generally recommend at least two hours handling and interacting with your rats everyday.  This will include: picking them up, having them on your shoulder, letting them play in their designated play area (play pen) while you pet/groom them, talk to them, and offer them treats. Interacting can also be as simple as what we call, "T.V. nights", where you put on a sweat shirt and have your rats crawl on your shirt, in your shirt, on your lap or the chair/couch while you watch T.V. You will find that you develop a special bond with them once you spend some time making them feel safe and loved.
  • I wanted to add that a good play pen should allow rats to climb and play safely.  They can be something constructed with side panels that will not allow them to escape out, fall off of such as a kiddie pool, or an entire room!  Either way, make sure that your room is rat proofed (electrical outlets and escape routes plugged/blocked).  We use a wooden 5ft x 3ft x 3ft. box that is filled at the bottom with soft paper bedding for burrowing, plus tubes, boxes, old coffee cans, a wire climbing cage, ladders, chew toys, different climbing levels and more!  We change this up and add new things every few weeks. 

Picking up a Rat:

  •  If you adopted a rattie from us, you can be sure that they have been held from the day they were born and will be well socialized to the sounds that are typically found in a home, different types of people (including children), dogs and cats.  I start young because I know that if you imprint a sense of trust on a little ratlet when they are very young, it goes along way in developing a great pet that will bond with you, the adopter. Working off of the natural curiosity of the ratlet, as they come to me, I pick them up carefully and in such a way as to support their whole body.  I use both hands to pick them up and cup my hands a little so that they feel safe.  I should also add that I make sure that my hands are clean and do not smell like food, pets, or other rats.  I might even rub my hands in their bedding too.  My hands will then smell the same each time and they will come to know my scent, which caters to their strongest sense, and gives them something to associate safety and humans with.  Then I put them in a pouch, or my shirt and pet them, kiss them, and just let them lay on my hand.  I do this twice a day, every day.   

  • The way you pick them up will change as they get older because they no longer fit in the palm of your hand!  Most of the ratlets will run up to greet you when you are near the cage because they are excited to see you.  They will often run onto my hand or up my arm and perch on my shoulder.  By the time you adopt a rat from us, they will be 6 weeks old.  This is an important and impressionable time period.  There is a window of approximately 6 weeks from the time you get them to really spend time being gentle and reinforcing trust with proper handling, quiet voices, and consistent routines.  
  • When I do have to reach in to pick them up, again I try to draw them out with a treat, and then use both hands. One hand is over their back, supporting the "front legs/chest" area.  The second hand scoops up the hind area.   The first hand I used to pick them up slides under to support their chest and front legs.  I never try to force them out.  If I ever find that there is a rat that has a tough time being picked up in a cage, I usually remove them from their cage and place them in a tub for a while with a buddy.  The tub is a like a cage, only in some instances better.  They are large, contain a wheel, toys, food and water bottle and a hammock.  The only difference is, the tub opens from the top and doesn't have levels.  I can easily open it up and reach down to pick up the rat.  I leave them in this arrangement for as long as it takes to correct the behavior (allow them to develop trust).   I have witnessed time and time again how the behavior changes in this type of set up.  They stand up to greet me when I open the tub.  I don't chase them, because this develops fear, instead I work to develop trust and this leads to a successful change in the behavior.  To find out more about tubs please click here.

Holding a Rat:

  •  Once the rat is in your hands, bring them toward  your body.  Place your left arm across your stomach and tuck the rat between your stomach and left arm.  This will provide a secure base.  Use your left hand to lightly pet, groom and cover the rat to make them feel safe.  They might crawl up your shirt to sit on your shoulder or into your shirt.  That is OK too. You want them exposed to your skin.  That helps the bonding process too.  Over time, they will learn to trust you and feel more comfortable sitting on your arm or being more exposed.  You can also hold them against your chest and cup your hand over them.  If a rat feels uncomfortable, they will be tense, and dig in their claws.  Learn to read their responses to your handling and adjust.  Finally, you can also take the ratlets or adults and place them into a pouch or a pocket created out of your shirt.  Being in this "cave" helps them feel safe too. On ther other hand, some rats are very social and trusting and do not mind if you hold them on their back, kiss and scratch their bellies.  This actually tickles them.  I do this with my ratties all the time! Furthermore, while it's great to give lots of kisses, remember the loud smooch sound we make is similar to the sound a scared rat makes so be mindful of how loud you are so that your intentions are not misinterpreted.
  • Rats will let you know that they love and trust you.  Here are some signs that you are doing a good job!  First, they will run to the cage door to greet you!  Then, make an effort to get to you and be on you!  They will sniff you and settle down on your body (whether it's in your arms, on your chest, in a pouch, or on your shoulder.  Then, they will brux and want to be petted or scratched. This is a gentle teeth chattering sound that rats make when they are happy and content.  One rattie of mine tells me he is happy and content by wagging his tail as I scritch his neck gently.  They may also lick your fingers and try to groom any part of you they can reach.  
  • Some of the information on this page is partly adapted from a friend, named Kat Lovings.  She posted this article to be helpful to new rat owners.  If you would like to learn more about rat behaviors please visit: Why Is My Pet Biting Me. 
Help!  My Rat Escaped!
Spending time bonding to build trust with your rats will also help in the event that your escapes.  To find out ways you can find your rat quickly and safely please click here.

Home Sweet Home

 Here is an example of an appropriate rattie cage, for two-four rats.  Approximate sizes are: 30" x 18" x 36" or larger. 

The cages have multiple levels and ladders because rats love to climb.  You can also add coffee cans, wheels, igloos, boxes, food dishes and water bottles.  

We also add hammocks and dangle various types of toys from the top of the cage as well (toys not shown).  

There is one thing that you can't see in this picture, that I would like to add here.  Rats are pretty good about being clean. 

.....I mean as far as using a litter pan if offered one.  The picture below, shows a larger cage with litter pan.  Bijou, one of our ratties, is demonstrating how to use this time saving (for me) device.  

 If you can afford a larger cage, that would work as well.  Just try to select one that allows for easy access to clean the platforms.  You can also visit the "Martin" website to check out even cooler rattie cages! 

Just remember, that bigger isn't always better.  If you are planning to only keep two or four rats, then a smaller cage would be more suitable.  With larger sized cages this provides the opportunity for behavior issues to crop up.  Evidence suggests that larger cages enable rats to establish territories and become increasingly aggressive.  Also, if you load a large cage up with too many goodies at first, your rat may become overwhelmed and get "cage bound".  When you first bring your rat home, it is best to only put a few toys in so that you can easily pick up your rat in the cage if they don't immediately come to you.  when you have to chase a rat around a large cage and they run and hide behind things you are creating and increasing fear of you.  

  Here is a collection of photos and explanation of how we set up our rattery to comfortably and responsibly manage our herd.

Rattery photos 

 

Cages and Tubs:

We also use tubs to house our ratties.  They are large, opaque plastic storage bins that have been modified to encourage proper airflow.  We fit the top and sides with chicken wire that is safely secured with zip ties.  We also offer this product in our EVWD boutique.  They are easier to keep clean, in comparison to cages and are more space efficient.  We currently use them for travel to the vet, keeping males, females, placing breeding pairs together, pregnant moms, and raising kittens. 

The other reason we switched to tubs is because the rats do not kick out their bedding and their area outside of the cage stays way cleaner!  This is a bonus as I am very busy, and would like to spend most of my time playing with the rats, not cleaning up after them.  Also, the type of tubs I use are very tall and have smooth, curved bottoms that are easy to clean.  I can take a paper towel and wipe the bottom with a disinfectant.  This is a stark contrast in comparison to cage wire that collects food particles, waste, urine and dust.  It is also hard to haul the large cages out, not to mention dismantling them, and cleaning them down on a regular basis.  So, I have a clean conscious knowing that my ratties have a clean, secure place to live in! 

The use of a tub has been shown to improve kitten social development with humans.  It is most evident when you open the tub to interact with the young ratties and they all stand up to greet you.  Sometimes, when young kittens are weaned and placed into wire cages, they hide from you.  When you chase after them with your hand it creates a fear response and we would like to avoid that.  

The rats that live in tubs are very happy and therefore, healthy.  They all receive a Wodent Wheel, a large water bottle, a hammock and some toys!  They are also out each day for two hours in the play pen and are handled and interacted with during that time.  They do not appear to need the large spaces afforded by the cage and did not appear to use all of their large cage when they lived in one.  So, I feel this is a more appropriate solution to, catering to the needs of the animal.   

Bedding Choices

There has been much discussion over the past few years regarding the type of bedding used in cages.  Here is the low-down.  Pine shavings are out!  They contain poison that can lead to an uncomfortable rattie and even death.  There are many alternatives.  

Yesterday's News

 I like to use Yesterdays News, brand recycled newspaper for the litter pan and cloth for the bottom of the cage, such as old towels.  You might have to change the towels frequently until the rats get the idea.  Some boys do not potty train well.   

  

 Care Fresh Bedding 

 

 I have also used "care-fresh", in the past for a soft cage bottom. I didn't personally like the smell and do think that it is a bit dusty.

  

Aspen Bedding 

 

We are currently using shredded paper.  I like the smell of aspen and have found it to be absorbant, but I believe that I am allergic to it!  The only other issue that I have is that the aspen is expensive.  So, we started to incorporate the shredded paper.  The ratties go nuts pop-corning and tunneling through it.  

 

Shredded Paper

This is something I make and sell.  I like the paper because it is absorbant and the rats love it.  There is some dust and it does not manage odor well, so I have to clean cages more often.  To fix the problem I usually put aspen at the bottom of the cage and some paper on top of that. 

Toys and Treats

Lets face it!  Rats are intelligent creatures that love to have fun!  Just like we do.  Here is a simple list of things you can use to decorate the cage to give your rats hours of fun.  Please visit our boutique page for more ways to spoil your ratties! 

1. Cut strips of fabric, tie them in knots on the cage bars.  your rats will try to untie them, pull on them and otherwise chew them down so that they can use them for cage bedding!

2.  Dangle smooth untreaded hardwood/soft wood from various parts of the cage. They love to chew the wood.

3.  Stuff raisins or other favorite treats in a small box or toilet paper roll and layer it with paper so the rats have to chew and work to get at the treats.

4.  Give your rats lots of boxes with various items in the box such as packing peanuts, wads of paper, or springy bedding like (Eco bedding).

5.  Give your rats hammocks, tube hammocks, cube hammocks to climb and cuddle in.

6.  Rats (females especially) love wheels to run on.

7.  Buy fruit or various foods and take a needle and thread string through the foods so that you can hang the long food treats from hard to reach places. 

8. Rats love rawhide.  Try to find ways to tie it up off the ground so it stays "cleaner".

9.  Rats love pine cones!  You can stuff them with peanut butter and roll them in seeds.  We sell the kind of pine cones you can offer to rats.  I do not recommend using the ones from your yard.

10.  Shove wads of paper between the bars of the cage.  The rats love to bite and drag them in. 

Health Care

Every serious pet owner and breeder should have some type of items handy that acts as a first aid kit to help you deal with any non-veterinary issues.  Buy yourself a medium sized closing plastic type container with a handle to store the items.  

Check out this site for information on what to stock in your first aid kit, by clicking on the image to the left.  

You can go to the AFRMA First Aid Kit by clicking on the blue link.

 Here is but a third website, for comparison.  This one is the 

Prevention is the best medicine, indeed!  However, sometimes your rattie may fall ill.  If you are not sure what the problem is and appears to be persistent please make an appointment to see a vet.  

  • Some Common Aliments
  • The Breeding Disorders
  • Developing your very own First Aid Kit

 Check out this page for information on first aid care for common aliments.