Monday, April 14, 2014

How to Stop a Dwarf Hamster from Biting

  • 1

    Adjust your dwarf hamster to its surroundings. If you have recently purchased the hamster and brought it into your home, it may still be frightened from the move. This may make your hamster more nervous and defensive, and therefore more likely to bite. Give the hamster some space. Leave it alone without trying to handle it, but visit it and speak to it throughout the day. Make sure there are no loud noises or other disturbances in the room where you keep the hamster.

  • 2

    Try to handle your dwarf hamster only when it accepts your attention. If it acts aggressively when you try to pet it, remove your hand from the cage and leave it alone. Wait until your dwarf hamster approaches your hand without fear or aggression to hold it. Your pet will be the least likely to bite you after it has become comfortable around you.

  • 3

    Approach your hamster carefully. Don't surprise your hamster when you attempt to handle it. Try stroking your hamster gently while it sleeps without jostling it awake. Do not intentionally wake up your hamster to handle it, as this might upset it and cause it to bite you. Also, don't pick up your hamster from behind or from above, as any sudden or unexpected handling might upset it and cause it to bite you.

  • 4

    Offer your dwarf hamster a treat such as a piece of fruit or a vegetable before attempting to handle it. Hold the treat in your hand and see if the hamster will allow you to pet it before giving it the treat. Do this regularly, but not so often that you are over-feeding your pet.

  • 5

    Wash your hands with soap and water before every attempt to handle your dwarf hamster when you are not offering it food. You may have food smells on your hand, which can cause your pet to mistake your fingers for a treat, resulting in biting .

  • 6

    Handle your dwarf hamster on a daily basis once it has become accustomed to being held. If you neglect your hamster, it may fall back into more aggressive behavior, meaning you will have to try to socialize it again.

  • 7

    Wear gardening gloves if you have to pick up and carry an aggressive hamster in an emergency situation. Use your gloves to direct or place your hamster into a container such as a mug or a measuring cup to safely handle your dwarf hamster. This will prevent your pet from biting you, and you won't have to worry about keeping a firm hold on your dwarf hamster's body.

  • 8

    Take your dwarf hamster to the vet if it shows signs of lethargy, decreased appetite or other signs of illness. Aggression as well as other symptoms may indicate a more serious illness.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bunnies For Easter?





Why am I talking about Easter? Well, the truth is, I'm going to post this just a little bit before Easter just so I can get the message to everyone beforehand. 
Are you thinking of getting a pet rabbit for your child as an Easter gift? Please, don't do it.
There are so many reasons why getting a live pet rabbit as an Easter gift is N-O-T, not, a good idea. 


DID YOU KNOW......?


.......Pet rabbits can live from 8 to 15 years old.
.......Young children and bunnies are not a good match.
........Pet rabbits aren't "low maintenance" pets - they have specific dietary needs and must be handled with extreme care.
........Rabbits must live indoors with the family(see all posts tagged rabbitsindoor, and housing)
.......Bunnies should visit the vet at least yearly.

Bunnies and Children

Rabbits are commonly thought of as wonderful pets for children. After all, who can look at a cute, fluffy bunny and not feel a child-like sense of love for it? Unfortunately, though, rabbits are actually very poorly suited to being pets just for children. Of course, there are exceptions if the adult is the primary caretaker and supervises bunny and child interaction at all times.

 Many people are surprised and disappointed to find that rabbits rarely conform to the cute-n-cuddly stereotype in children’s stories. Baby bunnies (and many young adult rabbits) are too busy dashing madly about, squeezing behind furniture, and chewing baseboards and rugs to be held. Also, rabbits are physically delicate animals which means they can be hurt by children picking them up. Because rabbits feel frightened when people pick them up, they kick and struggle which means children can also get hurt. Rabbits are also built to react to sudden changes which means they may either run away or try to bite when approached too quickly and too loudly. Stress-related illnesses are common. For these reasons, many children, especially young children, will find it difficult to interact with a rabbit and soon lose interest.

So why do they make good house pets? Rabbits...

  • are quiet can learn near-perfect litterbox habits
  • are fun to watch
  • have different personalities just as individual dogs and cats do
  • are affectionate, loving if given plenty of indoor, open exercise space and proper love and care.

In addition, rabbits are social animals, meaning they need the companionship of humans or other rabbits, although the need may vary among individual rabbits. They play, some more than others. Many can get along with most cats and some dogs when properly introduced. Many enjoy being with people, but your family must have patience, understanding, and an acceptance of individual differences to earn their trust.

In order for a family and a rabbit to get to know each other (and for the rabbit’s best health), the rabbit needs to be an indoor pet with as much out-of-cage time with the family as possible. If you relegate your rabbit to an outdoor hutch (or even to an indoor cage for most of the day), your family will miss getting to know the special personality of the rabbit.

As the adult, you need to get used to this idea:

The rabbit will be your pet.

If your family already has a rabbit whom “my child was supposed to care for” and there are problems with this, then try to reconcile yourself to the fact that a rabbit is an adult’s responsibility. Rabbits are very sensitive to changes to their feeding, cleaning, and exercise routines. Changes are stressful and may lead to illness. Symptoms of illness are often subtle changes in appetite, behavior, and/or droppings that even mature children will miss. It is unreasonable to expect a child of any age to take responsibility for care of a rabbit (or any pet). The rabbit and your children, as well as the family peace, will benefit greatly from you accepting this notion.

If your family is considering adopting a rabbit, decide how you and the other adults in the household feel about taking on the responsibility of a rabbit. Do the adults want a rabbit as a member of the family? If the rabbit is an all-around family member (lives indoors, gets regular out-of-cage time) and play with the rabbit is supervised, then a child and rabbit can get to know each other and live together happily. Do the adults have an understanding of the basic nature of rabbits and what to expect in terms of time, training, and cost? Or, are you open to finding out? Are the adults willing to make a 5 to 10 yr. commitment?

Unless the adults of the household are enthusiastic, informed, and committed about the work involved, a stuffed animal rabbit is a better choice.

OTHER FACTORS: AMOUNT OF TIME & PATIENCE YOU HAVE TO DEVOTE

You don’t have to be “Super-Adult” to have peaceful coexistence between rabbit and children. But, do you want another “toddler”? Rabbits are a lot like 2 yr. old children - they can be a joy to live with, but:

  • You will need to spend time in toilet-training i.e.: litterbox training and have tolerance for accidents. Most rabbit people take occasional scattered droppings in stride. There may be an occasional puddle, usually done to mark new territory.

  • You will need to bunny-proof the parts of your house where the rabbit is allowed to run somewhat similar to toddler-proofing.

  • You will need to check on your rabbit often and supervise child/rabbit interactions when the rabbit is out for exercise. Three to four hours per day of out-of-cage time is the minimum.

  • Some of your things may be partially ruined. The amount of chewing and digging  that your rabbit does will depend on age, personality, whether spayed/neutered, as well as on what toys you provide him.

  • Your rabbit will need toys but these can be homemade.

  • Just like human toddlers, rabbits respond to routines for feeding, playing, and cleaning up. The main thing is to find a routine that is easy for you. If the routine is too difficult, you will begin to look at the rabbit as one more mess-maker. 

  • You will need to recognize and learn your rabbits desires and needs and fulfill them, not decide you will when you feel like it.

  • A rabbit, like a child, responds best to situations that are set up so he will do the right things and receive praise for doing right instead of punishment for doing wrong.

OTHER FACTORS: YOUR CHILD’S PERSONALITY

If your child is generally easy-going, calm, gentle, and cooperative, you may enjoy having a rabbit as a member of the family. If your child is generally on the loud side, very active, tends to interact physically/aggressively, or frequently seems to need reminders about or challenges rules(which most young children are), s/he may find it difficult to build a relationship with a rabbit and you may find that a rabbit is an additional stress.

OTHER FACTORS: NUMBER OF CHILDREN & AGES

Contrary to Easter-time hype, rabbits are rarely a good choice for a small child (younger than 7 yrs.). The natural exuberance, rambunctiousness, and decibel-level of the average toddler is stressful for most rabbits. Children want a companion they can hold and cuddle; Rabbits need someone who understands that they are ground-loving creatures.

The guidelines below are based on what children of varying ages are genuinely like while keeping in mind the type of household most rabbits do well in. Of course, rabbits and children do vary and there may be exceptions to these guidelines. The most important factor is most likely the adults’ attitude and knowledge level (see previous section “The Rabbit Will Be Your Pet”

 A Child Younger Than 7 Years -  Probably shouldn’t get a rabbit unless your child fits the calm” description and you are an informed adult who wants to deal with another toddler. It can be done though, if you have the time and patience.

One or More Younger than 7 Years - Probably shouldn’t get a rabbit. You are likely very busy with active children who need a lot of your attention which will probably leave you little time for managing a rabbit.

One Younger than & One Older than 7 Years - Perhaps. Your time, the children’s personalities, and the general noise/activity level of your household should be considered. If your younger child is “on the move and into everything, it may be difficult for you & rabbit to live happily even if the older child is of the “calm” type.

1 or More Older than 7 Years - Perhaps. Again, your time, the children’s personalities, and the general noise/activity level of your household should be considered. Lots of friends coming & going will probably stress out a rabbit. Your children may also be involved in quite a few activities (music lessons, sports, etc.) which may leave little time for the rabbit & family to get to know each other.

One Younger and 1 or More Older than 7 Years - Probably shouldn’t get a rabbit. Consider the information in 3. & 4. above, but your household is most likely too busy and noisy to build a friendship with a rabbit. Caring for and training a rabbit may be “just one more thing” that the adults have to do. 

Two or More Younger than & One or More Older than 7 Years -Probably shouldn’t get a rabbit. Consider the information in 2.-5. above.

  • One Child 7 Years or Older - If you are enthusiastic about accepting responsibility for a rabbit and if your child is the calm type or at least generally accepting of rules for behavior, you and a rabbit would probably find it a joy to live together. If your child is of the loud/active/ challenging rules variety, a rabbit may just increase your stress level and the rabbit will suffer.

OTHER FACTORS: MONEY

As with any pet, rabbits require a commitment in terms of housing, feeding, and medical care for their natural lives. The biggest initial expenses will be a pen or cage ($100 and up) and a spay ($80-200) or neuter ($75-150) operation if this was not done prior to adoption or purchase. Rabbits do not need annual shots (in the USA at least) but you will usually need to make several visits to a veterinarian when she is sick. You will need to keep supplies of litter, food pellets, fresh vegetables, and hay on hand.

OTHER FACTORS: HOUSING 

Rabbits should be kept indoors for health, safety, and socialization. You will need space for at least a 30″ x 30″ or 24″ x 36″ cage. The cage should be away from TV’s, stereos and high noise areas, but not completely isolated from people. Consider which area is most easily bunny-proofed for your rabbit’s out-of-cage time.

Allergies

If any of your family has allergies, you should have testing done to see if there is an allergy to rabbits before you get a rabbit.

New Baby in the House?

If a baby is coming, or has come, to your rabbit’s house, your rabbit will probably be getting less of your attention for awhile, but neither of you needs to suffer. You may not have time for lots of petting and playing, but focus on maintaining the rabbit’s daily care routine. It can be relaxing to have some petting time with your rabbit when baby sleeps. Rabbits will adjust! Your rabbit will be infinitely happier with you than if he is given away to adjust to a new home. Shelters and rescue groups overflowing with dogs, cats, and yes, rabbits, are constant reminders of how difficult it is to find people willing to give an animal a good home for life. Many are initially enthusiastic about getting a new pet, but when the newness wears off and the reality of care sets in, many animals find themselves disposed of for the owners convenience.

Remember! - When baby gets older, rabbit will have added attention from your child (and you) which can be a good thing if you are committed to teaching your child about the rabbit.

Teaching Children to be Rabbit People

Whether you have brought a baby home to your rabbit’s house or have brought a rabbit home to your child’s house, it is well to remember to:

  • Learn about rabbit behavior/language so you can point out the rabbits feelings about your child’s actions.
  • Choose a time of day when your child is on “low ebb” for teaching your child about the rabbit and for play with the rabbit.
  • Set your child and the rabbit up for success. Try to anticipate and prevent inappropriate interaction by often showing your child how to interact.
  • Try not to get into a pattern of always saying “Don’t…” and “Stop…” to your child about the rabbit. If your child does something inappropriate, show and talk about what the child can do with the rabbit. Offer choices for behavior and ask “What could you do…?”. Otherwise, your child may see the rabbit as something he is always getting in trouble for.
  • Keep the child away from the rabbit for a short time if the child refuses to stop a behavior that may hurt the rabbit.
  • Set up the cage so rabbit can get away from the children-”a safe zone”. Use child gates in doorways and or turn the cage so the door faces the wall with enough room for rabbit but not the child.
  • Put the rabbit in a closed-off room when there are lots of playmates or parties. It is often better if the guests “don’t know the rabbit exists”. – Refrain from having children’s friends in to “see the new rabbit” since this can frighten them. Children have different rules, and most likely they have not been taught proper rabbit care and will just want to cuddle and hold it. Once your bunny is settled in and does not seem to be frightened around the child, then when the child's friends come again, hold the rabbit and let them gently stoke it. NEVER let the children go off to the rabbits cage unsupervised, or let him out during the children's playtime.
  • Show children’s friends where rabbit lives and how to pet at times when only 1 or 2 friends visit, then make sure the rabbit is safe during the visit.

What You Can Do with Different Ages

Sitting/Crawling Infants (6-12 months)

Start teaching the idea that the rabbit is to be respected and treated carefully.
BUNNY-RULE #l: Gentle petting.
Sit on the floor with child in your lap while you pet and talk to the rabbit. Guide her hand over the rabbit’s head, ears, and upper back. To prevent fur-grabbing, hold her hand flat or use the back of her hand. Do this frequently but no longer than 5 mins. at a time.
BUNNY-RULE #2: Leave the rabbit alone when he hops away or goes in his cage.
Interpret rabbit’s body language for the child ( you can say.. "Oops, he didn’t want anymore petting. He wants to eat or take a nap.) Prevent the tendencies to chase a rabbit who has had enough and to bang/poke on the cage by explaining: “Chasing him will make him scared of you.” or “Banging on his house scares him.” Watch your child carefully and make such explanations at the moment before it looks like the child may engage in such behaviors. Explaining, then redirecting the child’s attention works best for this age when inappropriate behavior seems imminent or occurs.
BUNNY-RULE #3: Don’t touch droppings and litter.
Teach the child that the litterbox and droppings that may be found on floor are “dirt”. You may have no problem with picking up the dry droppings with your hand, but you don’t stick your fingers in your mouth! You may have to change your habits for awhile to teach this concept. A box with a cage floor wire grate works well.

Toddlers (1-2 yrs.)

Continue reinforcing or teach BUNNY-RULES 1-3 and add #4. Although unintentional, toddlers are capable of doing real harm to a rabbit. They will need constant supervision and frequent gentle reminders of appropriate behavior. See below for additional notes on rules.
Due to still-developing muscle coordination, toddlers have a hard time keeping fingers out of rabbits’ eyes so you may have to insist on two-finger petting or back-of-hand petting.
Closely supervise children’s interactions with the rabbit. This is the stage of the child’s development when some are prone to bash things with sticks. Children this age also have a hard time not chasing a rabbit who hops away. If she chases the rabbit, the rabbit will learn to be scared of her. Teach respect for the rabbit ending the petting or playing session (‘Well, that’s all he wanted to do.”) and interest the child in another activity.
Children who are interested in toilet-training can understand “that is where the bunny poops and pees”.
BUNNY RULE #4:We pet, but don’t pick up the rabbit.
Explain that it scares the rabbit to be picked up and both of you could get hurt. Explain that Mom or Dad may pick up the rabbit if she needs care. Explain rabbit language & actions: “Hear her teeth clicking? She likes the petting. See her toss the ball? She’s playing.” If child gets scratched, explain what the child did to scare or hurt the rabbit and show a better way to act. Redirect loud play to another area (“Look at bunny. She doesn’t like the noise.”)

Toddlers love to share their snacks with the rabbit so make sure rabbit gets only small amounts proper foods and is not overloaded with cereals and crackers. They also love to help with feeding – scooping & pouring food, taking vegetables and hay to rabbit.

One to Seven-Year Olds

If a 2-yr old has grown up with a rabbit, she can have quite a bit of empathy for and knowledge about a rabbit. Continue or teach BUNNY-RULES #1 through 4. Teach by example instead of by a lot of “No’s”; Your child will learn most by watching you. If interested, the child may help with feeding and play with the rabbit with your supervision.

Older Children

Continue or teach BUNNY-RULES #1 through 4. Teach by example and setting up situations for success. Your child may build a friendship with the rabbit by sitting on the floor with the rabbit while doing homework, art work, reading, or watching t.v. The rabbit will eventually come to investigate and to be petted. Older children have lots of other interests and interest in rabbit may come and go. The rabbit’s care should continue to be your responsibility, but your child may help with feeding and grooming.

Choosing a Rabbit

Rabbits have different personalities so it is difficult to make generalizations about breeds. In general though, a medium to large breed adult rabbit is usually better for a child. They will command the most respect from a child and are easier to pet because they have larger heads. Dwarf breeds tend to be more excitable, energetic, and aggressive. Baby rabbits are very active, often nippy, and chew everything in sight. Adult rabbits are more easily litter-and house-trained, especially after spaying or neutering. You will also have a better idea of a rabbits personality if you choose an adult who is spayed or neutered.

Adopt a rabbit from a rescue group or local shelters. There are many advantages and you will be helping to combat rabbit overpopulation. Animal shelters euthanize hundreds of unwanted rabbits each year, many less than a year old. Many more die agonizing deaths from neglect and abandonment without ever reaching a shelter. You will be giving one of the many unwanted rabbits a second chance for a loving home while discouraging those who breed rabbits for profit.

Teaching Responsibility: Something to Think About

Many parents say they want to get a rabbit for their child to teach the child some responsibility. What usually happens is that the child loses interest (not to mention being incapable of sticking to a routine and providing proper care), and the rabbit suffers. The child, at best, learns to feel bad that she has failed and caused suffering. At worst, she learns to resent the animal for the nagging that she is hearing from the adult. Often, the rabbit is given away because “you didn’t take care of it”. The child learns that life is disposable and that if she waits long enough, someone else will relieve her of her “responsibility’.

So, let your child help with the rabbit, but don’t insist. If the child appears interested, encourage her; if she becomes bored, let her move on to the next thing, and you carry on with the rabbit. She learns most of all from watching you-your actions, your tone of voice when you speak to the rabbit, and your attitude. From this she learns the nurturing (responsible) point of view- the patient waiting, the faithful caring, the joyful appreciation and acceptance of a living creature for who it is, not who you wish it to be.


So you see, bunnies don't make good pets for children, and definitely not for Easter.  


Helpful Resources:

www.myhouserabbit.com

www.rabbit.org

www.makeminechocolate.org 





Instead of a live rabbit, why not these Easter gifts shown in the picture instead? 


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pig Houses!

Houses, Igloos, and Shelters

Guinea pigs are mostly very sociable animals, and love nothing more than spending time with humans and other cavies. However, like all of us, they occasionally want some peace and quiet away from their cagemates. There are various types of guinea pig house available which provide your pets with the perfect hiding place, allowing them to get some alone time when they need it.

You need to provide your cavies with plenty of shelters. You should give them at least one per pig, and preferably have one or two extras as well, so that they've got several to choose from. Rather than getting several identical houses, choose a variety, as each pig will have his or her own favourite hideaway.

Never disturb your cavy when it is in its house, as they can become agitated and even aggressive if their rest is disturbed. They'll soon come out of their own accord, and be ready to play again.

There's no need to put hay or any other bedding in your guinea pigs' houses - if they want it, they'll take it in themselves, but usually they're perfectly happy without it.

Wooden Houses and Huts

These are very popular and should be your first choice. A typical house has solid walls, an open door, and one or two windows. There are various different types available, from simple houses, to log cabins, and even multi-storey homes with ramps connecting the floors. Most are fine, but remember that looks aren't as important as function, and a simple house is usually best, not to mention cheapest.

A homemade wooden house
You can buy a wooden house or make your own. Image by Keren.

The best homes have no floor, which means that your pets will be able to sit on their soft, hay-lined cage floor, rather than a hard wooden one. This also has the benefit of soaking up and urine. It also makes it easier to get your pig out of the house in an emergency.

A major benefit of wooden guinea pig houses is that they can also be used to help keep their teeth short. Guinea pigs' teeth continue to grow throughout their life, and they keep them trimmed down by chewing and gnawing on hard objects. Wooden housing is perfect for this, as the wood has the right level of abbrasion, and they are usually much more sturdy than a chew toy.


Plastic Igloos

Made from hard plastic, these are available in a wide range of colours, which means they can look more interesting in your pets' cage. A typical guinea pig igloo has a large domed area with a narrow tunnel leading off it. Some of these tunnels can be very cramped, making it difficult for your cavies to get in and out - if this is the case, you can trim off the top of the tunnel to give them more room.

A guinea pig coming out of a plastic igloo
Plastic igloos make a great, cosy shelter. Image by yourFAVORITEmartian.

Some come with a built in plastic floor. These cause droppings and urine to collect in the igloo, meaning that it has to be cleaned out daily (thankfully, being plastic, they are easily washable). Where possible, get one without a base.

You should be aware that plastic can cause digestion problems if swallowed, and can even be toxic. If your pigs are nibbling at their igloo, you should remove it from their cage, or give them a chew toy to try and encourage them to chomp on something else.

Tents

These are just like miniature versions of the tents that you would go camping in. They are made from nylon, which can be easily machine-washed to get rid of any stains or marks, and most come with a removeable fleece floor which helps to provide extra warmth.

A guinea pig in a tent
Tents are warm and easily washable.

They are perfect for use in your cavies' cage or playpen, giving them a warm, cosy place to spend some time alone. They can also be put in your guinea pigs' run to provide some shelter from the sun.

You can buy guinea pig tents from manufacturers such as Trixie, Pets At Home, and Boredom Breakers. They each make different types, including wigwams, pop-up tents, and even ones that hang from the roof of your animals' cage.

Homemade Hideaways

If you don't want to buy a guinea pig house from a pet store, you can easily make your own out of everyday items found around the home:

Paper Bags

A large paper bag is a great retreat, and can also be torn up to be used as bedding. Simply lie it on its side in your animals' cage and, if necessary, use some hay to prop it open. Note that these will usually become soaked with urine quite quickly, and will need to be thrown away.

Cardboard Boxes

These provide a more rigid shelter for your pets. A shoe boxes or similar is ideal - simply cut some holes for your pigs to scamper in and out of, turn it upside down, and pop it in their cage.

Towels

There are a great way to make a comfortable, dark area for your cavies to hide. Simply drape a small towel in the corner of the cage, clip the corners to the bars using pegs or bulldog clips, and put a heavy object on the loose end to hold it away from the cage walls. They are quick to make and easy to wash, but do have a tendency to get tangled up, so you might need to straighten them out from time to time.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lots of Piggeh Pics!

I got lots of piggy pics recently in the submission area! Yay!

First one is Gertie Pig, who belongs to Amanda. He has really unique colors!

Next up, we have Darwin the piggy and his couch buddy, Misty. They both belong to CanadianCavy14. They are both so cute....

Here we have lovely Lola sitting in her owner's lap. Adorable!

This is Zeus, the cute girl piggy who her owner, Maddi, described as, 'The life of the party, always wanting attention.' Behind Zeus is her buddy, Wilbur and you can just make out the third pig's(named Scarlet)nose.


Finally we have Robin who belongs to BlueBell231. Wonderful pic!

Please send in more pictures! We love getting pictures of your furry friends!



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Featured Blogger: Sapphire Sister

A cute blog by my sister. She told me to feature her today.


(:

Piggy Salad!!


Guinea pigs need vitamin C daily. Here is a great way to ensure yours gets enough. As a supplement to regular food, serve no more than once a day. If fruit isn't very juicy, add 1 tsp (5 mL) juice.






Ingredients

  • 4 strawberries, chopped (or 1 kiwifruit, peeled and chopped)
  • 4 tsp (18 mL) unsweetened pure cranberry juice, or 100% pure orange juice
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chopped romaine lettuce, or leaf lettuce (not iceberg)
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh parsley sprigs
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped carrots
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped sweet red peppers, or green peppers

Pet Rat Cage Accesories

Your rats will be spending a lot of time in their cages. You need to add accessories that will make your rats comfortable and secure. Another very important reason to provide cage accessories is to keep them occupied. It has been proven that mental stimulation actually can increase intelligence.

Fortunately there are many ways to outfit a rat cage to turn it into a comfortable and interesting environment using both home made and store bought items. When shopping at the pet stores check out the accessories for other animals besides rats such as ferrets, chinchillas, birds, etc. Even the local hardware store and the dollar store can be a source of cage accessories. Creativity is the key to setting up a happy and safe environment for your rats.

Beds and Nests

Rats spend quite a bit of time sleeping and lounging around. Warm cozy beds and lofty sleeping spots are both equally important for your rat.

Warm and cozy beds

You will need to provide your rat with a nest box that he can hide in to sleep. You can find items at the pet store such as large igloos, chinchilla bathhouses, roll-a-nest beds, ferret ball connectors, roll-a-nest balls, and log cabin homes among others. On a more creative side you can use plastic bowls turned upside down with a large hole drilled in it, 4” PVC pipe, sturdy cardboard boxes, and even plastic storage boxes with holes notched into them. There are many possibilities.

Once you have the bed/s provide your rat with material that he can make a nest with. Some rats are very avid nest builders and will enjoy setting up their beds. Some good suggestions are non-stringy fabric, CareFRESH bedding, shredded paper, paper towels. Etc.

Be sure to change the nesting material often. Ammonia resulting from urine can be harmful to the rat especially in a small confined area such as a nesting bed.

Lofty lounges

Rats love to get up high off the ground. This is one of the reasons that so many companies and individuals are offering hammocks, soft sleeping tubes, and hanging hideaways. Hammocks are a must for a rat cage. They come in many sizes and styles. You can purchase cozy fleece lined hammocks, ones with pockets, or lightweight lounge hammocks. Many pet stores offer ferret cage accessories, these can be used and are particularly good for larger rats. One of the advantages to having a wire cage is that it provides a good place where you can hang these versatile beds.

Making your own hammocks and soft tubes is easy. If you sew it is possible to really go all out and design fancy ones. If you aren’t able to sew you can fashion hammocks out of towels, scrap fabric, cloth place mats, cloth diapers, or old clothes. Tubes can be fashioned from pant legs cut off and hung within the cage.

Home made hammocks and soft tubes can be hung with safety pins, diaper pins, grommets, chains, hooks, or any other method that holds them secure. Lining the hammock or soft tube with a towel after it is hung will allow you to change the surface without having to change out the hammock in-between cleanings.

Hard tubes can be bought in the ferret section. These tubes connect and hang with chains. They come in different colors and are transparent so that you can view the rat. PVC pipe and drainage pipe will also work and can be drilled and hung..

Toys

Rats just want to have fun so provide them with things to play with. The best toy they will have, of course, is you. Interaction, hand wrestling, training and play time out of their cage with you are the most important activities that your rats can have. During the times that you are not around though, other toys will make the rat’s life more fun.

Wheels

An exercise wheel is a great cage accessory if your rat will use it. Typically females are more inclined to be wheel runners, but that isn’t always the case. Some males will use them, too.

Be sure to provide only a non wire wheel to prevent injury such as the plastic Wodent Wheel or one of the solid metal type wheels.

Treat Toys

Treat toys are always a big hit. You can find toys that hold treats at your pet store such as hanging treat balls, the Bunny Ka-Bob, Boredom Busters, the Pick-a-Peanut, and the Bounce Back Pet Rat toy.

For a simple home made treat toy you can put treats in a small cardboard box and watch as your rats busily demolish it to get their treat. You can also attach fruit or hard treats with holes drilled into them to a large binder ring and attach it to the side of the cage.

Climbing

Rats love to climb. You can outfit your cage with such things as ladders, ropes, wooden bird branches, and climbing tubes. You will find many good climbing toys in the ferret and bird department of the pet store. Take care to not use climbing toys in the cages of elderly or ill rats.

Digging Boxes

In the wild rats forage and dig. Giving them a digging box is a safe way to let them indulge in this natural behavior.

To create a digging box all you need is a plastic box, such as a litter box for cats or a low plastic storage box, and a bag of sterile potting soil. Make sure the soil has no fertilizers or other additives.

You can add seeds to grow oat grass, wheat grass, millet, rye, or even use birdseed. Add enough moisture to grow the grass, but not enough to cause fungus or mold growth. Assorted rocks and a PVC tunnel partially buried create an even more interesting environment. For fun you can hide treats in the digging box for your rat.

Your rats digging box can either be in or outside of the cage. If you leave it in the cage you will have to clean it and replace the soil regularly.

Cage Flooring

If your floors are made from wire mesh you should cover most, if not all, of the floor with something to protect your rats’ feet. Too often rats get sprains or breaks from getting their feet caught in the cage floor. Having a floor that wire spacing is ½” x ½” will help to reduce injury. The other problem with wire floors is that it can aggravate bumble foot if your rat is predisposed to it.

There are many good options for making the cage floors safe. One very good one is linoleum (non-glued for easy cleaning) cut to the size of the floor. It cleans easily and looks attractive. Other floor covering options are placemats (cloth or plastic, needlepoint canvas, and non-stick rubber shelf liner.

Cardboard, plywood, and carpet are all poor flooring choices. These are too hard to keep clean and can not be wiped down.

Feeding & Water Bottles

Rats are free feeders and require a constant supply of food. Food dishes need to be heavy and low so that they can not be spilled. Two other options are food dishes that mount to the side of the cage and food hoppers that dispense food. Any wet or perishable food should go in a separate food dish.If you have rats that stash their food be sure to not overfeed them and remove any perishable food before they begin to decompose.

Water is the most important thing your rat needs. Always make sure that clean water is available. Do not put water in an open bowl. Your rat will either tip it over or fill it up with bedding. There are several good types of water bottles. Most mount on the outside of the cage with a sipper tube that fits in-between the bars. If your rats have an open cage it may be necessary to protect the top of the plastic water bottles from chewers. You can do this by putting an empty can or a small plastic bowl over the top of it.

Multiple water bottles are a good idea so that if one bottle leaks or is empty they will still have another to drink from. When using an aquarium you can get a water bottle holder that hangs from the side of the cage and protects the water bottle from chewing. Always make sure that the bottle’s seal or gasket is in place and that the bottle does not drip. Be sure to clean and sanitize the bottle thoroughly each week.

Shelves & Ledges

Rats enjoy multiple levels in their cages. A few products that can add levels are movable bird platforms, hanging baskets, and level sized ferret hammocks. Ferret tubes connected together can be attached to the side (both inside and out) or top of the cage and used as a way to get from one platform to the next. You can also cut coated wire shelving to size and attach it to the cage using wire ties.

Another good idea is to use wire baskets. The tiered baskets that hold fruit can be suspended from the center of a large open cage. For smaller cages wire baskets can be attached with cable ties.