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Pet Rats/First rats: Questions


QUESTION: Hi Natasha

You probably don't remember me but I used to ask you about my two mice Bambi and Lunar. Well I won't go in to too much detail but Bambi both sadly passed away when they were just over a year old.
Anyway I was so upset about their death that I didn't want to get any more small pets for a while but not long after they died my mum told me that one her friends at work was being evicted and the new place they were moving to didn't allow pets so she needed to rehome her three rats at first I wasn't sure about it but then someone told that they'd seen the that the rats were kept there and said that they had a really bad life so eventually I said okay. We didn't here much from the owner that was until last night when she phoned up and said she was moving out the next day and needed someone to take the rats NOW.

So I now have three female rats named Doris, Minnie and Moo (none of them are names I would have chosen but I won't change them cos they might get confused. The rats where kept pretty poorly, she gave us a cage which isn't very nice as it has wire flooring on the shelves which is my abslolute hate because I know that it can hurt there feet and the cage is generally just poorly built, poorly designed and is very big so doesn't fit in my bedroom very well and I know that rats need a big cage but I saw some online that would fit in my bedroom much better and according to rat calculator can accomadate a maximum of five rats so it should be fine for them and I think I will definitely get them a new cage.

The other terrible thing about the way that they were being kept was that they had absolutely no toys, I mean literally none. The owner gave us a bag with all their things in and there was only four things in the bag which were
-A water bottle.
-A food dish.
-A tiny house that is way too small for even one of them to sleep in so they have nowhere to sleep.
-And a very chewed up chew toy (which was the only toy).
I tried to give them something to play with by puttin some old toilet rolls in their but we didn't have anything for them to play with and they came with literally nothing.

So tomorrow my parents said they would take me to pets at home and I'm gonna buy them a new everything including a new cage and a million toys and houses and hammocks big wheels (at pets at home they have huge wheels designed for rats and ferrets).

As for the rats themselves well they are lovely they are super friendly and love people apparantly the one thing the previous owner did do was handle them a lot so they love being held and seeing people. They came in a carry case so I had to pick them up to put them in their cage and they didn't even flinch when I went to pick them up even though they haven't met me and were fine being handled and they always come to greet me everytime I come in the room so that is one good thing.

So what I want to know is:
1) first thing I'm worried about is the fact they are girls cos when I looked online about which gender of rats is better everyone said boys are better cos they are more cuddly and that girls can be too lively so will they be too lively for a first time rat owner, which gender would you reccomend?

2)I'm thinking about handling the rats tonight and I'm a bit nervous so I'm not gonna let them go on the floor for a run around cos I don't want them going down the cracks in the side of my wardrobe and getting lost but when I do decide to give them out of cage time on the floor do I need a play pen for them cos I looked it up online and some people say you do and some don't, ther are a few gapa in my bedroom that they would be able to get through but it is possible to plug them up with something however I am worried about all the wires I have round my computer obviously I would never leave them unsupervised when their out of the cage but will I need a playpen and if so where would I get one I know you can get the grrrreat wall ones which look really good but I can't find anywhere to buy one in the UK and all the ones in the UK are too low, I could try to build something out of cardboard but wouldn't they just chew through it. So anyway do I need a playpen for them and if so where do I get one?

3) Everytime I open the cage door the rats go crazy and run to try and get out even when I put food in and i'm worried they will get out but hopefully this will calm down if I get them a new cage pack with toys so that they will enjoy being in the cage but if it does continue is there anyway to dsicourage this behaviour?    

Thanks for answering :)


ANSWER: Hi Verity :)

Very sorry about the mice. I had a little girl pass away today so I am feeling a little sad too.

Well obviously I didn't get you an answer before the evening :( so I hope everything went well. I am so glad that you recognized the many things that were inappropriate about their husbandry.

The best thing I can do is send you to my rat and mouse group on Facebook. It is called Rats are Awesome on Facebook though the group is Rats and Mice are Awesome. Sadly mice did not make it into the title.

You won't get in right away until I get a chance to look at the request list but that doesn't matter because all of our resources are available to the Facebook public. You can find all of the following links easily yourself but I figured I will give you a head start.

Here are the documents:

And the most important one is called Common Issues:

Start with the section Your First Rat or Mouse of course!!

Also with you asking about cages, there is a ton of ideas that our members have thought of in our document Everything Cages:

And last but not least, an amazing album of what other members have done with their cages. Many members make these fleece items and there are hide sellers in the UK too, in our Shopping document, but you can find that later. Here is our album Cage Setups:

Since I put almost all of this together, this is a personal answer :)

Oh don't forget to friend me and write to me!!

If course maybe you don't have a Facebook account. I can copy parts of these documents into your next answer. In brief, though:

1. I have boys. But whenever someone asks in my group, which do you like better, boys or girls, there is an even split. We all like best what we have! Girls are curious, eager, show their intelligence. They are trainable (check the doc Videos: Training, Agility, and Fun). Boys are way too lazy to train. When boys are little they are active like girls and I admit I miss that stage when it ends. So never fear-- you have awesome rats! And terrific to have three.

2. I do use the Grrreat Wall, and I can show you a video. But no, it isn't available in the UK. You can make a temp playpen with cardboard and then figure out something more permanent if it turns out they are chewers. If the UK ones are too low, maybe there is one you can stack. Actually it is a little too easy for an active rat to jump at least to the top of the Grrreat Wall, at two feet tall (about 65 cm) if they jump from an object in it. When I was with crazies (oh, my dwarfs didn't slow down till 18 months so actually I do have experience even tho they were boys) I was pretty much actively keeping them from jumping when I was in the pen with them. It would take a tall wall or no toys in it, to keep them in it by themselves. Oh and of course in the group you can ask the UK people what they do. It is an International group.

3. Hmm block them with your body? :) we had that with the three big boys when they were young and they would climb up the door but we would just grab them. As for the dwarfs.. Oh my, they just tumbled out. It was quite a juggling act to get them all in my hands at once and carry them to the pen! Ooh I miss my dwarfs :(. There may be some info in the Understanding Behavior section of Common Issues; also we have behavior experts (and medical experts) 'on call' for questions those of us in charge can't answer and aren't in the files.

I hope I have helped and I hope you can join my group. It is a lot of fun. Well, more fun for members. It is also a lot of work!! Lol

Enjoy the rats!!

Squeaks n giggles,


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Natasha

Thanks for the resources they are very helpful I haven't joined the facebook group yet cos I currently don't have facebook but I think I'm gonna get it soon.

Last nights handling session went pretty well the rats were very eager to come out and play but I just had them on my lap at first. The first rat I got out was Doris and she is probably the most friendly she liked being on my lap and didn't seem to eager to run away from me, she was no problem to pick up and seemed to like the human attention. She even started licking me at one point.

Then I got Moo-moo. (I've sort of renamed her Moo-moo instead of just Moo I didn't want to majorly change the name but I couldn't stand the name Moo and I think Moo-moo sounds slightly better) Moo-moo was also really friendly and eager to come out, she didn't mind being picked up and was fine on my lap, at one point when I stroked her round her sides she started bruxing which was great cos I've never had an animal brux on me before.

Then I got Minnie who was slightly more difficult. Firstly she was more reluctant to come out and play and when I picked her up she backed away a little bit but she didn't run away and hide, when I had her on my lap she was more wriggly than the other two and even bit me a couple of times but only little warning nips. It's not like she's aggressive or skittish cos she sometimes comes to the cage when people are around but she is never as eager as the other two and tends to like hide more but she is still generally okay to handle.

I also got a new cage today it is a ferplast jenny and will fit in my room much better and can fit a maximum of four rats in it. I also bought a few more things to go in it like some chew toys, a hammock, a large house, a big wheel and a litter tray. I didn't go to overboard but that should be enought to keep them entertained fo a while.

So yeah really what I want to know is:

1) Is Minnie okay? I mean I know that she's okay but how do I discourage her biting and make her more friendly?

2)Also I was thinking about not bothering getting a playpen and when I decide to I will just let them run around on the floor cos it doesn't matter too much if they go down some of the gaps. Obviously I will block them off with something but there are only three areas they can go out of reach: Behind the drawers, behind my bed and behind the wardrobes and the only one I need to worry about is the wardrobes cos if they go down I can't get to them there but I've already blocked that off with a huge bit of wood so I don't think that they can get down there, I've sort of blocked off the other areas but obviously I would never leave them unsupervised. So is that possible to let them run around the room without a playpen if I block off the gaps and keep an eye on them?

3)will being in a new cage stress them out I haven't put them in yet but will it freak them out to be in a new cage? Is it too soon cos they've only just been bought to my house and I don't want it to be too confusing for them if they're in a new house and a new cage I don't want to stress them out too much. I was thinking of putting them in their cage new tomorrow, is this a good idea?

Thanks for answering:)

Verity :D

Hi Verity,

Sorry about the delay.. I have very little access to internet on very uncertain devices and have not been able to get on to get you some links which is why this has been waiting to be answered. I am visiting my sick mom and my dad who just had surgery  at their place, without my computer of course. I am going to have to 'go on vacation' I think; follow up questions still come through if I manage to see them. Join Facebook! You won't be the first mouse client of mine to join to have better access to me! I am right in top of my Facebook messages.

Your first question was where I wanted to give you a series of links on scared, timid, or biting rats. It is really pretty complex to try to give an answer at all... But the pen is perfect for making friends because you are nonthreatening and they can explore you at their leisure and curiosity. Treats are crucial too.

If you are absolutely sure you can rat proof! No wires! No cracks! Nothing they shouldn't eat! Then it is fine. Just be careful. Rats can be escape artists.

New cage.. Issue is probably past, darn me. I would always put everything that smells like them into the cage at first.

Pssst.. I answer my Facebook messages very fast! And my mice and rats are cute!!!!!

Squeaks n giggles,


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Natasha Millikan


Consider me a sub, when no one else is available. NOTE YOU MUST NOT HAVE ONLY ONE RAT. JOIN MY FACEBOOK GROUP (because there are smarter people than me there!!): ***** ***** Excellent sites: **** **** **** **** **** ****


I have had rats for 3-1/3 years and have researched them extensively. I am a mouse expert with 40 years' experience with mice. The two species are similar and yet also quite different.

My Facebook group is Rats (and Mice) are Awesome.

I have a Bachelor's and two Master's degrees in Linguistics

Awards and Honors
I am honored that my rats love me!

Past/Present Clients
My Facebook group, Rats are Awesome, serves at the moment 5300 members, and, considering all the huge rescues, probably averages 5 rats per member. That means my clients are about 25,000 rats!!!

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