Pet rats are naturally curious, playful creatures. Their voracious minds and impish ways are sure to keep us entertained, scuttling about solving life’s mysteries, but what can we do as caretakers to embellish upon this experience?
How to entertain pet rats? This comes down to whichever activity the chosen participant enjoys most. Pet rats need copious amounts of stimulation to feed their hungry minds, so it’s a good idea to stock up on a variety of toys. Organizing the cage in such a way as to encourage foraging, tunneling, and general exploration will go a long way to keeping your rats healthy.
Depending on the personality of your rats, different toys may be more appealing than others. Some rats are more content to forage and frolic, whereas others need definitive puzzles with specific solutions. Read on to get some ideas of how to play with the world’s smartest rodent!
A pet rat will spend a lot of time in their cage so it must be a nice place to reside. Places for relaxation as well as play are crucial to constructing the best pet rat cage.
Each cage that is intended to be the home for a rat must contain a sleeping den. Hammocks or other hanging apparatuses can be found in most pet stores and provide reliable sleeping quarters – rats love to be up high. Other options include chew-safe wood hiding houses or plastic hideouts especially hanging hideouts (Sputnik).
Rats are commonly fond of tunnels as they feel secure and tunnels provide a fun place for spelunking. Cardboard paper towel tubes or PVC pipes can be placed in the cage to provide interest points.
To maintain good physical health, the cage should include environmental exercises such as ladders and ropes to gain access to other floors or food items. Bird perches, bridges, ropes, and hammocks are all possible cage additions that will enhance your pet rats’ quality of life. These items will also help break up the cage if you have a particularly tall cage and provide excellent fall breakers if one of your ratties loses its footing.
Even though rats are dainty creatures, they still require a decent amount of space to remain happy and well-adjusted. Two cubic feet should be designated per pet rat in any cage consideration – bigger the better on this occasion.
A fun activity for both the human caretaker and pet rats could be designing a small town, or dollhouse of sorts, to be enjoyed by the inquisitive rodents. Changing up the layout and utilizing moving components could help keep the floorplans fresh and the pet rats interested.
Rats love to dig, its in their nature. In the wild rats will dig and forage through practically anything, they will burrow tunnels to live and sleep in and root through substrates to find food.
You can replicate this naturally instinctive activity for your pet rat inside and out of their cage. When buying a suitably sized cage for your rats it is recommended you get one with a deep base so you can fill it with suitable bedding substrate – this way you can hide and scatter treats for your rats dig and forage for.
Don’t panic if you haven’t got a deep based cage you can make one on your own. Simply source a litter tray or plaster storage container that is suitably sized to the cage and place this at the bottom of the cage filled with digable substrate.
Another excellent way to enrich this activity is to provide a digging box when out you are free-roaming your rats during playtime. Making a digging box is pretty easy, simply find a large deep box or storage container – we used a plastic container 12 inches wide by 18 inches deep, this way your rat can easily access the area and it’s still deep enough to help contain the mess.
Alternatively, you could use shallower tub but ideally with a lid to help contain the mess – simply cut a nice neat hole with no sharp edges in the lid large enough for your rat to fit through.
Finally, fill the container or box with a digable substrate, some ideas are listed below:
- Shredded cardboard
- Sterile potting soil or organic compost with 40% sand
- Shredded paper
When a pair of pet rats are brought into a new home, they aren’t sure who to trust yet. Depending on where they were sourced, the rats may or may not have had a lot of interaction with humans; if this is the case, these rats are going to be skittish and untrusting. Rats that haven’t been hand tamed tend to appear somewhat distressed during handling and will give it their best shot at escaping.
Building a friendship on trust and respect will ensure a strong relationship down the line. To bond with your pet rats, it’s important to handle them frequently and handle them gently. As mentioned in the beginning, your pet rats may seem unsure of the activity, and might even want to leave! Keep at it though, and eventually, your pet rats will come to understand that handling doesn’t equal harm.
Working your way into comfortably interacting with your pet rats is worth the effort. Spending time near the rats and speaking to them will allow these connections to form. Hand tamed rats remain sweet and affectionate with their caretakers, and will even learn to ride around in their pockets or upon their shoulders.
A sign of a strong bond is whether or not the rat in question treats you like one of their own. Acceptance is the greatest compliment, and once the mischief of rats has come to terms with the kinship, you can rest easy knowing you’ve made a loving, loyal friend.
Pet rats will gladly cuddle their owners, and aren’t shy when it comes to doling out the affection. Rats will even groom their owners much in the same way they do with each other! If a pet rat is licking you, that’s a fairly good sign the rat has accepted you.
There are many toys available for rats that can be found at your local pet store or can be put together with some materials likely laying around your house.
Activity wheels are a popular choice amongst rat owners, but be aware that not all wheels are safe! Wire exercise wheels should be avoided as they can potentially break tails or toes! Solid activity wheels 11inches in diameter are preferred in this case and will often be marketed as rat-safe. On that note, don’t always take ‘rat-safe’ for granted as many pet stores and online retailers will actually sell harmful products for all types of pets not just rats.
Rats only have one set of teeth throughout their life, and those teeth never stop growing! It’s vital to provide chewing outlets for your pet rats to avoid unwanted health problems related to unkempt tooth growth. Toys that aren’t designed to withstand the destructive powers of rodent teeth will fall apart quickly; to remedy this situation, seek out toys specifically designed for chewing!
Foraging and gathering food is built into a rats genes. This is an excellent way to stimulate their minds and keeping your rat entertained while in their cage. You can hide small treats like berries or seeds around the cage in a thick layer of the substrate or make up your own with something hanging from a string like small pieces of fruit.
If you are struggling to think of some ideas you could opt for a foraging ball that you can hide treats inside, these are pretty robust and your rat will spend hours rolling it around and knawing on it to get his favorite treat out.
Pet stores sell various food dispensers and these can provide hours of enjoyment by making the pet rat work for their meal. Depending on the toy, some must be rotated while others have to be jostled to earn their treats.
Shredding and Nesting
Should you provide rats with shreddable material, they may just discover pure bliss. It’s a fact that many rats enjoy the act of shredding apart tissue paper, toilet paper, or even things such as sisal string and straw. Spare bits of fabric or scraps can make excellent nesting material, as well.
Balls and Bells
Many pet stores will sell hard, durable plastic toys that contain bells or other noise-making material. Whether they’re kept in the rodent, feline, or avian section may differ, but these toys will do just fine so long as nothing can be broken off and choked on.
When looking to add toys to your pets’ toybox, consider what would be enticing or interesting from their perspective. An empty carton of eggs may not provide much entertainment for humans, but could easily be revamped into a fun buffet for foraging!
Exercise balls are NOT a good idea. Rats don’t have very good eyesight and rely heavily on their whiskers, smell, and touch – exercise balls affect these senses and will disorientate your rat. Could you imagine being blindfolded with your arms tied behind your back on a set of rollerskates – I’m sure this would resemble the rats ball experience.
One of the best things about owning pet rats is being able to engage in fun games due to their quick wit and keen intellect.
Hide just out of the line of sight and wait until your pet rats begin to become suspicious. If you decide to pop-out and surprise them, they’ll probably get excited! After a few rounds of this game, pet rats may catch on and start concealing themselves only to skitter out for a surprise!
Hide and Seek
Once concealed from your pet rats, see how long it takes them to notice something is amiss and then start looking for you. Once found, expressing happiness via cuddles and games will solidify this game as a favorite.
Just as the name implies, games of tag are fairly effortless to initiate. Tickling along the back of a pet rat, or wiggling your fingertips playfully can be enough to engage a game of chase. The loser will be force-groomed or have their tummy tickled mercilessly!
Offer various knickknacks (strips of fabric, bits of cardstock, empty paper rolls) as desirable treasures and allow your pet rats to divvy up the finds and abscond with them to undisclosed hiding spots.
Rats will often engage in playfights with each other, but the same thing can be simulated if you attempt to flip a rat over to tickle their tummy. Allowing them to recuperate and chase your hand in return will complete this ritual, while finger grooming strengthens the bond.
Bear in mind all rats temperaments and personalities are different, this, of course, is something only you will know so please keep this in mind when wrestling with them – you could end up on the end of a rather sore nip if they either don’t enjoy it or they get bored.
Perplexing recreations are a customary pastime for pet rats.
Any box with multiple compartments can be used to stash treats and away from hungry paws. Such containers prove to be mentally taxing, as the pet must figure out how each compartment opens to receive the goods. The more precise and controlled the movement required is, the harder this puzzle will be.
Pea fishing is a uniquely intriguing concept: toss a handful of peas into a shallow container and a shallow amount of tepid water. Pet rats love to perch themselves at the water’s edge and paw for peas. Depending on the disposition, some rats will attempt to avoid the water while others will simply feast as they soak.
If left to their own devices, pet rats will gladly investigate and excavate the dirt in your garden boxes. Put this instinct to use by providing a treasure box that contains a bunch of treats and trinkets to be found in the soil. Make use of plastic bins or unused food containers as these can easily be stored away for later use.
Rats are well-known for their notoriously good maze navigation skills. Encourage your pet rat to figure out their surroundings by providing a fun-filled maze full of toys and treats. Bits of string can be used to entice your pet rats into the maze or help give them hints should they get lost.
When your pet is the size of a large potato the world seems unabashedly small. Using this to your advantage can lead to some pretty impressive designs for you and your pet rats!
Make use of a storage container intended for underneath the bed. Purchase rat-safe soil (not containing any toxic chemicals or fertilizers) and pour a level amount of dirt into the plastic bin. Sow some cheap grass seeds into this soil (again, ensuring they’re safe for rat consumption). You’ve effectively cultivated a lawn for your little rat, and can now decorate it to your hearts’ content.
What better way to recycle cardboard boxes and bottle caps than to create a fully destructible dollhouse? By using rat-safe materials, recycling kinds of stuff becomes much more intriguing.
Take a regular cardboard box and cut windows and doors into it, place a swatch of carpet for the floor covering and provide a few swathes of fabric as a nesting medium. Better still, the dollhouse will be under constant renovation as the pet rats conduct their teardowns and the caretakers add more elements as supplies become available.
Rats have incredible intelligence, and this trait shines when witnessing a rat run a relay. Courses can vary and can incorporate a wide array of potential skills. Obstacle courses are a very good test of endurance and mental stamina as well as physical fitness of the pet rat.
Ideas for barriers include bars that must be climbed over or slithered beneath, ropes that need to be clung to climb, maze portions, and other blockades that must be pulled aside to access the passage.
Using mostly vertical components, build a tower that the pet rat must climb to reach the goodies at the top. Get creative and use rope ladders, bars, and tubes as assorted pathways. Leaving little treats along the way will help to motivate the pet rats to persist to the summit.
This is another design that benefits from its spontaneous and unplanned fabrication; as portions become too easy (or if some were too difficult), they can be swapped as necessary to create the appropriate playground for your pet rats.
Alternatively, if you are struggling for ideas or don’t fancy the idea of making one on your own you could buy a cat tree for your rats to climb all over.
We need to enjoy existing within our environment to be comfortable, and we need to feel fulfilled in our habitat to be happy. Adopting pet rats means agreeing to provide a lifetime of enrichment and to encourage practices proven to help maintain good health.
Pet rats require an immense amount of trust to form a proper bond. Engaging in fun activities and helping to teach your pet rats about the world around them will help to integrate you into their hearts.
Rats are compelling companions, always looking to learn from their surroundings, making them an amusing pet to share a home with as they create merriment wherever they go.
We have just written a great article about the 12 best ways to pamper your dog, why not head over and read it.