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Oh Boy! Rat Toys!


Oh Boy! Rat Toys!

Sarah Shuman
From the November/December 1997
Rat & Mouse Gazette

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Photo by Shane Faire


Here are some rattie home decor ideas which have successfully endured
the triple test: durability against tiny rattie teeth, cleanability, and
the wallet test!


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PVC PIPE


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This toy serves a similar purpose to those ferret tubes with the nasty
little ventilation slits that catch rat toes, but it is completely safe.
If you go check out your neighborhood hardware store, you will find that
they have PVC pipe connecters in a wide variety of sizes and interesting
shapes. I suggest buying the largest available size that will fit in
your cage. At the very least, do not buy anything that the largest rat
in the cage could possibly get stuck in. This stuff is practically
indestructible and can be sanitized with soap and hot water, bleach
solution, or Parvosol. The rats will lie on top of it, use it as a
little hideaway while eating a particularly desirable treat, or race
through it while playing with other rats.


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FERRET CORNER LITTER PANS


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You say your rats like hammocks. So do mine. You say your rats
eventually chew their hammocks to smithereens. Mine, too. I like ferret
corner litter pans much better. You can go to the pet shop and get a
ferret corner litter pan with hanging tabs in the back for about half
the cost of a hammock, and it will last at least five to ten times as
long. When you bring the ferret litter pan home, peel out the stickers,
wash it out, and fill it with a heavy- weight bedding (such as BioFlush
or Gentle Touch. Has to be heavy so the rats won't make it into "snow").
Then hang it in the highest possible corner of the cage. My rats will
jam their bodies into these to sleep until they look like a fur
patchwork quilt, with little tails sticking out all around. It's
adorable! For whatever reason, they want to sleep as high up in the cage
as they can. The ferret pans are easy to clean in much the same way as
the PVC pipe connectors. They are also very chew-resistant.


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CLIMBING ROPES


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Oh, I love those bird ropes at the pet shops. They are wonderful and the
rats love them. But they are, unfortunately, more susceptible to rattie
teeth than the previous two toys, and their lifespan is therefore rather
limited. Being blessed with multitudinous rodent pals, what am I to
do??? My solution is to go back to the hardware store and buy cotton
clothesline. It is nontoxic, chewable, fairly sturdy, and can be braided
or knotted into wonderful climbing ropes, which I crisscross through the
cage for the rats' climbing enjoyment. Make your ropes four or so
strands thick, so they are easy to walk on, and knot them at regular
intervals. You can even do fancy things like braiding in a piece of
domestically produced rawhide, clean untreated wood (perhaps wooden
clothespins without springs), and even occasionally a pre-washed piece
of sugar cane. You can drill a hole in these or tie a single strand
around them and hang 'em high. These are easy to replace, and since I am
replacing them regularly, I can change the configuration to keep
everyone challenged. It works for us!


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HANGING TUBES


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Since you're stringing rope anyway, run upstairs or downstairs or
whatever and get some of those old jeans legs you have left over from
making cutoffs. Surely you didn't throw those away? Oh, good! Now, run
two parallel ropes through a nice big pant leg, and hang it high! And if
you run out of pant legs, use a nice thick cardboard mailing tube or a
sweatshirt sleeve. Congratulations, you have just created a rattie
"hang-out" par excellence! A fun variation on the basic hanging tube is
an empty, washed coconut shell with 3 holes drilled in it. You can tie
it just like one of those rotating tire swings where the tire hangs
parallel to the ground. This should be placed just a little out of
reach, so it's challenging to get into. A nice treat in the bottom
should make everyone curious about this new "nest".


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BIRD TOYS


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I check the bird section every time I walk through a pet shop. You never
know, the bird toys might be on sale. Walk past the ones with the beads
and plastic, and stop right in front of the wooden ones. Bird toys are
some of the best chew toys for rats, for two reasons: 1) You hang them,
so they are challenging to reach, and 2) You hang them, so they stay
clean and hygienic and are more likely to be used to the maximum extent.
They can be a bit pricey, but I always manage to find a sale or a
simpler toy at a reasonable price. Many of these have a nut stuck in
them or some other interesting feature. My rats like these much better
than hamster chew-sticks.


Happy Dumbo ratty, ULYSSES, surrounded by a multitude of toys! Photo by
Cathy Weeks.




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OPEN-TOP NEST BOXES


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If you have a wire cage with a wire floor (which is not recommended
because the wire is so hard on the rats' feet), your rats will need some
ways of getting off of the wire until you are able to replace the cage
or remove the wire floor somehow. Besides the PVC and the hanging toys,
it's good to provide another option for your rats to allow them to spend
some time off the wire. I look for small (about 1 by 1 or thereabouts)
plastic tubs for my rats. Then I fill them with soft beddings such as
Sani-Chips, CareFresh, or cut-up clean rags. I place them on the bottom
of the cage, because I have observed that that's where they will end up,
regardless. This is a nice alternative sleeping place, and is often a
preferred hangout during dinner time when a rat wants to eat a favorite
dinner component without being seen by the other rats. It is also a nice
obstacle when they race around the cage and chase each other.


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TREAT TRAPS


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This is an inexpensive pet shop toy that the rats like. It is plastic
and a bit bigger than a golf ball. It looks like a little round plastic
cage. You can open it and put a couple yogurt drops or other treats in
it, and it provides a challenge to the rats, who will do anything to get
at the treats inside the ball. It will usually inspire a tugging match
followed by rats racing around the cage with it to keep it away from the
other rats. Eventually, they settle down to the business of figuring out
how the heck to get the treats out of the ball. It seems to hold their
interest quite well. Don't go too heavy on oily or high-protein treats,
though--a few in the ball every 2-4 days is plenty, and I have also seen
rats play with the ball when it is empty.


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STACKING BIN BUNK BEDS


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My friend Joannie Lienhart gave me these, so I don't know what they're
called in the store, and she has forgotten. Anyway, they are plastic and
look like a little solid plastic bin with one side lowered and angled
out a bit. They stack. They are just the right size for one adult male
rat to curl up in. You might find them in an office supply store or a
container store. I like to stack them two or three high and fill them
with bedding, and the rats use them just as the name implies--as bunk
beds. They get chewed a bit, but seem to be pretty sturdy. They are also
easy to wash.

I hope some of these ideas prove useful to you. I would like to thank
Joannie Lienhart for her help with the article. Many of these ideas are
hers or were improved by her suggestions.

Sarah Shuman