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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
So let's get this out of the way first- Claudia is a lone rat. She is a wild-born Rattus rattus and I do not feel comfortable trying to house her with a fancy rat. I have been trying since I got her to find a friend of her species with no luck. I'm not giving up, but this is the situation I am in for now.

I spend a lot of time with her, she gets up to 12+ hours out of her cage with me 2-3x a week. The rest of the days might vary from 2-6 (but often more). Obviously I have my busy weekends where I might spend less time with her but it's not often.

My problem is what to do with her when I'm going out of town and can't bring her?

I recently was gone for about 4 days. I paid a friend to come by everyday and feed her, and I organized and prepared daily enrichment for them to put in her cage to help keep her occupied. Everything seemed fine, until the day before I got back when she bit the rat sitter! And made him bleed! This was totally a shock to me, as she has NEVER bit anyone, ever. I asked him what happened, thinking he might've inadvertently done something to provoke a bite, but apparently she just came up when he was putting some toys in and bit him!
When I got home I *thought* she seemed a little stressed, but it wasn't pronounced enough to know if she really was behaving differently or if I was just perceiving her behavior that way since that's what I expected. Either way, she was "back to normal" pretty much immediately. (Although she did have a broken toe, so maybe the pain from that caused her aggression? Idk)

Anyway, the point is now I don't know if I'll be able to convince him to rat sit again, and the possibility that she was so stressed from being alone she bit him has me even more worried about leaving her. Unfortunately, I'm going to be gone for a few days here and there over the holidays. I'll probably just take her with me when I go to my Mom's, but there are and will be other trips I can't bring her on.


So I'm trying to weigh my options here, and was hoping for some feedback, as well as any additional advice for what I can do to make me being away as painless as possible (I've thought about leaving a radio on for her or something, would that do any good?).

Option 1-
Try and convince friend to give it another go, this time provide gloves and only have him change food/water. No enrichment.
Pros- She gets to stay home where she is comfortable, in her big DCN.
Cons- No new enrichment, so less I can do to alleviate boredom. Limited human contact and therefore chance to notice if she starts getting sick.

Option 2-
I volunteer at a wildlife refuge, and I'm pretty sure I could bring her to stay in the clinic while I'm gone.
Pros- People with backgrounds in wild animal care looking after her, more likely to notice if she gets sick and have medication to treat her there in the clinic.
Cons- Unfamiliar environment. Stuck in her smaller "travel" cage with no handling time. I wouldn't know who would be looking after her, one day it could be my manager and another a brand new intern. Worried about her escaping her cage and running into a raccoon cage and being injured/getting outside in the woods. Being exposed to disease through the air or cross-contamination. It can be noisy and busy, would this be an added stress?

On an added note, I have brought her to the refuge with me once before. She did NOT like it, she was pretty freaked out and hid the whole time, and when I got her home she flipped out and was dashing around her cage like crazy. I was almost scared she was going to injure himself. I thought it might've been heat, but I've never seen her behave that way before or since. But I was wondering if maybe I should start taking her with me when I go there so she can try and get used to it? That way if it comes down to it, I'm not dropping her off in a totally unfamiliar environment? Or is it not worth the stress and I should just forget about keeping her here as an option?

Option 3-
My manager from the refuge offered to rat sit if I needed it. Provided the offer still stands and she won't be busy with her own holiday stuff.
Pros- Animal care background, access to medications.
Cons- Unfamiliar environment. Again, stuck in small travel cage with no time outside or being handled. I trust my manager to try her best to get her back if she was to escape, but if she wasn't able to she'd be lost in a strangers house and possibly escape outside or get eaten by the cat. She has dogs, would the barking be too scary? Maybe a small risk of coming in contact with a disease as my manager brings home babies and critical care cases from the refuge. I know she would take precautions, but you never know. She also has squirrels and a wild rabbit that are given run time throughout the house, but I don't know if they carry anything rats can get.


I'm definitely leaning towards my first option (especially now that I've written it all out- thanks for being a sounding board if nothing else), but the idea of having someone monitoring her that would be more likely to recognize signs of an illness AND have the meds and know-how to administer them is appealing. I have some meds here, and worst comes to worst she could always be brought to the vet, so maybe it's not that important. But of course, this all depends on his willingness to do it after last time... if not I'll need a back-up plan.

Anyway, hope this didn't come off as overly neurotic. I can get little intense when it comes to my animals (ya'll should see the instructions I typed up for my friend when he agreed to watch my special-needs bunny... it was like 15 pages of detailed directions and I labeled ALL the supplies. Even the scissors.). I just worry, and I want to do what's best. So yeah, any advice of feedback is much appreciated.



ETA: Forgot to mention, the vet my rabbits see does offer boarding, and I'm *pretty* sure they will take rats. I need to call and find out the details, but I think the accommodations are small and bare and therefore probably super stressful for lone rat so I was kind of thinking of that as a last resort.
 

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If your friend is trustworthy, personally I would opt for keeping her at home, in her own cage. I would worry about the stress of the rescue to be honest if she was stressed enough to bite your friend at her own home.

Leaving the radio on is a good idea in my opinion. I do that at home myself-even while Im there or tv.

This is all of course in hope that your friend is still willing. Otherwise you may have to do something else. At least if you have to bring her to the rescue, she should be fairly safe and can get medical care if needed. Do escapes happen often there? If not you may be worrying about nothing. If there is, well that would not make me comfy to bring her there.
 

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First option sounds like the best to me. In my opinion it is more important for your rat to be in a familiar environment that does not make her fearful. You can still leave some easy enrichment items for your friend such as stuffed toilet paper tubes or a cheerios ribbon line on a baby ring. This way, if your friend is still fearful about the rat, they will only need to briefly throw in a tube or hang up the line and chance of being bitten is minimal. Another thing you can possibly do is set up a couple of play dates with your friend so they can bond with the rat a little (under your supervision) before you need to leave. You can use this time to teach your friend how to pick your rat up and put her in a carrier stress-free (in case your rat needs to see a vet in an emergency) and other things to do with rat care. This way, both the rat and your friend will be more comfortable with the arrangement.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
If your friend is trustworthy, personally I would opt for keeping her at home, in her own cage. I would worry about the stress of the rescue to be honest if she was stressed enough to bite your friend at her own home.

Leaving the radio on is a good idea in my opinion. I do that at home myself-even while Im there or tv.

This is all of course in hope that your friend is still willing. Otherwise you may have to do something else. At least if you have to bring her to the rescue, she should be fairly safe and can get medical care if needed. Do escapes happen often there? If not you may be worrying about nothing. If there is, well that would not make me comfy to bring her there.
That's a good point about the stress at the refuge if the stress at home was enough to bite, I hadn't thought of it that way. Escapes happen occasionally, not often, but generally the animals don't want out the way I'm afraid she might, and they are typically babies or injured so they are a lot slower and easier to catch than a healthy rat. I mean the staff there is great and responds quickly in those situations, nets are kept close by. I'm just imagining some new intern opening the door and not knowing/being able to react fast enough. I think I am probably over-worrying the escape aspect, the stress is probably more of an issue.

First option sounds like the best to me. In my opinion it is more important for your rat to be in a familiar environment that does not make her fearful. You can still leave some easy enrichment items for your friend such as stuffed toilet paper tubes or a cheerios ribbon line on a baby ring. This way, if your friend is still fearful about the rat, they will only need to briefly throw in a tube or hang up the line and chance of being bitten is minimal. Another thing you can possibly do is set up a couple of play dates with your friend so they can bond with the rat a little (under your supervision) before you need to leave. You can use this time to teach your friend how to pick your rat up and put her in a carrier stress-free (in case your rat needs to see a vet in an emergency) and other things to do with rat care. This way, both the rat and your friend will be more comfortable with the arrangement.
That's a good idea about easy enrichment. The cage actually has a door on the top, he could easily just drop some new toys in there, or maybe even just poke some tissue paper or cloth through the bars for her to tear at.
I offered to have my friend come over so I could go over that stuff before I left last time, but he wasn't really interested. Maybe I'll offer him a pet sitter "bonus" or up his pay to get him back on board with watching her but insist he come over to go over that stuff as part of the deal. If it doesn't work out I'll try and find someone else to take over.

Thanks for everyone's feedback, seriously you all helped a lot! I definitely thought keeping her in her home environment was best, but after how things went last time I got all worried and started feeling unsure.
 

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In our area we have a few professional pet sitters that are willing to care for small animals also. I think that is what I will be doing when we have to leave at any point. That way they are professionals and will come be "trained". Most actually insist on "training" with new animals. It may cost a little more than a friend, but might be something to think about.
 
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