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Hi everyone! My boyfriend and I are seriously considering buying a couple of rats--more specifically, a pair of females. I have owned small animals before (rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, and hamsters), but never rats. We did a lot of research and we decided they would be the perfect pets for our living situation, especially after learning about their intelligent and curious natures. We're going to wait until after the holidays, as I don't want to put unnecessary stress on the rats due to traveling. I do have several questions, if you all would be so kind in helping us out:

1. Concerning a rat playpen--we need something that can collapse, as our apartment is small and we are unable to rat-proof it completely. Also, it needs to be cheap. We are on a budget, but we want to provide our rats with a way to play safely. DIY ideas welcome. I keep checking Craigslist too, but nothing.

2. Cage--my boyfriend may be able to get a cage from his friend, but in the event that he can't, any suggestions? Again, needs to be budget-friendly and fit two females. I was considering the All Living Things Rat Starter Kit, but after reading reviews of owners who had their rats escape, I'm looking at other options. This cage needs to fit on a table, so please don't suggest any with wheels on the bottom.

3. Best food brands? I used to feed Kaytee to my animals, but I'd like a rat owner's opinion.

4. Adjustment period--I read that rats need 2-3 days in their new cage without being held to adjust to their environment. Any opinions on that? We are likely getting young rats so we want to make sure they're well-socialized also.

5. Buying rats--we have a breeder in mind, but we don't know much about them. What questions should we ask? And yes, I realize it's ideal to adopt, and with other animals (cats, dogs, etc.) this would be my first choice. However, we want to make sure that we have a good couple years with our rats, so this is the only way to ensure we get younger rats that are well-socialized--with that said, if you know of younger rats in need of adoption in our area, I'd be happy to look into it. If you have any suggestions for the Buffalo, NY area, I would love to hear them. I know there's a rattery in Rochester NY but I'd prefer not to drive that far.

If you can answer even one of these questions, or you have any other useful advice, I'd be grateful. Thank you for reading/replying!
 

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1 - playpen... It all depends pends on your rats. I have one Rat that I should have named superwoman. She leaps tall buildings in a single bound. However for the others in the past I've been able to occasionally use tall plywood with hinges attached accordion style so that I could fold it up for storing. I've also done the same with those cardboard trifold boards kids use in school (via the dollar store). Tape them together accordion style with duct tape. These aren't as long lasting or escape proof as the plywood because its not as tall or as heavy. Really though I don't use those pens anymore. The best play area I've found is my bed. I have a special blanket that covers the whole bed for playtime. It's thick/quilted just in case for "accident protection". I remove the pillows add myself, some toys and treats and voila perfect play area. I've had rats consider climbing down the side of the bed and then decide not to but I've never had anybody take a leap.

2 - I've gotten all of my cages cheap from craigslist, including my current double critter nation. The main thing you want to watch is that the bar spacing is the smaller 1/2 inch spacing otherwise they'll be able to squeeze out, especially girls who tend to be smaller. I'd also suggest looking for cages that are taller than wide. Climbing is good exercise and fun for them. My first two cages were actually tall bird cages.

3 - I love oxbow regal rat. My rats have eaten several kinds of food. They love the oxbow the best, its nutritionally sound AND their poo smells the least yucky when they eat this food. Some of the other food...woah their poo was nasty smelling.

4 - Mmm. I'd say play it by ear. Each rat is different. My girls were very interested in me right away so I didn't want to make them feel like that was a bad thing. I didn't force them to interact but I spent the first couple days just being nearby, putting my hand in the cage and letting them come explore me while talking softly to them. Both of them were more interested in finding out how good of a jungle gym I'd be than hanging out in their cage. The boys on the other hand were more cautious and I gave them a day or two of talking to them (no hands) before I started the process above.

5 - I can't speak on breeders. I've always rescued all my animals. There are many many young rats looking for homes at shelters and rescue groups. If you're on Facebook there is a group I'm a part of called Rat Rehoming and Transportation group.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/333825680123352/

People post rats for adoption there all the time all over the country and there are people that are willing to help transport from one area to another. I live in PA and have helped transport rats to and from NY several times. You can always look on craigslist and Petfinder etc. for babies as well. Ooops litters happen all the time.
 
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