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Discussion Starter #1
I think this forum should have a rat care sheet, somewhere really obvious that no one could miss.

It seems to me that a lot of people come without much basic rat knowledge at all. Sometimes they ask for help, even if they don't heed it.

But a lot of people think they are just posting cute pics for us to "ooh" at. Inevitably they have too small a cage, or are using the wrong kind of bedding, or have some food that's bad for rats, or something else that they just can't know without research beyond the pet store folk.

Instead of taking each person by the hand right away, and saying, look, your cage is too small, your rats are sick because you're feeding them bad food, your rat needs a friend, etc, (which tends to make newbs a little defensive) we could say something to the effect of "please check this care sheet and get back to us." THEN we could take them by the hand to help their rat.

Care sheet would include things like getting your rat a friend, what size cage, what to feed (super basic, with a reference to the diet sticky), what bedding to use, etc. Those are things that pet stores are horrible with, and that a lot of people don't realize they need to change.

I just feel like it would solve a lot of tension on this forum if we could be certain that people had at least read, if not understood, the basics of rat care before anyone got too enthusiastic about rat care.
 

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that's a good idea - if they don't want to do what the care sheet says, then they have no one to argue with but themselves :D it would help clear up a lot of things, but it would have to have info that everyone agrees on (which could be tricky)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
It could get tricky, but I was thinking it should just stay reeeally basic (with a disclaimer that it's really basic). Like, each rat needs a certain amount of space, aquariums are only acceptable for litters, have at least two rats for company, give your rat fresh veggies every day, pine and ceder are not healthy bedding, etc. Really basic. In really general care, there's not a whole lot of opinion wiggle room for minimums like that, I don't think.
 

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that sounds good - diet is really where different opinions pop up (for example, i don't fee Suebee's but a lot of people swear by it) so if it just said: feed your rats the best quality food you can, here are some links (like CJ's food sticky) always provide fresh fruits/veggies, etc. would be something we all could agree on.

i think it would be really helpful! :D
 

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make the topic and i will make it an annoucement in every section. that way it can't be ignored and is at hand no matter where the newbie posts.
 

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I fully support this! And! Will set forth to aide in the creation and maintenance of this!

This might be a really fun group project, actually.

I'd like to see as many people of the rat forum get involved and help in on this.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Mmmkay, this is Draft One. Please feel free to add input! I tried to keep it shortish (but sometimes that's hard for me! That's why I made a short version and a long version- we could do just the short, or both for a fuller explanation), and cover just the bare basics, so that a) we didn't run into too many opinion differences, and b) the reader won't get too bored!



Basic Rat Care

Everything outlined here has been generally agreed upon by the members of this forum as being good basic advice for the beginning fancy rat owner. (Or for the not-so-beginning rat keeper; everyone can always learn something new.)

This is by no means a complete list, but is just to serve as a starting point for further learning about the care and keeping of rats. All information is discussed somewhere on this site, and questions are always welcome!

Short Version-
• Have at least two rats. There is no max- Only your love (and your wallet!) determines the maximum number of rats you should have.
• Have a large wire cage, not an aquarium. The bigger the better, hamster cages are not appropriate.
• Do not use pine or cedar shavings for bedding
• Feed your rats the best food possible, including lots of fresh veggies and lots of variety. Go to this thread for what to feed your rats (hint: they almost certainly don’t sell good food at your petstore)
• Do not house male and female rats together (unless they have been spayed or neutered)
• Give your rats as many toys as possible!
• Give your rats a hammock (preferably several) and a dark place for sleeping.
• Most important- play with your rats as often as possible! One hour a day is the recommended minimum, but the more time they have to bond with you, the better!


Long Version-

How many Rats?
Rats are highly intelligent and social creatures that should always be kept with at least one same sex friend. (Exceptions to this are rats that are too aggressive to be with other rats, or rats that have been spayed or neutered living with rats of the opposite gender.) Lonely rats can easily get bored and depressed. Lots of people have three or more rats, and they often find that rats become more social with their human in larger colonies, not less. Each rat has his or her own personality that blossoms with attention from both human and rat friends.

What kind of cage?
If you already have a cage, please go to this website. It has a “calculator” that you plug your cage dimensions into, and it will tell you, based on minimum rat living space requirements, how many rats can comfortably live in that cage. There are more and less efficient ways to use cage space, so some common sense is required, but always remember that the more space your rats have, the happier they’ll be! If you only play with them one hour a day, that’s 23 hours they’re stuck in their cage. Even if you play with the five hours a day, they still have 19 hours in their cage!

Wire, powder coated cages are best. Aquariums are a poor choice- there’s little ventilation, so ammonia builds up quickly, which causes severe health problems in a rat’s sensitive lungs. Even with a topper, these problems do not go away. The only time aquariums or glass tanks are considered appropriate are for new litters or sick rats that need the protection from drafts. And a 10 gallon aquarium is always too small for any rat to live comfortably in.

There are lots of excellent cages out there. Please ask around the forum to see what people like best! We all have lots of different cages and opinions on cages, something is bound to be a fit for you and your rats.

What kind of bedding?
One of the most important things to remember about rats is that the pet store employee almost never knows anything. A lot of them don’t even like rats; most of the others think rats are snake food, or that they can be treated the same as hamsters. Rats have very delicate respiratory systems, and even though pine and cedar shavings are sold as cheap rat bedding, these are toxic woods and will harm your rat (not immediately, but definitely sometime). DO NOT USE PINE OR CEDAR. Aspen shavings are fine as they do not contain the dangerous oils in pine and cedar. A lot of people like Carefresh, and a lot of people prefer to litter train their rats and use fleece or other fabric beddings.

What kind of food?
There are lots of opinions on what food is best for rats. But everyone can agree that a balanced, high quality “staple diet,” along with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables (about 1/3 of what they eat every day!), is optimal for the rats. With very few exceptions, food found in a pet store does not meet the nutritional requirements of rats, even if it was expensive or recommended. Even more often, the ingredients are substandard, and contain ingredients indigestible to rats. Even if there’s a rat on it, chances are it’s a modified hamster or mouse diet. Foods high in fat or sugar should be avoided, or given only as occasional treats. For an excellent discussion on rat diet, including the favored staple diets, what foods to avoid, and what foods are great, go here. On a related topic, always provide your rats with fresh water from a sipper bottle.

What kind of toys?
The more toys the better. Rats are super smart, and easily get bored if they’re not supplied with enough toys, play time, and new things to explore. Hammocks are a favorite (they double as tag track and sleeping place), and very easy to make. Other easy toys include toilet paper tubes, wood chews, ropes to climb on, and an all time favorite, the wheel. Just ask and see what people like. Or, if it’s not sharp, chemical covered or inherently dangerous in any way, just throw it in! Chances are your rat will appreciate it, and they can usually find some way to make anything entertaining.

How much play time?
Again, the more the better. As mentioned before, rats are very smart and social creatures; if they are left too long in their cages, they get bored. They love exploring, they love tasting, they love trying new things and getting into new troubles. Furthermore, rats are unique rodents because they love people! After an initial adjusting period, rats seek out their humans, and will beg to be let out and played with whenever they see you! They want you to play with them, and they want as much as you can give! So don’t skimp on love and attention to your pets. Though at least one hour of socialization, handling, and exploration time is the minimum recommended, rats will love any out time you give them, and they’ll be much better pets because of it!
 

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Thats pretty good Captain, but I would definitely not give 1/3 of the daily diet as veg/fruit. I would change that to a staple diet supplemented with veggies, occasional fruit and protein. I would mention that a quality (not sunseed, etc) lab block was created to have the full nutrition needs of a rat met...this is important.

You might want to mention that all rats are individuals and that like people some are shyer, some are more adventurous etc...I find this is a big one with newbies, they expect their rats to be the same, and that doesn't always happen. :)

You also may want to put up a small section on illness (basics...porphryin (not blood :roll:), sneezing, wheezing, URI's, make sure you have a rat vet before you get your rat (most cat and dog vets will not treat exotics)...etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Okay, thanks! Whew, glad 1/3 veggies isn't actually recommended... I was sure I heard that a couple places, but my own girls don't get that much, I felt a little bad writing it.

I will edit the care sheet on the word document on my computer as suggestions come in, and then when it gets the stamp of approval, I'll post the final!

Thanks for the input, keep it coming, guys!
 

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adding the links to the stickies for further explanation on subjects would be helpful as well. i know there's one for diet and intros/quarantine. i think there are others too but i can't think of them off the top of my head.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Well, there hasn't been a lot more suggestions, so here's Draft Two of the Care Sheet, with most suggestions incorporated. I almost did a health part, but I feel like I just don't quite know enough past "the red stuff isn't blood" to make a good sheet on that. So if someone else wants to, it's a good idea I think.

Read up, and let me know about more additions/changes if you think they're needed.


Basic Rat Care

Everything outlined here has been agreed upon by the members of this forum as being good basic advice for the beginning fancy rat owner. (Or for the not-so-beginning rat keeper; everyone can always learn something new.)

One of the most important things to remember about pet rats is that the pet store employees almost never know what’s best. A lot of them don’t even like rats; most of the others think rats are just for snake food, or that they can be treated the same as hamsters. Rats are not hamsters, nor are they mice, gerbils, ferrets, or any other more “popular” rodent, and so they must be cared for like rats. You are definitely going to have to do more research than just seeing what products are available at the pet store.

This is by no means a complete list, but is just to serve as a starting point for further learning about the care and keeping of rats.

Short Version-
• Have at least two rats. There is no max- Only your love (and your wallet!) determines the maximum number of rats you should have.
• Have a large wire cage, not an aquarium. The bigger the better, hamster cages are not appropriate.
• Do not use pine or cedar shavings for bedding
• Feed your rats the best food possible, including lots of fresh veggies and lots of variety. Go to the Rat Diet sticky for what to feed your rats (hint: they don’t sell good food at most pet stores, and seed mixes are not appropriate)
• Do not house male and female rats together (unless they have been spayed or neutered)
• Give your rats as many toys as possible!
• Give your rats a hammock (preferably several) and a dark place for sleeping.
• Most important- play with your rats as often as possible! One hour a day is the recommended minimum, but the more they bond with you, the better!


Long Version-

How many Rats?
Rats are highly intelligent and social creatures that should always be kept with at least one same sex friend. (Exceptions to this are rats that are too aggressive to be with other rats which is very rare, or rats that have been spayed or neutered living with rats of the opposite gender.) Lonely rats can easily get bored and depressed. Lots of people have three or more rats, and they often find that rats become more social with their human in larger colonies, not less. Each rat has his or her own personality that blossoms with attention from both human and rat friends.

What kind of cage?
If you already have a cage, please go to THIS website. It has a “calculator” that you plug your cage dimensions into, and it will tell you, based on minimum rat living space requirements, how many rats can comfortably live in that cage. There are more and less efficient ways to use cage space, so some common sense is required, but always remember that the more space your rats have, the happier they’ll be! If you only play with them one hour a day, that’s 23 hours they’re stuck in their cage. Even if you play with the five hours a day, they still have 19 hours in their cage! So it’s up to you to make it an enjoyable place for them to be when they’re not with you.

Wire, powder coated cages are best. Aquariums are a poor choice- there’s little ventilation, so ammonia builds up quickly, which causes severe health problems in a rat’s sensitive lungs. Even with a topper, these problems do not go away. The only time aquariums or glass tanks are considered appropriate are for new litters or sick rats that need the protection from drafts. And a 10 gallon aquarium is always too small for any rat to live comfortably in.

There are lots of excellent cages out there. Please feel free to ask around the forum to see what people like best! We all have lots of different cages and opinions on cages, so something is bound to be a fit for you and your rats.

What kind of bedding?
Rats have very delicate respiratory systems, and even though pine and cedar shavings are sold as cheap rat bedding, these are toxic woods and will harm your rat (possibly not immediately, but definitely sometime). DO NOT USE PINE OR CEDAR. Aspen shavings are fine as they do not contain the dangerous oils in pine and cedar. A lot of people like Carefresh, and a lot of people prefer to litter train their rats and use fleece or other fabric beddings.

What kind of food?
There are lots of opinions on what food is best for rats. But everyone can agree that a balanced, high quality “staple diet,” supplemented by fresh fruits and vegetables, and small amounts of protein and pastas, with few sugary or fatty foods like seeds or candy, is considered optimal for the rats. With very few exceptions, food found in a pet store does not meet the nutritional requirements of rats, even if it was expensive or recommended. Even more often, the ingredients are substandard, and contain ingredients indigestible to rats. Even if there’s a rat on it, chances are it’s a modified hamster or mouse diet. Foods high in fat or sugar should be avoided, or given only as occasional treats. But fear not, there are good rat foods out there; they’re just hard to find. For an excellent discussion on rat diet, including the favored staple diets, what foods to avoid, and what foods are great, go this diet sticky. On a related topic, always provide your rats with fresh water from a sipper bottle.

What kind of toys?
The more toys the better. Rats are super smart, and easily get bored if they’re not supplied with enough toys, play time, and new things to explore. Hammocks are a favorite (they double as an extra floor space and a cozy sleeping place), and very easy to make. Other easy toys include toilet paper tubes, wood chews, ping pong balls, food strung into garlands, ropes to climb on, and an all time favorite, the wheel. Just ask and see what people like. Or, if it’s not sharp, chemical covered or inherently dangerous in any way, just throw it in! Chances are your rat will appreciate it, and they can usually find some way to make anything entertaining. Another good thing for toys is to rotate them in and out and move them around! Even if they’re not brand new toys, your rats will have fun checking out the new design.

How much play time?
Again, the more the better. As mentioned before, rats are very smart and social creatures; if they are left too long in their cages, they get bored. They love exploring, they love tasting, they love trying new things and getting into new troubles. Furthermore, rats are unique rodents because they love people! After an initial adjusting period, rats seek out their humans, and will beg to be let out and played with whenever they see you! They want you to play with them, and they want as much as you can give! So don’t skimp on love and attention to your pets. Though at least one hour of socialization, handling, and exploration time is the minimum recommended, rats will love any out time you give them, and they’ll be much better pets because of it!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I just polished up Rat Care Sheet 3.0. Version three is basically the same, with a few added points for emphasis, and a few more links.

Is it ready? Should I go post it somewhere?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
No, but that might be a good idea... *goes to add more links*

Version 3.1 also has "pet store myths," just as sort of an intro to the more heavy stuff. I mentioned a few of the things I feel like I've been seeing a lot of recently, like salt licks.
 
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