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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
-If I posted this in the wrong place I'm sorry please don't hurt me I'm new-​

Hello! -- I want to clarify really fast that these rats are NOT science projects. They will be handled with love and cared for as pets and will, at most, be used for mazes (no shock therapy) Haha
So recently, my AP psychology teacher/psychology club supervisor suggested getting mice or rats for the club. I said mice would be fun, not because I didn't like rats but because I like rats too much (though I don't own any myself) and I felt like mice would be more appropriate for the classroom setting, but a few days later he told me he had decided rats would be the better option because rats are typically tamer and are less likely to jump out of a student's hand.

At today's meeting, he said he had a HUGE 20 gallon tank to use as a cage (typical of a snake owner amirite >.<)
I respect and love my psychology teacher very very much and am not going to embarrass him by pointing out the holes in his plan. Please don't suggest that I politely tell him that he's doing it wrong because I've tried that with other people and it has never done any good.

If the rats are in pairs with proper diet, exercise wheel, fleece bedding with a litter box (to help with dust) and handled with care and love, will they be okay? I plan to make food for them with dried oats, almonds, dried pasta and such (any tips for that too?) and sew them hammocks. Both will be girls and I will suggest adoption in class tomorrow. (slipped my mind today, too busy thinking about the tank)

Do you think a shelter will even let us adopt a pair? I can email the shelter if you guys think there's a chance.

Also, my sister, two friends and I am super excited about these new editions and will be able to come in early or stay after school to clean cage, fill water bottle, feed and such.

Black Friday is coming up... If I get a tank topper, will the cage work? The club is completely out of funding, so my sister and I would have to pay for it, but would be willing if we could find one at a good price. Any suggestions?
 

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Tanks are really only good as short term cages and really need to be cleaned daily. If you ever go into a good pet store with healthy animals you'll likely find they clean their tanks daily for this reason. 20 gallons isn't honestly that larger either, and rats NEED to be able to climb. Yes a cage topper would give them some height but not much. And it depends on what kind of 20 gal tank he has, there are different kinds and their dimensions vary. We have a couple girls that grew up longer in a tank and it took them so long to figure out how to climb, and the feeder girl we got at 6wks and the babies we raised are like little spider monkies, so much more agile and confident then the girls kept longer in a tank. I would speak with him after, privately so that you wouldn't be calling him out in front of the class, if your worried about seeming disrespectful. Stress the importance of a wire cage for their mental and physical health. Especially for females. Females are so active and need room to climb, run, jump, wrestle. They are smaller but that doesn't mean they can have less room. I could see a tank being temp house for them while they would be in the classroom but I wouldn't recommend it unless they are being taken home to a proper cage every night.

No shelter would adopt to you unless they had no idea what you planned to do with them. I don't really have a problem with rats being used for mental things like mazes and tests so long as they aren't being harmed. If anything rats are so smart they need constant stimulation and to them it would likely feel like a game to them. (They would need to get used to it first, they might be a bit scared or stressed to start but that is fairly normal even in a home setting) However rats in a classroom who are there as test subjects is not something that any decent shelter would approve of. Ones in shelters are often abandonment cases, possibly abuse, and subjecting them to the high stress environment of a class room and physiological tests could be borderline cruel to some. The small animals I've rescued (guinea pigs, rabbits and rats) all are not fit to be taken anywhere or deal with lots of people. They have issues, some minor, some major. They've all gotten better with time and a home that cares, but a class would likely make their issues worse. You would be best with a pair of young rats ordered from a lab supplier. Those that are specifically bred to have certain personality and genetic traits so that they would be more predictable and easy to handle. Or I'd recommend going to a place with feeder bins and picking out a small (usually around 6wks) rat, and picking out the two who seem the least bothered, the most interested in people, and who don't cower. I did this when picking out my Cricket (granted her unusual coat stood out to) and she is one of our friendliest, most people social rat. You would NEED a pair who is people social, friendly, and fearless. Otherwise you would risk terrifying them beyond repair. You run the risk with feeder bin rats to of females being pregnant (how we ended up with babies) as well. Boys are the safer bet, and young boys are pretty darn active, our 10wk old boys are crazy still. They are less mouthy then our girls to so a pair of young active boys might not be a horrible idea. Then once they get older they could retire and be someones good house rat, if they calm down. (some boys never do)

Then that leads to what happens over weekends, and breaks, and over summer? When the club ends where will these rats end up? Heck where would they be after school closes up for the night? All schools I've been in turn off their AC/Heat at night and over long breaks, and only turn it on in specific areas if someone is going to be using it. That means the classroom they get it would get really hot or really cold, with no one their to monitor them. They are resilient little animals, and can put up with a lot with a proper environment, but extreme temp fluctuation will take their toll on them. And stress can lead to myco flair ups and that requires vet care and medicine. Is your teacher willing to take them to the vet and pay what could be hundreds of dollars out of his pocket to treat them if they get sick?

For food, you need a stable lab block, like Oxbow or Harlen Teklad, the latter is designed for lab animals and available in bulk online, the former is available in pet stores or bulk online. You can then add in fresh foods and research a home mix to supplement their diet, but having the lab block will give them a good solid foundation. It is much easier to feed them lab blocks as well then trying to figure out a proper mix. Mixes are hard.

Honestly, what he wants are mice. From what I've heard mice actually can do well in tanks. Yes they take more work to handle then rats, but it would be far easier to get a tank set up as a mouse playground then it would be for rats. I am not a mouse expert, so someone with more experience might be better to suggest if they would be a better fit for this kind of environment then a rat in terms of habitat, personality and mental requirements.
 

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In defense of "snake owners", I own snakes and house my rats in cages :p

I would agree that mice are the better option. I'd point out the possible damage from a rat bite..which would be far worse than a mouse bite, to your teacher (i.e. stitches) and that both rats and mice will probably not be tame if you purchase them, unless you can purchase from a breeder. Many also do not know the adult size of rats (males can be very large) so you might want to select some "cute" rat pics to show him that show large males so he gets an idea of size and why a 20gl might not work long-term (maybe casually make comments about how large they are and how you didn't know they would get that big and ask him if HE thinks they would be OK in the 20gl). You might also want to do some research and see if there's a mouse breeder in your area that has tame mice. If so, you might be able to convince your teacher.

Is the tank a 20gl LONG? and if I read your post correctly, you're planning on getting a tank topper for it? If so, I think that setup could work if you give them plenty of hammocks, etc. in the topper and try to find something that would create levels inside the tank to give them more floor space to use.

I am a teacher and keep class pets, but mine are geckos (crested geckos). One of the main considerations for me, was securing their enclosure properly to ensure that they were "safe"... You know how students can be... I didn't want anyone coming in the room and stealing my class pets, or "taking them out to pet them" and then them escaping ,etc. For that reason, I chose a large glass terrarium that you can put a lock on. This might also be a factor in your situation. If the cage topper you are planning on getting will securely fit the tank (hard to remove) and he can use a lock on the door to the topper, you might be OK in that regard.

In terms of weekends and holidays, I'm sure what I do would work OK: Leave extra food and water over the weekends, and take them home over any break longer than a long weekend.

One last note... Whether he goes with mice or rats, make sure that you encourage him to give them an "acclimation period" of at least 2 weeks before you try any "tests". You should attempt giving treats and interacting on a small scale with them before that (when the room is quiet), but they shouldn't be subjected to immediate handling and crowds of loud students around the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you all for your answers! I really want to stress that pets were not my idea. I'm just working with what I have.

I'll try to stop by a petstore on black Friday and see if there are any rat or ferret cages on sale. My budget is very limited and I'd hate to buy a 70 dollar tank topper if a 70 dollar cage is the better option anyway
 

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If you can spend $70, petco has a rat manor that would work great.

My concerns are parallel with above - vet care (tanks can mean sick rats), retirement home (they can't be classroom forever), vacation home (3 day weekends snow days etc) and of course meeting the needs. Rats need out to roam for at least an hour a day. Balls don't work. Rats need vertical space to climb.

No offense but your teacher sounds ignorant arrogant and seems willing to neglect an animal for shits and giggles. I would stand up for rats because no one else will...
 

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I have the rat manor and got it last year on sale for $49. I think it works best for smaller rats (I have 3 females in it now and they have been fine) but it could work for 2 males if they get along OK. The doors should be lockable as well, if you get small keyed locks. However, the cage is light enough to move easily and the base separates from the top, so if someone really wanted to get in they could (but they might not realize it comes apart if not shown).
Also check CL and Ebay. I got another cage (I think its the kaytee large home for exotics) for $45 including shipping on ebay and many people find great deals on cages from CL.

I think it's more an issue of ignorance. Most people think of rats are larger versions of mice that aren't as jumpy... They just aren't aware that they are more intelligent and interactive than other rodents kept as pets.

Good luck!
 
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