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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am having some trouble spending quality time with my two rats. I've had them for about a month now and within the first week I bought the double Critter nation cage and filled it with various hammocks, blocks, toys, tubes, ladders, and igloos for them to play with. What I am finding though is they rarely play with anything and they spend most of their time either sleeping or waiting at the cage door for me even when I'm not in the same room. I try to get them out of the cage for an hour or two a day and I talk them to them frequently or stop and open the door to pet them but the way they wait for me and sleep at the edge of the cage near the opening makes me feel like they're not happy with what they have.

Worse, I've been finding it harder and harder to keep them out of the cage for more than 15-30 minutes at a time. I created a plexiglass fence to keep them corralled to one side of the room, filled it with various toys and spots to hide in, but they're destructive and adventurous. They're capable of jumping my two foot fence, so I have to be on constant watch, they have started to tear up the carpet at multiple points, they eat paint off of the corners of walls, and they're eating the wooden base around the walls. They spend more time doing this than playing with any of their toys or exploring what I have set up for them. They're definitely not "bad" in any way, I know what they're doing is curiosity and natural instinct, but every time I "proof" something so they'll stop they find a new spot to start back up. I end up getting frustrated and putting them back in their cage with a treat and then they proceed to stare at me in what I assume is a sad way as they try to find a way out of the cage.

A few of my friends said their rats were always "cage" rats and that they only time they took them out was specifically to play with them or clean the cage but I had hoped these two would be better behaved to be in my room more often. I purposely bought the super large cage so I could be away at work for 10-12 a couple of days a week and that they'd have lots to play with but I'm feeling like it doesn't matter too much to them.

Any suggestions? Does anyone else here only take their rats out for a little bit each day? I really want to give them the best lives they can have but I'm getting so frustrated trying to keep up with them.
 

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I don't have much time in the mornings, so I only take them out for about 30 minutes, but I give them lots of attention and love during that time. They know that in the evenings, we will let them out again after dinner at around 7pm for at least an hour or so. They spend a lot of that time chasing each other or getting into mischief much like you have described. I have to watch them like a hawk during this time or they will definitely chew something up.

Are you consistent with the times that you take your rats out? That is, is it usually around the same times each day? My rats love going outside their cage more than anything, but with the routine that they have, they know when they'll be out for sure in the morning for a little bit and then longer at night. Knowing that, they tend to sleep the rest of the time during the day. Maybe if you give your rats a consistent routine, they'll relax more in their cage during the times they know they won't be out of it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I don't have much time in the mornings, so I only take them out for about 30 minutes, but I give them lots of attention and love during that time. They know that in the evenings, we will let them out again after dinner at around 7pm for at least an hour or so. They spend a lot of that time chasing each other or getting into mischief much like you have described. I have to watch them like a hawk during this time or they will definitely chew something up.

Are you consistent with the times that you take your rats out? That is, is it usually around the same times each day? My rats love going outside their cage more than anything, but with the routine that they have, they know when they'll be out for sure in the morning for a little bit and then longer at night. Knowing that, they tend to sleep the rest of the time during the day. Maybe if you give your rats a consistent routine, they'll relax more in their cage during the times they know they won't be out of it.
No, unfortunately it's not consistent and due to my work schedule isn't really possible to be consistent.
 

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Personally I would get some of those tri-fold poster boards and use those instead of the plexi glass. My girls cannot jump those boards and they are crazy about trying to find a way out of the pen XD also if you give them a food activity I personally find that they bring their level of destruction down considerably. like hiding treats around the pen for them to find. or having a food puzzle for them to explore, it gives them something to do when they are done exploring the pen. You could try covering the carpet with an old sheet, I don't know how big your area is though, and you can try spraying the molding around your walls with bitter apple spray from the pet store (I had no luck with the stuff myself, one of my girls actually LIKED the taste) Also if you are in the pen with them and you pull them away from the problem areas and put them somewhere acceptable enough times then they usually figure out that you don't want them there. This took me ages to do with my girls and a lot of head banging on my part but they no longer look for cords to nibble :rolleyes: I find that my girls love boxes of fabric scraps, digging boxes with paper, 12" wheels, tunnels, things that they can climb on (I put these in the middle of the pen so they can't use them to jump out), and food puzzles. The other fun thing is for you to be in the pen with them and have some treats and try to get them to do little tricks for the treat, like stand up, or spin, I worked on come first... but if you are engaging them in something that you want them to do then they aren't destroying your wall :), also I found that if they have a way to get back to their cage they don't try as hard to get out. I actually put their cage in their pen, but mine is smaller than yours (rat manor) and they stopped trying to get out as much... I think that they wan't a way back to home base if they feel scared.
 

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I don't actually have a play pen area--I just let them run loose in my apartment with the bedroom doors closed. I've had to block the areas on the sides of the refrigerator to keep them from going behind it and we had to block places under the cabinets as well. We always leave their cage doors open and they'll go in and out of it when they're thirsty or hungry. Sometimes they'll go in toward the end of their play period and I can just close the cage doors and call it a night. :)
 

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No, unfortunately it's not consistent and due to my work schedule isn't really possible to be consistent.
Well, even if you're not able to set up consistent times, if you still let them out each day, they'll eventually relax knowing that they will be out at some point. You've only had them a month, so they're still getting used to things. By the way, my rats have not played with a single toy that I've put in their cage either. They prefer to chase each other and explore.
 

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Mine don't play with any toys but they do love to chew apple sticks.
 

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I have just had my two girls for just a month, as well. My time with them is not consistent as I sometimes need to work overtime. I made a pledge to myself that if I was adopting these two, that I would make their lives way better than they could imagine. They are both wriggly and want to explore a lot. I have a pen I put them in and they are finding ways to get up and out. It's now a game for us. My next step is the computer room for wider roaming. As you do, I feel guilty when my time with them is short-changed but they seem to be OK and still want to crawl all over me and play. I think every little bit makes them better. Extend play when you can. I'm hoping mine will calm down enough so I can snuggle. If they don't, then I will still love them anyway. I've gone through all kinds of stress since getting them including cage-shaming on this site and believing everything I read. I have found that your rat experience is what you make it. This has really been a learning experience for me and I can't wait to learn more!! GOOD LUCK!!
 

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Way back when I started out... there was only one recommended way to keep rats and as a shoulder rat trainer and handler, I was considered way out there... Our rats actually go outdoors and travel with us, some times on short trips to the store and even on longer excursions and no, we don't usually bring a cage along, they free range pretty much like dogs and yes, dogs without a leash... There are no leash laws for rats in my state.

So to be perfectly clear, I'm not shaming anyone or suggesting that anything that works for you is wrong, either ethically or morally...

That said, rats are very much like dogs, or perhaps even like kids and they benefit from interacting with their human family members... and they love to explore new things and do fun and exciting things.

One simple example of our girl Misty having a little fun with my daughter and a kid we found at the park is below...

https://vid.me/SgmU

Misty otherwise steals stuff from around the house and likes to slash my answering machine wires, but she plays with people, not toys... in fact, we've never had a rat that plays with toys, unless you count being stuffed into doll clothes or toy cars when my daughter was younger.

I'm not suggesting that anyone who doesn't do as we do is wrong! True shoulder rats are very rare and there are only a very few of us shoulder rat trainers who work with these special rats, and even then it's risky business.... But rats really are like dogs or kids, they really do benefit from the time you spend hands on playing with them and just being there with them... and they really do love to explore and experiment with their environment and whenever you facilitate interaction with them and give them exciting challenges you are doing something terrific for them.

This morning I was taking my daughter to school, and it was pretty cold outside, so I asked if the rats wanted to come along, naturally Misty (in the video above) was instantly on board, but to my surprise our pudgy old tired girl Cloud was up and and asking to go out too, in fact she was the first to be at the car door when I went into the store and, as always, she was very well behaved in the sore. Even an old pudgy and tired true shoulder rat still wants to get out of the house sometimes and see something new and do something different... and mostly just travel with her pack. Of course after all the excitement she spent the rest of the day napping.

Again, I seriously don't recommend that anyone take their rats outdoors, but take a minute to watch and think about the following video...

https://vid.me/3edL

That was the truly amazing Fuzzy Rat and my daughter having fun together. I can't say who was having more fun, but Fuzzy Rat jumped into the lake and swam after her on her own... She was a great swimmer and until she was over a year old jumped in whenever she had the opportunity. Yes, she could be destructive indoors when she got bored, but I couldn't begin to imagine what a complete waste her life would have been if I locked her up in a cage with some toys.

Perhaps some rats actually prefer a life in a cage with toys and hammocks... and again, I'm not trying to shame anyone... but I don't just talk the talk, and I do have a human daughter and they both benefit from a close bond and time they spend together....

Think of what I'm saying as my personal advise for being a better rat parent, not a condemnation for being a bad one...

If you can't make time for your rats try and include them into your activities...
 

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I don't want to stir up controversy. My goal is that people need to weigh their words and take a moment to understand how they sound/look to the other party. When someone is new, encourage them and subtly hint at a better way. Remember that everyone can't be money bags when it comes to cages, toys and other accessories. My cats don't have 1/2 the stuff these little goddesses do. I didn't adopt these two lightly and did some research, but, as I said before, there are differing opinions. I have and will continue to use this forum as a source of information. I take everyone's feedback seriously and criticism too much to heart.
 

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I honestly don't see too much of a controversy... Really anyone that adopts a rat and gives it a good home is doing something really good. Maybe I should have started out there... But for the most part, and with most rats enriching their life with play and exploration makes their lives and the lives of their humans better.

I have nothing against big cages or toys and I realize people have lives that don't involve their rats full time. It's just that a lot of people don't realize their rat's potential and some still view their rats as small animals, not like big animals in small packages. And yes... I was one of them once.

It took me a while to really understand just how capable and competent rats can be and to integrate our rats into our mixed human and rat family more. And to be honest... there are lots of times our rats are napping and exploring on their own, in fact most of the time they run around quite happy to be doing their own thing. But in the last 10 minutes Misty has climbed up on me 15 times and is swiping my papers to get my attention. For better or worse I think I just taught her how to unroll toilet paper... She also wants to play tug of war, which is nice, I think, but her intention is to line a secret nest and make it warmer for winter. In a little while she'll disappear and go do some nest building and I'll be left alone for a while. Cloud's older and she doesn't play much any more so I only see her a few times a day... and that certainly isn't too hard to handle.

I think if you see your rats more like little dogs, you will pretty much do what's best for them and for yourself.... if you see them as big hamsters you both might be missing out.

Every rat and every human has a different schedule and different needs, it's not one size fits all, and I'm not judging anyone. I'm just presenting my opinion based on my experiences... hopefully in an effort to make everyone happier, not more stressed out.
 

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You are a good egg Rat Daddy. I plan on trying some of your techniques myself. These two seem to love me already and that is all I ask for.
 
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