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Hey everyone!!
I'm just looking to get into the world of being a rat owner! I have a couple of questions though...

First of all, male or female! I'm a university student so I can get pretty busy and don't have a ton of money, but I know I can make time for "out time" to play and bond with my rats and get them what they need. I've heard that males are bigger than females and can be more docile, maybe this would make for a better pet? I've also heard that females often develop tumours, and I don't want to be in a situation where my pet needs surgery and I can't afford it... However, I had been sort of leaning towards females. Any input on this?

Next, I was wondering about bedding. The cage that I'm looking into has a wire bottom, so I was planning on using fabric bedding. To better absorb their pee (and thus the ammonia in their pee) would it be a good idea to sew a piece of towel under the fabric, or is that too much of a risk for getting their toes caught? Maybe I could put pee pads or newspaper under the fabric? Any suggestions on this would be greatly appreciated. And then can you literally just toss the fabrics in the washing machine? Is there a specific detergent I should use?

The next thing is nesting and nesting material. Would a ceramic plant pot be an ok spot for this? Or one of those plastic dome houses... or something else entirely! And as for material would tissues like Kleenex or cardboard or paper do the trick? I'm afraid I don't know much about this...

As for feeding, do you guys have any recommendations for brands of young rat food? I was thinking maybe the Oxbow adult food for when they're older, but am of course open to suggestions.

Those are all of the questions I can think of for now... Any other tips and tricks would be extremely appreciated!!

Thanks so much!

Charlotte
 

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Cloud and Dew (Pearl Merle and American Mink, both with Irish markings)!
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Hi! Here are some previous threads that may help you out in the search for good rat bedding and what gender to adopt!

Bedding Thread


Male or Female Rats?

In terms of other rat items, I would suggest Space Pods, Lava Ledges, and LOTS of hammocks in addition to loads of other items (I may come back to this post as my brain isn’t working right now 😂). Tissues and paper towels make for good nesting materials and cardboard is safe for rats! The ”best” cages for rats that are available are Martin‘s Cages and Critter Nations. If you are looking into one of those brands, feel free to ask questions as lots of people on here have had them before! Food should be Oxbow Adult Rat Food even when they’re babies because most foods marketed towards baby rats are not equivalent to the nutrients that are needed. Babies should get extra added protein like eggs or greens with their Oxbow! Also, do not adopt from a generic pet store like PetSmart or Petco. Rescuing or adopting from a breeder are definitely the way to go. Good breeders will breed well tempered rats with good health while pet stores get their rodents from pet mills, which if you want to you can look up on YouTube to see how horrid they are! Rescuing is just an amazing way to save lives and adopt rats in need!
 

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Heya, welcome!

Bedding: A bedding/substrate serves a few different functions. It should make your pets' environment comfortable. A bedding/substrate should be absorbent and should also limit your pets' contact with their own waste (hygiene). A good bedding/substrate will help control odors and ammonia as well as provide some form of enrichment for your pets.

Fleece/fabric accomplishes some of these goals. Fabric liners are comfortable. Fleece is not an absorbent fabric, though. This is actually one of the reasons people use it. After fleece has been worn in a bit, urine will travel through the fleece rather than being absorbed by it. This means that the surface of the fabric stays dry and the urine falls below. This helps minimize your rats' contact with their own urine. Because fleece isn't absorbent (as you've mentioned), you'll want to use an absorbent layer under the fleece. Even with an absorbent layer, fabric is garbage for controlling odors and needs to be swapped out and washed very frequently. Fleece doesn't do anything to minimize your rats' contact with their feces nor does it help desiccate feces. Using litter boxes is pretty important if you want to use fleece but some rats can be resistant to litter training. Fabric liners also don't provide much enrichment for rats. Rats are natural diggers and foragers. A loose substrate will foster these natural behaviors but fleece liners won't. It would be a good idea to provide your rats with an in-cage dig box if you use fleece liners.

Fleece requires much more regular maintenance than a loose substrate bedding. It may not be a big deal as long as you have reliable, convenient access to laundry facilities. If you're paying for laundry, you'll want to factor that cost into your decision. I use a loose substrate on the floor of my boys' cage and fleece/absorbent mats on the platforms. I need to swap out the liners and my boys' favorite hammocks at least 2 or 3 times a week to keep the smell in check. I keep multiple sets so I only have to do a load of rat-laundry once a week.

I wash fabric items with a fragrance free detergent and I'll add some vinegar and/or baking soda to the load to help neutralize odors. You don't want to use fabric softener or dryer sheets with fleece liners because it will make them more water repellent. -tip- Don't use fabric softener or dryer sheets with your personal hand/bath towels either because it makes them less absorbent.

You may want to do a little more research on available cages. I'd suggest getting a cage that at least gives you the option of using a loose substrate on the floor. Personally, I much prefer using a loose substrate to just fleece. For me, it's better for keeping odors/ammonia under control and it provides more mental stimulation for my boys.

Nesting: You can purchase fancy huts from pet stores or you pull boxes out of your recycle bin. Rats may like cardboard boxes even more because they can chew them up. Cardboard needs to be tossed out frequently because it can get pretty gross but it's a great free option. Overturned baskets or organizing bins also make great huts. Ceramic or terracotta pots would be great in summer months because they stay a little cool! Sputniks/Space Pods are very popular with rats, as well!

As for nesting materials, I just give my boys scraps of paper or fast food napkins. I think things like paper towels, tissues, and toilet paper are also fine but they tend to be a bit dustier. I like blank newsprint packing paper. I give my boys slightly larger sheets and they have a blast tearing them up.

Food: Oxbow Adult is great for rats of every age. For younger rats (< 4 months or so), you can give them a little bit of extra protein in the form of egg or baked chicken a few times a week.

Because a block/kibble diet isn't very enriching, I also make a dry mix of various grains, seeds, herbs, etc. to supply them with some variety. A small amount of fresh veggies a few times a week is also highly appreciated by rats!
 
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