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Discussion Starter #1
I have read (in "The Story of Rats," by S. Anthony Barnett,) that if "domestic" rats get too much freedom, they will always revert to "wild" behavior.

His example was that he was working with lab rats, and a few escaped to the cellar. He didn't think much of it, and decided to casually collect them when he saw them. He discovered, however, that the rats enjoyed their freedom, and each and every one did NOT want to return to the cage, and demonstrated a personality change (biting, etc.) once they had returned.

Now, I've been trying to really give my Gregor everything he wants and needs. He has "run and scamper" time in the bathroom, which has been rat-proofed. He has TONS of energy! He really tears it up in there!

I wonder if crawling around in the cabinets feels like creeping around a barn, to him?

I have also recently added two foods to his diet, which he loves, but which may provoke a "wilder" attitude.

One is mealworms - almost pure nutrition, and he loves 'em! BUT, this is his first "live" food. Before, all he knew were seeds and rat treats, etc.

The other is corn. (Should I worry about constipation?) He'll eat as much corn as he possibly can. And this is a food that would be found on a farm, in a barn, as well.

I wonder if I'm teaching him that he would rather be free?

P.S. We already have a dispute about who is in charge of the relationship. The communication is fine, but we both think we're in charge. For example, the other day, he was headed for my seashell collection. (I bought him his own shells for Xmas, BTW.) I told him, "Gregor, come here." He ~squeaked~ at me! I had to physically pick him up, and say, "Don't you tell me 'no,' I'm the one who tells you 'no!'"
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Oh - one more thing.

Someone told me to bring him out in the sun for at least 15 minutes twice a week, because, since he grooms his own fur, the fur needs to be exposed to the vitamin D.

He LOVES the sun, and we've been having some nice weather, so I've been taking him out in his "sun room" (small cage) most every day. So, now, he is aware that there is such a thing as "outside."
 

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domestic rats only get "wild" if thy have to fend for themselves which normally does not end well. i wouldn't be concerned about him going feral so long as you show him plenty of love which i have no doubt he gets in spades.

my concern however is his diet. rats don't normally do well on seed diets. they can live off it but its like a human living off bread and water. rats need a variety of foods and seeds don't cover the nutritional needs. try to take out the seeds and replace with fruits, vegtables, meats and startches. the meal worms sound good, but the corn has no real nutritional value for a rat. if you're concerned about his metabolism being fast and not being able to give him a constant supply of freash food then add a good dog kibble. something that has corn as low down in the list is a good rule of thumb. they tend to have more nutrients proper to a rat. if you don't have the money to buy him his own grocery list then just give him left overs from your plate. anything that is good for you is good for him with only a few exceptions. do not give him oranges as they cause kideny damage and even failure in male rats, and try to keep him away from peanuts as they destroy vitimin A though a treat now and then is fine. and if your rat is a gorby then be careful with mashed potatoes and peanut butter as they can be choking hazards. mix them with something else to make it safer. old food should not be left in the cage for them 2 days. watch his coat and skin and for icthiness, sores, hair loss, or redness as this is often a sign of getting too much protein. cutting back on his protein intake will fix this problem. if he's still itching after about a week with the less protein take him to a vet to check for mites. also watch for excessive weight gain, that means you're giving him too much stratch, again, cutting back on the strach and increasing the veggies and fruits will balance that. having said that watch for diaherra. that is normally caused by too much veggies or fruits if it isn't accompanied by lethargy, as slugishness is normal a sign of illness and would not be associated with diet. constipation can be an issue if you switch from seeds to this wider variety too fast so take your time. and once you find the right balance for your rat you'll notice how much healthier his coat and bouncier his step that you would not have even thought possbile.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the advice, Twitch! :)

Gregor's vet also stressed a "well rounded diet," so he also gets watermelon (or other melon that's in season) and carrots; sometimes sweet potatoes.

As you know, he gets mealworms and corn; the doc said that these are "treats."

I've been trying different foods on him, and if he likes it, it goes into the rotation of "foods for Gregor."

Milk that has a "flavor" - for instance, milk that has had cereal sitting in it and has picked up the trace flavors of the cereal that someone has eaten - is a BIG treat for Gregor. I heat it up just a little bit and give it to him in one of those "syringe for medicine" things; he's reliving his baby days, nursing from mama. Is milk OK?

He always has, in his cage, a large supply of "mouse chow" (Nutriphase,) which has seeds, bits of cereal, and some pellet looking things that I can't identify, and "Tasty Twigs" for gnawing. (Actually, he has TONS of stuff in his cage for gnawing!) And, of course, as much fresh water as he can drink.

BIG THANKS for the warning against citrus! We have some orange trees that are coming into good fruit right now, but I'll keep Gregor apart from oranges.

I'll definetly take your advice about feeding from my plate - although there have been times that I've taken a run to the store ~specifically~ to pick up items for Gregor. ("We're out of watermelon?!? What do you mean we're OUT of watermelon?!? I'd better get to the store right now, or Gregor will have a fit!")

I read about how some rats, in the wild, know how to "strip" pinecones, to get to the "good stuff" in the middle. I, myself, do not know how to "strip" pinecones, but I've been keeping an eye out for "the good stuff in the middle," which turns out to be nothing more than "pine nuts" or "pinons." (These are, of course, a delicacy of a nut, and the grocery store doesn't sell them.) Nonetheless, I thought he would like it and it would do him good to have some pine nuts. I haven't gotten them, yet. Any thoughts on pine nuts?

He's already acting more "peppy" since I've been doing "diet experiments." I take him into the play room (bathroom) each night, and he runs and scampers and gets into stuff. His "house" (cage) is filled with "environmental stimuli" (toys) as well.

Again, thanks for the advice, and I look forward to hearing more about this! :D

---------------------------------

Sorry, everyone, that I haven't done a "formal introduction" thread for Gregor, yet. Where does the time go?
 

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i haven't heard much on pine nuts but you can still give even peanuts so long as it isn't part of a staple diet. and the only nut i heard anything bad about peanuts. i think giving him a pine cone to tear into would be an excellent toy and may actually try it myself.

as for the mouse food, that has next to no nutritional value for a rat. a mouse and rat may look pretty similiar but they are very different in their needs. a rat needs almost a cross between human and dog food i've found. i keep a staple of dog kibbel for my rats then give them all the leftover from my son, myself and the fridge.

milk is fine. i take the heels of my bread and soak that in some milk. as an added treat a put a bit of honey on sometimes after the milk has gotten the bread all soggy and give that them. they love it.

with the carrots watch that his poop doesn't turn an orangy color, if it does just reduce the ammount of carrots it just means he's getting too much of that one food.

i found that a favorite treat for my rats is chicken bones (the actual bones from chickens not the candy though i'm sure they would love that too) and that wears on their teeth pretty well. its also the only food you can leave in their until its gone as they eat the left over meat all off within the first day normally.

this will probably sound obvious but when you're trying new foods stay clear of carbonated waters or pop and other foods that are famous for causing gas. a rat cannot fart and a build of gas is not only painful but can be deadly. this normally isn't a problem with carbonation as most rats don't want to try it anyway but just in case.

another way to make your rat's diet varried is to let him smell the food on your breath first. rats also can't vomit so they learn what is good to eat by trying small ammounts and waiting to see if they still feel ok and by the smell of the food on the breath of rats. if another rat has eaten then they figure its fine for them. when i was raising my litters from the petstore rats i taught them to trust a lot of foods sooner then they would have just by taking a bite of the food myself before offering it to them. the pet store rats i had were very timid of new foods and i found after they learned to trust me, anything i ate they would eat, even if they refused when i offered it to them before.

here's a suggestion you may not have thought of for the cage toys. try to get a slab of slate or better roughed concrete. the stone will stay cool and is great for them to lay on during the hot days. and the rough concrete has an added bonus of waering down the sharp points on their nails so they don't tear you up quite as bad as when they have sharp little knives on their feet.

i hope all this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I truly appreciate the advice!

When I say "mouse chow," I mean that mostly seed diet that they give to mice, rats, hamsters, and other little furry guys. The "one size fits all" food.

I just happened to have a chicken bone around, which I gave to Gregor, and he decided he loved it! :)

My vet had kind of a similar comment on diet: "Feed him what you're eating." Unfortunately, I have a limited diet - hamburgers and Italian food, mostly - so Gregor eats better than I do.
 

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Holly said:
When I say "mouse chow," I mean that mostly seed diet that they give to mice, rats, hamsters, and other little furry guys. The "one size fits all" food.
Primarily seed diets should be avoided. The "one size fits all" stuff really is no good for rats as they shouldn't be eating the seeds (too fatty), and the pellets often contain alfalfa, which passes undigested through a rat. Rat's do not normally eat it anyway since they can't digest it. They also do not require "roughage" like a lot of other small animals (hamsters, rabbits, etc).

While they may look similar, rats are actually much closer to humans than to a gerbil or hamster. Humans don't do so well on seeds and nuts either. See - rats are omnivorous predators - they will actually kill and eat a hamster. The seed diet foods are designed for herbivores like hamsters, and rabbits. It's totally the wrong diet for an omnivore, and it's really sad that pet shops and feed companies continue to peddle the stuff to rat owners.

Also - rats are picky and smart. They will pick out only the "tasty" bits from mixed food diets and bury or just plain leave the stuff that isn't to their liking. This is a problem as it totally invalidates the "guaranteed analysis" on the back of the bag of hamster chow. Most of the fiber content of that stuff is alfalfa, which they won't eat, and even if they eat everything in the mix the fat content is too high already - if they pick out the alfalfa then the 5% fat content shoots up to 20% of the consumed product because all they are really eating is the fatty bits in the food. Rats should have about a 3 to 4% fat content to their whole diet. Therefore it's best to feed them pelletized food specifically formulated for rats. Personally I use Harlan Teklad lab blocks, and supplement this with a bit of mixed vegetables. I use small breed dog biscuits as treats. Vita-Bone is my current choice - the nutrition breakdown is good (wheat and poultry meal are the primary ingredients), and the rats go nuts for them (just like dogs). Plus I got the last 1.5 pound bag of them for $2. Beyond that, nothing else is required. Many rats spend fabulously healthy, long lives eating the Harlan lab blocks alone. They are designed specifically to be a complete diet for laboratory rats. Harlan breeds and sells rats, and they make the diet specifically for them. Best of all, it's really not expensive. There's several web sites that sell it, and I find that 16 pounds of lab block will last over a year for one or two rats. They come in 4 pound bags, and 4 bags plus shipping is less than $38. $38 for an entire YEAR. Check out the price of that pet store feed you are using, and how fast they go through it. I bet you find it's actually more expensive anyway.

Dog food is a good choice too as it's pelletized for the same reasons - dogs are smart, and will pick out the tasty fattening bits if they were given a choice. That's why all dog and cat foods are formulated this way. It gives them no choice but to eat what's healthy.

Seriously - toss the seed stuff in the trash. It will lead to a fat, lazy rat that will suffer from bad health and short life.

Rick
 

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yes, as i wassaying in my eariler post mice and rats vary greatly in their nutritional needs. a seed diet as their staple rather then the odd treat is not good for them. dog kibble or a good rat food kibble like harlen lab blocks are far better when added with a varied natural diet as well. you should get rid of the seeds.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks, guys!

I will hunt down a site with the Harlen blocks, and replace the seed with that.

I bought him a small amount of "pine nuts" today, which he seems to like, but which will be relegated to "treat" status. I'm sure they have lots of fat.

All in all, I try to give him as large a variety of foods, as recommended by my vet. (She didn't go into as much detail, though.)

I'm sure that the dogs don't want to share, but what they don't know won't hurt them... ;)
 

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"another way to make your rat's diet varried is to let him smell the food on your breath first."

-------------------------------------

OK, I just ordered about $34 worth of Harlan Blocks - made a donation to the rats while I was there, too.

So, is it OK if I just chew on one of these before he smells my breath, or do I actually have to swallow it, too?

:wink: :wink: :wink:

-------------------------------------

Had some fun today...I've always wanted to get my face painted, but never have. This was the painter's "first rat." :)

 

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*chuckles* well i was refering to new fruits and stuff you might like to eat too but if you're that dedicated then i say chewing is just fine. the smelling it on your breath will only speed things up, its not a do all or nothing...

cool little rat painting. very cute. i wonder if they'll ever breed a rat to get that red though...
 

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I thought the color was an attractive shade; I asked for "brown," but I guess reddish brown is fine, too.

I was just joking about eating the rat food (although I'm sure it wouldn't hurt me.) On the plus side, he has already decided that he likes the Harlan food "well enough." He was gnawing on a pellet earlier, so he knows it's fine to eat.

Now we just have to go through the part where he demands "sweeties" and I tell him to "finish his dinner." Spoiled little guy! :lol:
 
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