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http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/109697130/ABSTRACT

Scientists found that brain density in rats in large, enriched environments is preserved significantly longer than in rats who are in small cages without any enrichment.

According to the lecture of an esteemed neuroscience professor (at my university) who does research on rats, the wheel is the best source of enrichment: researchers took out forms of enrichment one by one, concluding that the wheel alone was all that was necessary to successfully enrich an environment.
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

aww. still, what a sad life, where your wheel is the coolest thing evah. XD neat to know though. if you can only afford one toy, get a wheel!
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

I wish there were longevity & brain density studies on pet rats in comparison to lab rats. Also, a study on group living versus living alone. I've seen studies on socialization problems and depression in rats, but haven't found anything on the other topics. They might be out there... but my searching isn't good enough.
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

I figured out how to make them like it... stick them in a CritterTrail Revolution cage for a few hours (it's a giant wheel), and they're cured of their fear of the movement. Then just treat them for running on the cage wheel, and voila! - an exercising rat. ;) Food's the best incentive to make rats learn. Using this method, a 8-mo girl, a 10-mo girl, and an 8-wk boy have all been successfully introduced to voluntary exercise.

I also start my rats on the wheel as young as possible... the last litter my friend bred got a wheel as soon as they were walking. And they all ended up being avid runners!
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

My two boys dont care for it. I wish they would but they would much rather be running around the room causing trouble, hehe. I dont mind it though :)
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

None of the boys like the wheel. Though one of them will sit in it and make it rock side to side.
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

I've tried coaxing, bribing and tricking my girls into using their wheel, and they refuse to. What are some other ideas to keep them entertained during the day while I'm at work?
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

Yeah, none of my rats like the wheel either. I even went through three of them to see if they may take to a different kind... but alas, I now have three huge wheels sitting in my garage w/out having ever been used. Although, Pickle sure did enjoy shoving bedding into the whodent wheel, that is, until I took it out to make room for the chewable log thing they like.

I do have a crittertrail revolution wheel that i used to attach to my hamster's cage, so I will try that and let you know how it goes.
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

Of the seven rats I've had throughout my life, four would use a wheel. It's really just luck of the draw, I think.
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

Weird. All of the rats in my life have been convinced to use it. And that's... 10 of them? All of the babies have learned to run on the wheel simultaneously with other rats, too. One baby boy even developed a habit of clinging to the wheel while another rat ran on it, so he'd spin and spin and spin and spin for hours a day. Now that he's larger, he runs on the wheel the most.

The best way I've found to train rats to do anything is let them get a little hungry and then they are willing to jump thru hoops (or run on the wheel) to get fed.
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

I just put in a wheel today after reading this, but as of yet have been unable to pursuade my rats into using it.
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

I find that if the rats are exposed to the wheel at a young age then they are fine with it but if they have no exposure to it untill they are 5 months old then they really want nothing to do with it. I couldn't coax any of my one year old bboys to touch it let alone go in it but sniffs loves his amd sebastian is a wheel freak (sebastian is only eight weeks or so and sniffs had his at the same age)
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

Most people are unable to coax their rats into using a wheel because it's for rodents that are a lot thicker than the average rat.

For God's sake. It's a wheel. That doesn't go anywhere.

If you want your rats to get exercise, take them out of the cage and let them run around and explore. The mind expands through exposure to different environments and situations. I'm not really sure I believe that by having a rat run for an hour and never really get anywhere, you are giving it an experience that will further their intellectual capacity. It just sounds inane.
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

Yeah, running around & exploring a room is much better intellectual stimulation! There's no doubt about that.

However, the argument isn't that the wheel will *expand* mental capacity, it's that the wheel will prevent the *loss* of mental capacity that was previously gained.

And as far as run-around time, how many people can let their rat out all night long when they're most active? And how many people have cages that don't have adequate run-around space? Even with a "premium" rat cage, like a Ferret Nation or a RUUD, it's not sufficient space to keep a rat running the way they would in a room. Wheels can provide much-needed exercise that keeps rats in good physical shape. You can't argue that exercise isn't healthy! Plus, one of the most important benefits of exercise for rats is the boost of the immune system, which needs to stay strong to fight mycoplasma.

Finally, small amounts of peanut butter smeared on the wheel helped convince some of our older ones to run. They would run a bit, lick up the peanut butter, run some more... but a more calculating rat might ignore the running part. ;)
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

in my experience it really depended on two things if my rats were going to run on the wheel. one has been already stated a few times. the youmger they are to be introduced to the wheel the more likely they are to use it. and the other is if other rats in the cage are using it. whe i first got my wheel there were rats well over a year in with fairly young ones. the young ones took to the wheel first but after a few days i started seeing the older ones in there as well. admitedly they weren't in there as often as the younger ones but they did use it. before the young ones started using it the older ones ignored the wheel's existance.

i've foudnt eh same sort of thing work (but in reverse) for when teaching new rats tricks that have been previously learned by the residents. when learning "bridging" (running from the shoulder along the outstreched arm to someone else) i found the times it takes for the new ones to catch on is significantly reduced when paired in training with a resident. its probably the same thing working with the wheel
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

That's interesting that you've found that. I was under the impression that rats are very poor at observational learning, because so little of their sensory input comes from eyesight. Perhaps it wasn't necessarily "observational" in terms of eyesight, but of the combination of sight, sound, and smell? That's very curious...


(edited for spelling)
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

it very well could be the combination. and you never know what a rat is saying to its bud either right? maybe they have a whole language, just like us, and we merely haven't found how to decipher it yet. after all much of the rat's language cannot be heard by the human ear.

all i know is that in some forms of training it works best to pair a new one with a trained one and what i've seen with the wheel. i really don't know how it all works, just that i know it works.

i would love to one day work more in depth with rats and other animals to try to decipher their language and see how much of an effect it has in their life. do they merely alert others to danger or do they sit and chat about the weather and kids too? its all very fascinating.
 

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Re: Why you should have a spacious cage w/ a wheel & toy

That's nice to know :)

We have two girls and they both individually took to their wheels. Neither of them would use it in the smaller cage, but as soon as they got in the bigger cage with a 12 inch wheel, there was no stopping them :)
 
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