Rats! And Cats!
October 17, 2005 11:56 AM   Subscribe

I just picked up a pair of rats and have some general rat-based questions as well as rat&cat co-habitation questions.

My rats are both female (checked) and hand-raised from birth, so are not afraid of anything -- not me or my cat. I evacuate the cat from the room while the rats are out and plan on continuing to do so, but I'm wondering if my cat will ever grow tired of the shelf with the squeaking cage and just shut up about it.

Also, my rats are around 9 weeks old and still tiny, so I worry about losing them when they're out -- getting into spots they're not supposed to/hiding under areas I can't get them out of. Boomer (of Boomer & Starbuck) already jumped from my hand once and snuck underneath my bookshelf until we scared her out and shooed her back into the cage. Should I go ahead and rat-proof my room or will they get more reliable and less likely to "hide" from me over time? If I am to rat-proof the room, what materials should I use to choke up the small little spots they could scoot under?
posted by Imperfect to Pets & Animals (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had pet rats and cats as a child, and they cohabitated fine. Once they're full grown, rats seem to be too large to be serious prey for most normal lazy house cats, same experience we had with pet guinea pigs. Hamsters, however, are another story (my little brother lost 5 before my mom gave up). I would be careful until they're not mouse sized any more though.

Rat-proof your room to the extent that if they make a break for it, you know they'll stay in the room, and if they decide to be stubborn and not come out from behind something, you can conceivably pull furniture away to get at them. We almost always had them back in cages in a day (they got hungry and went for the bait) but once we had a renegade living in an unreachable corner for a month. I hate to imagine what was back there for food, but well, we were sloppy kids so anything is possible.
posted by dness2 at 12:52 PM on October 17, 2005

Rats like to go for hiding places, so yes, they will hide from you. Eventually though, they will go to the same places. I used to hang an old cardigan from the door handle of the room, and the rats would climb into the pocket to sleep.

At the moment though, you should try to rat proof the room, or train them to stay on you while they are out of the cage.
posted by gaspode at 12:54 PM on October 17, 2005

Rats are actually smart enough to be name-trained, so that they will come if you call their name. I never succeded with any of my rats, but I had friends who did that. So if you can name train them, that might ease some of your worries.
posted by KirTakat at 1:09 PM on October 17, 2005

Rats and cats can get along, depending. I have no experience with this however (never having had a cat), so I will answer your other questions.

I have never had trouble getting rats out from hiding. As another person said, mine easily learned their names. In my experience with female rats however, they tend to get jealous of each other, and would actually be more likely to come when a different rat's name was called. So if I was trying to get Jenny out, I would call for Eve, and they would both come running, Jenny trying to push Eve out of the way.

Also rats are extremely curious. Often I could get them out of hiding by crinkling something plastic. Or by sitting down on the floor, as then they would have to see what I was doing and would come over to me. It worked even better if I was eating something, and they hoped I would share.

Rats will not hide for a very long time. They are simply too curious to want to stay in one place for long. If you leave them out for a long time however, they may fall asleep somewhere. Then you might need to wait for them to wake up. You might want to watch out for erasers, pens, and other small objects that they will carry off and hide.

Use something solid to barricade areas that you don't want them to get into. They will try to dig and pull at anything soft like cloth. Some rats will chew. I remember a story of a girl whose rats chewed into her mattress and made a nest. I tend to be very observant of what my rats are up to. They are mischief makers. You can get Bitter Apple to put on cords and things to stop them from chewing, but some rats like the taste of that.

And beware if you ever wear a bandaid on your foot while walking around when they are out. Bandaids are evil and must be attacked.
posted by veronitron at 3:02 PM on October 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

Rats! I have awesome memories of pet rats growing up, and this post makes me want one again...lucky you! The advice upthread is good. I would add that I did succeed in nametraining a few [mostly the ones I had from birth or from a young age, like yours] and that accomplished the dual goals of ensuring I could get them out of hiding by calling their names/making that tongue clicking sound, and also impressing visitors who originally thought rats were gross pets.

Also, mine all had favorite snacks that could be used to lure them out of hiding when calling their names failed. Cheerios seemed to be the all-around winner, but other crackers and snack foods also worked well.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 4:09 PM on October 17, 2005

Mine are psychotic about cucumber; love it to death. I'm primarily now worried about the back of my computer and the accompanying cords and keeping them out of there, but I may just tape that up with duct tape. It'll keep them out in the short run and if I see them up to mischief over there, I'll toss some cucumber to get them out. =)
posted by Imperfect at 4:22 PM on October 17, 2005

Awww....RATS! You'll love them. I had no problems getting my adventurous rats to come running once they figured out the distinctive rattle of the box with the treats in it. Just keep an eye on them if they're exploring in high places--I lost my favorite rat to fearlessness/internal injuries sustained in a fall.
posted by Vervain at 4:38 PM on October 17, 2005

I'm so jealous... coolest pets ever.

I had two little girls a few years ago, and the one piece of advice I have is to play with them, talk to them, and handle them as much as you can while they're wee. I unfortunately didn't do this enough, and by the time I realized my error they had bonded to each other rather than to me. We all still got along, but they definitely weren't as people friendly as the single rat I had before.

Have fun!
posted by sarahmelah at 6:47 PM on October 17, 2005

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