Author Topic: Miscellaneous Questions  (Read 506 times)

Offline Kaytlinnn

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Miscellaneous Questions
« on: October 23, 2016, 07:00:52 PM »
Hello,
I have not been on this forum in what seem like a long time, but I'm back. I previously was on here asking about keeping rats in a dorm room at college. It seemed like a good idea at the time, in reality it was not so great. I did not get rats, I didn't get a hamster, I didn't get any pets. Not only would I have probably been caught, but my roommate was very against the idea of me having any sort of pets in there. Anyways, here I am, a year later, and I finally have the rats that I always wanted.

A few days ago I got two PEW boys, about 3 months old, and I've decided on the names Orville and Wilbur (though I still can't tell them apart so I need to make a run to the store to get some food coloring  :yelcutelaugh:). It was sort of an impulse purchase, but since I already knew a lot about rats I wasn't too worried about it. Of course now that I have them home I have a few questions, but nothing too serious.

First, I have them in a rat manor. I really don't mind it so much right now, though the setup was a pain in the butt and the doors are too small. I was wondering if anyone had some tips on very simple (namely cheap) things I could put in their cage to spruce it up. Right now they have a pet store hammock, a hanging pineapple cuddle house from the pet store that they have already chewed a hole in (in the liner, so they slide themselves inside of it). They have part of a shoebox to hide in, a wheel (which they don't use except to sit on), and a bandana I had sitting around that I used to make another hammock. I only have a little hanging chew toy and a toilet paper tube in there for things to chew on. I was thinking of making a climbing rope because they really love climbing all over the place, and maybe getting some ledges (dollar store baskets?).

Second, I need some bedding ideas. I am using carefresh at the moment, and its only day three and its starting to smell. I don't have any sort of litter box in there yet, but I would love to start litter box training them ASAP, so tips on that would be great as well. Fleece is certainly an option, though I'm not sure how I would fit it around the top floor, or the shelves.

Lastly, I need some advice about their behavior. Right now they are pretty skittish, though even today is better than when I first brought them home. On day one, they wouldn't even consider approaching me and hid in the corner if I reached into the cage to do anything. Ive been letting them free roam in my bathroom with only me in there with some treats, trying to win their trust. So far they are willing to approach me and take food from my hand in the bathroom, but they get nervous if my hand moves too fast or comes too close. I have worked with them in their cage as well, giving them little treats every time I come home just to get them used to me. I got to the point where if I put my hand in the cage they will verrrryyyyyy slowly make their way over to sniff my hand and inspect it for food. They even will put their little feet on it to check me out. The minute they realize I have nothing they run away. This is still a pretty big improvement though. 

On a slightly troublesome note, one of them is a bit sneezy. At least I'm 80% sure its only one of them (again I can barely tell them apart. One is a little more brave and active than the other, who is the sneezy one). It isn't all the time, usually its just after I handle them, or move them from their cage to the bathroom for play time. It only lasts for 30 seconds to a minute, but it is still worrying. Sometimes he will just sneeze once or twice, randomly, but this is less often and its only after he gets up and runs around. He also sometimes makes little noises, not quite a squeak, but its typically around the time of these sneezing fits. He also tends to squeak when I pick him up, but I think he just doesn't like it (he chatters at me after I set him down too). I hope this is just a reaction to the different bedding and the new environment, especially since it only seems to be one of them.   

Offline Vonda Z

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Re: Miscellaneous Questions
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2016, 11:17:31 PM »
The sneezing could be new home sneezes since you only brought them home a few days ago. It sometimes takes them a little time to get used to the new environment and they may be a little sneezy at first.

New home sneezes will be dry, puff sneezes only. If you see other symptoms (wet sneezes, excessive porphyrin discharge around the eyes or nose, wheezing or congested breathing or any breathing sounds at all, lethargy, puffy fur, squinty eyes, lack of appetite) or if the sneezing gets worse or doesn't improve in a week or so, then I would take him in to see the vet as a respiratory infection could be starting.

The squeaking is a normal reaction from a rat who is scared. Rats will also squeak when in pain, but in this case, it is much more likely that he is just nervous and afraid or expressing displeasure at being picked up. Don't let that stop you from handling him, though. He will most likely get used to it but only if you continue to handle him and interact with him on a regular basis. If you don't see improvement over time, there are methods of forced socialization that may be helpful, but at this stage he is still new and it is way too soon to be looking into that. Pet store rats (assuming they came from a pet store) have often not been handled much, so this can take a little time.

Good luck with your new boys. If you have any worries at all about their health, it is always best to take them in for a vet check, if only to put your mind at ease. But new home sneezes are a pretty common thing, so no need to get excessively worried at this point as long as they don't have any other symptoms and you keep a close eye on them.

Offline Kaytlinnn

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Re: Miscellaneous Questions
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2016, 09:39:06 AM »
Thank you for the response. He is certainly less active than the other one, I've decided that he will be Wilbur and the other will be Orville. I just need to get something to mark them with so I can tell them apart. Would food coloring or non-toxic markers be best? Whatever lasts the longest is what I'm going for.

I don't quite have the funds for a vet trip right now, there were a few unexpected things that came up with my car that wiped my bank account, so it might take a few more weeks of paychecks before I will have enough for the vet. The good thing is that besides the sneezing, he seems to be fine. He's just the more timid one. They are from a pet store, and I don't think they got much handling at all (though the woman who helped me pick them out did say they are used to her scent, implying that she did handle them at least a little bit). Ive been working on trust training a little bit at a time. I sit in front of the cage and hand feed them bits of cheese or crackers. Ori (Orville) is at the point where he will come out of the cage and stand on the door to get the food, and then when he grabs it he only takes it as far as the entrance so he is at least inside the cage before he eats it. Will is a lot slower, he takes it and runs back to his corner.

They are so very entertaining to watch. I was trying to study for an exam last night and kept getting distracted by Ori sprinting up and down the ramps, exploring everything. He loves to chew, anything and everything he can get his mouth on, though surprisingly he has yet to chew on the t-shirt I laid down over the top level for them to sleep on (I was told by the woman at the store that putting something in that smells like me would help). I'm crossing my fingers that means he would be ok with fleece and wouldn't try to burrow under it.

Offline BigBen

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Re: Miscellaneous Questions
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2016, 08:52:06 PM »
It sounds as though you are doing well.  Get a bag of puffed grains to use as treats, so you won't fill them up too quickly, and give them a puff every time they do something you want to reward.

For now, when you pick them up, grab them slowly from their level (i.e., don't swoop down on them like a bird of prey), and make sure to support their whole bodies.  This will make the process of being picked up as unthreatening as possible.

Talk and sing to them, so they learn the sound of your voice.  It might also help to find something you can do while sitting next to the cage, such as reading.  That way you will be near them without scaring them by making them your focus.
What is a rat?  King-sized love in a pint-sized package.
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Offline Kaytlinnn

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Re: Miscellaneous Questions
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2016, 08:44:17 AM »
The sneezing has already been going away, though I still hear one occasionally. Still, thats a big improvement. I think it also helped that I switched over to fleece yesterday. So much less dusty! I used the care fresh only in their litter box, and they have taken to it right away. I found only 2 poops outside of it when I woke up this morning (besides the poop in their hanging pineapple hammock thing. They use that like a storage container for food and poop lol). I hope that this means I can move to only changing out the litter box every couple days and the cage once a week instead of every couple days like I had thought. I live in an apartment and I really don't want my roommates to have to smell the rats every time they walk by my room (I don't want to have to smell them all the time either, to be honest).

We've gotten to the point now that when I put my hand in the cage, Ori will climb all over it, sniffing each finger for food. Wilbur will come up a few seconds later, sniff me, maybe put a little paw on my hand, and then scurry away. Still its big progress since before Will would hide in a corner until my hand was gone. I let them free roam on my bed today, and since it was so early in the morning I think they were ready to go to sleep. I got maybe 15 minutes out of them before they curled up in the corner and tried to go to sleep. They would run around, occasionally coming up to me to sniff me, before running off again. Finally they settled down in a corner that was about two feet away from me (just barely out of arms reach), and settled in for bed. That was when I picked them up and put them back in their cage, knowing that they would be asleep for a while.