Rats at play
There are many different games you can play with your rats, depending on the individual. Be inventive, but make sure your rats are safe from injuries and can't escape at all times and never tease or torment your rats thinking it's funny. Only play games your rats enjoy. Rats are very intelligent animals and will appreciate games that stimulate their mind. You can also teach them to do all sorts of simple tricks.
Firstly you may want to teach them to come to you when you call their name. To do this you need to teach them to associate the name with something good (e.g. rice krispies or another favourite food). Each time you say the name, give them the reward. They quickly learn to respond and will come running when you call,(have a read of this article to get some more training tips).
Toys in their cages
There are many toys marketed for small animals, but also have a look at toys in the bird, cat and dog sections of the store too. Most large pet stores have a good supply of suitable toys. Remember rats chew, so some toys will last longer than others.
See here for ideas
DO NOT under any circumstance use a wheel with bars (open) your rats tail could get caught in it and badly injured. A solid wheel is fine, but not all rats will use them, they simple cannot see the point. If supplying a wheel you need to ensure it is large enough. E.g. the largest size of silent spinner. A wheel can be an in-cage toy or you can fix it on the outside of the cage for use during free-range time.
Out of cage activities
It is important that rats spend time each day out of their cages. Just simply coming out of their cages and having the run of my bedroom will be fun, with lots for them to explore. About an hour is usually long enough. You may have to let rats from different cages out separately, or if they know each other and are the same gender, you may be lucky enough that they will all get along and play happily together. Once out and about rats will run around the floor, climb the bookcase, bed and other furniture. You should rat proof the room as much as possible so that they are unable to get to electric cables or escape, or get trapped in hard to reach places.
This has ladders, ropes, hanging toys and 3 different levels. In the picture is a home made climbing frame. Built from various pieces of wood, plastic pipe, rope and other toys. Combined with a 'Ferretrail' expanding tunnel, which is about 9 foot long and can be used on the floor or wrapped around things. The younger rats really love it.
Play fighting with young rats
You can use your hand to play fight with a rat, tickle their tummies and chase them with your hand. They seem to respond as if your hand was another rat. It’s mostly young rats who seem to appreciate this, although if you’ve played with your rats like this from kittenhood, they may still play as an adult, although many seem to grow out of it.
Hide and seek
“I used to play this with my rat Holly. One morning when I was cleaning out and feeding Holly and Jasmin, Holly escaped and ran off, she disappeared behind the wardrobe. After searching high and low, I found her in my clothes drawer just sitting there, I got her out and put her back in her cage. From then on every morning she escaped, ran behind the wardrobe and sat and waited in the drawer. As soon as I was ready, I just opened the drawer, and picked her up and put her back in her cage. I think she liked the attention and praise I gave her when I got her out. I don't think you could teach this game to a rat.”
Rats like hide and seek and seem to have favourite hiding spots where they simply wait on you coming to find them.
Rats can climb horizontal and vertical ropes. You can supply these in their cage or set up one outside their cage. At first they may need to be encouraged to climb up or along with a treat.
Rather than have your rats upend all your pot plants, you can make them a digging box, using compost and bird seed. Fill a storage box (or thick cardboard box) with some compost, sprinkle on some bird seed for sprouting. You’ll need to put your box somewhere with good light and keep it watered. Once you have shoots a few inches long, you can add rats! They’ll nibble the shoots and dig up the seeds.
Not all rats like this, but unfortunately you don't know if yours does until you try it and they hate it. Use a bath or large container, it's a good idea to try shallow water (warm or tepid) first to see their reaction, rather than throwing them in at the deep end. You will soon know it they dislike it, because they will try to jump or climb out.
If your rat isn’t keen on swimming they may still be willing to paddle and get their feet wet. Fill a heavy bowl (so it can’t be tipped over) with some water , add peas and then enjoy watching your rats ‘fish’ for the peas.
Fill a large container with screwed up balls of paper, (you could also use clean plastic bottle tops, packing peanuts, lots of pingpong balls, old rags etc.). Hide a few treats in amongst everything and your rats will have fun rummaging through.
Rats love to be with you, and they can travel around with you on your shoulders. They love to be nosy, this gives them a good opportunity to travel around the house in safety. You could even go outside with them, if the weather is not too cold (or hot for that matter).
Hide the treat
Hide a small treat (choc drop) in a small cardboard box or in the middle of a tube with tissue up each end or an activity ball like the one pictured left. Then give to your rats and watch them quickly retrieve the hidden item. You can also hang the box/tube like a piñata.
Pass the rat
Most rats love meeting different people. Get a group of people together sitting at arm or legs distance away from each other. Start the rat(s) off on one person, then by extending arms and legs to other people, the rat(s) can run from person to person.
You can use the stairs in your house for rats to exercise, it's amazing how fast a rat can get to the top. Be careful if you have open sided stairs, a rat may get too excited and fall off the side (or be pushed by fellow cage mates).
BBC test your pet
There are lots of ideas on the BBC test your pet website. With a bit of patience rats can learn to complete most of the tests, although some individuals respond better than others.
Author: Fancy Rats Team
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