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These tomatoes were planted by our pet rat MJ.

These tomatoes were planted by our pet rat MJ.

 

Pet rats are ideal for small apartments. When we lived in a tiny bachelor flat, too small for a dog or a cat, we could still have pet rats.

 

Rats of course see it the other way round: Everything belongs to them and they generously share it with their humans.

 

Including whatever we tried to grow on the balcony: It would quickly succumb to become the rattie garden.

 

Plants our ratties didn’t like – or maybe liked too much – were soon uprooted, and no matter how much we tried to look out for the little oak tree, leaves would mysteriously disappear one by one until only a little stump was left.

 

But it’s not all destructive what rats do. Just look at this bountiful tomato plant.

This tomato plant grew out of nowhere and is even bearing fruit!

This tomato plant grew out of nowhere and is even bearing fruit!

 

While in my rattie tip I recommend growing a rattie garden for some fresh greens for your pet rats from their leftover seeds, it of course also gets shaped by the ratties themselves.

 

In this case our rattie MJ had nicked some tomato. Searching a place for safekeeping away from her clan, she decided the best way to hide it was by burying it in our barren balcony plant pot.

 

When to my amazement something started to grow in the rattie garden that I couldn’t identify, I suspected our ratties had something to do with it.

 

But I never thought it could turn into a whole tomato bush bearing fruit. And now our ratties have even more tomatoes they can steal! 😉

These tomatoes grew themselves - with a little help from our rats.

These tomatoes grew themselves – with a little help from our rats.

 

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Rats have ever growing teeth that need constant grinding down. They keep their teeth short by bruxing or of course gnawing. They have to, it’s what rodents do.

 

When it comes to the ability to gnaw through concrete, maybe a super power type of skill that can be respected.

When it comes to your clothes, bags, shoes, sheets, blankets, towels, you name it, not so cool.

 

Here a friendly reminder to make sure your home is ratproof:

 

This was one of those reusable shopping bags, quite handy if you want to stop using plastic bags.

Reusable shopping bag

Reusable shopping bag

 

Quite comfy too it seems, at least if you’re a rat. We kept this reusable shopping bag in a box that had an opening just big enough for pet rats to squeeze through…

Next time we wanted to use it, the handles were chewed off!

 

So I gave it to our ratties, clearly they liked it as nesting material. And this is what they’ve done with it:

There is beauty in destruction: Pet rats are master shredders!

There is beauty in destruction: Pet rats are master shredders!

 

That’s why you must always ratproof your home.

 

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Darn, my pet's drinking bottle has algae growing inside, and I can't even reach the rim to clean it!

Darn, my pet’s drinking bottle has algae growing inside, and I can’t even reach the rim to clean it!

 

In the 20+ years that I had pet rats I never had problems with algae in the ratties’ drinking bottle.

 

Then I heard from one of my #RattieSitting friends that she has to buy a new one, because hers has turned all green.

 

Weirdly enough, not too long after, also my pet water bottles showed signs of algae infestation.

 

Maybe something has changed to the Cape Town’s drinking water with the drought crisis?

 

Fortunately buying a new water dispenser is not necessary:

 

How to get rid of algae in your pet’s water dispenser

 

Simply soak the dish or bottle in 100% white vinegar.

 

Around the internet you’ll find a vinegar-water solution recommended at a ratio of 1 to 1. White vinegar also works well when diluted. Caution is advised when handling even food-grade vinegar as it is an acid.

 

But I find rinsing my rattie’s water bottle with pure white vinegar and let it soak for a while, does the trick: The algae simply disappears.

 

Wash the drinking bottle extensively to make sure all traces of algae and white vinegar are gone.

 

White vinegar is not bad for pet rats, apple cider vinegar is even good for them, but of course: only in a very diluted form. So don’t worry if the water bottle still smells of vinegar, a tiny bit of it won’t do any harm.

 

Of course, taking the time to clean your pet’s drinking bottle thoroughly means you need at least two. A good practice tip is anyway to provide two water bottles – just in case one fails – to make sure your pets always have access to water, especially in hot weather. This also gives you the chance to alternate between the two bottles when a proper clean is needed.

 

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Extreme chill-out: When we took our pet rats on holiday with us to Beaverlac and it got hot, this is the way our ratties relaxed: They hooked their teeth into the cage bars to literally hang.

Rattie version of putting your feet up: Our pet rat hooks her teeth on.

Rattie version of putting your feet up: Our rat hooks her teeth on.

 

Rats don’t sweat and don’t pant. The only way for them to release heat is through their tail.

In the wild they might stay in a burrow throughout the day to avoid the heat. But in your pet rat cage it could get pretty hot.

 

10 Tips how to protect your pet rat from overheating

 

– Keep the air cool but not draughty

Of course, the best way to keep your rat cool is to keep them in a cool environment. Place their cage in a cool spot and remove all blankets. However, because rats are prone to respiratory illnesses, don’t put them in a draughty spot. If there is a draught, place a wet blanket over the cage. It protects against the breeze and cools the air down.

 

– Build a rattie aircon

Simply put a small bowl of ice cubes on top of the pet rat cage and cover with a larger bowl. This will guide the cool air into your ratoots’ cage and keep them chilled.

 

– Remove bedding and newspapers

To protect pet rat’s feet it’s a good idea to put down a solid surface on the cage floor. When it’s hot however, remove it. Your ratties will enjoy lying flat down on the cage wire mesh as it allows them to release heat 360 degrees all surround.

 

– Place a container filled with ice in the cage

This can be a frozen water bottle or a flat ice cream tub filled with ice cubes. Anything that cools down the rattie cage, as long as it’s safe and non-toxic in case the rats nibble on it.

 

– Place cool surfaces in their cage

Tiles, stoneware or terracotta pots are naturally cool materials and can help absorb the heat from your pet rat’s body.

 

– Feed them ice cube treats

Some rats really like ice cubes. Mix in a bit of juice and turn them into ice popsicle treats your ratties won’t be able to resist.

 

– Feed them frozen food

Feed them fresh veggies, salad and fruits straight out of the fridge. Prepare some frozen food mix and serve it right out of the freezer. A fun game for pet rats is fishing frozen peas out of a water bowl, perfect entertainment in hot weather.

 

– Freeze their bedding

Freezing the rattie bedding is a great way to kill mites. It also helps your rats cool down when it’s hot.

 

– Give them a bath

Spritz them with mist, rinse them under the tap or dunk them into water up to their necks. A cool bath will provide instant relief from overheating. If your pet rat really doesn’t like water, make at least sure their tail gets wet to cool down.

 

– Place a bath in their cage

Your ratties might seek a refreshing bath and welcome a bowl of water to use for washing. Make sure it sits safe and the surrounds can handle a bit of splish splash.

 

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Scabs in your pet rat's fur can indicate a mite infestation.

Scabs in your pet rat’s fur can indicate a mite infestation.

 

Most parasites you find in your pet’s fur are only there because of a weak immune system.

Mites for example are always around, in bedding, on skin, in hair. It is only when the natural defence mechanisms of your pet are not strong enough to fight them off that you need to step in.

A weak immune system due to illness, malnutrition or old age is an invitation for mites to multiply. Once they’re taking over, it becomes a hassle for your pet to get rid of them.

 

There is medicine you can administer that kills off all parasites in general:

Ivermectin, which mites could be resistant to however, and

Revolution, which is normally for cats.

 

I try to avoid medicine as far as possible, so here is an alternative method:

 

How to get rid of mice or lice in a natural way

 

  1. Groom your pet

The mites have taken over and your pet is struggling keeping these buggers at bay.

Help them by grooming them with a small comb. You will soon notice that you’re combing out small particles, each one of them is a relief to your pet.

 

  1. Douse the affected areas with olive oil

I use high quality extra virgin olive oil and don’t dilute it.

Whatever oil is in excess, your pet can lick off and it’s even good for them: Virgin oil has proven to have a life-extending effect in rats.

 

Depending on severity you can give a pet rat an olive oil bath.

According to this story that can end up very messy.

But it seems drenching your pet rat in olive oil really does the trick, as this comment confirms.

 

Pouring pure olive oil on the affected areas should suffocate the mites and at the same time heal the scabs. Together with an immune-boosting diet, your pet should be able to fend off the invaders.

 

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Since I have pet rats, salad has always been a staple addition to my ratties’ diet. I even met a pet shop owner who fed salad as a water substitute.

So to my great surprise I see iceberg salad show up in lists of ‘what not to feed your rat’. Digging a bit deeper I find the reason for this: Apparently iceberg salad has little nutritional value and consists mostly of water.

That makes it a great snacking treat!

Especially on hot days, salad is a great way to keep your ratties hydrated.

As long as they have always access to their usual complete and balanced pet food they can also eat iceberg salad.

Ratties simply love chewing salad, to the degree that they turn into salad thieves!

Watch how much rattie MJ enjoys munching away on the salad:

If you’re really concerned about nourishment, stick to more nutritional salads such as romaine or butter lettuce or go for leafy greens such as spinach or kale.

Alternatively, turn the low nutrition levels into a benefit feeding iceberg salad to ratties who need to lose a bit of weight.

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Rattie Yoshi cannot believe this #rattie #treat is for him.

Rattie Yoshi can’t believe this #rattie #treat is for him.

 

Most breakfast cereals are unhealthy

Generally most breakfast cereals are not actually healthy, not for us and not for pet rats either.

They contain too much sugar, salt and fat: Those crunchy mueslis are baked in oil, those great flakes are sugar coated, those crispy pops get their taste from salt.

You might as well eat a dessert for breakfast. So don’t give this unhealthy, non-complex carbs, loaded with artificial flavourings and other additives, ‘breakfast’ to your pet rats.

 

Read the labels!

If you don’t read labels already, do it for your rattie’s sake:

Pet rats should only eat cereals which contain less than 5% sugar, or 5 to 10% sugar if it’s entirely from fruit.

On the food label find the row for carbohydrates and take a look at the amount of total sugar per 100g: It should not exceed 5g.

 

Tip: Only as a treat

Because of their high sugar content, breakfast cereals should be regarded as a #Rattie #Treat, like a dessert for your pet rats.

If your pet rat is old / ill / underweight, breakfast cereals can provide extra energy, in addition their sweet taste cover any medicine you might need to administer to your rattie.

 

Bonus Tip: Add yoghurt

Pet rats need animal protein. If you give them breakfast cereal high in carbohydrate countermeasure it by adding plain additive-free yoghurt. I use amasi, as most yoghurts in South Africa contain preservatives.

This can also help to keep your pet rat’s weight in check: The yoghurt fills them quicker and they consume less carbs.

 

 

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