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Home > Pet News and Articles > Rat Stars Change Negative Opinion

Rat Stars Change Negative Opinion
Article By: Glenn Redmond

As an animal wrangler in Newfoundland, I sometimes feel like the Maytag repairman waiting for a service call. There is a lot more filming done here than most people realize, though not all projects require animals. It had been about a year since my last shoot, so I was quite enthused when my answering machine conveyed the message that the movie "Screamers 2" required some animal action.

My repertoire of animals ready to do a star turn had grown over the past year, adding many varieties of dogs and cats to the mix. I wondered, "Would they want Skye, the talented little Westie, or Ari, the nothing bothers me cat", both ready, willing and able to showcase their talent. But no, it was not to be, for the voice on the other end of the phone was not looking for dogs, cats or even horses. They wanted rats.

Now, I consider myself a huge animal lover, but I am not ashamed to say that I have always felt a good rat is not one that that lives on the same property as me. However, never one to turn down a challenge and just itching to get back on a film set, I agreed to make a few calls. As it turned out, rats were easier to acquire than I had first thought, and a few days later, two little rodents were being prepped for their movie debut. They did a marvelous job on set. They did all that was asked of them and not only satisfied the production company, but also changed my view of rats entirely.

Rats as Pets

Rats are intelligent and affectionate animals which bond to their human owners in much the same way as our beloved dogs. They are extremely clean, spending up to one-third of their waking hours grooming. They are playful, easily trained and able to learn a variety of complex tricks and behaviors. Rats have a great need for companionship and stimulation and will suffer immense psychological damage if an owner does not provide enough attention and exercise. They are far less aggressive than their wild ancestors towards humans and other rats, and are much easier to handle than other rodent pets such as gerbils and guinea pigs. Due to their reputation, they are often never given the opportunity to showcase their attributes.

What You Will Need

Pet rats will spend a good majority of their time in their cage, so purchase the biggest one possible, allowing them to exercise their body and brains. They love to climb and go through tunnels so be as creative as you can in designing their home and playground. Wire cages are by far the better choice as they allow for proper ventilation and are a ready-made climbing gym.

Line the bottom of the cage with a suitable litter which is able to absorb the moisture from urine and droppings. The most common choice is pine or cedar shavings, although there are conflicting reports whether or not these can cause respiratory problems. Other suitable choices include aspen shavings, rabbit food, or alfalfa pellets. Never at any time use traditional cat litter as this will definitely harm you pet rat.

Rats do not do well in cold weather, so make sure their cage is placed inside the house away from heavy drafts and in an area which allows them to be part of daily activity.

Food and Water

Rats are omnivores and will live healthier lives if they are fed a diverse diet. You can buy food pellets at most pet stores but you should supplement this with foods such as apples, bananas, broccoli, carrots, and protein sources such as cooked liver or kidney. Fresh water should be available at all times, preferably in a gravity bottle which ensures that water will not be knocked over or be mixed with the cage litter.

Social Life

As mentioned before, rats are extremely social animals and need companionship not only from human owners, but from their own species as well. Rats should never live alone and ideally should be kept in groups of two or more of the same sex. Both males and females make affectionate pets, but become fertile between five to twelve weeks of age. One male and female kept together could produce up to eighteen offspring every month!!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the two little stars. I was amazed at their quick rate of learning and how affectionate they became in such a short time. I owe them for shifting my stereotypical attitude toward rats, to the reality of just how great a pet they can be.

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