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-::- <(=^.^=)> Rat Facts And Commonly Asked Questions <(=^.^=)> -::-

Do Rats Make Good Pets? How do male and female rats differ from each other? Do male rats spray? How is a hairless different from a haired? Should rats be kept in pairs or more?
Can a rat live alone?
Do rats need to be kept in at least pairs?
What should I do when I get a new rat?
How do I introduce them to my old rats?
Should I spay/Neuter My rat?
Will neutering my male rat make him less aggressive?
Will not spaying my female rat cause her to get cancer?
What types of cages do you recommend? What kind of bedding do you recommend? What kind of food do you recommend? What other supplies do my rats need? What ind of toys should I get?
How well do rats see? What is the red stuff around my rat's eyes / nose? How do I bath my rat?
How do I clip my rat's nails?
Why is my rat itching a lot?
Why does my rat have scabs on them?
What are those shiny things in my rats' fur?
How do I tell if my rat has lice / mites?
What can I do for lice / mites?
What is Rat Bite Fever (RBF)?
Do your rats carry Rat Bite Fever?
I own rats. Am I at risk for getting Rat Bite Fever?

}!{ Do Rats Make Good Pets?
Rats make very good pets. You can litter box train them and teach them to do tricks. They will bond with your children and you if held every day. They are like a mix between a rodent and a puppy. You will be amazed at how loving and affectionate they can be. I am not saying this because I own/breed rats. I am saying this because I have had all types of rodent pets growing up (hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits and ferrets (even though they are not rodents), rats, and mice) and out of all of them, I liked rats the best. I found them to be one of the cleanest rodents and most intelligent and affectionate.
Please keep in mind, rodents nibble and chew on things. A lot of my rats like to chew on my finger nails. (I do not let them. If I did they may accidentally bite my finger.) Rats can not see well so they use their mouths to explore things. If you hand feed or feed through the bars you may train your rat to bit at anything that is coming into the cage. (Rats can be greedy and want to get the treat before their cagemate does. You may not have a treat at the moment but because you often feed by hand they are expecting one.) By hand feeding you may teach them to associate your hand with food. Since they can not see well they may bite your fingers because they are expecting a treat. I strongly suggest not hand feeding until the rats are older and you have developed a bond with them. Most times a rat bite is an accident and can be prevented. Rats rarely bite out of aggression.

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}!{ How do male and female rats differ from each other?
Please note, not every rat is the same so not every rat will act like this.

Male Rats
Personality - Male rats are generally more docile, passive, and accepting. They are like couch potatoes and usually sit still and cuddle in your lap. They are not very active and prefer to lounge about. Of course babies will be more active then adults.
Physically - They are a lot larger than females. They do tend to be a bit pudgy. They eat more than females, thus they poop more than females. This means you might be cleaning their cage more often due to the smell. The boys have a musky kind of smell. Neutered rats will smell less. Personality wise they will still be like other males, maybe less aggressive. Note: They are males, so they do have male parts. Some people are off put by this.
Health - Males have less health risks. They may develop tumors but they are not prone to them. (Giving them the peels of citrus fruits can cause testicular cancer.)

Female Rats
Personality - Female rats are very playful and like to explore. They will let you hold them and pet them but generally they do not like to cuddle until they have run around and smelt everything. They like to have things to do and keep busy. They tend to be.more destructive than males chewing on everything in their cage. Make sure you give them lots of chews and plenty to occupy them.
Physically - They are usually much smaller than males. They are usually more slender than males. They eat less and thus poop less than males (or at least mine do). So their cage maybe able to go longer in between cleanings. They tend to smell fruity, almost like grape.
Health - Females are prone to mammary tumors. Unfortunately when rats were domesticated they were bred to have tumors so they could be experimented on. It's in their genes. Statistics say that about 50% of females will get mammary tumors. I am working very hard to lower that statistic in my lines. Diet can increase these risks.

}!{ Do male rats spray?
Both the males and females leave little dribbles of pee. Sometimes they do not even do it at all. I think it is all depends on the rat. A little more than half my rats do it. It is barely anything, like tiny droplets. They are not like cats, they do not spray or leave large amounts of urine. And actually, if your rat scents you, it means they are very comfortable with you and are marking you so they can find their way back to you. It is a good thing rather than a bad thing.

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}!{ How is a hairless / Double Rex different from a haired?

Hairless Rats.
Hairless rats need to be kept in warmer places. They get cold easier. Even if your house is warm, it will be a little cold for the hairless rats. Hairless rats eat more food because they have a high metabolism to help them keep warm. It is a good idea to give them pieces of fleece to make beds with and snuggle in.
They can get eye infections and may have a higher amount of discharge from their eyes compared to a furred rat. The red stuff around a rat's eyes and nose is called porphyrin. It is produced by a gland behind the eyeball and helps lubricate the eye. Porphyrin naturally drains from the eye down into the nose through a small tear duct. Small amounts of porphyrin can be seen every now and then and are normal. You will see it more in hairless rats because they do not have the fur and eye lashes to keep things from getting in their eyes so their eyes will constantly get things in them and will become irritated. Hence the reason why you may see a lot of porphyrin around their eyes. Them getting things in their eyes also may lead to an eye infection but I have never encountered one. All you will have to do it take a clean, damp, warm cloth and carefully wipe their face, around their eye, to wipe away the porphyrin.
Since they do not have fur they are more likely to get scratches and bite marks from the other rats or where ever they may be. It is normal though. You just have to watch and make sure the injuries do not get infected. Rats heal fairly quickly and can handle some pretty deep cuts without needing sutures. They may need baths (or just wipe them with a warm clothe as bathing can be traumatic) while haired rats often do not. Again, they do not have fur so there is nothing ti wick the grease away from their skin and keep the dirt off of their skin. They may become greasy and may even get zits / blackheads.

Double Rex Rat.
Double Rex rats are like little alien rats. They can be any where from peach fuzz with bald spot to Rex fur with bald spots and everything in between. They typically lose and gain fur (molt). Some do it often while others only do it a few times. Some only molt while they are babies and remain a constantly peach fuzz covered rat. (You get Double Rex rats when you breed two Rex rats together.)
Ones with less hair will need to be kept warmer. (See the description above for hairless rats.)
They have curly eyes lashes (and whiskers). The curly eye lashes do not deflect things from their eyes well. So you may see more porphyrin discharge than in stand fur rats. (It is the same for Rex rats who also have curly fur, eye lashes, and whiskers.)

Other than that, hairless, double Rex, and haired rats are pretty similar

If you go into how they are different when breeding then it is another story. Haired female rats are usually more maternal. They almost always lactate (produce milk) and very rarely eat their babies. Any rat will eat their baby if it is sick or dead. Hairless female rats do not always lactate. The gene that causes them to be hairless also sometimes causes them to be sterile or unable to produce milk. They are often more cannibalistic. They will often eat the babies for no known reason. Some will eat all the female babies every time. They have smaller litters than haired rats. Much smaller. An average haired rat litter is 8 to 15. An average hairless rat littler is 2 to 8.

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}!{ Should rats be kept in pairs or more? Can a rat live alone? Do rats need to be kept in at least pairs?
Anything you read will scream that rats need to be kept in at least pairs. And this is very true. Rats are social animals who need to not only interact with you but with each other as well. They get lonely and bored just as anyone would. You must think of them as little children. What kind of life would it be to only have interaction when the adult feels like it? They need cage mates just as much as they need food. A lot of people will respond with, "I hold my rat all the time.", "I spend a lot of time with my rat." etc. Well, yes, that is all well and good. But, what about when you are at work or school? They are left alone then. What about when you go to bed? Rats are mostly nocturnal. When you are sleeping they are up starting their day. You are not there to greet them, entertain them, love them, etc. That is where their cage mate comes in, to keep each other company during the times that you are a way. Also, much like monkeys use grooming for many reasons (to keep clean, pick of parasite, bond, physical contact, etc.) so do rats. When rats cuddle and groom each other is nurtures them. Study after study shows that living things (main study known as "failure to thrive"), including humans, need physical contact to survive. It makes us healthier. So even though you can groom your rat it is not the same as if another rat were doing it. You may then say, "I want one on one time with my rat.". "Two rats would be more work.", "How would I play with two rats at the same time?" etc. It does not matter how many rats you have, you can ALWAYS have one on one time with your rats. While you are holding one the other is given alone time. You can then bond with the rat you are playing with. Then you switch. Or, in most cases, you do not live alone, so who ever you live with can visit with the other rat. And, how would you play with two rats at the same time? Easily. They play together and with you. They will explore, cuddle, etc. just the same as if their were only one of them. Now to the point that a lot of people state or ask. Two rats are not much more work than one rat. If you have one rat you still have to feed them, water them, and clean the cage. With two rats you just add more food and water and you may have to clean the cage a few day earlier. But whatever you think it takes away from you, remember how much it gives to them. Animals can become depressed just like humans do. Single rats can easily become stressed out from being alone. They may not eat, get sick, or even become aggressive towards you. If you lived in a world of aliens and none of them knew your language would you not become depressed and start to become irritable?

With that said I would also like to say that not all rats want to live with other rats. Some rats just want to be alone. Usually because they have already lived alone for quite some time and are used to it by now. Some rats get used to living solo and learn to prefer it. It has become their routine. If that is the case they will not accept another rat. It is rare, but it happens. Rats normally welcome new friends. There will be dominance issues at first but after a little while they all live happily together. But even with rats who have lived together all their lives still fight over who is the boss. And as always, there will be little quarrels every now and then. Everyone fights. It is a way of life. But a rat fight usually consists of the dominant rat holding down the submissive rat and grooming them roughly while the other rat squeaks in protest.

I believe so strongly in keeping rats in at least pairs that I will not adopt out a single rat. The only way a single rat leaves my home is if you have other rats at home and can prove it to my satisfaction, you are waiting for another one from another litter (if it is a litter of mine you will sign a paper promising to come back for another rat, if it is not another of my litters then I have to have contact from the other breeder proving you do plan on getting a second rat), or the single rat I am adopting out has shown severe signs of aggression and is better suited for living solo.

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}!{ What to do when you adopt a new rat and add them to your colony.

What should I do when I get a new rat?
When you first get a new rat you should quarantine them for at least two weeks. (Some people do any where from a week to four weeks. Some people do not quarantine at all. But that is your choice.) When you quarantine make sure it is a true quarantine. Meaning, once you touch the new rat or anything to do with them, wash your hands. Do not hold your new rat and then go and hold your old ones. If the new rat has anything then that means it's on your hands and clothes and now you've spread it to your old rats. Do not use the same cage cleaning equipment either. (If you only have one scoop bleach it after you use it to clean the new rat's cage.) Do not put their cages near each other. It is recommended that a quarantine is done it two separate homes. That is often not possible and impractical for a lot of people. So most people keep the cages in completely separate rooms/floors. There could be air borne illness that your new rat is carrying. Even if they are immune to it your old ones may not be. This all may sound extreme but a new rat could have a respiratory illness that could be too much for your older rat to handle. They may be infected with lice/mites and that can easily spread to your rats. All this is to protect your old rats. Take this time to bond with your new rat. This way instead of immediately bonding with the other rats and forgetting about you he/she will form a bond with you and still enjoy your company even when they are in your rat colony.

How do I introduce my new rat to my old rats?
Typically each step lasts a week. However some people only do a few days.
Any signs of aggression (such as puffing up, side stepping, swaying, tail wagging, chattering, or violent acts) should result back to the previous stage.

Step One: (The babies will be 5+ weeks old.) New rats should be quarantined before being introduced to your rats. (See above paragraph.)

Step Two: (The babies will now be 7 weeks old.) After the quarantine period you can put the two cages about a foot apart. This is so no one can grab someone through the bars and accidentally hurt them. Rats can not see well and often grab at anything they can reach and try to pull it into their cage to better investigate it. This will allow them to get used to each others' scent.

Step Three: (The babies will now be 8 weeks old.) After this scenting period you can then introduce them to each other on neutral territory, a place where your rats do not frequent. So some place like the couch. This way no rat thinks that the other rat is invading their territory. (Any signs of aggression (such as puffing up, side stepping, swaying, tail wagging, chattering, or violent acts) should result back to the previous stage where they are swapping cages. If there are no signs of aggression for at least 24 hours when reverting back to the previous stage then you can try again.)
I would also suggest clipping all the rats nails before you introduce them. Rat nails are very sharp and can create very large, deep wounds. If everyone has trimmed, smooth nails it is less likely that someone will get hurt. You may have to clip their nails as often as twice a week. If clipping their nails is too hard you can get a piece of low grad sand paper and have them walk around on that to file their nails down. A lot of people also put rocks or bricks inside the rats' cage to keep their nails filed. When they climb on it it naturally wears down their nails. You can put it in an area where they frequent to make sure they are stepping/climbing on it.
Some people will rub vanilla extract on the rats' shoulders to decrease their scent and encourage grooming which will lead to bonding and acceptance.

Step Four: (The babies will now be 9-10 weeks old.) After the step of introducing them and letting them interact on neutral ground you can now move on to putting them together some where that your rats frequent. (Their normal place they typically play during free range time.) (Any signs of aggression (such as puffing up, side stepping, swaying, tail wagging, chattering, or violent acts) should result back to the previous stage where they are swapping cages. If there are no signs of aggression for at least 24 hours when reverting back to the previous stage then you can try again.)

Step Five:Babies should be 11 to 12 weeks old when you add new babies to an older rats' cage. This age is recommended because at this age the babies will be about big enough to not be seriously injured from soft scuffles. However they will still be much smaller and much weaker than the adults so they can still be easily taken over and hurt.
(The babies will now be 10-11 weeks old.) If all the steps have gone well and you feel that they are ready to live together you should clean the cage and everything in it very thoroughly to remove your old rats' scent from it. Again, no one will have claim to the cage and think someone is invading their home. (Make sure their nails are trimmed.) Keep a watch on them when you put them in the same cage. There may be some fighting. You can blow on them to get their attention and make them stop. (Some times little scuffles get out of hand and result in serious injuries.) There may be some squeaking as well. This may be due to the new rat not wanting to be groomed or touched. As long as the new rat is not being hurt it is ok. You can talk to him/her in a calming voice to let them know it is ok. (When some kids go to school for the first time they cry because they are scared and nervous of the new situation and all the new kids. It is no different for rats.)

Here are some helpful links.
Here is a good article on introductions. http://www.ratfanclub.org/newrat.html

Here are more tips http://ratguide.com/care/behavior/introducing_rats.php

This has some good info too but it's not the best http://www.rmca.org/Resources/aintro.txt

How long will it take for them to get used to each other?
That is something no one knows for sure. I have had rats who immediately were accepted into the rat colony and got along well with everyone. I have had rats who were shy to other rats and chose to sleep by their self; slowly accepting their new rat cage mates. So I suppose to answer is any where from a day to a month. I would say the average time is three to five days.

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}!{ Spaying And Neutering Rats.

Should I spay/Neuter My rat?
Yes and No. I personally, as a veterinary science student and long time rat owner/breeder, feel very strongly against spaying and neutering in rats. BECAUSE almost all the vets around here do not specialize in rats or rodents. They merely generalize in them. Their main focus is with dogs and cats, sometimes birds, reptiles, or live stock. (Not to mention people usually go with the cheapest price and cheaper is not better in the vet world. It can mean old fashion equipment and practices, it can mean a fresh out of school vet, etc. You want to go with the moderate price. They should have good equipment, good practices, and good, experienced vets.) Why are most vets inexperienced with rats? Not many people bring rodents to the vet so they do not get much practice with that species. (A lot of people feel that spending hundreds on a pocket pet who can be replaced for a lot less than the vet bills is a bad choice.)
All vets can do the surgery but chances are, they have only done a few, if any. Which means they are inexperienced in spaying and neutering rats. The anatomy of all animals is all basically the same, but much much smaller in the rat's case. The rats will be put under, some vets use gas and some vets use sedatives. Either way, the smaller the animal the more likely a complication will arise and there is a higher chance of them not waking up. This means not only is their life at risk from an inexperienced vet, but also whatever they used to put them under. And in the end, if the rat was going to have cancer, spaying would not have been a sure guarantee that they will not get it. And neutering is not a sure guarantee that the males will not be aggressive. You will have wasted your money and risked the rats life for basically nothing.

If there is a history of cancer/tumors in the rats family then I would have them spayed. However if a breeder is breeding rats with the knowledge that they carry a higher likely hood of having cancer/tumors then female rats normally do, then that is not a breeder you should be dealing with. As a breeder they should stop breeding any rat who's babies develop cancer/tumors. Also, pet store rats and inbreed rats (usually pet store rats again) are more likely to develop health problems like cancer and tumors. If you can find a vet who sees rats and does rat surgeries on a regular basis (which is the kind of vet you should have) then that is great. With a vet who is experienced with rat surgery you can safely have them spayed/neutered and I fully support that.

Will neutering my male rat make him less aggressive?
All rats will fight on occasion, especially when going through puberty. If a rat is aggressive they will always be aggressive no matter if they are neutered or not. It is just their personality. Getting the rats neutered MIGHT decrease their aggressiveness during puberty. But not always. Just like not all male are aggressive. If you are not breeding your males then they should not really be aggressive. They will have no reason to be aggressive.

Will not spaying my female rat cause her to get cancer?
Yes, spaying does reduce the risks of mammary cancer (which is the cancer they are referring to in almost all female animals), but spaying reduces the risk of cancer in all female animals, not just rats. They will not just develop cancer if they are not spayed. They will develop cancer if it runs in their genes, or sometimes randomly. But usually their is a history of it in the family. Also, even if they are spayed, they can still develop cancer. They just remove the ovaries and uterus. They still have their mammary glands so the cancer can still develop. It is less likely. It can help prevent it because when they are spayed they do not go through heat cycles. But again, millions of rats, and all animals, are not spayed and are fine. It usually has to do with history. Many people do not know the family lines or history of their animals so spaying is recommended. I recommend spaying your female rat if you can can find a vet who has experience with spaying rats.

Why don't you sell neutered or spayed rats?
I would love to sell all my rats already spayed and neutered. However, I would have to reflect that in the adoption fee. Most vet offices will charge at least $150 to spay / neuter. No breeder would sell a rat pre-neutered/spayed for cheap. They would be losing so much money. It would cost them hundreds, if not a thousand a litter to do this. However, there are rescues who work hand in hand with vets, get a discount on the surgery, and are then able to sell them for cheaper. They pass the savings onto the adopter. That is wonderful for both parties.

Remember.
Always remember, you usually get what you pay for. I can not stress that enough in the vet world. (High prices are usually do to the vet office having the very best/latest in equipment and the newest techniques.) Some animal shelters charge less because their vets are usually right out of school and practicing (hence they do not have to pay them as much). They are usually sloppy and do not follow proper protocol with sterility. (I have witnessed this and heard this. But this does not occur at all shelters.) I do not even think that shelters who get abandoned rats (or other rodents) spay or neuter them. It is not something that is high priority, cost effective, or really done often. If it is, it is done for a very specific reason. Like the rat had tumors and they removed the tumors and spayed as they were doing the other surgery. Some rescues work hand and hand with vets are are able to get the rats spayed/neutered for cheap or even free. That is great but not everyone has access to that kind of resource. Spaying is good for large animals who live longer than a few years. As they can develop problems. But males are usually just neutered to prevent spraying,. territorial instincts, and to "break" them.

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}!{ What types of cages do you recommend?

Wire Cages Wire cages are nice. When they have plastic/solid levels you can easily keep them clean and you can hang hammocks and all sorts of toys for them. You will have to wipe off the shelves daily though because some rats choose to go to the bathroom on them.

Things to keep in mind when getting a wire cage is to see what kind of levels it has. Wire levels are no good for many reasons.
The first one being that the wire levels will cause pressure sores called bumble foot on the rats' feet. They will get blister like sores that will get infected (as they do walk in their own urine and fecal matter). This is often hard to avoid because most nice large cages have wire levels. If you have your heart set on the cage but don't know what to do about the wire levels there are a few options. You can purchase extra plastic levels from some sites. Just make sure they will fit. You could also get some plexi glass and cut it to fit on the levels, drill a hole in it to fasten it to the level so they can not push it off, and there you go. No more wire levels. (However, the plexi glass is flat, no lip like the plastic levels have, so they make leak urine outside of the cage if your rat urinates near the edge.) You can also cover them with towels and then put fleece or flannel over that. (Make sure your rats are not chewing and ingesting the towels. The long strings/fibers can easily cause a blockage.) You can find a plastic place mate, not the foam ones, and use those. You can also look for some linoleum and buy a piece big enough to wrap over the whole shelf, securing it underneath the shelf. This way there are not edges for the rats to chew, and if they pee and it runs over the side it won't go in between the material and the shelf. They will be able to be sprayed with a sanitizer and easily washed off. Do not use materials that are permeable and will hold the urine. Things like wood will soak up the urine and allow the bacteria to grow. This will be a health issue and could cause infections in their feet. It will also smell horrible. Wood shelves can not be replaced easily, and they would need to be replaced every week. Think of all the trees you will be killing! Also, wood and other wood products will be chewed on and some woods contain chemicals used for curing that may poison you rat. If they eat a lot of cellulose product they can become blocked and this could lead to death.

The second issue with wire levels is the fact that they have tons of nooks and crevices. When they urinate or defecate on the wire levels, the urine and fecal matter will get squished into all the little spaces. It will make it hard to quickly wipe down daily. It will also be hard to thoroughly clean. The cage will smell faster. Meaning, you will clean it, and because all the urine and fecal matter collects in the little spaces, it will start to smell a day or two later. The smell will be over powering, yet the bedding on the bottom will be nearly spotless. So, with those two things in mind, make sure you find a cage with plastic levels or be prepared to make the levels solid.

I am sorry, but I can not adopt to you if you have wire levels and do not cover them. Why take the chance of your rats getting injured when it is easily preventable? (Not to mention the expensive vet bills for the rats when they get bumble foot.)

If you are buying a cage, DO NOT buy Rat Manor, Martin's Cage, or a similar cage with wire levels. It will be a lot of work and extra money to make it rat safe by covering the wire levels. Rat Manor, Martin's Cage, or a similar cage with wire levels are harder to clean, take longer to clean, and need to be washed down more often. I know from experience. I regretted buying them and sold them after only owning them for a month. There are many cages out there that do not have wire levels, are around the same size, and are very close in price.

Aquariums

Because I breed I use aquariums for the Mothers and babies. Otherwise I would have escapees all the time. I have also had incidents where the babies have gotten their tiny feet stuck in the corners of the wire cages, gotten hurt, and that is not a vet bill I would like to pay again. Not to mention the unnecessary trauma to the baby; physically and mentally.

If you are buying a cage, DO NOT buy an aquarium. I will not adopt to you if you are going out and buying an aquarium. (I do not adopt to people who already have aquariums; they are just not ideal rat cages.) This is because you would need a 40 gallon breeder (with a screen top and top clips) to be big enough for two rats and that would cost just as much, if not more, than a good, roomy wire cage. So there is no reason to buy one. Wire cages are better because they have a lot of air circulation and all the customization you can do when adding toys, hammocks, and other hanging beds/tunnels. And if you already have an aquariums I will still insist on buying a wire cage. You can use the aquariums until they can not longer fit through the bar spacing but it is not a good permanent home. You can easily sell the aquariums on Craigslist to recoup some money. (I sold my 40 gallon breeders with screen tops for $100 each and they had been rat chewed. But brand new they are around $150.)

- Good Cages For Permanent Residency -

Here is a website that gives you a cage calculator. You enter in the measurements of the cage and it will give you an estimate of how many rats you can keep in the cage. Just remember, the formula does not take into account levels as added space for the rats. It is also using adult males, which are almost always larger than adult females. Rat Cage Calculator

A lot of great rat cages were not made for rats (a lot of rat cages are too small for more than two rats though) so the bar spacing will be too big and they will escape. Bar spacing that is one inch (even 3/4 of an inch) will be too large for baby rats and most rats. (Baby rats, female rats, and some male rats will need cages with bar spacing that is 1/2 inch. Anything bigger and they will escape.) You will have to cover the cage in something like hardware clothe. Most times males are much larger and can not escape, when full grown, from a cage with one inch bar spacing. A lot of websites may not say the bar spacing. So you will have to call the manufacture and ask them

Here are some nice cages you can use for rats. Just remember though, if you are getting a baby from me, they will be five weeks old. They are very small and can easily slip through most of the bars on the cages below. So if you want a big wire cage, you may have to house your little ratties in a smaller cage until they can no longer fit through the bars. Or you will have to wrap some sort of wire, like hardware clothe (chicken wire is too thin and the rats can chew through it), around the cage so they can not fit through the bars.

Please Note: Some of these cages are no longer available as Superpet switched companies to Kaytee. However, these cages can still be used as an example as a good sized cage. Just google the cage and you may be able to find it for sale online. (Most pet stores seem to be really limited on what cages they carry anyways.)

These cages are great sized cages for rats and they have 1/2 inch bar spacing to prevent escaping.

I highly recommend the rat cage Kaytee My First Home Habitat Multi-Level for Exotics, 30 by 18-Inch. It is a great size (it can fit up to four rats so two will have plenty of room), it's easy to clean (the shelves pop right out), it doesn't need the levels covered because they are already plastic, and it has small bar spacing (1/2 inch) so baby rats should not get through and you should not need a temporary cage while they grow. (A lot of similar cages have 3/4 to 1 inch bar spacing which is too big for babies and some small/female rats.)
I own one and I love it.


Available to buy here.
Kaytee My First Home Habitat Multi-Level for Exotics
Measurements 18"L x 30"W x 30"H - Bar spacing is 1/2 inch
Great cage with small enough bar spacing for baby rats.

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The Critter Nation (Comes in a single unit and a double unit.)
Please do not mistake the Critter Nation with the Ferret Nation. The Ferret Nation has too large of bar spacing. Here is a website that goes into more detail about the differences. http://www.critternation.net/difference-between-critter-nation-and-ferret-nation.html

The Critter Nation has a very shallow pan and it is hard to use bedding in it. The rats will constantly knock it out. However you can purchase a deeper pan to go inside. Home Depot has a black plastic cement mixing tub (search word, Black Large Concrete Mixing Tub) that fits almost perfectly inside the Critter Nation. You just need to trim a tiny bit off the left and right sides. It is $13 so it is much cheaper than the Critter Nation scatter guards (just a piece of metal or plastic that goes around the whole cage). Bedding can still slip under them and they do not make the shallow tray hold bedding better. This bin is easy to get in and out to clean. It cleans up very fast.

Available to buy here as well as in the store.

I have the Critter Nation single unit with the plastic tub in it and I love it. It's perfect for my boys. The two large front doors that open make it very easy to clean the cage.
Thank you Randi for donating your cage when you were done with it. I truly appreciate it.

Critter Nation 1 Level: 36"L x 24"W x 39"H - Bar spacing is 1/2 inch
Available to buy here.

Critter Nation 2 Levels: 36"L x 24"W x 63"H - Bar spacing is 1/2 inch
Available to buy here.

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These cages are a great sized cage for rats. However most of them have 3/4 and 1 inch bar spacing. So they will need to be wrapped in hardware clothes to be suitable for rats and prevent escaping.


Available to buy here.
Super Pet My First Home Deluxe Multi-Level Pet Home with Casters - Measurements 24" L X 24" W X 41.5" H - Bar spacing is about 3/4 inch (Please note it is now made by Kaytee and called a Kaytee My First Home Deluxe Multi-Level Pet Home with Casters)
I had this cage but I just did not like how small the base was. It did not leave much room once an igloo was put in it. It has the plastic levels and ramps so that's a plus.
The bar spacing is a little under 3/4 of an inch. Baby rats will definitely fit through the bars as will a lot of female rats. A lot of my adult girls fit through the bars. My adult males do not fit through the bars. This cage will most likely need to be wrapped in hardware clothe to prevent escaping.

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Available to buy here.
Super Pet My First Home Multi-Floor, Large - Measurements 18"L x 30"W x 30"H - Bar spacing is about 3/4 inch
Please note, this is almost the exact same cage as below. The one below is half the price of this one.
The plastic levels and ramps are easy to wipe down daily to eliminate any smells. They also prevent Bumble foot. It is a nice cage. I own one. I like it.
The bar spacing is a about 3/4 of an inch. Baby rats will definitely fit through the bars as will a lot of female rats. Most of my adult girls fit through the bars. My adult males do not fit through the bars. This cage will most likely need to be wrapped in hardware clothe to prevent escaping.

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Available to buy here.
My First Home 3-Level Ferret/Chinchilla Cage by Kaytee
Measurements 18"L x 30"W x 30"H - Bar spacing is about 3/4 inch
Please note, this is almost the exact same cage as above. The one above is double the price of this one.
The plastic levels and ramps are easy to wipe down daily to eliminate any smells. They also prevent Bumble foot. It is a nice cage.
The bar spacing is a about 3/4 of an inch. Baby rats will definitely fit through the bars as will a lot of female rats. Most of my adult girls fit through the bars. My adult males do not fit through the bars. This cage will most likely need to be wrapped in hardware clothe to prevent escaping.

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- Good Cages For Temporary Residency - Like when you clean their cage, take them to the vet, go on vacation and take your rats with you but do not have much room, or need a quarantine / sick cage -
If you get a LARGE hamster cage (like the size of the rat cage below) you WILL have to take out the accessories. The rats will chew them and get stuck in them.


Super Pet Habitat Defined Home for Rats- Measurements 25.25"L x 12.25"W x 28.25"H - Bar spacing is 1/2 inch
This would barely be fine for two rats. Especially NOT two male adult rats. It is only suitable for one adult rat. (It is not good to keep rats solo and I do not adopt out single rats to homes with no other rats.)
It is good as a temporary cage or a cage for babies until they get big enough to not fit through the bars of a bigger cage. It is also a good cage to use as a quarantine or a cage to use while on vacation.
This cage is not a good cage for permanent residency. Do not buy this cage as your permanent cage. I will not adopt to you if you have this cage as your only cage. It is not suitable for permanent living.

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Super Pet My First Home Complete Kit for Rats - Measurements 24.5"L X 12.5" W X 14.5" H - Bar spacing is 1/2 inch
I have this cage. It is very small. It is only suitable for one adult rat and just barely. (It is not good to keep rats solo and I do not adopt out single rats to homes with no other rats.)
It is good as a temporary cage or a cage for babies until they get big enough to not fit through the bars of a bigger cage. It is also a good cage to use as a quarantine or a cage to use while on vacation.
This cage is not a good cage for permanent residency. Do not buy this cage as your permanent cage. I will not adopt to you if you have this cage as your only cage. It is not suitable for permanent living.

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A Ten or Twenty Gallon Tank with a Screen Cover.
This is simple and very efficient. It is easy and fast to clean, wash, and dry. You can usually find a used one for very cheap on Craigslist.
However, aquariums are not suitable permanent cages for rats. They should be used very short term. They need to be cleaned often as ammonia will build up in them. There is very little air flow.
Aquariums also do not allow for any hanging toys or hammocks so I really would not recommend this as a temporary cage for babies. They need a lot of enrichment.

- Good Cages For Transporting - Like When You Take Them To The Vet Or Go To Pick Up A New Rat -


PETCO Pet Keeper for Small Animals. I love this carrying cage. I own several. They come in a multitude of sizes and colors. You can find just the right size for your rat or rats. This makes it very easy to take them some where.
Since the cover comes off, you can easily reach in and take them out at the vet. No more fighting to get them to come out of that carrier shaped like a tunnel.

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}!{ What kind of bedding do you recommend?
I use kiln dried aspen. I have had no problems.

People say pine is toxic. Pine shavings are fine as long as they are kilm dried. This takes almost all of the essential oils out of the shavings. If you open a bag of pine shavings, you should not smell pine. There may be a very slight hint, but that is it. If they smell very piney, like pinesol, then they were not kilm dried and you should not use them.

However if you do not feel comfortable using pine shavings then that is fine. There are many other options.

If you think the bag of shavings is dusty you can always put some in a strainer and shake it over the trash can to get rid of the dust.

Other types of bedding.
You can use kiln dried aspen bedding. (Again, if you think it is dusty, you can always put some in a strainer and shake it over the trash can of get rid of the dust.)

Some people put down towels and cover them with fleece. (The towel is to soak up the urine. You must watch to make sure they are not ingesting the towel. It's fabric is very stringy and can easily create a blockage which can lead to death.) You can also just do a couple layers of fleece. With using fabric as a bedding you must spot clean the cage daily. Otherwise they will be stepping in their own waste all the time. With shavings or paper strips the waste goes down to the bottom or dries out from the bedding.

They sell several kinds of crinkled paper strips.
Vitakraft Eco bedding (This is not typically sold at Petco but is sold at Petsmart.) - http://www.vitakraftsunseed.com/product/allAnimal/ecoBedBrown.html
Carefresh Crinkles (crinkled paper strips) - http://www.carefresh.com/products/bedding/crinkled-paper

Other people use paper that they shred themselves. Be careful when using newspaper. You must make sure that the ink is nontoxic. I do not like newspaper because it makes their feet black from the ink.

Some people use rabbit food as bedding. You just need to make sure your rats do not constantly eat it. (It is fine if they eat some buy they should not eat the rabbit as their diet. Usually rat do not do this but there is one some where.) Rabbit food can be dusty (the bags are thrown around, pellets get crushed up and turn to dust). So just make sure you shake the pellets and filter out the dust first.

Iffy bedding. I am not sold on this type of bedding as a whole cage bedding.
They have these recycled newspaper pellets. I think they are great for the litter box. Just make sure they are not ingesting them. I however do not believe that it is a bedding that should be used throughout the whole cage. It is hard and not very comfortable to walk on or lay on. I have been told that they turn to a mush when wet.

They have wood shaving / dust pressed into pellets. These can be used for the litter box but keep in mind they do break up and go back to their natural form, dust. When they are wet they turn to mush, dry back into dust, and that urine dust is not in the air. So there may be a higher risk of the rats developing an URI. And again, they are hard and not really suitable for the whole cage.

Beddings not to use. (I will NOT adopt to you if you use these beddings. Even if they are a different brand name but the same type.)
I would not use corn cob bedding. I have clients who have used it and some of their rats would eat it constantly. The corn cob could cause a blockage in the rats. It could cause discomfort. Remember, rats can not vomit. So if they eat the corn cob bedding and become sick, they can not vomit it out. (I also worry about mold as some corn products easily grow mold. I have never used corn cob bedding so I can not say whether or not it has mold in it.)

Do not use cedar bedding. The wood keeps most of its essential oils (hence the nice smell) and those are toxic to rats. The urine/ammonia mixes with the oils in the cedar and create a toxic gas. This leads to a lot of respiratory issues. Keep in mind, rats have very sensitive respiratory systems and are very sensitive to smells. I would not recommend using any scented bedding either. I know they have bedding with natural rose or lavender scent. That is just stress on their respiratory system and can lead to a respiratory infection. Also, lavender is supposed to be a natural repellent for rats.

Do not use any kind of paper fluff or paper crumble bedding. It is extremely dusty and certain brand are known for having mites/lice. Some may not be dusty, some may not have mites, but they are dusty and rats have sensitive respiratory systems so to be safe I do not adopt to people who use any of the paper fluff bedding.
Bedding names include but not limited to...
Carefresh paper bedding (including but not limited to Carefresh Natural, Ultra, Colors, Ultra Soft, or Confetti. Carefresh Litter Plus For Smaller Species or Litter Plus For Larger Species. Carefresh Shavings Plus or Basic Blend.
Oxbow Pure Comfort
Kaytee Granules any of their variations) or Kaytee Clean and Cozy (any of their variations)
Planet Petco Crumbled Paper Small Animal Bedding, Planet Petco Small Animal Paper Bedding with Baking Soda
Vitakraft Fresh World Strength Crumbles, Vitakraft Fresh World Soft Crumbles, Vitakraft Fresh World Ultra Strength Crumbles, or Vitakraft Fresh World Multi Pet Strength Crumbles.
All Living Things Small Pet Bedding or All Small Animals Fresh World Bedding Crumble

I personally do not like Carefresh or other similar type beddings. Why is that you may ask? Well, let me tell you.
1. It is recycled paper. There could be who knows what in there. It could potentially have bacteria. It also means it is processed and treated with some kind of chemicals to condition it and sanitize it. But with mass production of something, you never know what kind of quality you are getting each time.

2. The rats tend to take all of it and push it in one corner. That leaves the rest of your cage bear. This means, it is going to get puddles of urine and there is going to be feces about that they will step in and get stuck on their feet. This also means that they cage will smell faster and have to be cleaned more. They want to use it as nesting material, not litter.

3. There is this myth going around that Carefresh and other type beddings are practically dust free. (The company even lies and puts it right on the bags.) That is not the case at all. When you take a clump of Carefresh and tap it on some black paper, you will get a fine coat of dust. That is the kind of dust that goes into a rats respiratory system. Not the large particles of woods chip dust you see in the shavings bag. If you can see it, it can't go too far into their sinuses. It is the dust you can barely or can not see that is the thing to worry about. A lot of rats develop respiratory infections when living on this type of bedding.

4. People say that their rats were sneezing a lot with a wood bedding and would not stop. If that is the case that may because the rat is allergic to the wood (you can try the other kind of safe wood to test this, if it works both times then they are allergic to both.). (All of my babies have been born and raised on the pine/aspen bedding. So they should not be allergic to it.) Also, when rats are put into something new, or a freshly cleaned cage they will root around and explore everything again. Thus sniffing a lot and ticking their sinuses. If they continue to sneeze after a couple of days it is safe to say they are allergic to the bedding. (Please note, if they are sneezing like crazy, not just a random sneeze here or there throughout the day, and they never did before and it continues for more than a half hour to 45 minutes then I would remove them from the bedding, see if they stop, and if they do put them in and see if they start up again. If they do start up again I would change bedding. Also, please do not do anything you feel uncomfortable with.)

UPDATE! March 2011 - It has come to my attention that you should no longer be using Carefresh with your rats. I have had two clients (One from about seven months ago and one from about four months ago) say that their rats were experiencing respiratory distress. One has sadly passed away, even with vet treatment. I knew that it was not something from my rattery, as URIs, Pneumonia, and other respiratory illness are not congenital and they are not passed in the genes. It is something your rat catches. Then, three other people, people who wanted to adopt rats, were complaining of the same problem. I asked some questions to see if there was a connection. It turns out they were all using Carefresh. They were all rats from differ litters/pet stores and they all lived in different cities, some lived in different states. My client with the rat who passed away said that her husband found a forum in which a user (who works in a pet store) posted something to this effect, "Apparently, their rats were doing fine until the store made a deal with the Carefresh company and they started using Carefresh in there rat habitats. The girl stated that they lost more rats to that stuff."

I am concluding, though I am searching for more information, that Carefresh has had a bad batch. They must have a contamination in their factory. Five cases all in the last two weeks is hard to ignore. So to be safe please switch to aspen. If you are worried about mites in the aspen, just freeze it before you use it. I know if you get a big bag of it this can be hard. What you can do it take a bag full (the amount you will use) and freeze it a few days prior to using it and do this every time. It is an inconvenience but it will work. I have been using pine/aspen shavings for over ten years and I have never got mites from it. (The only time I had mites is when a client with rats at home who had mites (and never told me until months later) came into my rattery and infected my rats with mites. This was back in the fall/winter of 2009.)

Update July 2013 - I have been seeing on a lot of forums, rat pages, etc. that A LOT of peoples' rats are getting mites/lice. I wondered if there was a correlation. The only thing the same is, they all use Carefresh.
I read on The Rat Health Guide, that Carefresh has been known to have mites. However, someone must have complained or the company must have contacted the website because that was taken off. It is now replaced with, "*Please note* That any bags of litter/bedding that have been noted to have a row of holes in the top of the bag, or any bag that has been breached, during storage in pet store and feed/tack warehouses, where mite-infested animals may reside can be at risk. It is best to freeze the litter/bedding, in such cases, before using in cages." Carefresh has holes in the top of their bags...
I also read further that the gray, "natural" Carefresh has been more prone to these infestations. (And of course the dyed and scented Carefresh is not a great idea for rodents.).
So, not only is Carefresh, all kinds, extremely dusty. But there seems to be a coincidence between rats living on it and rats getting mites/lice. (Who knows if it comes in the bedding or if that type of bedding promotes mites/lice.)

Not to be harsh, but to protect my ratties, I will not adopt to you if you are using Carefresh or another kind of paper fluff bedding. I just can not put them into that situation and gamble if the Carefresh or other paper fluff type beddings are now safe. You should not risk your rats either.

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}!{ What kind of food do you recommend?
I recommend a lab block diet. Mazuri, Oxbow, Harlan Teklad (also known as Native Earth), etc. (There are many brands, it all depends on what store is in your area.)
Kaytee/Forti Diet has been rumored/known to have a preservative in it that causes cancer and tumors. With many other choices I would highly recommend avoiding this brand of food just to be safe.

Oxbow has two kinds of rat food. One for young rats and one for adult rats. You can feed your rats the young rat food until around 6 months old and then switch to the adult food.
Young Rat - http://www.petsmart.com/small-pet/food/oxbow-essentials-mouse-and-young-rat-food-zid36-21739/cat-36-catid-600005?var_id=36-21739
Adult Rat - http://www.petsmart.com/small-pet/food/oxbow-essentials-regal-rat-adult-rat-food-zid36-1853/cat-36-catid-600005?var_id=36-1853&_t=pfm%3Dsearch

Some people try to make their own rat food mix. While this can be fine it is often hard to make a correctly balanced diet. It takes a lot of research, time, and money to perfect it. If you are feeding your own mix or the SueBee rat mix that is fine as long as you are also feeding lab blocks to make sure there are no nutritional gaps in your rats diet. If you are only feeding your homemade mix or the Suebee mix then I will not be comfortable adopting to you.

Do not make a seed mix their main diet. Seeds are full of fats and oils. A seed mix is not only unhealthy but it also does not provide all the essential nutrients and vitamins they need to be healthy. It is like feeding them a buffet of junk food. (Would you eat McDonald's every day? When eating it every day males will get obese and females will get chubby.) It can be given as a treat though I do not even recommend that. Seed mixes often contain bugs, their larva/eggs, webbing from insects, and the corn has been known to have mold/fungus in it. All this can be very dangerous for the rats. The seed mix also has a lot of unneeded chemicals and preservatives that can cause cancer. (Just open the bag and smell it. It does not smell like food it smells like chemicals.) Your rats would be much better off if you bought them human grade seeds and nuts as a treat. If you choose to feed a seed mix as their main diet then I can not adopt to you.

Keep in mind that even sealed bags of rat food can contain bugs. (I witnessed it at pet stores several times. The bags and open bins were infested with moths.) Check the bag for signs of bugs. Such as the actual adult bug, larvae, eggs, webbing, holes in the bag, holes (like little borrows) in the pellets, etc. It is always best to freeze your bags of rat food for at least 24 hours before you feed it to them.

You can, and should, give them other "human" foods as well. Pretty much what you can eat they can eat. It would take forever to make a list of foods that are good for them. So instead here is a list of foods to avoid.
Fruits
Apple Seeds - Apple seeds contain a small amount of cyanide which could be harmful to your rat.
Avocado - Very fatty. Also, the pit, rind, skin, and leaves of the avocado are toxic.
Grapes / Raisins - There is a debate on whether or not they are toxic. Better safe than sorry.
Green Bananas - Inhibits starch digestion.
Mango - Contains d-limonene which can cause kidney cancer in male rats.
Oranges - The white part on the peel (pilf) and outer layer of a peeled orange is harmful to male rats. It is said to cause testicular cancer. It seems to be alright for female rats, but I just stay away from citrus fruits in general.
Orange juice - Contains d-limonene which can cause kidney cancer in male rats.

Vegetables
Broccoli / Brussel Sprouts - Rats can not burp so this may cause gas and upset their stomach. Feed cooked and feed in small amounts to help reduce gas.
Cabbage / Red Cabbage - Rats can not burp so this may cause gas and upset their stomach. Feed cooked and feed in small amounts to help reduce gas.
Green Potato Skin / Potato Eyes - These are poisonous.
Raw artichokes - Inhibits protein digestion.
Onion / Garlic - There is a chemical in them that can lead to anemia and an upset stomach.
Raw Sweet Potato - Fine after cooking.
Rhubarb - High levels of oxalates which bind up calcium.

Other Foods
Blue cheese - Contains a toxic mold.
Cuddle Bones (for Birds) - The general consensus is that these have far too much calcium to be healthy for your rat.
Licorice - Contains a suspected neuro-toxin.
Poppyseeds - Possible toxicity.
Raw Bulk Tofu - Packaged tofu is ok.
*Raw* Dry Beans Or Peanuts - Peanuts you buy in a store are almost always roasted so they are fine for rats. Beans will need to be cooked first before giving to rats.
Raw hide - Difficult to digest and can cause intestinal blockage.
Wild insects - You do not know if they have ingested pesticides. You are better off to buy from a pet store. (Most rats love meal worms as a treat.)

I would stay away from canned fruit (too mush sugar) and canned vegetables (too much sodium). If you do not eat it on a regular basis chances are, they should not eat it. You can feed them cereal, dried and cook pasta (keep in mind the uncooked pasta will expand more in their stomachs. So not too much.), rice, chicken bones, pork bones, beef bones (All bones should be cooked to avoid bacteria), eggs, etc.

Do not feed them too much protein. Some rats have a low tolerance for high levels of protein and they may develop eczema or other skin conditions. They will itch themselves so much that they give themselves wounds. They will be covered in scabs. If this happens it is easily fixed. Stop giving them protein (their lab blocks not included). They will stop itching and the scabs will heal. If they are very bad you can bath them in Chamomile tea. It will help soothe their skin. You can also trim their back nails so they can not dig at themselves as much. (Also, to be on the safe side, if this happens, check for mite. You should be able to move their fur and see the mites on their skin. Or you may even see some shinny eggs stuck to their fur. It most likely is that they are getting too much protein, but you always want to check for mites anyways. They could be in the bedding or the food.)
Experts/researchers believe that diets high in fats (especially polyunsaturated fat) promote mammary tumor growth. Some say sugar and high calories diets promote mammary tumors as well. Not that anyone should give their rats artificial sweeteners but experts/researchers also say that it promotes cancer in rats.

When in doubt about a food, look it up online. To make sure it is a fact not fiction, try and find the same thing on several different websites. Or, just don't feed the food to them.

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}!{ What other supplies do my rats need? What ind of toys should I get?

Your rats will need more than just food, bedding, and a cage. Your rats will need a food bowl and water bottle. Your rats have teeth that constantly grow. While they do grind them down themselves chew toys will help keep their teeth trim and provide some entertainment. They need places to hide, things to play with, and places to sleep.

Water Bottle and Food Bowl
A lot of rats (especially females) will not keep their food in the bowl. They like to hide it else where and munch on the food throughout the day/night. For that reason I recommend not spending too much on a bowl. You may get disappointed when you always find it empty.
You should get a glass or ceramic bowl. These are practically indestructible and very easy to wash. If you get a plastic bowl they may chew it to bits. They do not need too big of a bowl. Just one that is big enough to fit like 20 lab blocks at a time.
You can find cheap food bowls at the dollar store and Walmart. They do not have to be pet bowls, they can be regular bowls. They just should not be plastic.

You will want at least a 12 ounce water bottle for two rats. But getting a bigger one is great. You will just need to change the water because even if the water bottle is still half full they will need fresh water.
Some rats will not chew a plastic water bottle but some rats will chew every plastic water bottle you buy the day you put it to use. You may just want to start with a glass water bottle.
I have pretty much only seen on glass water bottle on the market. That brand is Kaytee (They do make three sizes. 6oz, 12oz, and 26oz. Some pet stores do not carry the 26oz.) They used to be known as Superpet.
Important One thing you need to know about their bottles. The metal nozzles almost always leak. They may not leak right away but they eventually end up leaking. (I have 8 6oz ones, 3 12oz ones, and 4 26oz ones. They all leak.) You do not have to throw the bottle away or buy a new one. Instead just buy a cheap plastic water bottle with the same sized nozzle and put the new plastic nozzle on the glass bottle.

Chews
Chews can provide some entertainment for your rats. Rats have teeth that constantly grow and although they grind their teeth down themselves it is a good idea to provide them with things to chew to help keep their teeth the right length.
Chews are usually wood. Some chews do not come with something to hang them up with. Chews really should not be left on the cage floor. They may get urinated on and then the rats will not use them. You should always hang them from the ceiling of the cage or attach them to the walls. The rats will chew on them and not get them messy. (You can use a thick wire to attach some of the chews to the wall.)

Here are some examples.
This is a metal hanging chew holder. (The wood stick ones can be chewed in half in a day and leave the chews on the ground.) It is reusable and easy to change / reload chews on to. - http://www.amazon.com/Kaytee-Small-Animal-Ka-Bob-Dispenser/dp/B00176F664/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438474137&sr=8-1&keywords=kaytee+chew

This a a ball made out of colorful sticks. It does not have something to tie it up but if you tie it to the ceiling the rats have a lot of fun pushing it and chewing on it. - http://www.amazon.com/Kaytee-Small-Animal-Ka-Bob-Dispenser/dp/B00176F664/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438474137&sr=8-1&keywords=kaytee+chew

These are chews you can use to reload the hangers or you can use wire to attach to the side of the cage.


Hides / House
Hides and houses really should not be made out of wood. They should be made out of something that can easily be washed. Wood will get urinated on, soak up the urine, and quickly become smelly and unsanitary. A plastic hide or house is perfect for rats.

Here are some examples.
Igloo - These can be found at almost any pet store. Do not get the tiny or mini size; those will be way too small for most baby rats and surely too small for adult rats. The size (each store seems to call it by a different name) that you want to get is about the size of a basketball. This will allow your rats to have enough room to move about inside.

Space Pod - These can be set on the cage floor or hung from the ceiling.

Places to sleep.
Hammocks make great places for rats to sleep and hang out. You can buy hammocks from pet stores, private makers, or make your own.

Rats often chew the hammock to make it better suit their needs. Or they just feel like shredding it. Hammocks can become pricey if the rats keep destroying them. (A hammock lasts my females (10+) about a month before it is not usable.) You can solve this by going to a fabric store (some Walmart's have fabric sections with very cheap fabric) and buying fleece or t-shirt like material to make hammocks out of. (You can use old clothing as well. Towels are not recommended because they have a lot of threads and can catch the rats' feet/toes and hurt them. Or they can be ingested and cause blockage.) You want material that is some what thick and sturdy so it will last longer. (I have found that doubled jean works wonderfully. You just need to watch for when it frays and make sure they do not ingest the material.) You can get fancy and sew them. If you can not sew then you can still make your own hammock. Just cut the fabric into good sized squares / rectangles and make a hole in each corner. (You can make a large one and fold it over to double it up.) Now you just need to buy some metal clips and clip it to the ceiling.

I have been using my Husband's old boxer briefs as rat hammocks. They are stretchy so they easily span the cage (front to back or side to side) and the rats love going inside of them.

You can take single layer hammocks and layer them by hanging one slightly lower than the first one.

You can buy metal clips or large paper clips to hang the hammocks. (You can string together the clips to make the hammocks hang down any height you want.)

You can also give your rats piece of fleece, eco bedding/shredded paper, and other soft things that they can make nests out of.

Toys
There really is no end to what can be a toy for your rat. Let your imagine run wild.

Some hanging chews can double as toys.
Make sure the toys are safe for your rats. Keep in mind that rats love to chew and destroy things to make nests with. So if you get them plastic toys keep an eye on them and make sure they are not ingesting the toys. (Most times the rats will not actually ingest what they are chewing.) If you gave them clothe toys or stuffed animals make sure they are not ingesting the material. You also need to be careful that they do not get stuck in the threading.

Rats are intelligent and need interactive toys to prevent boredom.

Here are some examples. (You can also Google rat toys to see what others have come up with.)

Pea Fishing - This is a great warm weather time game. (This is a temporary toy and should be done with supervision. It should not be left in the cage.)
You get a shallow bowl or container and add a few inches of water to it. (As your rats get used to water you can add more later on.) You then put frozen peas in it and allow them to "fish" the peas out.

Digging Box - This is a great toy that will keep them entertained and give them exercise. You will need some dirt (if you are buying dirt make sure it does not have any chemicals or fertilizers in it. If you are using dirt from outside you should consider baking it first to kill any bacteria. fungus, or parasites that may be in it), cat grass seeds (or other plant seeds that are safe for rats to eat the plant of), and a container. You can get a semi shallow container (some people use a small cat litter box or a shallow Tupperware bin) to use for the dig box. Fill the container with dirt, plant the seeds, wait until they grow and then put in with your rats. (You will want to wait until the plants are established and have developed some roots. Otherwise the rats will dig up the plants and fling dirt every where.) Some people use it while the rats are out during play time and others use it as a permanent part of the rats' cage.
You can hide treats in the dirt and among the grass to increase their interest in the box. It will satisfy their urge to forage.

Hidden Treats - You can easily make little toys that have treats hidden in them. You can take a toilet paper tube and put some treats in it then block up each end with paper towels.

Cave Of Wonders - Rats love to shred things. Give them a paper bag or card board box (even ones from pasta, cereal etc. are great) and let the fun begin They will climb in it, trample on it, and rip it apart.

Ropes and Ladders - You can use old socks or old clothing to tie into knotted ropes, ladders, and bridges. The rats will love climbing on them.

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}!{ How well do rats see?
Not well. They see rather poorly. But it is nothing to worry about. They were born that way so they are adjusted to it.

Albino rats see even worse than non-albino rats.

Since rats have poor vision it is critical that you do not feed them through the bars of the cage. They will learn that anything coming through the bars is food. This means that when you stick your finger through the bars they will bite you and try to pull your finger in. They do not mean to hurt you. They just think you were feeding them another treat.

Here are some sites on rat vision.
http://www.ratbehavior.org/perception.htm (This one has pictures of what they would see.)

http://www.ratbehavior.org/RatVision.htm

http://www.ratbehavior.org/RatCam.htm

http://www.rmca.org/Articles/vision.htm

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}!{ Rat bathing and nail trimming.
Rat Bathing.
I generally do not bath my rats unless they are dirty. They normally are very clean and groom themselves as well as each other. Some rats are very fearful of being bathed and it can stress them out. If they are not dirty then it was unnecessary to bath them and you made them fearful and stressed for nothing.

You will probably get scratched a lot. So you should trim their nails a day or so before you bath them.

When bathing they can inhale water and develop an URI. Or they may get water in their ears and it may turn into an ear infection. Groomers stuff cotton balls in dogs / cats ears when they bath them to prevent this. However, rats' ears are just too smaller. So you just have to be very careful to keep the water away from their heads, avoiding their mouth, nose, ears, and eyes. Make sure you dry them thoroughly and keep them warm. They could become sick from that as well.

When you bath them you should not have the water running with them there, especially if it is their first time. The running water almost always freaks them out. You should try to get them adjusted to the idea of going in water. You can do this by filling the bath tub with a couple of inches of water so they can walk around in it to get used to the idea of water. As they get used to the water you can gentle use your hand as a scoop to pour water over them. As they adjust to this you can then use a cup. I would not even bath them the first time. Just get them used to being wet and having water flowing over them. If all is going well you can start a slow stream of water from the tap to help them get used to the noise. This way when you do wash them you can rinse them with fresh water. Doing this whole exercise will help them become less fearful. Giving them a treat during and after can also help ease them into the process.

Bath time for real now. When I bath my rats I usually have them in the sink. I fill the sink up to their sides, about 2 inches, with warm water. I then stop the water and put them in the water. I have my hand on them so they do not fly away. I talk to them the whole time to help calm them. I scoop up water and wet their fur. Then I use baby / kitten shampoo on them. (I have read that all three are fine. You may read that one is better than the other.) I lather them well and then pick them up. I unplug the sink and let the water drain. I then run the tap very slowly, still holding them I put them back in the sink. I hold them underneath with one hand and use the other hand to run fresh water over them and thoroughly rinse out the soap. Then I take them out, dry them well with a towel, and give them a treat.

If it's your rat's tail that is dirty and not your whole rat then you can just wash their tail. Or maybe you've noticed that their tail is full of dead scales. You should put some warm water in the sink and keep pushing water over their tail, letting it soak some to loosen the dirt / dead scales. You can then use a baby soft tooth brush and some baby / kitten shampoo on the tooth brush. You should brush with the scales. You do not want to hurt their tail or cause scales to fall off that were not ready yet. Also, if you brush against the scales you could cause the dirty matter to lodge under their scales. This will be uncomfortable for them ad it could cause an infection or injury. You may have to do the tail bathing on a few different occasions before it is fully clean. You do not want to do too much too fast or you may irritate their skin. An irritation could lead to an infection.

Rat Nail Trimming.
There are several different ways to do this. I will list the easiest to the hardest. Keep in mind there are tones of videos on Youtube to help you. You will have to do it at least once a week as their nails do grow pointy quickly.

Easy - Put a rock or a brick in their cage. You can put a rough rock or brick inside their cage. Try to put it some where in the cage where the frequent so they will be sure to walk over it a few times a day. This will naturally wear down their nails.

Moderate - Low grade sand paper. You can go to the hardware store and buy a low grade peice of sand paper. Low grade means soft / smooth, so it will feel like an emery board. You can hold the sand paper in one hand and the rat in the other and puy them against the sand paper. They will naturally go to grip that sand paper covered hand. You then slowly pull them back from it. (If you go fast or hard you will scare them and they may hurt their fingers.) Their little nails will rub against the sand paper and it will file them. You can repeat this a couple times. It will get all four feet done at once. This works well when you have an active rat who will not hold still. Or you can put the sand paper on their ramps, inside their wheel, etc.

Hard - Nail clippers or an emery board (nail file). This is a little harder if you have an active rat. You will have to hold the rat to your chest (their side to your chest) with your forearm. Then with that hand extend their leg back. Then use your other hand to carefully clip their nails. Be sure not to clip too much or you will make them bleed. Just clipping off the sharp, pointy tip will be enough. Or you can hold your rat to your chest (their back to your chest) and with their feet sticking out you can clip their nails like that. Some rats will sit still and you can just put them on a table and lift up their foot to clip their nails.

You can use the same positions to file their nails. You will have to hold their foot and toe still for the emery board to work. Otherwise you'll just being using the tool to move their toes back and fourth. This will take longer than clipping and your rat may not sit still long enough for you to do all four feet.

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}!{ What is the red stuff around my rat's eyes / nose?
It is porphyrin. Basically, eye gunk. (Think of the white dogs who have tear stains.) Porphyrin is produced by the harderian gland which is located behind the rats eyes. It is there to lubricate the rat's nictating membrane (third eyelid) but it does secrete out of the nasal passages. Like when the rat sneezes.

You can take a soft clothe and some eye solution like natural tears (nothing with additives) and wet the clothe. Then gentle clean the porphyrin away. Some people use water which is ok just not the same PH as the eye. Other just do not even bother to clean it off because the rat will eventually take care of it.

Rats produce extra that you will see around their eyes or their nose for many different reasons.
Morning eye sleep/gunk - Your rat may have just waken up and did not have time to clean their self yet. All rats have some porphyrin discharge visible at some point in time. Some more than others.
Got something in their eye - Maybe they got something in their eye and it teared up to try and wash it out. Rex rats have curly fur and curly eye lashes. They are more prone to getting something in their eye then a rat with straight eye lashes.The curly eye lashes do not work as well to deflect things from getting in their eyes. I have never had a problem with the Rex rats. It is just something to factor in when you see porphyrin.
Stress - When rats get stressed they tend to produce more porphyrin. Which then does not get cleaned away as fast / easily and then you see signs of it. Some white rats will get a little rusty staining on their fur from trying to wash up.
Just sneezed - Sometimes when they sneeze some porphyrin comes out. You may even see porphyrin flecks on the cage / toys. Like when you sneeze and you see it on the mirror / window / etc.
Sick / allergies - This is when you will see excessive amounts of porphyrin (not just dried but wetness or tears of porphyrin as well) from both eyes and their nose then this may be a sign that he is sick. You should clean away the porphyrin, listen to there breathing, and see if the porphyrin comes back. If they sounds wheezy or congested then they are sick. If they are sick they will have a lot of porphyrin discharge and it will keep coming back. The porphyrin would be accompanied by other symptoms if they is sick. Symptoms may include but are not limited to not eating well, not eating, not drinking, lethargic, wheezing, congested sounding, not acting or playing normal, etc.

Remember. All rats get porphyrin discharge from time to time. Some get it more often then others (like hairless and Rex rats) and on some it is more noticeable then other (like hairless and white/light colored rats). They just usually clean it before you see. Just keep in mind that seeing porphyrin does not automatically mean something is wrong. Some people think that if you see porphyrin that you should go to the vet right away because it means they are sick. It can be a sign of being sick but it needs to be paired with other symptoms too. (Not eating well, not drinking well, lethargic, wheezy, congested, not acting / playing normally, etc.) Use your judgement. If you feel they are sick or something is wrong then by all means take them to the vet.

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}!{ Why is my rat itching a lot?
Why does my rat have scabs on them?
What are those shiny things in my rats' fur?
How do I tell if my rat has lice / mites?
What can I do for lice / mites?

Why is my rat itching a lot? That is a very common question. It has many possible answers. It usually goes hand in hand with Why does my rat have scabs on them?

Here are some possible reasons for the itching and scabs.
1. Your rat is just an over grooming kind of rat. Some rats groom all the time. Whether it is out of boredom or an OCD for cleanliness.
2. Your rat has a skin condition. Such as eczema. Rats can get eczema from eating too much protein. This then makes them itchy and they itch until they get scabs. Once they get scabs those will be itchy too and they will keep itching and reopening the wound. Even when the protein in the diet is greatly reduced it may take some time for the scabs to go away.
3. Your rats has bugs. Rats can get lice or mites very easily. They can come from the bedding, the food, from new additions, or they can be brought home on your clothing from a visit to another rat.

Over grooming rat - Some rats just get bored and groom a lot. As long as they are not hurting themselves it should be fine. (Always check for other reason too.) I have had some rats who seemed to be OCD about being clean. Their fur was always clean and soft, and their tails were gorgeous. It all depends on the personality of your rat.

Eczema - Some rats can handle a lot of protein and never have a problem. Some rats can not handle much protein and develop eczema. If you notice that your rat is scratching a lot and creating scabs (usually around their neck, behind their ears, and on their shoulders) then try cutting back on the protein in their diet.
Once a scab forms it creates a vicious cycle of itching, breaking open the skin, re-scabbing, and itching again. It is best to trim your rats back nails so they are not so sharp and do not do as much damage to their skin when they scratch. So even if you cut back on the protein they may still be itchy and have scabs for a while. (Please check for lice / mites as well. It might not be eczema and all possibilities should be ruled out. Below tells you about the skin parasites.)
If your rat is bath friendly you can try bathing them in a nice warm chamomile bath to help soothe their skin. (Remember to dry them thoroughly so their skin does not get dry and they do not get cold.). If they dislike baths you can always dabbed them with some chamomile water on the itchy areas and then dry them thoroughly.

Bugs! Mites / Lice - Lice and mites are very common in rats. (I will just be calling them bugs for the sake of not having to rewrite lice/mites every time.) They can come from the bedding you use, the food you feed, new rats, or they can come in on your clothes.
Bedding - No matter what kind of bedding you use you should always freeze it for at least 72 hours before using it. (If you use fabric it should be washed before use. Even if to just wash out the extra dye and chemicals used to make it.) Certain brands of beddings are known to have a bug problem and are mentioned on many forums, pages, and websites as having such problem. (Carefresh is one of them.)
Food - Should be frozen 72 hours prior to use as well. Not only to rid any chances of lice/mites but in case there was a beetle or moth problem in there. Although seed mix is not an acceptable diet for rats people often feed it as a treat. I have seen on numerous occasions where the bags had tiny beetles in them or moths. So freezing the food will kill any eggs or the insects that are in there.
New additions to your home - Pet store rats are notorious for having bugs. That is why it is always recommended to do a two to four week quarantine for new rats. In this time period you will see if they are sick or have bugs. (You couldn't want to expose your whole mischief (rat group) to whatever the new rat may have.)
On your clothes - If you go to the pet store and hold that cute new rat or you go over someone's house and hold their rats you may be bringing bugs home on your clothes. Always change your clothes (throw them in the hamper or right into the washing machine) and wash your hands before handling your own rats. This may sound a bit over dramatic but with animals better safe than sorry is always the best policy. (Did you know that you could bring home mycoplasma in your nasal passage if the rats at the pet store (or any where) are infected? It lives in your nasal passage for up to 24 hours! Imagine what else you could be bringing home!)

What are those white shiny things in my rat's fur? How do I tell if my rat has lice/mites? What can I do about them?
Itching and scabs may be a sign of your rat having bugs. However, mites and lice are very small and often hard to see. You may be able to see the actual parasite on their skin. (behind the eats, on their inner thighs, or wherever the fur is sparse is easiest to see the parasites.) Some people can not see the actual bugs but they are able to see the nits (eggs) of the bugs. These are shiny and look like tiny pearls or tiny beads of water stuck on their fur. You will be unable to wipe or blow them off as you could easily do with some shavings. They are very sticky and completely adhered to the fur shaft. Using a magnified glass will help a lot in most cases. If you have white or light colored rats the nits will be harder to see.
How to treat these parasites. - There are many kinds of treatments for lice/mites. However, I feel that Ivermectin works best for my rats. I usually get the oral kind from my vet. NEVER get the injectable kind. It can be hazardous to your rat's health. Some people like to use revolution for the mites / lice. This is usually a one time application because it last 30 days, well past the three life cycles it takes to rid the rats of the parasites.
Ivermectin has to be given in at least three doses. I always do four treatments to make sure. A treatment is usually every 7 to 10 days. I do every 7 days. The reason for the time span is to make sure you get all the bugs who are just hatching and maturing. Their life cycle is around 7 days (some people say 10 days). So every 7 to 10 days is sure to get all the adults in that dosing and then the next dosing will get the new set of adults and so on until there is no one left.
Treatment alone will not get rid of the bugs. You must thoroughly wash the cage and everything in it. I mix a 10:1 bleach solution and spray everything down in the tub, letting it sit for at least 15 minutes. (Hot water and soap will not effectively sterilize your cage and equipment.) Anything that is porous must be thrown away because you will be unable to get the ones in the crevices and can risk a reinfection. All clothe materials should be washed in the washing machine (with bleach is preferable) and should be dried on the regular heat setting. Using the low heat or air dry will not thoroughly sterilize the fabric from the parasites. This process of cleaning and sterilizing must be repeated every 7 to 10 days (it goes with the cycle you chose for your medication.). Even after the last dose you should repeat this cleaning regiment.

Many people have contacted and asked me about non vet treatments. I can not by law give medical advice. All I can do is suggest you read some of the sites below. I am also not responsible for anything that may results from reading those sites.

Here are some great websites on rat lice / mites.
http://ratguide.com/health/integumentary_skin/ectoparasites.php - Very informative. A great site for a whole world of rat problems.
http://www.ratballs.com/RatTails/Tails085.html - Great site about lice / mites.
http://www.ratfanclub.org/skin.html - Gives a lot of information on many skin problems.
http://www.rmca.org/Articles/bugs.htm - Do not do the injectable Ivermectin. Any vet who does it is not well versed in rats.

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}!{ What is Rat Bite Fever (RBF)?
Do your rats carry Rat Bite Fever?
I own rats. Am I at risk for getting Rat Bite Fever?

What is Rat Bite Fever?

"Rat-bite fever (RBF) is an infectious disease that can be caused by two different bacteria. Streptobacillary RBF is caused by Streptobacillus moniliformis in North America while spirillary RBF or sodoku is caused by Spirillum minus and occurs mostly in Asia. People usually get the disease from infected rodents or consumption of contaminated food or water. When the latter occurs, the disease is often known as Haverhill fever. If not treated, RBF can be a serious or even fatal disease." - CDC

Do your rat's carry Rat Bite Fever?

You can not know for sure if your rats carry Rat Bite Fever unless you get them tested. I have never had an issue or a suspicion so I have not tested for Rat Bite Fever. I have owned rats for more than half my life time. I handle my rats every day and kiss them. I do not always wash my hands after holding them and I have given them food from my plate. I have been scratched, bitten, licked, peed on, defecated on, and just about anything else a rat does. I have never once been sick from them. Nor have I ever had Rat Bite Fever.

I have been bitten by my rats before. Moms with babies who are being protective (my fault not theirs), breaking up fights between males, and just general mistakes (putting the water bottle on and someone bit my finger, the treat was too small, etc.). I was bit (drawing blood) as recently as January 2014 (Molly May is a very protective Mom) and nothing has happened. (Remember though, the disease can come from a scratch, handling contaminated items or even the rat themselves.) Other people have been bitten (again, sticking fingers through the bars or giving a treat) and no one has reported any illness.

So at this time in April 2014 (although I can not say for 100%) I feel confident stating that my rats do not carry Rat Bite Fever.

I own rats. Am I at risk for getting Rat Bite Fever?

I know a lot of people are concerned with rat bite fever now that the Doctors and other news sources have talked about the child dying from it. That case was in California back in June 2013 and it seems as if they were unaware of rat bite fever so he was never treated until it was too late. (Rat Bite Fever is rarely fatal; unless left untreated.) Petco has many different distributors (facilities who mass produce their rodents) and that CA one is probably not used in Mass or Connecticut Petcos. (Which leads me to conclude that there may not be the bacteria around here, or at least not prevalent.) My brother in law buys rats from Petco for his snake and he was sent a general letter from them saying that some of their (not specify a store branch) rats tested positive for rat bite fever. This was back in August 2013. I put a notice up on my rattery's facebook page when I was aware of it. (I have a copy of the letter if anyone wants to read it.) A bunch of people contacted Petco and they were told by managers and other higher ups that the contaminated rat/s did not come from their producers (located in Mass and CT.) I hope that Petco has resolved the issue by now. Especially since mice can also carry it and contaminate the food and bedding that they sell. (Most rodents are able to be carriers.)

Now, for the rats coming from Petco that carry rat bite fever, keep in mind they are from breeding colonies who have hundreds to thousands of rats in unknown sanitary conditions. Any rat can carry the bacteria (there are two different strands that they could have) but it is mostly found in wild rats who are in dirty conditions. (Such as being in their own fecal matter and urine, going through garbage dumps, and living in waste sewers.) So Petco rats are much more likely to have something than a smaller breeder or a small Mom and Pop pet store who gets rats from local breeders. However none of my rats have ever come from a Petco so I am confident that they have not been exposed to the bacteria. But I can not say for 100% because I have never had them tested. (It is supposed to be a rare disease. Everything, even the CDC website says it is rare. I can not even imagine what Petco's suppliers' rats live in to carry the illness. They must live in pure filth.) I have had a lot of scratches and a few bites and I have never developed any symptoms or gotten sick. I have not found a definite answer but the vet maybe able to do a non-invasive test to see if they have the illness.

The biggest thing is to know about rat bite fever, watch for symptoms, and then tell the doctor that you own a rat and whether or not if you were bitten/scratched by a rat so he can know it is not just the flu or something else. Treatment is easy and highly effective. Penicillin is usually the anti-biotic given. (Make sure you're not allergic.) I have copied the symptoms information off of the CDC website for you. (Also, the CDC says, "If you have any symptoms of rat-bite fever after exposure to rats or other rodents, please immediately contact your health care provider. Be sure to tell your provider of your exposure to rodents."

"Symptoms are often different for the two types of RBF: streptobacillary RBF and spirillary RBF.

Symptoms and signs of streptobacillary RBF include:
- Fever
- Vomiting
- Headache
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Rash

Symptoms usually occur 3-10 days after exposure to an infected rodent, but can be delayed as long as 3 weeks. By this time, any associated bite or scratch wound has usually healed.
Within 2-4 days after fever onset, a maculopapular rash may appear on the hands and feet. This rash is identified by flat, reddened areas with small bumps. One or more joints may then become swollen, red, or painful.

Symptoms and signs of spirillary RBF (also known as sodoku) can vary and often include:
- Fever (that may occur repeatedly)
- Development of an ulcer at the bite wound (when applicable)
- Swelling near the wound
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Rash (occurs following partial healing of the wound)

These symptoms usually occur 7-21 days after exposure to an infected rodent.
The symptoms associated with Haverhill fever (RBF you can get from consuming contaminated food or water) can differ from those that occur when you get the disease through bites and/or scratches. The most notable differences may include more severe vomiting and sore throat."

Here is the CDC website about rat bite fever. http://www.cdc.gov/rat-bite-fever/index.html

Do not trust everything you read about rat bite fever. Anyone can post anything online. (Some rat people think that rat bite fever does not even come from rats.) Make sure the source is credible (such as the CDC website).

If you still have questions or concerns I would be more than happy to talk with you (on the phone too).

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The Firefly Rattery