The best room in the house!

In August of 2005, my eyes were opened to a new way of enjoying pet rats - I visited a house with a room filled with rats who were uncaged, and allowed to roam free!

I made my decision then and there that it was possible to do the same in my own house, and so Project Ratroom was created!

It took some time, the room was used as a junk room for so many years, and previously it had been my childhood bedroom (hence the E.T. wallpaper) but we persevered, and with less rude words than I expected, the Mischief's ratroom was officially opened on the 11th September 2005.

Here are some tips for having your own successful ratroom.

If possible it's good to start with a completely empty room, you can look around and make notes about how to start and what needs to be done. (That's our Iguana, Arthur, it used to be his room, but he's now moved downstairs)
Do you have any other pets who might like to get into the room and snack on the rats? Would it be dangerous for your rats to get out of the room? If so, consider building yourself an 'airlock' like we did for mine. All it needs to be is a small area within the room, just inside the door, so that you're able to step inside the room and close the room door, before you're able to step into the actual ratspace. I have some curious cats and rather than risk anything happening, even like the rats burrowing under the door, we felt an 'airlock' was the safest option. Make it nice and high too, rats can jump at least 4 feet straight up!

Choose linoleum or hardwood or tiles for your floor, easy to sweep, and easy to clean. I was lucky, the lino that was used as an underlining for the existing carpet was still there, and pretty good condition, considering it's age.

Electric cables are a no-no. Seal everything in wherever you can, especially if you have surface-mounted wires like we do. We bought galvanised metal trunking and cut it to fit each cable, then sealed it in with extra strong duct tape. Always keep an eye on where the rats could chew if they put their mind to it, and if possible eliminate all electricity from the room. It's also a good idea to have some plastic plugs to fit into your sockets to prevent electrocution. 

It's worth noting that we actually moved this socket higher up because it's one that would be regularly used, and we wanted it way out of ratty reach. It's about 7 feet from the ground.

 

I've found that it's a good idea to seal the edges of the room, we've used special quadrant that dad had lurking in the garage for years. Makes sweeping and washing of the floor easier.b
Keep your food and treats, and basically anything you don't want chewed out of ratty reach! I made the mistake of leaving their plastic food bucket in the room and they chewed their way into it overnight! That's Hunny's butt. Now you understand why we called her Ratsputin - the Mad Mink.
Be careful of windows, and also curtains. I originally started out with a venetian blind at my window, but they used it as a ladder, and basically ate it, so first I had some net curtain in between our secondary double glazing, later I placed reflective backed blackout blinds there to help keep out direct sunlight and excess heat. Other than this I'd recommend using the sticky-back plastic you can get for frosting windows as long as the rats can't get at it to chew it off. If you're going to use the spray-on stuff, please remove the rats from the room while doing it, and don't put them back until the fumes have dispersed.

My dad found an industrial strength extractor fan for 5 at a car boot sale a few years ago, and I wouldn't be without one now. It was powerful enough to use in my previous ratroom when I used cages, but in this room it could open the door if it wasn't closed properly! It was on a timer and comes on and off at intervals all day. It gave up the ghost a while ago but I've replaced it with some more, smaller fans which do the same job.

I'd always stress that some kind of grille should be put across any open windows so that rats can't escape, particularly if you're also using curtains or something they can climb. Also a consideration if using an extractor fan - make sure they can't reach it.

In the summer, you may want to have a fly zapper. I'm not a huge fan of them as I don't like any animals zapped, but flies can multiply so easily in summer, and I don't want them laying eggs or doing anything 'orrible near my rats, so an electric zapper was a good purchase for my ratroom. Do remember to keep the wires way out of their reach though. Have as few electrical devices on inside the room as you can, you want to reduce the risk of fires in there as much as possible.
You may wish to box in your radiator like I have, I decided to box mine in rather than have rats go missing, only to find them hiding up behind it, especially if it's on and hot!

Once you move your cages in, remember that the rats will still want things to play with scattered around the room. Choose wisely, especially if your ratroom is close to your bedroom, as some toys are noisier than others at 4am. You can also facilitate the outside of the cages to hang extra beds on, tie ropes to, or attach tubes. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. Ebay is an excellent place to start, but there are also a great many wonderful rat and ferret shops online which sell incredible toys. There should be some on my links page.

 

Alternatively you may wish to make your own. Rats are very inquisitive but aren't easily fooled, so you'll have to use your noodle and think of different things to keep them happy. For example, old shirts can be tied up between cages as huge hammocks, garden plant baskets can be hung up and used as swinging beds, even old kids' toys can be used, as can be see here.

Rats are excellent interior decorators, with a fantastic sense of style, so be prepared for them to make some decorative choices to the wallpaper if they can reach it. They also like to create their own doors and alter brickwork and plaster so you need to be vigilant.

I do recommend that you have both a 'Naughty Cage' (or 'Sin Bin', as it's called in my house), and a 'Special Rat Cage'. Sometimes rats do naughty things, or get into scuffles, and a good way of telling them off is to confine them in the naughty cage for a while as a 'time out'. The 'Special rat cage' is for older or infirm rats who might have special dietary needs, or medication in food. You can then feed these rats inside the special cage and they won't have their dinner stolen by any of the freerangers. Allow the rat out again when they're finished though.

Above all, and very important, enjoy your ratroom. Remember, the whole room is their cage now, and when entering the room, you're entering their cage, so prepare to be amazed by the change in their behaviour, and the amount of time you spend with rats climbing all over you!

They'll involve you in what they're doing, you'll become a rat to them, if you're lucky they'll even come and eat their dinner on your lap.

There's nothing like being accepted fully by your pet!

 

********UPDATE********

In April 2009 my ratroom was seperated into two secure areas, to see the results click below.

If you have any questions about my ratroom, or in general, 

email me: International Ratscue

To experience more of my ratroom, see my page.

2008 B Reeve