It’s so much fun to play with pet rats outside of their cage. They love running around, exploring new territories and being stimulated and enriched by changes in their environment. It’s up to us to make sure any room in which our rats play is safe and tailored to our rats’ specific needs and personal preferences.
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Whether plugged in or not, cords attached to lamps, electric clocks, stereos, TVs, computer equipment, etc, all present serious hazards. While chewing on a cord that’s plugged in, your rats can get electrocuted. Even if your rats gnaw on a cord that’s not plugged in, cords frayed and damaged by chewing are too dangerous to continue to use. Any electrical cords with exposed wiring (due to chewing) need to be replaced.
1. UNPLUG ALL CORDS: It’s as simple as that. If you choose to unplug, follow-through and make sure that all electrical outlets and cords are completely out of your pet rats’ reach.
2. COVER ALL CORDS with plastic or metal tubing purchased from a hardware store or online. Even if you choose to cover cords, you’ll still want to keep an eye out to make sure your rats don’t attempt to chew through cord covers.
Upholstered sofas and chairs – Your rats can easily discover an opening underneath the sofa, crawl into a tight space, (such as the arm of the sofa,) and then you won’t be able to get them out. There’s also the danger they could crawl underneath a couch cushion and get crushed if anyone were to inadvertently sit on top of them.
Mattresses and box springs – Your rats can chew into your mattress box spring and then crawl inside for a little nest building fun. This is another tight spot from which it’s impossible to retrieve your rat.
Inside both furniture and mattress box springs, there are sharp edges, tacks and other components that can cause puncture wounds.
Loungers/Rockers – If your rat were to get underneath this type of chair, your rat could easily be crushed and killed.
SOLUTION: Remove dangerous furniture or use an old sheet, bedspread or blanket to cover any furniture that could cause injury. Block off any available entrances underneath furniture. For sofas, corrugated cardboard can be wrapped around the base. (see photo on left)
Cracks underneath doors can be extremely dangerous. This is especially true if you are in a room where there’s a door that opens to a garage or to the outdoors. If you think the crack underneath your door isn’t that large, think again. Rats can crawl under doors much more easily than you might think since they’re quite skilled at flattening themselves.
SOLUTION: If the crack underneath your door is wider than ¼”, block it off. You can do this temporarily by firmly wedging cardboard into the crack. A better, longer term solution is to install a door sweep at the bottom of the door so there’s no gap through which your rats can escape.
Sliding glass doors and windows left open with only the screen portion closed still present an easy exit for your rats. They can climb up the screen and to the side and adeptly squeeze through to the edge of the screen to the outdoors.
SOLUTION: Easy! While your rats are free-roaming, leave sliding glass doors closed. Same goes for windows—do not trust that screens will keep your rats inside. They’re too easy to chew or wiggle through.
Underneath bathroom and kitchen cabinets and drawers there are often gaps where the bottom of the cabinet meets the floor baseboard. These gaps lead inside the walls where your rat would be in danger of chewing on wires as well as getting lost and unable to return to safety.
SOLUTION: Keep in mind that there are openings underneath almost all built-in cabinet and drawers. Feel underneath with your fingers to check for openings and block them off with cardboard or anything else that will keep your rats from climbing into these holes.
Heater vents similarly pose a significant danger as they lead to inside the walls, under the floor and other out-of-reach areas of the building in which you live.
SOLUTION: Block off ANY area you don’t want your rats to go and/or that could cause danger if your rats were to enter.
Rats enjoy playing with stringy things—very similar to cats. If not closely supervised, rats can get tangled, choked or lose circulation later resulting in loss of a limb.
SOLUTION: It’s best to not have anything with fringe or anything “stringy” in the room unless you’re with your rats and playing with them with the string. For window blinds or curtain cords, you’ll want to make sure they’re out of reach.
If your rat were to jump up onto a toilet seat and then fall into the bowl, there’d be no way for him to get back out and your rat would drown.
SOLUTION: Whenever your rats have access to a bathroom, always keep the toilet lid closed!
Rats love to get into garbage cans and explore what’s inside. This may result in their eating something that’s harmful as well as their not being able to get back out once they’ve gotten inside a garbage can.
Besides the potential of your rats being injured, electrocuted or poisoned by chewing, your belongings can also suffer significant damage. Chewers will gnaw on paint, wall plaster, wood baseboards, furniture, books, bugs, papers, upholstery, carpet, bedspreads, plants, electrical cords (unplugged or not) and just about anything else they can sink their teeth into.
Some rats are expert climbers. They climb curtains, bookshelves, towels hanging from a towel rack, sides of shower doors, and even chest of drawers by using the drawer pulls or handles as a ladder. Once they’ve climbed as high as they’d like, they have no way of getting safely back down.
Also common for some pet rats is jumping. Rats will, for example, jump from a table to a bookshelf and then on up onto the next highest shelf. Some rats will attempt to leap from the arm of a chair onto, say, a picture frame. This is dangerous because rats can easily fall from great heights and become seriously injured. Bruising of internal organs, broken bones and even death can result.
SOLUTIONS (Similar to Climbers): If your rats are jumpers, keep an eye on them at all times especially when they first start to explore a new room. After awhile you’ll be able to tell what appeals to your rats the most. Then you can either move around the furniture and any other jump-off areas or you can make sure you’re on hand to assist at all times.
Most urine markers are male rats. They’ll dribble small amounts of urine here and there, marking their territory.
Tips for Making Your Rat Room a Better Place for All
It’s ideal when the room in which your rats roam is also the room where their cage is located. While they’re out you can leave the cage doors open should they want to return home at any time.
Many rats will go back inside their cage to defecate and urinate. Initially, however, it’s a good idea to place litter boxes in all corners of the room in which they’ll be playing. After awhile, if you find they only use the bathrooms inside their cage, then you won’t need to place additional litter boxes in the room. If you find they do urinate and/or defecate when outside their cage, they may choose to use areas other than just the corners of the room. Whenever you find they use an area as a bathroom, place a litter box there and they’ll get the idea. Also, if you see them just about to urinate or defecate and they’re not in a litter box, gently move them immediately to the nearest litter box.
Before allowing your rats to roam free in a room, it’s important to dust and vacuum and to do so on an ongoing basis. Rats will eat just about anything they find on the floor including bugs, old and moldy bits of food and various types of paper all—of which could cause your rats to become injured or ill.
In general, and especially in the beginning stages of allowing your rats out in a room, observe them very carefully to see what they might start to get into that could be dangerous. Sometimes you won’t even realize something could be dangerous until you see your rat begin to explore an object or area that could cause harm.
Sometimes, I find there’s a part of a room where I don’t want my rats to go and it’s difficult to block it off. When this happens, I place one or more plastic grocery bags in that particular place. That way I can hear the bag(s) “crinkle” when they go into that area and know to either monitor closely or remove my rats right away.
The more items you have for them to enjoy while they’re out in their room, the less chance your rats will get into trouble. Here’s a short list to get you started: