Cheap ways to entertain yourself and your rats.
Rats, or rather, rat personalities and habits are total and complete human entertainment all by themselves. But you don't want to be that selfish and forget to entertain your little furry friend as well! After all, if you do something silly like trip on a power cord, fall off a chair, or sit on a friend's face, they won't find it as funny as you find it when they do something similar. To be fair you have to "get down on their level" and take part in a few rat games that I think you'll find both parties will enjoy!
Every rat has a unique personality. In a most general sense, for example, some are going to be the big dominant rat king of their territory while the others will be the submissive type that doesn't want to cause any problems. Consequently not all rat games are for all rats. The first step to playing rat games though is to visualize yourself as a rat. Watch your rats for awhile. Watch how they interact with one another. See what makes them happy and what really pisses them off. Of course what makes one rat happy may not amuse another, so consider that too.
Obviously you're bigger than a rat so the probability of climbing into their cage for a little romp is probably out of the question. Your hand, however, is merely a hairless rat in disguise! When you're first starting off with this art-of-rathood, play the games on their territory. This is a great way to make friends with your little vermin while getting him to trust you and accept and expect certain behaviors. Once they seem comfortable with you, you can take them out and play just about anywhere!
Again, remember the hand. Your hand is a very stealthful, very quick little rat. It can tip-toe up behind a little rat, or it can scurry, all four digits in action, across any surface. Good thing for your hand, it can also perform neat tricks like jumping and flying and hopping! Sit your rat-hand close to, but not touching, your rat. She will get near it, sniff it, and probably jump back a few times. Ultimately she will try to climb up your rat-hand torso, tugging at, or climbing under, any shirt sleeve that may be available. Move a rat-hand leg or two and check her reaction. Does she scurry to a safe corner of her cage, cowering in fear or does she jump away and right back again? If she comes back, you're ready to play.
Start walking your rat-hand-paws around the cage some. See if she follows. Hop your hand around to check on her (wherever you determine your rat-hand's eyes to be). Scurry away a bit. Jump back. Is she still comfortable or is she getting a bit nervous? If she still seems comfortable with the game, pounce on her neck with two feet and give her a short rub. Does she turn around and pounce back? Is she on two feet or all four? If she's on two, she probably thinks she's the dominant of the pair. If she's on all four, you should easily be able to slip your fingers under her belly and flip her over. You can then give her a belly rub, and she may reciprocate in rat manners by giving your rat-hand a good cleaning in return. If she's on two, put two of your rat paws up and nudge her belly a bit or scurry your rat hand around behind her and see what she does. If she keeps on all fours, you may just have to admit defeat, but chances are, she'll let you "be on top" every once in awhile.
Because your rat will most likely interact with other rats, you don't always want to be the tackler. They have, somewhere, the rules to this game, so after a bit, slip your hand under them (as if by mistake "Oops, you caught me!") and press it flat against the ground. Rub their tummy from underneath. They should clean you in return.
When they're really young, you can start a popcorn chain too. Just bop one on his rear and he should pop up like a piece of popcorn and land on a roommate who will in turn do the same. It's great exercise for them, and fun to watch!
You can also get your rat a "Wodent Wheel" (see "Rats love Rodent Wheels.") which you can purchase from transoniq.com. Make sure you don't get a wheel made out of wire though as their tails may get caught! I'm sure it's very entertaining if they use it for its intended purpose. Of course it's also quite entertaining if they don't. Most of our rats would try to climb on top of it as a means to gaining access to something else. As you can imagine, this doesn't work very well and they always end up crash-landing on someone else. Some are very balanced creatures however, and I have seen them sleep both on top of, and inside, the wheel with success.
You can get your rat boxes and more boxes. Boxes are very entertaining but I wouldn't recommend giving boxes to really young rats as they will hide in them and never come out. Small boxes and big rats, however, can lead to copious amounts of entertainment, particularly when they manage to fit three times as many rats one would expect to be able to fit in a box.
And baskets! My favorite pet supply store in the world is Pier1. Head over there, bee-line for the clearance items, and put your creativity to work! A basket suspended to the ceiling of a cage with a clip (or two for those 2-handled baskets) makes a wonderful hammock and swing and chew toy. And you know what? When it gets gross, you just throw it away and don't feel bad about it at all because it cost you $1. Placemats made of cotton fibers or reed require 4 clips but also make fun little hammocks/chew toys, curtain pulls with tassles make fun climbing ropes, wicker balls are great little monsters to stuff small treats in, etc.
Rat-Hammocks are also entertaining and comfortable. If you hang it up right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) it can double as a swing, just be careful not to hang it to low so to avoid accidental rat-butt nipping!
Wide ropes and bird-like toys are great for young rats, but older rats seem to lose interest in the climbing/swaying phenomenon. The young ones will cling onto those ropes and will seem so scared once it starts moving around. You'll feel so badly for them that you'll try to help them off and they'll climb right back on!
In general, if it's cheap, they'll love it. Of course they'll most likely not use whatever it is you gave them for the intended purpose, but they'll love it. If it's expensive (with the exception of personal and prized belongings) they probably won't care for it much. Some examples of expensive toys they hate would include those little clear plastic balls for hamsters and that cute little plastic car rodent-wheel thing, also for hamsters. These types of enclosed objects make them really nervous which is unpleasant for them, and cleaning out nervous messes is unpleasant for us humans, so resist the temptation.
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Disclaimer: There are many non-sarcastic accounts and tips on the web regarding rat care. This is not
one of them. These are merely accounts of our experiences with rats, our perceptions of these experiences, where we've failed
and where we've succeeded. These accounts are here for two purposes: