Female rats will do anything to get to their male counterparts.
Satisfied that doors and walls would prevent girl rats from finding their male counterparts, when we moved we gave the girls a room all to themselves. We lined the walls of one room with shelves, and on those shelves we put the aquariums the girl rats were living in. That room also had a closet, and in that closet there was a big hole that led into the walls of the house we were attached to (our apartment was actually just an attachment of an existing house) so, just in case one of the girls were to fall or jump off, we made sure to cover up the hole with wire and seal the closet permanently closed.
We patted ourselves on the back a few times. We had really outdone ourselves this time! We could meet their freedom and social needs, give them lots of space, and keep them away from the boys at the same time! The good news is that we were right...for awhile.
At the time we probably had a good 20 or so female rats. They loved their little setup because unlike the boys, they all got along with one another and they would traverse their shelf-lined walls and visit with their other rat-friends. As a matter of fact we could have put all of them in one cage because more often than not, that's where they'd all be - in one cage. After a while though, a couple of them had the brilliant idea of expanding their territory, or, to be more specific, finding new, male roommates. Consequently a couple jumped and started devouring the drywall behind the heater making a nice rat-sized hole into the room to the right. There were no rats in the room to the right and the door to that room was always closed so the only male they saw was their human, Andy. Of course they nibbled on a little toe fungus but it was obvious their goals weren't met because he'd carry them back to their room, attempt to seal up the hole, and they'd be back the next morning for yummy toe breakfast!
After a few nights of interrupted sleep, we finally got the motivation to wire up those holes so they couldn't get through. Although the girls couldn't get through that hole, they still thought they had a reason to jump, and as long as they were down there, well, why not make another hole! This time they made their way to the closet out the other end. This is when we learned that the hole in the closet did not lead into the room to the left of the girls' room but rather into the guts of the house we were attached to. Of course that took Grandma to teach us that lesson (see "Some Rats Never Learn.").
So...we patched and patched and patched, and although they lost interest in Andy's toes in the room to the right, there was something behind those walls that just couldn't keep them away. By this time half of them were jumping and we were losing track! The solution? We made a bigger hole, stuffed it with bricks, covered that with wire mesh, and filled the hole with drywall. Of course at that point we didn't know who was in or out so this process took a long time to get resolved. Most importantly, we had to wait for Violentine's return (see "Some rats never die (also, rats can live a surprisingly long time without food and water.").
Lesson learned? You can't Rat-Proof your house enough!
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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: