Rats have spacial perception problems.
Some rats aren't too fond of narrow places or a hole. For example, ButtNutt clambered into the tubes that were attached to his cage once. He was terrified and we could not get him to come down. Obviously this was more a depth perception issue but he also wasn't too keen on the tubes themselves.
More commonly, rats underestimate the size of an entrance or hole. They figure if they can get their head through, there should be no problem getting their big behind through. Also, sometimes they develop habits when they are young that, once they're older, don't work anymore.
Grandpa was the idiot who had such a habit. When Grandpa was little, he wanted to be like Slinky and would try to get down from his cage out into the real world. Unlike Slinky, however, he didn't just flop off. He'd carefully climb down from his cage, wedge himself behind the Yaffa Block immediately below his cage, and scoot through one of the holes in the Yaffa Block so he could continue the climb down the front of the Yaffa Blocks. One day, however, he got stuck. Surprisingly he got most of his body through but those confounded legs were in the way. We cut him out and Grandpa was happy and fortunately Grandpa never did it again.
A couple of other rats were not so bright. The two albino males we had started making a habit of jumping from somewhere (we still haven't really figured this out) and landing with their neck caught between the poles in the back of a chair. The only way they could have managed this would be by coming from above as the bars got closer to one another at the seat of the chair. I'd like to say that they were jumping off of the chair or table, but their butts were above the seat, not their heads. They were definitely stuck. Fortunately the first two times this happened, we heard the screeching and slid them out while they were still having their little ratto heart attacks. The third time he did it overnight, and when we awoke the next morning, we noticed that a little round circle was chewed out of the seat cushion and that there was a very lifeless and very cold rat hanging off the back. Fortunately he wasn't dead and Nat-human gave him a very long full body massage until he got his blood flowing again. We also threw those chairs away that day.
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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: