Enrichment

For everything to do with rat housing, from cages, litter and bedding to accessories and toys for your rat. Not for advertising items for sale.
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Gabby
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Enrichment

Post by Gabby » Tue Jul 12, 2011 8:49 am

I really want to make my cage more exciting for my boys. It seems very bare at the moment, but that's largely because they tend to ignore the toys I've bought for them in the past and - to be honest - they pretty much ignore their current toys. But I'm very concerned about their enrichment because they don't really like free-ranging very much, although I'm trying to build them up (apparently my laminate floor is like lava - if they touch it they'll die :roll: ). They come out for cuddles but I can't even let them run around on the bed because Si has very sensitive skin.

At the moment we have 6 bucks from an active 2 1/2 year old to a 12 week old pingy baby. Of the 6 I'd say 4 were quite active and playful, and 2 are very cuddly and lazy (Digby and Mungo). Recently Digby has been barbering. He's lost two very close cagemates and has been very poorly, plus on experimental medicine, so the barbering may be due to this but I'm not taking any chances. I don't want them to be bored.

At the moment the cage has a very large hammock, a house, a rope-perch, a shelf, a dangly loofah-walnut thing (that is completely ignored) and two ladders with dangly things on them. The hammock is used regularly, as is the shelf and the ladders (although only to run/sit/climb on). The rope perch is ignored by all but the baby, and the loofah dangly thing may as well not be there.

And that's the problem really. I've bought so many toys for them in the past and they all get ignored, even by the active ones. The only success I've really had is with boxes. They go nuts for little boxes - rat sized ones you get with mini rolls etc, or easter eggs. Boxes are the best fun ever!! But we have a limited supply of these as I'm dieting so can't really be buying too many mini-rolls.

They also like tissue paper, to an extent - they enjoy ripping it up and making nests with it, but I'm reluctant to use it too much as it does occasionally freak Qixl out (and Qixl is my rat who has been fitting).

Please, has anyone got any ideas how I can make their lives more interesting. This is the first group I've had where they've hated free-ranging and I'm very very concerned about their mental stimulation. I would prefer junk-based toys as my experience in the past with expensive toys is that they're just ignored and, much as I worship my sons, it's just a waste.
The cartoon adventures of the Rodent Rebels http://www.rodentrebels.com
Love from Cosmo, Digby, Qixl, Tesla, Mungo and Alan http://www.vermin-realm.com
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cookielucylou
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Re: Enrichment

Post by cookielucylou » Tue Jul 12, 2011 9:03 am

Have you tried this site? http://www.dapper.com.au/toys.htm
I always find food is an excellent enrichment, mine enjoy boiled eggs with shells still on, plaited rope with dog biscuits etc twisted in it and tied to the sides of the cage, little food crackers(toilet roll filled with food and paper twisted round it) and a box of shredded paper with their food in.
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Re: Enrichment

Post by RattyRenton » Tue Jul 12, 2011 9:16 am

Dapper Rats :hearts:

Make pinatas, cut 4 flaps in both ends of a loo roll tube so they can be folded in to seal them, poke a hole and thread a piece of string through and tie a knot so it stays, put food in, close up the ends and string up in the cage. Or tie string around a corn cob and string up (my lot are like lions round a zebra if I do this, scary :o ). Hide food in screwed up bits of paper (all those leaflets that fall through the letter box are handy for this). Attach a whole loo roll to the side of the cage for them to pull. Make a digging box, put soil in a plastic tub (drill tiny holes in the bottom to allow drainage when you water it), put bird seed or herb seeds or dandelion seeds in the soil and allow to grow, once the plants are at a good height, add rats! You can put stones and things in to add interest. I'm going to do a huge digging box for my guys when I get round to it using one of those big white trays from Ikea, I've collected some pine cones and shells to put in too.
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Re: Enrichment

Post by Betterstar » Tue Jul 12, 2011 9:53 am

Have you tried them with a wheel? If you get one and they don't use it you can always sell it - people always want wheels. Our boys have a Silent Spinner, but they used to have a Wodent Wheel and are happy to use either.

If the laminate floor is scary can you put a blanket or something down for them to play on?
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Re: Enrichment

Post by Flox » Tue Jul 12, 2011 11:10 pm

My boys ignore everything that isn't food related. The girls use the wheel somewhat (more than the 4 steps my boys take on it!). The only things I've found have helped is to set the cage up with interesting 'pathways' around it (using ropes, sticks, perches etc) - I'm not very good at it! But I put the rats back after clean-out and watch how they get about, then adjust (cos I always get it wrong). It seems to work better if I have layouts that go places, then they'll use 'em. And food - I'm also not very good at keeping that interesting, but I always scatter feed - sometimes I split their food into little paper bags and hang them around the cage - sometimes stuff feed bags (rat rations stuff sometimes comes in cut off pieces) with shredded paper and sprinkle in there...

Unfortunately with a hormonally horrible three groups at the moment, it's hard to find the balance between 'challenging' and 'deathmatch'. But yeah - with boys, I find cage layout and feeding are the only ways I can really keep 'em occupied.

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Re: Enrichment

Post by yuuki_forever » Tue Jul 12, 2011 11:18 pm

Anything to do with food. The corn on the cob thing is great, but stringing it up doesn't work for my girls. Rukia has an amazing talent for finding weak spots and cut the string in a millisecond, then ran away with the whole thing. Ratty Pinata also fails for the same reason. Try hiding their food in weird places, scattering bedding works for my girls but boys generally aren't as house-proud in my experience. Have you got a veggie basket?
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Gabby
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Re: Enrichment

Post by Gabby » Thu Jul 14, 2011 12:17 pm

Thanks everyone for all these great ideas! We've started doing some of them already - we hung an old sock up from the top of the cage to the bottom filled with cornflakes and yoggies and little bits of walnut and they've absolutely gone nuts for that. Unfortunately, while they were all playing nicely, Mungo decided that it was his and his alone and has been challenging anyone who disagrees with him. :o The best bit was watching him try to drag the sock into his house and get angry when it wouldn't come in, then watch him figure out what was going on. He's also been using it as a weapon against Cosmo, by swinging it at him.

We're also going to make a "play bin" for them to dig around in, and string some treat decorations around the cage. We've got loads of great ideas from the dapper rat website, so thanks so much to you all. Digby's fur on his legs is starting to grow back and they all seem so much happier all ready, and it's given us a lot of fun to come up with ideas. And my friends at work have been collecting boxes and tubes and stuff. Even giving the rats little things like sweet wrappers has been fun, as Alan and Qixl particularly like the shiny werthers wrappers.

Next time we have a hot day we're going to try pea fishing, but I don't think we'd be able to have rat grass as we have a silverfish problem at the moment and so we're trying to keep the place as clean and dry as possible.
The cartoon adventures of the Rodent Rebels http://www.rodentrebels.com
Love from Cosmo, Digby, Qixl, Tesla, Mungo and Alan http://www.vermin-realm.com
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Re: Enrichment

Post by lamb » Thu Jul 14, 2011 2:54 pm

Corks! The only non food thing my lot love. You could hang them up or just give them one each. I got a bag from tesco in the wine making section (99p). Warning: Make sure you have enough to go round. My mum gave me one and I chucked it in. It was a catastrophe. Cork and fur everywhere :o

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Re: Enrichment

Post by Jimi+Milo » Fri Jul 15, 2011 8:58 am

My lads have a wine rack in their cage which they love, its a perfect ratty climbing frame :)
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Re: Enrichment

Post by acapae_wolf » Fri Jul 15, 2011 6:53 pm

Glad they enjoyed the sock! Rather than putting treats in the activities though, I would just use their normal food - and consequently give them less in the usual way. Otherwise they're going to get really podgy if it's more than the occasional treat (which I'd reccomend). Rats naturally spend an awful lot of their waking hours looking for food, so the fat that it's not something special won't make it any less fun/ interesting from their POV.

Also regarding fishing, I'm not sure why peas are so popular but they're not the only option. You can use all sorts from heavy things that sink to things that float about to leaves that properly float on the surface and are blown about. Sometimes I even give them small amounts of their dry mix to fish out of water. Also I find that adding pebbles, already chewed bath plugs, and random other objects to the pool leads to greater interest. Things to be tactile and interact with rather than purely food-based.
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Gabby
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Re: Enrichment

Post by Gabby » Thu Jul 21, 2011 2:32 pm

Beri, you make a very good point - if not just to me but for everyone :) Now in my case I haven't been overdoing it with the treats. The socks/ treatbins etc are: 90% cornflakes and or rice cripsies (which is part of their shunamite diet but extracted from their main feed) which, as far as the boys are concerned, are treats anyway; a scattering of yoggies, egg biscuit pieces, corks, dried fruit (blueberries, banana chips [in moderation] and apple pieces go down very well) and a few little bits of walnut. It's been brilliant watching them tackle it. We've replaced the sock with a small, handled paper bag as it's easier for them to deal with. I make a little hole in the bottom to help them out - Tesla puts his face against the hole then walks around in circles trying to keep it still enough to get the treats out (not realising that it was actually him who is spinning it) whereas Mungo simply clamps himself onto the bag to hold it still. Qixl likes to examine the string for weak points, whereas Alan like swinging it at Cosmo! It's been so much fun!
The cartoon adventures of the Rodent Rebels http://www.rodentrebels.com
Love from Cosmo, Digby, Qixl, Tesla, Mungo and Alan http://www.vermin-realm.com
Bow down to me for I am Gabby, ender of threads!

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Re: Enrichment

Post by burninglight » Fri Jul 22, 2011 11:35 am

Betterstar wrote:Have you tried them with a wheel? If you get one and they don't use it you can always sell it - people always want wheels. Our boys have a Silent Spinner, but they used to have a Wodent Wheel and are happy to use either.

If the laminate floor is scary can you put a blanket or something down for them to play on?
I anyone goes for a wheel, give them plenty of time to figure it out. My older girls had about 7 months of using it as storage, Delilah has been living with a wheel for about 2 months now and....so proud....this morning she worked out what it was for!

She was trotting away on it so she was.

Now, it's possible my girls are just a bit slow - but if it helps dee burn off some energy the wait will have been worth it. And maybe Gigi and Pix will figure it out now that they've seen it in use.

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