Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Question:

Dear Kat,

We purchased some very nice rat products from you last month. We are picking up our new rats...on Sunday. I have some questions about what to feed them. She feeds her rats blocks that she buys directly from the college there. Unfortunately, that will not be convenient for us, and we won't be needing such large amounts. Your website was very informative on feeding rats. I am looking at Nutro Lite dog food at 17% protein. Would this be acceptable with daily supplements of good people food? I have read lots of opinions on rat blocks on the Internet , and I am confused as to what the rats will actually eat. I would appreciate any advice you could give.

Thank you!

Ann M.


Answer:

Lol, Hi Ann, I bet your head is spinning about all the lab block opinions. :>)

Here's how I feel about the subject.

Lab blocks are a complete nutritional resource for our pet rats. Some block are a better quality than others. Harlan Techlad are considered the highest quality blocks you can buy but are very hard for the average person to acquire, as you are discovering.

Purina makes some, Mazuri brand I believe it's called. I use to get those and didn't have a problem with them except they don't taste good to your pet.

Here's why my opinions differ on this then many others.

I specialize in pet rat behavior. Part of this process requires me to see the world through the viewpoint of the pet rat. I have found that food is a highly motivating force in our pets lives. They can taste all the foods flavors just like we can and love things that taste really good, just like we do.

What the medical and lab people haven't seemed to integrate yet is how to make something that is extremely healthy for our pets, to also be extremely tasty. They have done that for our dogs and cats though. They've realized that dogs like certain flavors and cats like certain flavors and they cater to those "psychological" needs as well as their health.

Because of this I've found pet rats actually like the taste of dog or cat food better than their lab blocks, so from a psychological perspective giving them a substitute food source that not only can meet their nutritional needs but caters to their psychological needs is what I feel is the overall best solution, or the best of both worlds perspective.

There are people on the Internet and forums who will state, "My rats love their lab blocks." And my reply is, sure if that is all they've ever had the opportunity to explore. But if given other opportunities, within a weeks time the lab blocks will be the last thing they will eat. The dog food will even be left in the corner if other people foods are offered that taste better.

I really believe ratties are just happier "mentally" if they get a variety of good tasting, healthy foods in their diets. Their "behavior" has convinced me of this by how they will literally fight over a good tasting nugget of food over the more bland choices. Tug of wars, pushing and shoving, squeaking, running and hiding with the treasured item all happens. Good tasting food makes them happy just like it makes us happy and they will do whatever it takes to get some, lol.

So in answer to your first question, yes, 18% protein is a good choice. I think if you were to buy a bag of Purina lab blocks and compare the values on the back you would find them very similar to other pet foods. What doesn't add up can be supplemented in healthy people foods being added.

Pet rats are supposed to be an "easy keeper" pet, meaning it shouldn't be a problem, or costly, to keep them happy and healthy.

Best Wishes to you!

Kat


Question: How do you feel about euthanizing rats that show signs of aggression toward each other or humans?

Answer: It has been my experience rat aggression is 99 percent of the time, NOT genetically based. It's more a behavioral, environmental or improper animal husbandry principles that are causing the aggression or biting. Just as human children are born with a clean slate, rattie babies are born with them too. Human children start to act up as they get older usually because of events that have happened to them that they don't understand. I feel the same is true with ratties that act up later in life.

I feel breeders who put their rats down for aggression is just an excuse to lighten their loads and not take responsibility for the animals under their care. I believe with correct practices rat aggression problems can be reduced or eliminated completely.

I've raised over 1100 rats as of this writing. And I've only gotten bitten by a rat once, early on when I first started breeding and didn't understand what the rat was trying to tell me. This bite was so severe it sent me to the hospital. I was bitten right through a major artery on the top of my hand. I could have let this event make me fearful of ratties and even give up on them, but instead I looked at the experience as an opportunity to try and understand the cause for this behavior. I was enticed to understand how a normally friendly rat would lash out for no reason and bite me. I then became a "rat whisper" and have learned how to understand and speak their language. Every species has their own special language. Most humans don't take the time to learn any other language but their own.

I have never put a rat to sleep for aggression. When I have a problem I look at what I might have done or what other rats this rat was associated with might have done, to cause the change in behavior to make it turn on it's own kind or it's human handler.

I've learned that many times male rats once used for breeding will bully and attack other male rats. Once a male has experienced the breeding process it is so pleasurable to them they try to duplicate it once back with their buddies. If their advances are met with resistance, which is usually the case, they will assert themselves, especially over passive rats if they have a alpha personality. And thus fighting results and injuries occur. This whole process is a natural process and happens in the wild also. So people are putting their rats down for simply being a rat and acting like a rat does. I find that totally unacceptable.

Solution? If you have a male rat that can no longer get along with it's cage mates neuter him or separate him from them. Male rats do not mind, and in many cases prefer living by themselves.

Last Updated On: 04/17/10
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