I found these manuscripts interesting as they more or less confirmed that we rat owners aren't really that crazy to want to practically create miniature playgrounds in our rats' cages! We can all agree that not only does having a stimulating environment for our rats please us- we like the bright colors and watching our furry friends play, but we know that giving them things to do makes them happier, and essentially healthier, pets.
In the study, the rats lived in very similar conditions such as both groups were in the same rack in the same kind of plastic cages with wire lids. They both had regular bedding and water changes and unlimited access to food and water. But that is where the similarities end.
The environmentally enriched rats lived in larger cages with a buddy and toys such as blocks, balls, and tubes. Toys were rotated twice a week and new toys were added weekly. They also had access to a playroom (5 ft by 5 ft) with additional toys (such as plastic tubing, small balls, plastic boxes, wire brushes, and paper towels to shred) for 45 minutes every other day and handled daily. This is what most of us rat enthusiasts do already for our ratties. In a different, but similar study, voluntary wheel running showed as to enhance spatial learning. Enriched rats did better than isolated rats with a running wheel.
The barren environment rats lived alone with no toys, handled only 3 times a week, and were allowed to exercise in an empty room, also measuring 5 ft x 5 ft, 3 times a week for only 15 minutes. BORING! And sad! And to think, that is better than the life of a feeder rat..with the exception that they have the company of other rats.
I learned that some of the things that the researchers did for the environmentally enriched rats could very well be considered some very good guidelines for all rat owners and is something I want to be sure is passed along to new rat owners especially.
So how can you provide an enrichment environment for your rats? Environmental enrichment is best defined as the intentional manipulation of your rats' surroundings to affect their physical and mental well being in a positive way. You want to encourage natural behaviors such as foraging, social interaction with other rats, and keep them active while decreasing any unnatural or unwanted behaviors such as pacing, self and companion mutilation, aggression, and obesity.
|Pip grooming Emerson while Cicero snuggles up next to him|
2. Supply your rats with toys at all times. Bird toys, cat toys, dog toys, and human infant toys are just some examples of what rats like to play with. I have some human infant rattles that make the perfect rolling toy for my ratties to push around their cage. Even just an empty toilet paper cardboard roll makes a fascinating toy if you stick something tasty inside. Be sure to follow my blog as I hope to continue posting about all the neat things you can use as toys for your rats!
3. Rotate your rats toys twice a week, even if just means rearranging the layout of things inside the cage to keep them interested. Change where the hammocks are hung. Switch out the jingly cat ball with a mylar crinkly one instead! Many companies now offer Build Your Own Toys where you can interchange various toy components to make a new toy whenever you feel like it, or replace the worn pieces. Many parrot toy websites offer them as well.
5. Provide your rats with exercise outside their cage in a safe alternative environment for a minimum of 45 minutes every day. Rats like to hide so tunnels made from tubes and boxes make excellent hideouts and are great additions to their out-of-cage, or free range, as I call it, time.
6. Handle your rats on a daily basis...who can resist giving those rat bellies a kiss every morning anyhow???
|Aniston getting some one-on-one time with me|
Read the full studies
HERE, HERE and HERE.