Cats and Rats, need some help.

ilovecatesxoxo

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Hi I recently got four cute baby rats. Two hairless and two hooded. My dog has accepted them as part of the family but my three cats just want to eat them. I have moved the rats into the spare bedroom and stopped the cats from entering.

The weird thing is that my two older cats were best buds with my two gerbils when I was a teenager. but now all they do is stare daggers at the poor rats and lick their lips. The poor rats always start quivering and shaking when the cats come near. The cats aren't used to being locked out of a room and I feel bad cos the spare room was their favorite as its got large windows and the ideal sunbathing spot but the rats cant go in any of the other rooms.

Is there a way to get them to be friends or at least tolerate each other?

Advice needed badly im a 22 year old and just moved into my own place with my fiance and 18 month old son 2 years ago so am new to running a household!!
 

vball91

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This is sort of tough. I don't know how you're going to make the cats not see the rats as prey. I think the best thing to do is put the rats in a protective cage where the cats can't get to them. Maybe some other members will have some suggestions for you.
 
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ilovecatesxoxo

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The rats are in a cage but it's one with metal bars and the cats always tried to get their paws into it but their paws were to big but Fabby got his paw stuck one time and so after that I had to put them in the spare bedroom to stop the cats from hurting the rats and themselves. :wavey:
 
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ilovecatesxoxo

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ps the two males are in a separate cage from the two females (I was considering breeding them in a while :p) :D
 

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When I was a kid I had gerbils in a custom built plexiglass cage that my stepdad built. It was pretty simple. Strips of wood with grooves cut in for the plexiglass to slide into, then glued. The top slid over the outside of the walls, like a shoebox lid, and was mostly wire mesh. You'd want to make sure the cats dodn't get on the lid, if you were to construct such a cage.  
 
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awaiting abyss

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Rats need to be in wire cages. The only way they can live in an enclosed cage like a bin cage or tank is if you keep the bedding very clean and spot clean their poo. Their poo releases gases as it decomposes and its harmful for them to breathe it.
Is the width of the bars large? My cage (Critter Nation) is off the ground and has 1/2 inch bar spacings. So even if I allowed my cats in the critter room, they wouldn't be able to bother the rats.

Your cage sounds great for gerbils, LaraLove :)
 

nekochan

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My cats sometimes look at my rats but for the most part they ignore each other. I think over time they would acclimate? As long as the cats cannot knock over or get into the cage it should be ok. Keeping them out of the room could actually make them more interested in the rats. Unless you plan to always keep that room closed off.
I don't think a cat would try sticking their paws in the cage too many times, the rats I have known tend to bite anything that goes through the cage bars. One of my cats got her tongue bitten once, because she likes to lick odd things including metal and she was licking the bars of the rat cage! That was pretty bad.
 
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ilovecatesxoxo

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Awwww your poor kitty Nekochan! The bars are about 2 inch spacing but fabbys paws are TINY! I was worried that the rats might escape do you think they'd fit through? thier still babies so maybe!
 

awaiting abyss

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Yes, they can fit through. 1/2 inch bar spacing is good for babies... 1 inch is okay for adults. Almost any rat (besides very large rats) could get out of 2 inch bar spacing. Anywhere that their head can fit, their body will also fit.
 

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Small bar spacing is essential to keep the rats safe--both so they can't escape and so possible predators (the cats) can't get to them. Something like a Critter Nation would be excellent (it's also easy to clean, and is plenty roomy). Also, I don't recommend breeding them. They can have very large litters, and there are already so many rats in rescues and shelters who need homes. Four rats aren't too expensive, but throw in 9+ more? Trust me, it adds up fast, especially considering the fact that rats are prone to upper respiratory problems and mammary and fatty tumors aren't exactly uncommon. I have 12 rats right now, the fewest I've had in quite a while, and at any one time at least 3 or 4 are on some kind of antibiotics (2 are chronic, which I knew when I adopted them), and 1 will have to go in for a second tumor removal soon. Plus there's the food and bedding, and the amount of attention they need. They aren't like hamsters or gerbils; they require a lot more human interaction.

Plus, you probably don't know their genetic line and bad genetics can lead to even more health problems if you breed. If you'd like to put the males and females together, you can always get the males neutered (just find a vet that sees exotics and has good reviews). Neutering also helps cut down on smell from the males, since they won't feel as strong of a need to mark/pee on everything. 

As for your problem...

The rats need someplace they can feel safe, and that will probably take some time. Give them hidey places (boxes, plastic igloos, wood houses, something) and hammocks. Talk to them, let them sniff you, give them treats, hold them, let them sit on your shoulders. They're social creatures, not just with each other, but with people. It helps if they know that you equal safety.

Keep the cats away until the rats have settled in, then introduce the cats in limited time spans--and give the cats something else to focus on when you let them into the room. Monitor them. If they show too much interest in the rats, shut them back out. (A little is fine; the rats are something new and they're curious). The rats may never stop being scared of them. I've had rats who remained terrified of cats their whole lives, and others who would, during supervised out-time, actually chase the cats if the cats dared come near (a couple would even bite the cats). The cats may never stop regarding them as prey. I can trust my tortie around my rats--she ignores them--but my Angora still likes to watch them sometimes. I just have to keep him away whenever it's out-time for the ratties.

I would also recommend heading over to the GooseMoose pet forums and checking out the Rat corner; I haven't been on there in a couple years myself, but the long-time members are very knowledgeable and can give you a lot of good advice about taking care of rats :) And you can message me if you've got questions. I've had rats for more than a decade (and cats even longer) so I've dealt with a lot of things over the years.
 

awaiting abyss

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@SonicKitty:
Gerbils, mice, and hamsters are much like rats. If you give them attention then they will be tame and love you. If you can't give them attention for a few days, it won't kill them.

Also, breeding rats isn't hard. Anyone can do it. You don't have to know genetics, its just cool to know. Yes, rats have a lot of babies, but they are easy to get rid of with flyers or craigslist.
I'm about to start my own rat breeding colony. In the beginning they will just be used as feeders for my cat and ferrets, but later down the line I'll be breeding for health when I get closer to my goal.
Rats are only sickly and likely to develop tumors because very few people breed for health.
 

sonickitty

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@Awaiting Abyss:

No, it won't kill them, but they do a lot better when they aren't ignored. A lot of people I know have gotten rats assuming it's just like having hamsters: "oh, I'll get it and leave it in a little cage and just give it attention every once in a while when I feel like it". I try to caution every new rat owner that it isn't like that. They do need more than a little human interaction; they're much happier for it.

Breeding rats is technically easy, yes, but to take proper care of them can get very expensive and very time consuming. And my reference to genetics was primarily concern about a gene that causes megacolon; people have lost entire litters because they breed without knowing the rats' lineage, or they've ended up with special needs rats who are expensive/time consuming to care for. And that's just one problem that can arise from lack of knowledge about the rats' health background. The importance of knowing the actual science of genetics is debatable, but knowing what you're breeding--their health, what possible deformities or tendencies they carry, their temperament--is extremely important. Reputable breeders DO need to be careful, because rat mills and backyard breeders AREN'T, and those rat mills and backyard breeders are one of the biggest problems with rats' health.

I was also concerned about the HUGE amount of unwanted rats that are already out there because people keep having unwanted litters, or just breeding for the heck of it (the latter is far more common, it seems). It's the same problem with cats and dogs--there are too many and not enough people to take proper care of them. All of my rats in the last decade or so have been adopted from rescues, shelters, and ads, and despite often having as many as 20 rats at a time, I haven't come close to even putting a dent in the amount of rats without forever homes. I'm friends with both a rat-rescue owner and a rat foster, and they're both absolutely over-run, as many others around the country are. A local shelter always has rats, and twice rats have been dumped at my vet's office; if I hadn't taken the babies dumped at the vet's they would have been euthanized because there was no one else to take care of them.

They may only be sickly because people don't breed for health, but that's my point: the OP could well end up with a lot of sick rats that she can't afford to take care of. It's easy to very quickly end up way in over your head.
 

awaiting abyss

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If the rats are healthy up until the OP decides to breed them then there's no problem breeding them.

If they come from a pet shop or bad breeder then the babies should not be offered as pets. If they came from a good breeder or feeder breeder then they are usually fine to breed. I would trust a feeder breeder's stock more since they tend to cull any sick or aggressive ones.
 
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ilovecatesxoxo

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Yes, they can fit through. 1/2 inch bar spacing is good for babies... 1 inch is okay for adults. Almost any rat (besides very large rats) could get out of 2 inch bar spacing. Anywhere that their head can fit, their body will also fit.
I got two new cages for the rats with a 2cm spacing this time. It's a critter nation one also. It quite tall but split into two separate cages kinda like a bunk bed but in a cage if you know what I mean. its got stall legs so the cats can't reach unless they stand on their hind legs. I let them in the 'Rat Room' yesterday to see how they reacted(under careful supervision of course) they were curious but didn't seemed to bothered but they still aren't allowed to come in unless I'm there.

One teeny question :

How old do the rats have to be before they can be bred?

Thanks a mil! :D
 

awaiting abyss

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I got two new cages for the rats with a 2cm spacing this time. It's a critter nation one also. It quite tall but split into two separate cages kinda like a bunk bed but in a cage if you know what I mean. its got stall legs so the cats can't reach unless they stand on their hind legs. I let them in the 'Rat Room' yesterday to see how they reacted(under careful supervision of course) they were curious but didn't seemed to bothered but they still aren't allowed to come in unless I'm there.

One teeny question :

How old do the rats have to be before they can be bred?

Thanks a mil!
That's great about the cage :) I love critter nations.. They are very roomy as well!  You can add hammocks and things in the open space for them. They'll enjoy that.

Female rats can safely breed as early as 3 months. They can breed sooner than that, but its risky for the female. Most people wait until 4 to 6 months before first time breeding, but they must be bred for the first time before 8 months old or there can be complications or even the death of the mother. After not giving birth, their pelvis bone closes up after so long so it can kill a first time mother if she is bred late.
 
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ilovecatesxoxo

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Yes the rats adore their new cage. I have made hammocks for them and picked up some other toys in the pet store.
They have all learned their names and come when called but I have only been able to train my little female Sam to spin but it's so cute!
The breeder said that the males were 3 months and the females were 4 months. do you think they are old enough? I wasn't going to have them bred till they are at least five months.
 

awaiting abyss

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That's great!

Yes, they are ready now, but if you want to wait then its fine. :) Its up to you. Do you have a tank or bin cage to put them in as a nursery?
 
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ilovecatesxoxo

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We have an old fish tank if that's any good but if not i think I could get one from the pet store or my husband could TRY(he's not always successful lol) to build a custom made one so to speak!
:wavey:

I've been reading every article I can find on breeding rats but none were very clear on how to get the rats to actually mate. Do I just put the desired buck and doe in the same cage or something? sorry I'm a little bit inexperienced at this, dogs are more my line of expertise :p!!! :clap:
 

awaiting abyss

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You can put the buck in with the doe(s) for one to two weeks, but that will leave the other buck to live alone, and you'll have to reintroduce the males.

Another option is to just put the buck with the doe(s) for a few hours each night and then put him back with the other buck. This may take longer for the doe to get pregnant (does come into heat every 4 or 5 days) but it would avoid having to reintroduce the buck to his buddy.
 
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