Playing Games with Rats

by Assorted Ratlisters
(compiled by Julie Eschliman)

 Playing with your ratties is fun!  Sure, you can come up with all sorts of creative toys to keep
them entertained and stimulated, but why should the rats have all the fun?  There's no better way
to bond with your fuzzies than to get right in there with them and shake things up.  Sometimes it's
enough just to sit on the floor of their free-ranging area and let them lead the games.  In case they
run out of ideas, though, here are some suggestions to get you started:

(Suggested by Robyn)
1.  The Rat Toss
Pick up your rat and lightly toss him onto a soft surface, like a
cushion, hammock, sofa or doona.  Most rats will enjoy it and come
running back for more.  You can get higher and more adventurous if
your rat is into extreme sports, but always make sure the landing is
soft and safe.

2.  Hand wrestling
Make your hand chase and wrestle with your rat.  Tip him over and
groom their belly with your fingernails.  Just remember to let your rat
win occasionally.  This is a favourite of young ratlets.

3.  Hide and seek
Hide a yogurt drop somewhere under your clothes.  Add rat.

4.  Mutual grooming
Brush your rat.  In turn, let him/her groom your eyebrows, clean your
teeth, check your ears for wax build-up, trim your nose hairs, give you
a manicure, nibble off your foot callouses, remove any bandaids, tug
on your earrings and pee on your rings.

5.  The Rat Roll
Lie your rat down on his/her back and with a hand on each side, roll
him from side to side.  This game should be combined with profuse
belly tickling and kissing.

6.  Bruxing contest
Sit / lie eye level with your rat and start bruxing at him until he bruxes
back at you.  The winner if the first to boggle their eyes out of their
head.  :)

7.  Sharing
Let your rat share your icecream, nibble on the book you're reading,
cuddle up under your jumper for warmth, or walk on the tv remote to
choose the channel for you both to watch.

8.  Go Fetch
Offer your rat a piece of paper towel and watch while he grabs it and
leaps with delight to drag it off and stash it in his nestbox. Repeat.

9.  Place your rat on your lap so he's sitting on his butt.  Hold his
arms with your thumbs and use your fingernails to scratch him up
and down his spine.  Your rat will go into a trance of ecstasy.  :)

10.  Chase
Run your hand, a feather, a shoelace, or whatever you can find across
the floor and your rat will make chase.  Nimbus loves this... he'll follow
my finger around the room for minutes at a time.  If I do it in circles he
ends up spinning around on the spot.  :)

(Suggested by Missy)
Paper Towel Threading
  I poke just the ends of sheets of paper towels through the bars of their
cages and then watch them, first of all, use all kinds of interesting techniques
to get the whole piece into the cage.  And, then, watch what they decide to
do with them once they get them into the cages.  It's so funny!  They get very
creative when trying to work those big pieces of paper towel all the way into
the cage.  And then, there is usually some tussling in the cage as they all fight
to be head decorator.

(Suggested by Tina)
Ring around Mom
 I go to the cage (Martins R-695) and open both doors, I put one hand at the
bottom of each door with my arms stretched out.  The girls come running up one
arm (all in a row) and around my neck, back down the other arm down the ramps
and back to the other arm.  They do this for a few rounds and then decide it is time
to climb up the outside of the cage, and show off for mom, by seeing who can stand
up the straightest for the longest time and then it is treat time and range time. I am not
sure why they do this, but they sure do seem to have fun doing it.  I too enjoy our
ring around mom game.

(Suggested by Sandra)
The Bum Tickle
Our favorite game, between the Hershey's Kisses boys and I, is the "bum tickle". As
they come up to me or run by me, I tickle their bums, just at the base of the tail. They
bound off in hysterics. Sometimes they come back to me for more...sometimes
they are so wound up by the game that they find another ratty partner and rat-wrestle.

(Suggested by Karen)
Sofa Hide-and-Seek
Mine love to play hide and seek using  pillows that are on the sofa. They
will hide behind them and then run out and up on your lap until you chase
them with your fingers. It's something that they love to do and can spend the
longest time doing. I think sometimes they are trying to see who will wear
out the first!

(Suggested by Cheryl C.)
Chase the human around the couch
    1. Place rats on couch, the more the better. I use six.
    2. Walk around couch.
    3. Watch in glee as stream of rats follows your every move.
    4. Stretch out arms. Watch ratties climb. Snuggle.
Note:  this game can be adapted to a bed, or to anywhere else you free-range your rats!

(Suggested by Julie)
1.  Humanback rides
Lay belly down on the floor, and wait for the rats to climb aboard.  Then, very
carefully, rise up to your hands and  knees and start  lumbering around the room.
Warning--do not do this while wearing a bikini!

2.  Blanket tunneling
This is an especially good game for rats who are still a bit shy about coming out
into the open.  I sit down on the bed or floor (or on the floor with my back to the
bed) and loosely drape a blanket over my chest and legs.  The rats have a great
time tunneling through the blankets and climbing up Mommy at the same time!  It's
a different game every time, as you can shift the positions of your legs and arms to
create different climbing challenges.

3.  The Human Bridge
Human arms and shoulders are great fun for ratties to climb on!  When my ratties are
up on a cage or dresser,  put one hand up to them, and stretch the other arm out to
another surface.  You can let them run across you like a bridge, or wait until they are
on board and switch positions so that they end up in a completely unexpected spot.

4.  The Arm-a-Coaster
If your rattie is very secure with you, you can give them a bit of a ride when they climb
onto your hand. As they cling to your sleeve, carefully swing your arm around and up
and down in loose curves.  To add to the rat's enjoyment, provide the appropriate sound
effects by puckering your lips and going "wooOOoo...wooOOoo...wooOOoo" as they ride.

For Virginia's collection of game ideas, click on:

Have fun!


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Tips For Car Travel With Rats

by Kathy Tsai

I've travelled 20,000 miles by car with rats, taking my guys cross-country
a total of eight times.  I had two rats for most of those trips, and three
(in two cages) for the rest. I was five days on the road for each leg of
the trip.  At my destination I stayed anywhere from three weeks to three
months.  This was important to know because when travelling, I had to use
their travel cages, which were smaller than their home cages.  That meant
that they had to live in the travel cages at the destination too.
Therefore their travel cages had to be of a reasonable size, and their
living requirements had to be acceptable to some degree to the people I was
staying with.

                                    Planning Ahead

Planning ahead is essential.  First, determine how many days you will be on
the road, how long you will be at your destination and what the conditions
there will be like for ratties, and plan accordingly.  This makes your trip
much easier and more pleasant for everyone.

                                The "Overnight Bags"

For the travel itself I had a plastic bag prepared for each night of the
trip filled with dry food and change of bedding.  I cleaned cages every
night, putting in fresh newspaper as the underliner and flannel cloths as
the surface.  All used items (dirty bedding, food scraps, and so forth),
except for the cloths, went into the plastic bag which I tied tightly and
put into the motel trash can.  The used cloths I put into a plastic bag in
the trunk of the car to be washed when I arrived at my destination.  (If
you are on the road quite a long time, laundromats are almost everywhere.)
You may use whatever bedding you want of course.  My guys were accustomed
to newspaper and flannel, and also, newspaper and cloth don't leave a mess
during cage cleaning in the motel room.

                                    Food and Water

For food I took their usual lab blocks and other dried foods, some of which
was already packed in the "overnight bags."  That way I didn't have to be
fishing around for the dry food every night.  I bought fresh food along the
way, such as banana, apple, bread, or anything else easy to handle in a
motel room or in the car.

My guys had always drunk either purified or distilled water instead of tap
water.  So I had at least a gallon jug of water in the car, and I could buy
more along the way.  I changed their water every night.

The motion of the car makes the water bottles drip so during driving time I
removed the water bottles and put grapes into the ratties' cages instead.
The grapes provided liquid in a non-drip form.  Other watery fruit can be
used (melon, strawberry, etc.) but grapes are extremely clean and
convenient.  Find out in advance if your rats like grapes.  If I made a
stop during the day along the road, I put their water bottles on the cage
for the time while stopped.

                                   Rats In The Car

My rats were nervous at first, but they were in familiar cages, and I also
covered the cages with a sheet or beach towel (something expendable), to
keep the world from flashing by so fast, and also to keep drafts and direct
sun off of them.  Because the car seat dips toward the back, I used either
rolled up cloths or small box to put under the cage to make it sit level on
the seat.  If your cages are big enough and if your rats like hammocks, a
hammock will make the ride very smooth for them.  Whichever side of the
cage faced me, I would uncover that side once we were on the road so that I
could see the rats and they could see me.  They always travelled in the
back seat, or when I was alone, on the passenger side, depending on the
number of cages.

                            Eating And Other Pit Stops

If you are travelling with other people everything will be much easier.
Half the time I was alone.  I always ate at fast food places with
drive-throughs.  The only time my guys were in the car alone was for the
few minutes it would take for me to go to the bathroom.  I always looked
for a shady place to park, even for those few minutes.  If none was
available, I had a car that I could leave running with the doors locked and
the A/C on, but not all cars can do that.  Even for those few minutes, if
you can't leave A/C running, have the windows open a little.  I cannot
emphasize strongly enough that heat can build up in a car much faster than
you can imagine, and it could kill your rats.  It's better to wait to go to
the bathroom until you find a shady place to park.  Even in a shady place,
leave the windows open a little.


For motels I always tried to get one with an outside entrance where I could
drive right up to the door.  I did not try to get permission to bring rats
in for the night.  I figured I would be driving all night to find such a
place.  Instead I disguised the cages to look like coolers for food, or
boxes for whatever people need on trips.  A towel covered cage looks just a
towel-covered box.  Do not be tempted to leave your rats in the car

                                     In The Motel

I stopped reasonably early in the day to get a good choice of motel room,
and also to get the guys settled in for the night.  I played with them out
of their cages, but *never* *ever* let them on the floor of the room.  They
could play on the bed, with my own blanket covering it in case of
accidents.  If your rats are skittish and likely to bolt, don't risk
letting them out of the cage.  Warning, if the bed was pushed right up to
the window, the first thing my guys wanted to do was look outside.  It's
not a good idea to let them peer out of the windows at passers-by.  Once
their cages were in the room, I could then go out to eat without having to
rush, but I always kept their cages covered up completely when I was not in
the room with them.  You never know when "management" might want to go into
a room for whatever reason.

                                   Medical Matters

One possible problem on the road is what to do should you need a vet in an
emergency.  First and foremost, take along Debbie Ducommun's book of Rat
Health Care.  That will be essential for you, and for any vet who possibly
has had little experience with rats.  Take along any prescriptions the
ratties may have.  By that I mean the written prescription if you should
need to get it refilled.  If they require something that must be kept cool,
take along a little cooler and fill it with ice as often as necessary.  It
is a good idea to take a little cooler anyway, to store their fresh food
and your snacks.

                               Warnings About Weather

The biggest worry in the summer was of course the heat.  But, even in
winter climate control can be a problem.  We travelled in winter too, when
there is the danger of the ratties getting too cold.  I hung a big
thermometer with big numbers on their cage so that I would know what
exactly the temperature was at all times.  Do not ever be tempted to take
in that interesting tourist site "just for a quick look" unless you have a
place for your ratties that will be cool enough and safe enough for them.
Remember, heat can kill your rats in no time at all.  Err on the side of
being too cautious.  Ratties can take a certain amount of cold, but never
forget that HEAT KILLS!!!

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Good Stress:  Day Trips with Rats

by Jane Adamo

                 Question:  <<I know stress can bring on Myco. So, as stressed out as they
                 were at the vets will they get sicker just going to the vet?>>

                 This would be an example of "good stress": a brief or day-long adventure
                 which puts a little pressure on them but ends positively.  They go to
                 the vet but then they come back to their happy home and tell the other
                 rats about it.   Or you take them to a rat show.  Or you take them to
                 the mall.  Dr. Donnelley LIKED this kind of stress so he always
                 encouraged me to pop them into a satchel and take them for a
                 work, shopping, etc.  "Take them on adventures," he'd say. "Rats LOVE

                 Good stress gets the heart pumping, the blood flowing, clears the lungs,
                 keeps the mind sharp, builds an appetite and encourages a good, sound
                 sleep.And the more you get them used to adventures, the more they
                 trust you: they know that eventually you will get them back home:  the
                 adventure will still be exciting for them but they won't stress poop or

"Jane Adamo" <>

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Make a Homemade Rat Harness

by Jane Adamo

Get butchers twine.  80" long (about 200 centimeters)
Double it.  Now you have a double length of twine 40" long.  Thread a
Christmas bell or a button onto the string, slide to the middle of the
string.  Knot it in.  Now double the string again so you have a length
of string, 4-ply, with a bell on one end, 20" long.
Note:  The idea is to use a soft, cotton string with NO STRETCH.  You
quadruple it so it's nice and thick and it won't cut into the rat's
skin like a thin little string would.

Practice on a toy.  Hold the rat in your lap with his butt facing your
tummy, his head facing out.  With the left hand, place the button on
the back of his neck -- at the middle of his shoulders.  Now with your
right hand, bring the string down his left shoulder, down across his
chest into his right armpit, up his right armpit to his back.  Bring
the string clockwise around the button/bell, and down over his right
shoulder, down across his chest and under and up his left armpit.  Then
slipknot around the button.

CAUTION #1: I only used this to teach Ick! to freerange: with a bell,
he was really easy to locate any time.  Even if I was making cookies or
something, all I had to do was listen for the bell and I'd know he was
under the couch or somewhere.

CAUTION #2: Eventually, he learned to bite himself out of it, but by
that time, he had learned free-ranging and I could usually locate him
anywhere in the house in a few seconds: usually by calling him.

CAUTION #3: I used it only a few times to walk the rat outside in the
yard.  You can try it but MAKE SURE YOU KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THAT RAT.
The main problem is if he finds a wild rathole: he'll be down that hole
in a second and you'll never see him again.  So don't give him too much

"Jane Adamo" <>

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Rats in Literature

by Assorted Ratlisters

(Note:  this section is a work in progress.  We would like to have reviews of all sorts of rattie fiction here.  If you have a favorite book you'd like to write about, please send your review to me at

A Rat’s Tale, by Tor Seidler, Farrar Straus Giroux: New York, 1986.

        A brief synopsis: Young Montague Mad-Rat lives an odd and sheltered
existence with his wacky family in the sewers under New York City. A chance
meeting one day changes Montague’s life forever.
        Ostensibly a children’s book, A Rat’s Tale provides a good read for
rat-obsessed adults too. Seidler includes classic literary stereotypes, the
fool, in this case the constantly drunk Uncle Montague Mad-rat, for whom
everything goes right, although it shouldn’t; his shifty business associate
and liquor supplier, Pem the pack-rat, always on the lookout for his own
gain, who ends up having a heart after all (reminiscent of the ‘hooker with
a heart of gold” stereotype;) the “helpless female” in the form of the
lovely Isabel, and the classic image of the politician--Isabel’s father. And
of course, poor hapless Montague the Second, the “unlikely hero” for whom
the entire experience of the book is a coming of age story, where he
encounters the great wide world and discovers that ‘anyrat’ can make a
difference if they want to.
        Although a lot of the images of the characters are no longer considered
Politically Correct, such as Isabel Moberly-Rat, the “helpless female,” the
gamut of societal stereotypes are covered, and Seidler manages to expose the
concept of stereotyping people for what it is, a shallow generalization;
“helpless” sheltered Isabel turns out to have a deep inner strength, that
even she didn’t realize she possessed, and learns to take matters into her
own paws. All the characters show more depth than the “typical“ characters
they are representing, and provide a very subtle lesson for children on the
pitfalls of judging people on their appearances.
        People, or rather humankind, are given short shrift in the story, for the
most part, as rats are in our world. (Except some of us know better, don’t
we?) The position of humans and rats are juxtaposed here, and the humans are
the dangerous pests who must somehow be managed or controlled by the rats,
so as not to interfere with the rats’ quality of life. Seidler puts us in
the rats’ shoes, giving pause for thought, and hopefully teaching the lesson
that all creatures are entitled to live a free happy life, and that we
should consider seriously what we do to other creatures in our own quest for
such a life.

Review by Heide Walsh

A Rat’s Tale gets a five cheese rating!

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The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, by Terry Pratchett,
HarperCollins Juvenile Books: 2001.

"The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents" by Terry Pratchett is one of the cleverest,
laugh out loud books I have read in quite some time.

This wonderful book is about a cat and group of rats that were now self-aware and could reason
and talk as well as any human.  The rats had eaten a mysterious "something" in a trash pile, after
which the cat had eaten one of the talking rats and it had changed them all.   They were also
accompanied by a boy, a "pied piper" and had a scam going: they would go to various towns, the
rats would "infest" it and the boy would lead them out of town, all on the instruction of the cat.   
       They were paid well of course.

The rats felt conning people was wrong and wanted to stop, but they all agreed to one last scam, and
ended up in a town where the resident rat-catchers were already at work.  They discover some
nefarious and puzzling goings-on that lead the rats and cat into action and into making decisions that
change all of their lives. 

The time period seems early 1800s, but it is a world of their own, not quite fitting in our own history
books.  There are some dark moments as the author does not sugar coat everything, but this book is
very sharp and often tongue in cheek and just outright funny.  The rats, having only begun to learn to
read, named themselves from words off of food containers that they liked the sound of, leading to such
humorous names as Dangerous Beans and Hamnpork.  Although it is obviously fictional, the emotions
and motivations of the people, and especially the animals, seem very real.  I found the rats' personalities
and their struggle to find a place for themselves in this world to be very touching, and almost real.

The author states he did quite a bit of research on rats which makes the book that much more enjoyable
and earns him some respect from me.  I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading something
a little different.

It gets two bruxes and two eye boggles from this ratty owner.
Review by Ambre Keys

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