Toys and Games
Rats are smart, fun, curious pets who love to explore and play, and need mental stimulation. However, that doesn’t need
to cost a lot. I’ve bought puzzle toys for them ... wooden dowels they need to chew through to reach treats, or plastic toys
they have to manipulate to reach a treat. But honestly, homemade toys can be just as much fun for them to play with, and for
you to make.
Here are some of our favorite ...and not-so-favorite ... toys for our rats.
Ok, firstly, if you get your rats a wheel, please get the 12” wheel, because otherwise they can be injured due to the increased curvature of smaller wheels (it’s bad for their spines and their tails). Our female rats wouldn’t touch their wheel at first, when we bought it. So I covered it, with a t-shirt held together with zip ties, and they went into it as a snug cozy hidey-hole, which led to them learning to like running in it. It stayed covered for a few months, and they grew to love it, but then I realized how stinky the covered wheel was becoming inside all the covering. So I uncovered it, and cleaned it well, and at this point, they had grown to love it so much that they continued to run in it.
I warn you, if your cage is in your bedroom (ours is in the living room), rats running on a wheel at night is pretty loud. Just sayin’ ...
Oh, and I don’t believe our male rats would ever have looked at the wheel, except as possibly another place to sleep.
FYI, we have a 12” plastic wheel which is quieter than the metal ones, and better for the rat feet than the wire wheels. We got the Comfort Wheel ... the Wodent Wheel is also plastic and has a plastic front with openings, which is what gave me the idea to cover our wheel with cloth. I didn’t get the Wodent Wheel because I am always aware of how easily things can be cleaned, and a covered wheel would be hard to clean, I believe.
The Saucer Wheel
As much as our rats loved the wheel once they got used to it, I wanted to give them a second one, since our dominant rat tends to, uh, forcibly evict our less-dominant rat from the wheel on occasion. However, a 12” high wheel takes some space, and we didn’t have space in our set-up for two 12” wheels. So I researched and bought a saucer wheel ... the rats run, and the disc spins more horizontally than vertically. But our rats had NO interest in the saucer. None, nada, zip. I covered it, which worked with the other wheel ... nope. I’d place them in the covered saucer, hoping they’d like it ... nope. No interest at all in the saucer. Now it sits forlornly on top of the cage ... maybe, when we get our next baby rats, they’ll get used to it early on, and like it more. We’ll see.
I dislike those balls for small pets ... to me, they seem claustrophobic. Of course, I wouldn’t crawl into a small cardboard box either, so what do I know? But still, not knowing, I don’t want to maybe damage their small psyches putting them into an enclosed plastic ball. But I did have a ball when we had our male rats, because they loved to pile into it (all 5 of them), and sleep in a big cozy lump. Something about the shape, with some cloth bedding inside, just attracted them. I keep meaning to get another one for our current female rats, but haven’t yet.
There are many ways to make toys that help your rats play and explore. These include homemade hammocks, bridges, balconies, rope-walks, tunnels (old cardboard tubes, the bigger ones that carpet or vinyl rolls come in, are great fun for rats), and hanging bags of treats they have to work for. The only limit is your imagination.
I really don’t have a lot to add that’s new or unique on the toy front ... if you google homemade rat toys, you will find wonderful sites that show you how to create tons of fabulous, inexpensive toys for your ratties. I’ll make toys for our rats, but honestly, they more seem to enjoy the freedom to run up and down levels of their cage, and explore the couches, and us, when we have them out, than they enjoy particular toys. So often making them new toys is more for my fun than theirs; they’re as likely to sleep in anything new I give them than play with it.
But rats definitely want mental stimulation, as they’re smart, and boredom is no fun for anyone. So just make sure your ratties have an environment that is interesting, full of lots of cubby holes and crannies to explore, and places to run and walk. I will say, give them many boxes, igloos, logs, whatever ... enclosed spaces are great for rats, and they like to mix up where they sleep. Sometimes they’ll snuggle together, sometimes separately, but they do move around where they sleep, so options are a good thing.