Well, my kids started school last week and that meant fighting horrendous lines with, literally, everyone and their mom. Looking for school supplies got me thinking about what the best resources are for domestic pet rats! In this digital and online day and age, content is increasingly voluminous and seems to be constantly changing. Over the last 20 years, that has always been the case but there are a few stand out resources that I would like to share with you this month. I will point out that there is a wealth of knowledge and information ALL over the internet and I am just highlighting a small handful of my *personal* favorites.
Of course, I am going to refer you right back to Rattie Ratz! Our rescue organization developed a short “rat primer” to help our potential adopters. We try to keep updated every few years and this is a wonderful place to start for complete beginners. We are a San Francisco/Bay Area based, non-profit animal rescue organization dedicated exclusively to domestic pet rats and their families. Our all-volunteer organization has several folks who are very knowledgeable and we love sharing information with the general public. We also maintain our Friends of Rattie Ratz community where we encourage folks to engage with us, ask questions, and share stories. We refer potential adopters to the primer to get great foundational information that they can build on. I know there are a ton of other great sites, videos, and more out there and most of us who’ve been doing this for a while will have some very strong opinions so, just remember that everyone is at a different point on the learning and experience curve. At Rattie Ratz, our focus is to help rats and educate the community in the most non-judgmental way possible. Our goal is to educate, empower, and enable people who want to bring pet rats into their families.
For medical, while you are still new to domestic pet rats, I would *definitely* encourage you to find an excellent exotic vet and have your rats seen and treated by a medical professional. Regardless of your situation, experience, and knowledge, you should absolutely have a knowledgeable vet resource. Make sure you find this resource BEFORE you *need* them! The last thing you need is to be startled awake at 3am and realize that your rat needs prompt medical attention and you don’t know where to turn! We have people contact the rescue all the time with medical needs and questions and, although we want to try to work with you and help you, you still need a vet!
For those of you who are getting more knowledge and experience with rats and want to try tackling the basic medical care on your own, I have a printed version of The Rat Health Care Booklet with my medical supplies. I also highly recommend the Rat Guide as an amazing, online, medical/health resource that is regularly updated. In addition to these, I would suggest local networking. Find and join a local network of like-minded rat folks. Online/Facebook networks are great too because there are usually people on them from all over so, no matter what time you post, you will likely get responses from someone but I will also say that online networks are much more judgmental, which I find unfortunate. Still, if you have an urgent issue and need anecdotal advice, these online networks can be a great resource. Although Debbie passed away earlier this year, The Rat Fan Club is still being maintained and is typically a great place to seek medical opinions.
I’m actually not huge into publications but, if you enjoy monthly news, photos, and fun stuff, I would unconditionally refer you to It’s a Rat’s World Magazine. I don’t know how long they’ve been publishing for but their content, photos, and layout are fantastic and definitely worth considering if that is something you are looking for.
I touched on networks with reference to getting medical advice and opinions and I would say that clubs fall into a similar vein. Back when I started Rattie Ratz, rat meetups and social events were a normal occurrence. Unfortunately, there were viral outbreaks and lots of people were negatively affected and many of those social activities completely ceased (at least in our area). Now, a lot of these groups have virtual clubs on Facebook. Bay Area Rat and Mouse Club of America (BARMCA) has an online presence that is actively maintained by Molly, who also volunteers for Rattie Ratz. For our local followers, I know we have also started Pet Rat Advocates which will ultimately aim to bring more in-real-life, rat/animal-free, social events/gatherings back to the Bay Area, CA. If a local group meets in your area, I would encourage you to join OR, if one doesn’t meet in your area, then maybe that is an opportunity to create something for others like you!!
Shopping and Supplies:
Being the proud proprietor of The Rat Shop, I’d love to invite and encourage everyone to shop there but I also realize that I, for the most part, only sell Teklad Rodent Diets. I do have an organic grain mix as well but I have a hard time keeping up with making it consistently enough to keep it available. I apologize for that.
I will say that I take shopping and buying supplies *very* seriously and this is one area where I have exceptionally strong opinions. I believe that each and every person’s purchasing choices directly impact rats and their communities. I passionately promote patronizing supply shops that DO NOT stock/sell animals. In our area, we have Pet Food Express which is an amazing chain for quality supplies. Pet Food Express also hosts their annual Bay Area Pet Fair, which, coincidentally, is happening September 15-16, 2018! They do a lot to support and enable local animal rescues and welfare agencies and they often have a great selection of products that work well for rats. Another option is to give your patronage to local mom-and-pop stores. There are some wonderful locally owned stores that do not sell live animals. One example of a local pet shop doing it right is For Other Living Things in Sunnyvale, CA where they also promote adoption and work with local rescues to hold adoption events as an alternative to purchasing stock pets at a chain store. If you are buying local, please, take an extra moment and find a quality supply shop that doesn’t stock animals.
If you are buying online, I would encourage you to take a moment to consider what kind of business you want to support. Big box vs small business, feeder breeder vs rat rescuer, mass-produced vs handcrafted. I distribute Teklad Rodent Diet on Amazon. Many people don’t realize that, when you click that “add to cart” button, you are buying from whichever seller is the cheapest. That means that the reptile business that is able to buy lots of Teklad because they use it for their feeder rats may have that “buy box” and you just supported a business that likely condones and actively participates in breeding rats for and feeding rats to reptiles and other animals. We are all trying to make cost-effective choices in our lives but, especially right now, with the online e-commerce market being so cut throat and competitive, it’s increasingly important to think about where you are choosing to spend your money.
For me, supporting small business is very important for a wide variety of reasons. To this end, Etsy is my go to site for awesome handcrafted hammocks, toys, and more. Darling Rats makes excellent, all-fleece hammocks that rats love AND are super safe for them! Fleece doesn’t fray like flannel or basic cotton so there is very little risk in your rat getting tangled in extraneous fibers and threads. I prefer corner grommets with shower hooks over hanging tabs or straps because my rats always tend to chew those first and then they have a floor pad. Bear chewing in mind when you are looking for toys too! I prefer toys with wire or metal connections since rope/sisal/twine will all get chewed up super fast and you’ll wind up with a scattering of toy pieces all over the cage.
Because shopping and supplies are areas where I have very strong opinions, I have actually bought Rat.Shopping! Although there isn’t much to see there yet, this site is intended to document my experiences with a wide variety of products that I have used over the last 20+ years. Initially, my goal is to cover all the basic supplies that we use and recommend through Rattie Ratz but also post and review other products as they are asked about or brought to my attention. People ask for my opinions all the time so, rather than answering the same questions repeatedly, I’ve decided to just post my opinions to a site for easy reference! Just bear in mind that, again, these are my opinions after 20+ years and your experiences may vary.
This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of resources. These are merely a few of the ones that I refer to or engage with. Rats are a huge part of my life but I also have 2 children, a partner, many other animals, and a garden to maintain so I don’t get a lot of time to engage online. If you check out any of these resources, I certainly hope you’ll find them useful and informative.