Rats need plenty of time out of their cage. Ideally, your rat should have free-range time for at least an hour every day. This can be done safely in several ways.
Rat-Proof a Room
Choose a room to rat-proof (or your whole house if you really want some major free-ranging). A safe rat proof room will have any electrical cords well covered, as well as anything else you don’t want to be chewed. Check carefully for and block up any holes where a rat could escape.
At Rattie Ratbags HQ, we use our bathroom. Bathrooms are often the easiest to rat-proof, as they usually are pretty free of electrical outlets, cables and interesting furniture to hide under. Just check there aren’t any holes behind the sink or the toilet, or a gap to get under the bath.
Make a Rat Playpen
If you can’t make a whole room safe for rats, section off an area with a rat playpen. If you go the playpen route, make sure there aren’t any gaps for the rats to get through. You’ll need good strong material to make it in order to prevent them chewing escape holes, and make sure it’s high, so they can’t jump out.
Play On The Sofa or The Bed
For some of their free-range time, your rats could join you on the sofa or the bed. Make sure there’s nothing they can jump to in order to escape, and keep a close watch on them, in case they decide to jump to the floor.
Beds can be a good option if you’re struggling for free range space. Most rats won’t attempt to reach the floor from that height and will enjoy bounding around the bed. Make sure you remove any bedding you don’t want to be chewed.
Remember, whichever option you choose, rats should be supervised during free range in case of escape attempts or accidents.
If you’re venturing into your first free range attempt, you probably have some questions.
There are a few ways to do this. At Rattie Ratbags, we leave our rats’ carrier out during free range. This has the advantage of getting the rats used to it, so the carrier isn’t new and scary if they ever need to go in it. They also tend to use it as a hiding spot, and will naturally head back to it when they’ve had had enough. We catch any stragglers, shut the door, and carry them back to the cage.
You can also do recall training. Rats are perfectly capable of learning their own names and coming when called. If you’re working with a large group though, it can be easier to train them all to a specific recall. Rustling the food packet is often very successful…
Whatever you like! We buy very few toys for free range and instead make use of cardboard boxes, empty Pringles tubes, tunnels and hides from the cage and other items like this. Lots of owners convert cat climbing trees. Rats love to explore, so offer things to climb on and run through, and they’ll have a great time.
Sorry, but especially if you have boys, they’re already scent marking whenever you take them out of the cage. If you’re worried about cleaning up accidents, choose a room with a wipe clean floor (another reason to use the bathroom!) and save your carpets. You’ll probably find that most rats will choose to wait until they’re back in the cage anyway. If they are litter trained, leave a litter tray out in the free range area.