I wanted to share a little bit about my guiding principles in creating rat accessories. The decision process behind what I make for my rats is guided by three main principles: Is it safe? Is it hygienic? Is it fun?
Safety: When evaluating a project, I try to think of the rat’s safety in the design and materials used. Let’s face it – as rat owners, we have to assume that everything they touch is ending up in their mouths!
Some of the obvious things to avoid include: things that have been chemically treated or coated with lead-based paint, fabric material with strings that could be swallowed, moving parts that could pinch a hand or foot, sharp parts that could poke an unsuspecting eye, improper spacing where a limb could get stuck.
Hygiene: While rats are very clean little individuals, they are also very messy in a general sense. It’s a constant effort to clean the urine and feces that inevitably gets tracked all over their cages. When introducing a new object into their environment, keep in mind how easy or difficult it will be to clean. For example, cardboard or wood accessories absorb urine and odors and will eventually need to be discarded, while plastic and fabric are easier to wash.
Fun: The whole objective is to provide the rats with a stimulating and comfortable environment. I try to focus on things that fulfill basic ratty instincts, such as:
- Climbing (ladders, structures)
- Digging (sterilized dirt or a box of clean rocks)
- Nesting (strips of felt bedding, cozy hammocks)
- Jumping (platforms, objects at varying heights)
- Tunneling (cardboard tubes, fabric tunnels, plastic pipes)
- Puzzles (toys, challenging ways to find food)
- Chewing (safe materials)
Other considerations include:
- Aesthetics – does it look cool? I love things to be color coordinated.
- Sustainability – I like to re-use and repurpose items when I can, rather than buying something new.
- Affordability – unfortunately, pretty much anything the rats have prolonged access to will eventually be destroyed due to chewing and urine. To keep a steady stream of fun and interesting items, it helps if they can be inexpensively replaced!
Well, now you know a little about my philosophies and principles. Can you think of anything to add to the list?