This article is from the Winter 2002 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Louise Stack
Written by Gerry Bucsis and Barbara Somerville
Published by Barrons Educational Series Inc.,
250 Wireless Boulevard, Hauppauge, NY 11788
Copyright 2000, 92 pages
Pour yourself a cup of coffee, grab your pet rat, curl up in a comfortable chair, and get ready to chuckle your way though basic rat care and rat training as you venture into the wonderful world of Training Your Pet Rat.
This book revolves around the theme that training a pet rat encompasses all aspects of a rat’s learning, not just teaching it tricks. The authors are not only concerned with training our rat, but with training us to be the best caregivers ever. Before learning how to teach our rats to do tricks, we’re educated on how to house, feed, and choose a healthy and social pet.
Though written in a light hearted and humorous style, it is extremely thorough in discussing all sorts of rat related topics such as cage bedding, introducing new rats to the pack, hygiene hints, rat proofing your home, and much, much more.
There are also over 90 color photos throughout the book, which capture the antics of a variety of adorable rats. Rats hopping through hoops, rats having fun at a rat playground, rats investigating new toys, rats on leashes, rats pooping. Rats pooping?? Did I mention the authors have a sense of humor?
We’re given the basics on how to teach a rat to do tricks using the conditioned response technique. A signal is given, the rat performs an action (response), and then the rat is rewarded with a healthy food treat.
Some of the behaviors covered are: teaching the rat to come when called, climb ropes, hop through hoops, stand up on its hind legs, tightrope walk, and to pull up a treat basket tied to the end of a string.
We’re told teaching rats tricks is not just a gimmick to make them look cute. Tricks alleviate boredom, and your pet will enjoy the stimulation and the challenge. Best of all, it’s a great way to help you bond with your buddies. By training your rat to come when called, you can actually help to keep it safe. If you’ve ever played peek-a-boo with an escapee that won’t come to you, perhaps for hours, then you know what I mean. You’ll be grateful to have one that comes when its name is called, or comes when it hears a specific sound stimulus (like a clicker, bell, squeaky toy, or whistle).
In the section entitled “Brain Teasers,” there’s an intelligence testing game called “Spot the Shape,” which teaches our rodent friends to pick one shape out of a lineup of shapes (such as circle, square or triangle) using treats, repetition, and sound stimulus.
Young people will find this book appealing. They’ll enjoy learning how to teach their rats tricks, and they’ll get excited about learning to construct different kinds of mazes and other brain teasing projects. Extra-motivated maze makers are advised to check the Internet for web sites which illustrate more complex image setups.
Adults will appreciate all the great advice on how to create a habitat for their pet that is safe, comfortable, and has a stimulating environment. The idea is to banish boredom and give Scamp and Ratty new challenges to stimulate those old IQ cells, share the authors. There are also many ideas for making playpens, and other do-it-yourself projects for folks on a budget. In the back of the book there’s a referral list of additional rat related books, clubs, and periodicals, which new rat owners will appreciate.
Since I’d been looking for a book with specific rat-training instructions, I’ve added this book to my library of rodent books, and selling at around $7.50, this book is definitely a bargain.