This article is from the Holiday 1997 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Nichole Royer
Great gifts for our furry family members can come in many forms. They can be as simple and inexpensive, or as elaborate and costly as your interest and budget will allow. Here are a few of my favorite suggestions. (Note: some food treats are meant as “once a year” special goodies. Please use common sense. If you think something can hurt your pet, please don’t give it to them.)
Walnuts, pine nuts, peanuts, and others are enjoyed by all our critters, particularly if they come with the added challenge of getting them out of the shell. Remember, nuts are not particularly healthy, keep the amount small.
Get your critter a whole loaf of bread, all for themselves. Give them a slice a night, or treat a group of rats to an unsliced loaf. You can also buy specialty breads with nuts, dried fruits, or different herbs. For an extra goody, spread some cranberry sauce on the bread.
A whole box of a healthy cereal (like Cheerios) is another good gift. Feed a handful at a time or remove the plastic liner from the box and pour the cereal back inside. close the box and put the whole thing in your rat’s cage. Mice enjoy this one too—use the single serving cereal boxes, don’t forget to remove the plastic liner.
Don’t throw away your leftover holiday fruit. Just giving it to your critters will make them happy. Make it more fun by stringing the fruit on a string and hanging it in their cage. The critters will enjoy working to get it off.
Unbuttered and unsalted, this is a great healthy treat for the critters. Wrap it up in a paper bag, or stick it in the bars of your critter’s cage (in a hard to reach spot) when they are not looking.
If you want to spend a little more money, most pet stores carry rodent treats packaged in colorful boxes. These vary dramatically in their ingredients. Some are simply dressed up versions of a regular rodent diet, while others have seeds, dried fruit, or other goodies in them. My critters love the yogurt drops.
Put a large unopened box of tissues in your rats’ cage. They will have a ball opening the box, then making nests of all the tissues. Mice prefer small tissue boxes which have already been opened. Make sure the tissues are unscented and have no added ingredients like moisturizer.
Toilet paper, paper towel, and carpet roll tubes are enjoyed year round by our friends. They are great for hiding in, carrying around, and shredding.
Put the whole roll of toilet paper or paper towels in your rat or mouse’s cage. They will have a “rip-roaring” good time with it.
Kids aren’t the only ones fascinated by empty boxes. Rats and mice will hide in them, make them into nests, and shred them to pieces. Better yet, fill the box with hay or shredded paper for a little extra fun. I like to use empty 12-pack soda boxes (always plentiful during the holidays).
Small lengths of PVC pipe can be purchased inexpensively at almost any hardware store. They come in straight pieces, T’s, Y’s, and curves, all in various lengths and diameters. These are a real favorite among our critters for hiding and playing in. They are very good at holding up to lots of chewing and abuse, and still last for years. If you have lots of critters who each need a tube, buy PVC in 6 foot lengths and cut it to fit your needs.
Though they are too small for rats, many hamster toys are just the right size for mice. Mice particularly enjoy the little houses and tunnels. Houses can be made of either plastic or wood (wood is better for chewing, plastic is easier to clean). These come in many styles and colors, one of which is sure to appeal to you and your critters. Hamster wheels are also fun, just be careful that they do not have spokes that can catch and injure little mouse feet.
Many ferret toys are the perfect size for rats. A big favorite is called the ferret roller ball. This hard plastic ball twists apart so that you can put small pieces of food inside. As the rats roll the ball around the food falls out. There are also a number of large ferret tubes on the market. These look like giant Habitrail connector tubes, and they come in many bright colors. They can be hung in your critters cage, or simply placed on the floor. Rats also love the ferret hammocks and nests, though anything made out of material will be chewed to smithereens eventually.
These toys are primarily enjoyed by rats. The quality parrot toys are great for rats, and they seem to enjoy the ones that are intellectually challenging. Many of these toys can be hung from the roof of your rats’ cage so they don’t take up any valuable floor space. Rats also like the new rope bird perches. If you have a wire cage that does not have shelves, this is a great option.
Yes, you can even occasionally find cat toys which rats adore. Hard plastic balls are a real favorite. If you have an area of your house where you let your rats run loose, try giving them a carpeted cat tree. They love to climb on these, and hide inside. The only problem is that these can be very difficult to clean. Even if you have a cage large enough, I don’t recommend them as permanent cage furniture.
Rats love to chew! We all know they tend to chew on all sorts of things. We give dogs toys made specifically to be chewed up and destroyed, why not our rats? Nylabone products are enthusiastically chewed on by my group. They prefer the smaller bones since they can pick them up and move them easier. They will happily chew on any hard plastic dog toy made for chewing. Do not, however, give them the soft vinyl “squeaky toys” that are often inexpensively sold for dogs. Rats will rip these toys to shreds in a very short time, and there is always the danger of them ingesting a large piece in the process. For a little variety, give your rat a rope chew bone. These are harder to clean, but the rats seem to love running their teeth through the rope.
Yes, kid’s toys are great fun for your rats and mice. Toy makers produce many different sizes and styles of “structures” which our critters will happily adapt to their own use. It is easy to find a doll house, barn, or cottage to fit even the most discriminating rodents’ taste. My own rats just love their Mutant Ninja Turtle sewer. They are also rather fond of their Barbie Dream Car.
These toys can be rather costly if you buy them in toy stores. Another option is to go looking in your local thrift shop or at garage sales. Rats and mice don’t care if their new accommodations are “previously lived in” and you can get many items for under one dollar.
Do your critters need a new water bottle, dish, or other accessories. Well, there is nothing wrong with giving a utilitarian gift for the holidays. After all, who can fault you for wanting to give all your critters a little something (just in case you need an excuse for buying all that rodent “stuff” you have been wanting to get). This is the time to hint to friends and relatives that your rats would just love to get a brand new chinchilla cage for Christmas, and the mice are hoping Santa brings them a 40-gallon tank.
From me and my critters, to you and yours
Wishing you a mousy Christmas, and a Rat-ical New Year.