This article is from the Summer 1999 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Kids Q & A
By Helen Pembrook
Michael Mackinnon, age 10, Chester, OH
QMy name is Michael Mackinnon and I am 10 years old and in the 5th grade. I’m the proud owner of two sweet gentle rats. Nosey is a Black Hooded rat and my favorite, and Patches is a blond Hooded rat. I used to have a brown rat named Nibbles but she died from a birth related illness.
First of all let me tell you why I enjoy keeping rats. I like rats because I enjoy being different. It took awhile to convince my mom to let me keep rats.
ANo, dry dog food is not the best food for rats. It contains too much fat and protein and is just not a balanced diet for your little friends. Dog food is fine for a treat, or for a few days if you run out of rat pellets, but not as a staple diet. You can also substitute hog food if you run out of rat pellets. You can usually buy this at any feed store. If you use hog food (not potbelly pig food), you will have to add some dog or cat food to your rat’s diet as hog food does not have enough fat or protein. The rat pellets or lab blocks are the best food for your pets. Maybe you could order the pellets in a larger quantity, you might ask the manager of your local pet store.
To clip your rat’s nails, have one person hold the animal while the other holds the foot and carefully clip the very tip of the nail. If you clip too far, you will cut the quick and that will cause pain and bleeding. You should always have on hand some Kwik-Stop powder or other type of styptic powder in case you cut the nail too closely. In emergency situations, corn starch or flour can be used to try and stop the bleeding. Use baby nail clippers for safest results. You might even want to just take an emery board and file the sharp tips of the nails down instead of clipping them.
Cutting teeth is not a good idea and not necessary in healthy normal rats. A rat’s teeth always look long and only need clipping if the rat has injured its mouth or teeth in some way and they are starting to curl around or are stabbing into the roof of the mouth. It should only be done in extreme cases by a veterinarian or someone who has experience in that sort of thing. If it has to be done, it can be accomplished with wire cutters. The best way to take down your rat’s teeth quickly is to buy them some cuttlebone for birds. The little guys love to chew the stuff and its good for them too. You can also put clean beef bones, hard wood parrot toys, or pvc pipe in with them to chew on and play with as well.