My Pets: Rat Boys Updates: Foraging, Respiratory Infections, and Sleeping

I thought it was about time that I give you an update on the rat boys!! I finished off last time with a post all about how the mischief was getting on post-introductions, which you can read all about here, and sadly we are now missing our beautiful boyyo, Puff, which you can read about here.

After losing Puff to a respiratory infection, and soon after with Haku suffering from the same illness, we decided to make changes to ensure it was not our husbandry that was causing their problems. All rat owners know that our furry family members are prone to respiratory infections, and sadly this cannot be totally prevented, but there are measures you can take to minimise the chances.

So, I thought I would share with you the 10 Top Tips that I have learned on how to reduce the risk of your rattos suffering from a respiratory infection…

  1. Ensure you are using a dust-free bedding (I talk more about this below).
  2. Use an air purifier to eliminate irritants from the air.
  3. Do not use strong smelling perfumes, cleaners, air sprays, candles, incense, etc. in the same room that your rats live.
  4. Ensure the clothes you are wearing do not carry strong scents, e.g. perfume, strongly scented washing powders, etc.
  5. Keep on top of your cleaning. Ammonia build-ups can be really harmful to rat’s respiratory systems (more on this below).
  6. Make sure you are housing your rats in a wired cage. Wire cages are the best for airflow, so enclosures like bin cages, wooden hutches, glass tanks, etc. are not suitable as the airflow is not high enough for rats – this goes back to ammonia buildup.
  7. Ensure there are no drafts near your rat cage. Of course it is okay to open the window if the weather is warm outside, but don’t do it in the winter!!
  8. If there are any obvious signs of stress in the room that you keep your rats in, remove them! For example, don’t allow cats near the cage, etc.
  9. You should be doing this anyway! but always wash your hands before (and after) interacting with your rats.
  10. Add echinacea leaves to your rat’s diet. Our rats do not like the taste of them! so I crush up a few leaves into wet food once a week as an immune system boosting supplement.

For us, we knew that strong scents like perfumes, or cleaning products were not being used around our rats, so we did not need to worry about that.
Our air purifier has been in place since we first got our boyyos. It has always been great at reducing the cage smell, and I am now glad that it has been there all this time as I had not made the connection that it is beneficial in reducing the risk of respiratory infections.
We have made a few changes to our cleaning schedule to ensure the ammonia build-ups are not causing the issues. We still deep clean once a month, but we have started to swap out the substrate every couple of weeks, as well as swapping out and washing the hammocks once a week, and we still spot clean, and wipe down the shelves/surfaces within the cage on a daily basis. This schedule ensures that we are not cleaning too frequently, which causes rats (especially males) to scent mark/urinate more often to replenish their scents. It also stresses out the rats if you clean too often. By using this cleaning schedule it allows us to keep on top of ammonia levels to ensure there are no build-ups…. and it also helps us keep on top of the smell!!!
Our main change has been in the bedding/substrate we are using. Initially we used Fitch, made from shredded food paper, which we changed very quickly as we found it to be quite dusty, and we noticed a lot of sneezing in all of the rats when it was used. So, we quickly switched that out for Littlemax/Bedmax, made from dust-extracted wood shavings,which is highly recommend by rat owners. We were happy with it for quite a while, as it was great for absorption, and did not seem to be overly dusty. It was a little bad for being kicked out of the cage, but that was easy enough to keep on top of. Recently we have wondered if it could have been the cause some of the irritations that triggered the respiratory infections, as I have noticed some rat owners report similar occurrences. We made the decision to swap it out for Aubiose. Aubiose is made from organic hemp, and like Bedmax, is actually a bedding made for horses. It is one of the more expensive beddings, and their website touts it as “luxury” bedding, due to the organic growing of the hemp, and the high quality absorption. It is also marketed towards horses who suffer from respiratory infections. We have been using it for just over a month now, and I would not go back to anything else. It is great!! The absorption is excellent, and the odour control is really really good. Most importantly, none of our rats have shown any signs of respiratory infections since we have been using it. Now, that last point may just be coincidence/good luck, but we plan to continue using Aubiose, in the hopes that these good results continue to be the best choice for keeping our rats healthy.

In slightly less serious news, we have also recently introduced our mischief to foraging toys! We have always scattered fed the boyyos, and I do my best to hide their food in different places in the cages, as well as DIY-ing the occasional treat box out of toilet toll tubes… but we are a little late to the wonderfulness that is the foraging toys party!!! I would highly highly highly recommend you invest in some foraging toys for your rats, as they are such a valuable source of enrichment for them – for any animal in fact! I plan to do a whole post/video all about which toys we have found to be the best, and how to make your own. This will hopefully come out within a month or so, so please hit the follow button to keep up to date with that, and/or follow me on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter to keep up with all of the Fluffy Jellyfish updates!!!

I also wanted to share with you the best time to photograph your rats… when they are sleeping of course!!! Enjoy these photos of our sleepy rat family…

I hope you enjoyed this post! Please hit the follow button to keep up to date with the dragon rat boyyos, and their sleepy adventures!!

Until next time…

Fluffy Jellyfish out.

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