I want to recommend highly rat and guinea pig-sized activity balls as rat amusement and exercise toys. The hollow, clear plastic balls (be sure to get rat-sized - made by SuperPet - the easier to find gerbil/hamster-sized balls are too small for adult rats) are fairly inexpensive (about $12 - 15 American) and are a great way to let your rat have the run of the house safely, particularly if you have cats or dogs. More active, bold rats seem to like the balls the most. It usually takes a few sessions with the ball until the rats are real experts at navigation, but once they get the hang of things, they are pretty unstoppable. Our rat even chases the cats with it! I also think it provides some good exercise for your pet rat (ironically, in our case, for the cats as well) and they really seem to find it lots of fun.
It really depends on the individual rat as to whether it is an enjoyable experience. Out of our three rats, only the very active, bold female is interested in it. In fact, after the first outing, she now actually begs for ball time when we have her out of the cage. She'll try to make her hatch, she scurries right up the side of the ball and hops right in. Our big mellow male is rather bored by it, much preferring to spend his activity time perching on my shoulder or burrowing into my cardigan. Our rather skittish female has been afraid of it the few times we've offered it to her, so of course, we didn't force her to try it.
In general, the bolder and more athletic your rat is, the greater the likelihood he or she will take to the ball. It might be a good idea for any rat owner interested in trying it out on his or her pets to try to take to it. It might save a bit of money.
The balls can be found at most pet stores with a decent rodent section. They are also very easy to clean with soap and water if your rodent should eliminate while on safari. Our household and Rhubarb the hyperactive rat give it several thumbs up! It's not entirely clear how the cats would vote.
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