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grrgold's avatar

Why is my pet rat afraid to step on its new bedding?

Asked by grrgold (88 points ) January 19th, 2013

We recently bought a pet rat. He is about 4 weeks old. Up until now we were using corn husk bedding in his cage.
This morning, we cleaned out his cage and replaced the bedding for “Clean & Cozy” bedding from Kaytee. (I believe its paper bedding). Now the rat refuses to step on it, it goes to great lengths to find alternate paths in order to not step on the bedding. We even tried putting his food in the middle of the cage to force it to go there but he chose to not eat instead. Why is it doing this?

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15 Answers

WestRiverrat's avatar

Maybe he is sensitive to something in the new bedding. I would try a different product.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Could be the noise it makes when he steps on it. Cover it with some shavings and gradually reduce the amount of shavings over time. He might get used to it. (And why did you want a rat? eww.)

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I guess the rat smells something in the bedding it doesn’t like. I’d return to using corn husks.

pleiades's avatar

Rodents have a strong sense of survival. They are generally wary at first and are extremely sensitive with smell. Perhaps there is new woods, cotton blends etc. If it goes on for more than 2 days.

wundayatta's avatar

Rats are very smart animals. They learn quickly. They are very reluctant to go near new things or different things. If you are trying to trap a rat and you change things it is used to when you put the trap in, it won’t go near the trap.

Your rat sees the bedding as a threat. You can try to keep it the way it is to see if it every gets used to it, but that seems inhumane to me. I’d put back the old kind of bedding. The rat will be highly stressed now. It is alone. It’s world has completely changed. I believe rats can die of stress like this. Not sure about that, though.

pleiades's avatar

LOL just read my original answer. (See what happens when the TV is set up right above your laptop? No sense absolutely what so ever with that response!)

But yes, what @wundayatta said. [Same philosophies can be applied to almost all small rodents]

CWOTUS's avatar

I think you’re anthropomorphizing. That is, you’re attributing a human emotion, “fear”, onto your perception of the animal’s choice to do or not do certain things.

It seems that some of the responses above recognize that there may be other things that you haven’t considered, such as the smell, taste, texture, feel, appearance or other aspect of the new bedding that is either “unattractive” to the animal, or, to anthropomorphize in a different way, maybe it “thinks that the new bedding is too good for everyday use”, and is saving it for when company comes over.

Yeah, that sounds silly, doesn’t it? So does the idea of a rat “fearing” new bedding.

When you take your own emotions out of your perception of what is happening, then you can ask a better question, such as “Why is my rat not using the new bedding?” or an even better question, perhaps, “How can I get my rat to use the new bedding with more… what? ... alacrity? gusto? (both more human emotions)” ... ”... to use the new bedding more often?” Since that seems to be what you really want. Ask that question.

augustlan's avatar

Try mixing only a little of the new bedding in with lots of the usual kind, gradually increasing the new and decreasing the old. He may get used to it if you do it gradually. (This is the same way you switch to a new food or litter for cats.)

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josie's avatar

He will eventually get used to it. Give him a couple of days

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Holly13's avatar

My daughter has 2 pet female rats. They sleep in little comfy little hammocks hooked on the cage. They love it. They also have sleeping bags they climb into and sleep with heads looking out.

CWOTUS's avatar

LOL… what a delightful image. Thanks for sharing that.

Nially_Bob's avatar

Chances are he’ll get used to it, but if after a few days he still refuses to use the bedding I would suggest trying something else. My Zoologist and rat fanatic housemate advises that you get another male rat though, as rats are very sociable animals and being alone for extended periods of time will cause more stress than alien bedding.

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