Sadly, I have heard from many people that they accidently left their rat in an exercise ball for days, and then later found the rat dead or nearly dead, most commonly from dehydration. Even the best of intentions can result in the death or injury of your rat inside an exercise ball. We all lead busy lives and can get easily distracted. Allow yourself time to imagine the following scenario happening. It's reasonable so many people can relate to it:
Most rats, especially females, enjoy exercise wheels and should receive one at a young age so they become accustomed to using it for much needed exercise. Since rats are bigger than mice, hamsters, and gerbils, they need a bigger wheel and one that is safe. Wheels made of wire or wire mesh are unsafe because they are rough and, with regular use, can cause bumblefoot. Toes can easily get caught in wire mesh wheels too and cause injury. Plastic wheels, like the Silent Spinner, that can be attached securely to the cage are great. Though the Silent Spinner comes with a stand, we don't use stands because wheels can fall or get knocked over onto a rat and cause injury. When attaching a wheel to the cage, don't place it too low to the bottom of the cage where a rat can potentially get stuck. You can never think too much about safety!
Rats need to be stimulated mentally, as they are very intelligent creatures. Toys can range from bird toys which you hang from the top of their cage to something as simple as cardboard tubes. Rats enjoy crawling through PVC tubes, purchased at a hardware/home improvement store for about $3.00 each, but make sure you get tubes that are large enough so that the rats don’t get stuck.
Toys and Accessories
A favorite sleeping place for small rats are empty 12-pack soda boxes filled with clean newspaper paper or bedding. Tiny rats even like empty tissue boxes, but be sure to remove the plastic liner first or they may eat it and develop problems. A favorite sleeping place for larger rats is larger sized cardboard boxes filled with clean newspaper or bedding. Remember, rats are natural nesters so they love being provided with nesting material like clean newspaper. Don’t hesitate to place a small stack of clean newspaper into your rat’s cage. Once your rats realize the many possibilities of newspaper, they will get hours of enjoyment tearing it into strips with their teeth and redecorating their cage to how they want it. This is what happens when you let your rats watch too much HGTV! They want to redecorate. I never tire of watching rats redecorate. They are so
instinctively smart, entertaining, cute, and funny. When you go to a grocery store or Walmart keep your eyes open for cardboard boxes left over from shelf stocking. Store employees are happy to have you take them as it's one less thing for them to haul away. As for newspaper, most (if not all) of them are now printed with soy ink so it’s far safer should your rats eat a bit of it.
The "Giant" size Silent Spinner made by Super Pets is our top pick for a wheel
In the morning, you decide to put your rat in an exercise ball for 20-30 minutes while you fold laundry. Your phone rings and it's a friend you haven't talked to for quite sometime. While you're distracted catching up, your rat has rolled through your home out of sight and sound from you. The saying, "Out of sight out of mind" is true. You've been chatting for an hour or two and, by now, your rat has accidently wedged himself under your coffee table where you won't easily see or hear him. You finish your phone call and leave the house to run errands that will take hours. By now, your rat is tired and thirsty from the activity, but there is no water for him. After you pick up your kids from school, you head for the dentist because one of the kid's has an appointment. It's late afternoon now, summertime, and your air conditioner is broken. You would never put your rat in his exercise ball this late in the day with a broken air conditioner and you didn't. You put him inside the ball in the morning when it was much cooler, but he's still there. While the temperature in your home rises, the temperature inside the exercise ball rises even higher because there is only limited ventilation. Your rat is now dehydrated and limp from heat exhaustion. You return home with the kids, turn on some fans, and start making dinner while your rat is slowly dying. The kids are busy with their homework at the kitchen table so theyr'e not likely to notice the rat. After dinner the family enjoys a movie together and then goes to bed. The next morning while having your coffee, you decide to put your rat in his exercise ball and suddenly remember you had done so 24 hours ago. You frantically search for ball and find it, but your rat is limp and unresponsive. You know the rest of this scenario. Don't let another variation of this scenario happen to your rat. It does all the time I promise you.
Wheels like the Silent Spinner shown above are a SAFE and better alternative to exercise balls. Your rat can enter and exit the wheel when he wants, never hit obstructions, and will always have access to food and water.