Amy is my big black and white rat who I adopted from the SPCA nearly two years ago. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably encountered some of Amy’s tricks and antics, such as learning to come when called and learning how to use my iPad. In her younger days, Amy was quite athletic and was constantly outsmarting me, such as jumping over sheets of plywood to get into the kitchen.
Rats are curious by nature and love to explore. (Most pet rats are kept in cages that are much too small and are not given adequate physical activity and enrichment.) My rats live in a six foot tall bird cage and have a lovely play area. However, even all of this is not enough for Amy. Amy is easily bored and will often jump out of the play area and down onto to the floor. I tried (unsuccessfully) to devise different ways to make the play area more exciting and to keep Amy from jumping, but she always outsmarted me. As a result, Amy is the only one of my four rats who gets to run around on the living floor. While the other rats play in the play area, Amy usually runs around on the floor.
However, Amy is getting pretty old. Because I adopted her as an adult, I am not completely sure about her exact age. However, my and my vet’s best guesstimate is that she is at least three years old by now, which is quite old for a rat. As she’s gotten older, I’ve started to get a bit concerned about some of her crazy antics. She’s starting to slow down and show her age and doesn’t move quite as quickly as she used to. However, she still has no qualms about leaping off the side of the play area to reach the floor.
This is problematic. I like putting Amy in the play area at the beginning of the rats’ play time, so that she can explore the play area and interact with the other rats, if she chooses. But, because of her age, I certainly do not want her jumping off of the side of the play area anymore.
Here’s where Amy’s elevator comes in. After pondering this problem for awhile, I decided that the easiest solution would be to teach Amy to tell me when she wanted to go onto the floor. If I knew when she wanted to get to the floor and I could put her on the floor, she would no longer need to jump because she would have a way to communicate with me. (Note: A ladder or some other pathway to the floor wouldn’t have worked, as I want the other three rats to stay in the play area.)
The “elevator” is a block of wood that sits in the play area. When Amy gets on top of the block of wood, I walk over to the play area, pick up the block of wood with Amy on it, and gently lower it to the ground. I call it her “elevator” because she gets to ride on it to the ground, as if she was in an elevator. When we reach the ground, she gets to hop off and I push the block of wood over against the edge of the play area. If Amy gets back onto the block of wood, she can ride the elevator back up and return to the play area.
Success! Since we have started to use the elevator, Amy has not once jumped out of the play area. She has no need to jump, because she has a way to communicate with me. This is great, because it is much safer for Amy to ride the elevator than to jump down. Please watch the video below to see Amy using her elevator and to learn how I trained this behavior.
Watch on YouTube: Amy’s Elevator