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African Pouched Rats
Pouched Rats


African Pouched Rats:


12/02-2/15/10 7 years old.

Do NOT email asking were to find a pouched rat, i don't know where to find any!!!!!


There are two types of African Pouched rats.
They are very similar to each other and are mistakenly confused for each other all the time.
Emin's Pouched rat (Scientific name: Cricetomys Emini)
& Gambian pouched rats (Scientific name: Cricetomys Gambianus.)
Both types of Pouched rats originate from Africa and were imported to the United states at or around the same time for the Pet trade.
Nobody seemed to notice the differences between the two species of rats and called them all "Gambian's."
Other names for the Pouched rats include:
Pouched African rats, African rats, Pouched Rats & Giant Rats.
Pouched rat's have cheek pouches they can fill up with food and other finds. (Much like Chipmunks, Squirrels & Hamsters.)
Emin's Pouched rats are very good climbers and are very sturdy on their feet.
Gambian's are said not to be very good climbers.
Emin's have a white/tan under belly, while Gambian's do not have this, Gambian's are all one color.
Gambian's are quite a bit longer in length the Emin's rats.
Emin's rats have smoother hair than Gambian's.
Gambian's tend to have a fatter more plump face, while the Emin's face is much more slender.
Watch Stormy Dance!


Size, Weight & Description:

Gambian rats can grow up to 3 feet long with their tail making up about half the size.
Emin's rats grow to about 2 1/2 feet long with their tail making up about half the size.
Both the Emin's & the Gambian rats are born with an all white tail, over a few weeks time the tail will get darker in color and/or dirty turning black.
The pouched rats clean the tip 3 to 4 inches of their tail making a black with a white tip tail.
Looking for the rats white tail end is known for determining that they are indeed Pouched rats
Gambians tend to weight 1-5 pounds.
Emin's tend to weight 1-4 pounds.
The Pouched rats only come in Agouti -"wild" hair colors such as Brown, black & gray.
Emin's sometimes have a slight reddish tint to their hair as well.
Pouched rats have been known to get along with regular rats but they will need to be introduced slowly and with reassurance that the other is alright to be there.
The regular rats enjoy hiding under the Pouched rat, as the pouched rats stand at a slant and the other rats easily fit under them.

Pouched Rat General Care Information:

  • Pouched rats are not domesticated pets and have not been in the pet trade for very long, therefore they still have many of their wild characteristics.
  • Pouched rats make friendlier pets if they are handled from birth.
  • Pouched rats can be quite friendly after they get used to you and their surroundings but it takes time and patience.
  • Always approach giant rats with caution. Always make sure they are aware you are near before handling them, you do not want to surprise them.
  • Female Pouched rats are said to be easier to care for than males, Males tend to be more rambunctious and keep more of their wild characteristics.
  • Males if housed together can fight to the death for dominance -Most suggest males should never be housed together.
  • Females are hard to keep together as well, especially if their are babies around.
    If females are housed together and one is pregnant it is best to separate them, as the non mother female may feel threatened and injure or kill the babies as she will see them as competition.
  • Pouched rats should be owned by adults, Pouched rats are very large and strong animals. Kids should not be left unsupervised around these animals.
  • The pouched ratties will adjust to your schedule, especially if you have a set time that you take them out each day.
    If you have a set time to bring them out they will likely be at the cage door waiting for you to let them out.
  • Emin's tend to be more active at sunrise, in the early hours of the morning.
  • Try to take your rat out of the cage for at least an hour a day so they can properly get exercised.
  • These Rats grow to be very large (Much larger than domestic rats) so providing a large cage & room to play is necessary.
  • All rats are good about bathing themselves and rarely need baths.
  • Pouched rats clean themselves (just like domestic rats) with their tongues.
    They have very long tongues and large mouths.
  • I suggest giving all new rats (Pouched or domestic) a bath within 3 days of bringing them home, to wash off all the old odors of their past cage/home smells.
    (since bedding, cage mates and food may change)
    However Pouched rats are very hard to hang on to, so the best way to give them a bath is to put them in a dry shower or tub and than use the sprayer to spray them off.
    It is doubtful you will be able to soap them up as they are not fond of being held.
    Giving them a good rinse will help loosen the dander and allow them to groom it off themselves at a later time.
  • Pouched rats have better vision in the dark.
    Pouched rats can't see very well during the daylight.
  • In the wild, Pouched rats live in forests and wooded areas.
  • Emin's rat's love to climb Trees in the wild.
  • In houses they tend to climb shelves, windows, doors, closet shelves & curtain rods. They like to scurry up the sides of shelves to the top acting much like a squirrel.

    Stormy climbing the clothes in the closet.

  • Indoor tree's or climbing posts are great for Pouched rats to climb on.
  • Emin's Rats can jump very long distances (roughly 4 feet or so i have seen)
  • Domestic rats only jump about a foot and a half.
  • Providing some sort of house/shelter for your rat to hide in inside the cage is important.
    Plastic igloo houses tend to work the best as Pouched ratties have very sharp teeth and love to chew on things.
    They tend to chew more when they are under 2 years old.
    Cardboard boxes work as houses also, althoon occasion the rats will make a game out of chewing them to shreds.
    Covering Cardboard boxes with clear shipping tape will allow you to wipe the surface clean a few times and slow down the rattie chewing.
    *I use Cardboard boxes for Stormy as she loves toys and sticks and small little stuffed animals that she insists on bringing into her house with her.
    The igloo was just to cramped with her and all her toys inside!
    I use a cardboard box which i cover the inside bottom with clear shipping tape and close up the box and cover the top with tape as well and cut out two doors, one on opposite sides of the box.
    I than fill her box with her toys and sticks and shredded newspaper and an old shirt blanket for her to cuddle with.
    The boxes last 2-3 weeks on average.
  • Pouched rats can swim but try not to if possible.
  • Pouched rat's can make little chirping, teeth grinding sounds when frustrated, such as when trying to get through or under things.
    These noises are also referred to as churbling. (Mine makes these noises when trying to get under a closed door.)
  • Pouched rats can have rat dandruff (I am told all Pouched ratties have this.) It looks like white skin flakes. It can cause temporary human skin irritation.
    It can also cause excessive sneezing when cage cleaning. I refer to the dust as "Rat dust."
    The "dust" is created by the rat urinating on food and sleeping in it and occurs naturally on their skin which in turn when they bath themselves will fall onto the bedding.
    The "Rat dust" or dirty rat nails scratching you can on occasion irritate your skin causing your skin to be red and itchy.
    Washing with soap and water and putting on lotion can help the irritation disappear.
  • When cleaning Pouched rattie cages you might want to wear a mask or bandanna over your nose and mouth to prevent from having a sneezing and/or allergy attack.
    Pouched rats are very good about picking a certain spot in their cage as a toilet area.
  • Hammocks are rarely urinated on by pouched rats and tend to stay clean for 1-3 months.
  • Old shirts, scarves and blankets work well for a warm "Blanket" for the ratties.
    *When Stormy goes back to her house when she is all done playing she will push her blankets and bedding into the doorway of her house to block off the door & the light.
  • Emin's rats ears can turn and rotate around, well domestic rats can not do this.
  • Emin's have very long whiskers, much longer then domestic rats.
  • Emin's (and all rats) do shed their whiskers from time to time.
    *I occasionally find Stormy's whiskers when cleaning her cage, i collect the discarded whiskers and keep them in a scrapbook.
  • Pouched rats are all muscle, hardly any fat, when you pick them up, they are very solid and strong.
  • They have very big sharp nails. Their nails may need trimming on occasion.
    Trimming may be difficult or impossible.
    Adding a rock in the cage, so they can stand and walk over it will help file their nails.
    *Stormy has made her rock, her designated spot to sit and go to the bathroom behind.
  • Pouched rat teeth teeth are very, very strong and they can chew through wires in the blink of a second!
    They can chew through any size wire large or small, Rats do not have nerves in their teeth so they do not feel the electricity unless it comes in contact with their skin.
    Pouched rats teeth and Jaws are very powerful, you do not want to get bit by one of them.
    Always handle Pouched rats with caution.
  • Keep your toilet lids down to prevent rats from jumping/falling in.
    *Stormy got curious once and fell into the toilet - she was very shocked! haha
  • These rats can be put into a harness leash (ferret leash) and taken for a walk.
    Beware they are very strong, a good grip on the leash is necessary.
    The Leash will need to be very tight fitting and need to be tested indoors to make sure the rat can not escape or chew through the harness.
    It may take some time before you can find a leash or harness that your rat can not get out of.
  • Emin's will wag their tails when they are happy, they usually slide it back and forth across the ground which makes their tails look much like a slithering snake.
  • Pouched rats will yawn when they are tired. (giving you the opportunity to fully see just how big their teeth really are!)
    *Stormy when she first wakes up has sleep/sand on her eyes keeping her eyes half closed, until she fully wakes up and cleans herself.

    Food & Water:

    Food and water should be available to your rats at all times.
    Food dishes are optional for these rats, as they have a tendency to drag the food dish into their house.
    You can use a dish if you wish or you can put a handful of food in the corner of the cage.
    Do not use thin plastic water bottles!
    These giant rats will chew through thin plastic water bottles within seconds!.
    These rats require heavy duty hard plastic or glass water bottles that they can not chew through.
    The hard plastic water bottles are sometimes located in the Bird section of the pet stores.
    Emin's tend to have 3-4 drinking sessions of water a day, typically drinking for 5-7 minutes filling up with plenty of water.
    Rats do not have white teeth. They have orange teeth. Orange teeth are a good sign of Health.
    However, if you feed your rat lots of snacks, or "people food", it won't take long before their teeth turn a dark orange which isn't healthy.
    Pouched rats should be fed a mixture of Rodent blocks and a seed mixture of food.
    These rats enjoy chewing on small dog bones and wood.
    They like chewing on wood with some green still left in it, over dried wood.
    Some store bought treats Pouched rats enjoy are: Yogurt drops, Raviolios, Cheese wedges & Banana chip treats.
    Human foods Pouched rats also enjoy are: Spaghetti noodles, Frozen or cooked vegetables such as Peas or corn, bread, cereal, applesauce, yogurt, bananas and other pastas.

    Housing:

    Pouched rats grow to be quite large, 3 feet at the largest with tail, so it is important to have a cage at least 3 1/2 feet in length.
    Having a large cage is important, for Pouched rats cage length is more important and necessary than cage height.
    Both aquariums and wire cages will work, but aquariums are not highly recommended.
    Aquariums are not as well ventilated as wire cages.
    Make sure the aquarium cover is sturdy and strong enough so they can not chew through it & make sure it is well ventilated material.
    In Aquariums it can be quite difficult to attach toys and hammocks.
    Aquariums are usually made of glass, so when cleaning and transporting the cages their is always a risk of the cage getting cracked or broken.
    Cages with wire sides and plastic bottoms tend to work quite well.
    They are well ventilated, and you can attach toys, hammocks, different levels, stairs etc. to the sides to make their house more entertaining.
    Wire bottom cages do not work well with these rats, as their feet can get stuck, wire is uncomfortable to sleep on.
    These rats also walk at a slant, so they put a bit of pressure on their back legs, and walking on a wire bottom cage can cause medical issues for the rats spine, and feet.
    Covering wire flooring with plastic, tile, vinyl or another floor covering will prevent foot injuries.
    In the wild Pouched rats live in Crevices and holes in the ground.
    They will use holes left by other animals or will dig new ones. They close off their holes with leaves and plants.
    Sometimes their holes will have several different chambers for food, bathroom and sleeping. areas
    Here is a picture of Stormy's house.


    Bedding:
  • Be very aware of what bedding is safe and unsafe for rats.
  • Pine & Cedar bedding is extremely harmful to rats. The wood contains phenols and can have toxic effects on rats respiratory systems. (Pine and Cedar are softwoods)
  • Rats kept on pine and cedar bedding are likely to have Poryphin (Red/brown discharge) staining coming from their eyes and nose, wheezing, gasping, sneezing and possible nausea.
  • Most pet store employees have no idea what is and isn't safe for your animals, do not take them at their word, if they try to tell you Pine and cedar is safe for rats -do not listen to them.
  • Aspen is safe to use for rats. (Aspen is a hardwood.)
  • When looking for a bedding to use, look at the package and consider how much dust the bedding contains.
  • Dusty bedding can cause your pets to have sneezing and breathing troubles.
  • Some beddings that claim to be dust free, still contain dust, as the bedding settles in the bottom of the package and/or cage.
  • Also do not use bedding that has a strong scent, this can irritate your rats nose and lungs.
  • Store bought bedding can sometimes contain small bugs & mites living in it, which is not good for your rats, so be aware and examine the bag closely.
    One way to avoid bugs in the bedding is to put the bedding in the freezer for at least 2 days.
  • Newspaper bedding is a great option -usually much cheaper than store bought bedding and easy to clean up.
    No need to worry about poisonous inks as almost all newspaper these days use soy ink which is safe and non toxic.
    Use only dull printed newspaper, not shiny glossy paper.
  • You can also use other scrap paper, such as old notebook paper, junk mail, or rolls of brown packaging paper.
  • You can lay flat sheets of newspaper on the bottom of the cage and then shred some strips of paper to put on top.
    The shredded paper on top will help soak up urine and give the rats material to build nests with.
  • Rats get cold too, so providing them with blankets and towels for them to hide in or under is also recommended.
    Blankets:
    Fleece blankets are recommended as they have no strings or stitching your rats nails or toes could get caught on.
    You can buy a blanket and cut it up or buy bulk fabric from the fabric store.
    When using cloth towels make sure there are no loose strings or large holes in them that they can get caught on or in.
    Blankets, scarves, & old clothing also works well for rat blankets. (Remove zippers and buttons if the clothing has any.)
    Paper towels & Napkins also make good bedding and nesting material. -Especially for Pregnant females.

    Training your Rat:

    Training rats with a spray water bottle works well.
    *When we let Stormy out to play she insists on trying to chew under and around our basement door which we keep closed so she won't get down there.
    (Since once she got down there and crawled up into the ceiling panels and would not come down for 4-5 hours!)
    When she starts chewing we spray her with water from a water spray bottle, it usually takes three sprays before she learns to leave the door alone.
    She is slowly learning, when she gets too wet she gets upset and jumps back in her cage.
    Rats do what they want to do so it can be fairly difficult to train them.
    Another way to help teach your rat right from wrong is to use a firm "No" and spank them lightly on the rump. (Lightly! DO NOT hurt them!!)
    If your rat has a strong personality and does not listen well, it may be impossible to train them, it's just like with humans, sometimes they just don't listen.
    Animals need to be trained continually, which may require you to remind them what to do and not to do several times.
    If you teach your rat not to go in a certain area and then later on it becomes acceptable. for them to go in that area, they will get confused and have difficulty learning.



    Breeding:

    The Pouched Rat is sexually mature at about five months old.
    Breeding these rats is not recommended until they are 8 months to a year old.
    When Female rats are in heat, they tend to stick their behinds up in the air in front of the male rats.
    Pouched rats are pregnant for 27-36 days.
    Most rats have 1 to 5 babies.
    Babies do not open their eyes until they are 3 weeks old.
    The babies stay with their mother in the wild usually until they are seven to eight weeks old.
    In captivity the babies can be weaned anytime after 6 weeks of age.
    Pouched rats can not breed with domestic rats, as they are different species.

    Stormy's Story:

    Stormy was born at a breeder's location in Iowa December of 2002 and sold to another breeder in MN, who i acquired her from in February of 2003.
    She was at first very timid and scared and chewed through many water bottles and enjoyed chewing her cardboard houses and igloos to shreds daily.
    Ater a few months we bought her a new much larger cage and she started getting more comfortable.
    When i bought Stormy i was told she was a Gambian rat and believed she was for over 4 years!
    Then one day with much research and dispute i found she is indeed a Emin's pouched rat.
    I got Stormy just a few short months before the Monkeypox/Ban on African imported rodents went into effect in the U.S.
    The USDA and the FDA had to come to the locations which she was housed at and were given the all clear.
    Stormy got along with my other pet rats, especially the males. The boys loved to chase her around and hide under her.
    The female rats tended to try to pick on her and they would squeak at each other through the cage bars.
    For some reason my hairless rats have always loved Stormy, they loved to sit outside her cage trying to get her attention to wake up and come out and play.
    One of my boys, boomer loved to try to mount her which was pretty humorous as she was so much larger he basically would end up riding her back for a few inches and then fall off.
    Stormy had very big teeth and has chewed through many of wires and other valuables.
    She even chewed her way out of her cage one time, chewing through the plastic bottom cage side and got into the basement ceiling and tried to make herself right at home up there. She did this on a day when it was 95 degrees and extremly hot and humid, i was so worried she would overheat, i was also worried about all the wires that may be in the ceiling! I started ripping down ceiling panels and with a couple of us surrounding her managed to get her out after about an hour.
    Stormy loved to climb up couches, chairs, beds, doors, closets and windows.
    One time she climbed up the window frame and the window wasn't latched quite right and she fell out the window!
    Panicing i rushed outside and called her name and she ran right up and hopped on my shoulder, Thank goodness! I think she was a bit scared by her weird new surroundings outdoors.
    Stormy even chewed up one of my couches, chewing in between the cushions frantically making, many holes to go down below and hide. I couldn't stop her from eating that couch, she was determined and has big teeth, so after many, many attempts to stop her i just gave in and let her destroy it.
    Stormy had an urgency for some reason to try to get downstairs of the house, i would close the door and she would run over frantically chewing, ripping up carpet and chewing on the door frame and wood. I put metal on the bottom of the door because she chewed so much carpet in front of it that she could sneak under!
    I trained her as best i could, she knew her name and i used a water bottle to spray her when she was bad. But that only worked to some extent, i would spray her and she would run off only to run in a circle and come right back, sometimes i sprayed her so much she was sopping wet, but for some reason couches and the basement door were just things she had to get into!
    Stormy didn't enjoy being held to much but got more tolerant as she got older.
    She was quite hard to handle for holding but was a great shoulder rider and enjoyed that very much -but watch your neck for those sharp nail scratches!
    Stormy absolutly loved vegetables, especially frozen peas and corn.
    I would also give her pasta from time to time but she didn't like the sauce she wanted her noodles plain.
    10/7/04 Stormy had Surgery for an Ear Hematoma. Her ear swelled up like a balloon and she needed to have the ear cut in two places and sewn flat to heal up.
    I think what had happened was when climbing up onto the closet shelves she pinched her ear into between the shelf and the wall.
    Trying to give a Pouched rat medicine is extremely difficult so i would drip the medicine onto her neck or cheek and she would then groom it off. Occasionally i would drop the medicine on a cookie crumb as well to get her to take her medicine.
    If you think giving a pouched rat medicine is hard, try removing stitches from her ear. They were so small it was very hard to get her to hold still. I removed them myself because the Vet had to sedate her to look at her for pre op and surgery because she was so crazy and rambunctious and i didn't want her to have to be needlessly drugged again not to mention the stressful car ride in a carrier she probably would have chewed out of!
    She recovered from surgery very well, but her ear was never quite the same and was then wrinkly.
    At 4 years old Stormy was doing fantastic, she slowed down a little bit with age which i appreciated as it was a little easier to keep track of her.
    Stormy enjoyed running crazily throughout the entire house and trying persistently to get under the basement door.
    The easiest method of trying to keep track of her was to get out one of my regular boys and have them chase/follow her around.
    Stormy was quite a bit faster than them so they did tend to loose her trail every now and than but they never gave up the search to find her again.
    At 6 years old Stormy starting having a bit of hip trouble, she would slip a little bit and her hips started to give out at times. This limited her climbing and also slowed her down a bit, making her a bit easier to catch.
    As she aged she let me cuddle and pet her alot more then she did in her younger years.
    She loved bananas, pasta and yogurt drops!
    Stormy made it to her 7th birthday and shortly after started declining in health, she began to sleep almost all of the time, rarely wanting to come out and exercise.
    Stormy born 12/2002 died 2/15/2010 of old age.
    I brought Stormy's body to a taxidermist to have her stuffed and now have her back!
    The taxidermy cost more then 3 times as much as i paid for her originally.
    Pouched rats are so rare and she was the only one i know of left in the U.S. (as a pet) i felt having her Taxidermied would also offer a great speciman for others to looks at and enjoy. I have had many museums and inquiries about wanting her body, but she was so special and important to me i would like to keep her with me forever, she was my daughter. I may consider bringing her to local rat shows or exhibits.
    Here are some pictures of Stormy taxidermied. I have a plexi-glass case/cover i keep her in to prevent bugs and dust from getting to her.


    Gambian Rats used for Land mine detection:

    A giant rat named Mr. Bean is one of several Gambian rats being trained to sniff out land mines in Tanzania.
    The Giant African pouched rat has a dog-like sense of smell and is easy to train.
    The Belgian government is funding the research in the hope of perfecting a cheap and effective way of mine detection.
    Trainers spray the ground with diluted high explosive and if the rats find the correct spot they are each given a banana.
    Experts say the rodents aren't in much danger because they are too small and light in weight to set off the mines.
    The main biologists working on this project, told the BBC: "Rats are cheap, they are easy to train and maintain, they sniff very well and we can condition them very easily."
    The trainers are now trying to overcome the nocturnal rodent's biggest obstacle - heatstroke.
    Check out my rat links page for links to articles about Gambian rats being used for Land mine/TNT detection.
    Mine Clearing rats in Africa You Tube video.

    Willard Movie:

    The 1971 Movie Willard was remade in 2003.
    The Movie features many rats, the main Characters being a domestic white rat named "Socrates" and a Giant Pouched rat named "Ben." Pouched rats are often used in movies as they are much larger than regular rats.
    Check out the Willard movie website for pictures, email messages, clips and information.
    www.willardmovie.com


    I have no idea where to get a Pouched rat -Please don't ask!

    In 2003 the FDA and USDA banned the import and export of several African species due to the Monkey pox outbreak. As Pouched rats were among a few of the animals who became infected with the disease, the Monkey pox ultimately came from Prairie dogs and Wallbyes, but did infect a few Pouched rats who were housed at the same location. They were banned for 5 years. As of Sept. 2008 the ban has been lifted as far as owning the Pouched rats, however it is still illegal to import them from Africa. This is the catch, since pouched rats are not from here, there are none here to breed -and the ones who are here are likely to old to breed, therefore finding a pouched rat is nearly impossible. Also there is a bit of confusion about Pouched rats as there are two different kinds -Gambian and Emin's. Unfortunately most people aren't knowledgeable enough to know which one they have as they are very close in resemblance. I am not sure if Emin's and Gambian's are able to be bred together.