Rats as Pets


With Hallowe’en in full swing it is time to explore one of the “creepies” of Hallowe’en as a pet.

Today we will be exploring “rats” as pets!

People have huge misconcenptions about rats and some people just plain don’t like them. Sometimes it’s because of the idea that rats carry diseases, or that they’re “ugly” or just creepy looking (largely because of the naked tail). Despite these misconceptions of rats been disgusting or disease ridden, rats are surprisingly one of the best rodents to have as pets–especially if one has children.

Rats are social (usually) nocturnal rodents with an impressive mind capable of solving puzzles and using their brain power to solve the everyday issues they may encountered. It is largely because of their social behavior that they make excellent pets and are more accepting then some rodent species such as hamsters or even gerbils.

Capable of living up 3 years (sometimes more), rats can grow up to 11 inches. Rats are largely nocturnal animals, meaning they spend most of their time been active during the night. However, many are still quite active during the day. Similar to deers, male rats are known as “bucks” and female rats are known as “does” with their babies known primarily as “pups” though you may find them also been called “kittens.”

Rats are surprisingly clean animals, spending hours throughout the day grooming themselves.

What has made rats incredibly popular pets as of lately is largely because of their social natures, making them quite affectionate towards their family. Rats also happen to come in a variety of colours and marks, making each rat uniquely themselves. Since they are quite social by nature, rats are also considerably easier to tame then some other rodent species.

However, also because of their quite social natures they require a good amount of attention and social interaction. For this reason we here at the Urban Zoo always advise that rats should be paired up with a friend or mate. Females and females, males and males, and female and males can all go together. Unlike birds, however, having multiple rats in the same enclosure does not necessarily mean more work to tame.

Due to their curious natures it is important to understand that if you are going to take our your rat and interact with them outside of the enclosure, one should always keep an eye on them as they have a tendency of getting into things they should not. Since they are rodents, they also have a constant need to chew considering their teeth (similar to our nails) continuously grow. It’s always a good idea to have healthy treats and toys they can work with and play with to help curve their chewing needs and providing a safe, healthy, items to ingest.

As a rule, male rats tend to be larger and lazier than females, and have coarser coats.

Rats due to their energetic natures require a decent size cage. The wires should not be flimsy (as they can easily escape) or heavily spaced apart, and the floor of the cage should be stirdy and solid. Rats are intelligent so you want to be sure that your cage has a good locking mechanism.

Carefresh expands up to twice its natural size once taken out of the packaging.

When it comes to the bedding  for rats, usually you want to avoid bedding of the softwood variety (though some may use an aspin shaving). One of our prefered bedding for rats and rodents alike is the CAREFRESH products. The CAREFRESH products come in a variety of sizes and colours (perfect for children who have favorite colours!), it expands from the original size upon opening, and most importantly it is safe to digest if for whatever reasons your rat decides to eat it.

A safe and wonderful product to use!

A safe and wonderful product to use!

CAREFRESH is also highly absorbant, perfect for urine and also feces and it also has a natural odour reduce and neutralizer which can help with the cleaning and also the smell.

Talking about smells, rats aren’t particularly “smelly” they should, like all animals kept in enclosures, be spot cleaned once a day, and stripped cleaned once a week. It’s also important to understanding that defication and urination is a form of language for rats, especially among male rats. In many ways, it can leave a scent trail (so they can find their way back to the nest) or ways of indentification of one another.

Rats thrive to explore, due to their curious and adventurous nature. Giving them healthy explorative and adventure measures are always important. Just be sure to watch them as they move about, this is particularly important if one is allowing the rats to explore outside of their cages. There are many appropriate toys and enclosure add-ons that are wondeful for this explorative and curious adventuring of rats. An exercise wheel (make sure it’s large enough to accommodate the tail) is always a welcome addition to an enclosure.

When it comes to feeding, like people, rats require a balanced diet. There are many varieties of rat foods on the market that can be helpful, EXTRUSION is personally one of our favorites due to the size of the pellets (perfect for their teeth!), the general healthiness of the food itself and the addition of Vitamin C that is present within the food formula.

Overall, rats are amazing pets with their curious and adventurious natures. They are natural clowns loving nothing more then to make you laugh. With their affectionate and social personalities they are truly one underated pet to have!

Rats are one of the most affectionate rodents

Rats are one of the most affectionate rodents


Uromastyx, a Vegitarian!

For all you leafy green fans, did you know there are actually some vegitarian species of reptiles?

One of the most treasured and valuable reptiles on the market today are uromastyx, an African and Asian reptile they are quickly becoming one of the most interestingly kept reptiles today. Adult uromastyx, depending on species, can reach anywhere between 10-18 inches in length. Some species can even exceed this length, just over 30 inches.

A long lived animal,

Creepy Crawlies!

For those who have dogs and cats and for those who may be squeamish, viewer discretion is advised!

As a relatively all purpose kind of pet store, we sell insects. For those who have never had a reptile, it’s hard for them to imagine keeping bugs in the house. Though there have been many advancements in “bug technology” that is keeping dead bugs in containers, EXO TERRA is a wonderful example of a company doing such a thing, many people prefer live bugs over the dead ones.

This article is to explore the world of insects, their life spans, their purpose and their importance.

Insects are fed to a variety of animals, typically these are other forms of arachnids and insects that people keep as pets, but also for reptiles. However, some people will also feed insects to their mammals and birds, a good example of this is the hedgehog, which is an insectivore by nature.

It’s a fact that many cultures outside the Western world eat insects, not only is it healthy and good for you but the chances of getting sick from a bug (other than one you shouldn’t be eating of course) is incredibly rare!

The first insect we will explore is the cricket!



Crickets are the staple diets for a variety of animals kept as pets. They’re sort of like clothing however, the various kinds of species fall in and out of season. One year a particular species will be more popular than others. Right now, it’s the banded cricket for us that has fallen into season. The most commonly found crickets in pet stores are the house crickets (Acheta domesticus), the banded cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus) and the black field cricket (Grylus bimaculatus) though there are other varieties that do exist.

There really isn’t much of a huge different between the three species mentioned above, in general black field crickets tend to be more aggressive, house crickets are often times louder and banded crickets tend to be faster.

Many people don’t like having crickets in their house because of the stigma that they are loud, and when they are fully grown adults searching for a mate this is certainly true. However, crickets in general have a 9 week life span, and it isn’t until they’ve reached sexual maturity that they make the noise that people often despise.

Due to their popularity as a staple diet there are a variety of cricket pens that one can purchase which are wonderful if one decides to keep crickets in bulk.

Crickets are inexpensive, easy to find and full of protein.


1374356222_2549_super2Next to crickets, superworms (sometimes called mealworms in other stores) are the next most commonly kept insects. These worm like insects are actually not worms, but beetles, we they’ll eventually turn into beetles. They are often fed as good treats as they are full of fats, proteins and other goods. The Zophobas morio, the Latin name for superworms, are the larvae stage of the black beetles that will eventually emerge.

Considerably larger than crickets, these make good snack items. They are also popular because they have less of an exoskeleton, making these treats especially and considerably easier for reptiles to digest.

Superworms will turn into a pupae in 1 or 2 weeks, and in another 1 to 2 weeks you’ll get the beetles.

The beetles aren’t especially dangerous, but we recommend to get rid of them.



Often confused as superworms, and vice versa, mealworms are not the same as superworms. Where superworms are Zophobas morio, mealworms are Tenebrio molitor. Though like superworms they do eventually become beetles as well.

Mealworms are also considerably alot smaller than superworms.

Mealworms are often kept in fridge, making them perfect for storage.

They are often fed to smaller reptiles who cannot eat superworms.



By far one of the prettiest of the worm species, the hornworm (or Manduca sexta) is another popular choice but they are often considerably more expensive than the other worms. They do not turn into beetles like the previous two, instead they turn into a beautiful moth if given the chance. Thus, hornworms are the larvae stage of the Manduca sexta.

They are quite low in a few areas like protein and fat (hornworms are much better for that), but they are decent for calcium and water intake. Thus they are good to help a reptile maintain their weight, but also provide good calcium and water.

These particular worms have a shorter life span than others, living up to 50 days. During that time they’ll turn from larvae, into pupae to eventually a gorgeous moth.


20130215silkwormcloseupThe Bombyx mori, or more commonly known as silkworm, are similar to hornworms in that they are a caterpillar or larvae. They will eventually also become a moth.

Out of all the insects this one might be the hardest one to find, however they are growing in popularity and in demand.

They are beneficial for many reasons, the first is that they’re a non aggressive insect, which might come to a surprise to people who may not have considered that insects can be particularly defensive or aggressive. Where the hornworm will generally mock an attack,silkworms don’t seem to respond at all.

They are also highly nutritional.

Unlike hornworms that are often just high is moisture and water, silkworms actually have a wonderful balance of calcium, magnesium protein and vitamins.



Two different species, waxworms or Achroia grisella and butterworms or Chilecomadia moorei are well known as they are often kept in the fridge similarly tWaxwormso mealworms. Both are  a good source of protein and source of calcium.



Hermit Crabs


One of the most popular pets in demand, and for good reasons, is the Hermit Crab. Though the name “Hermit Crab” is applied to almost every Hermit Crab sold in pet stores, in reality there are actually various species of Hermit Crab. The most commonly found Hermit Crab is the purple pincher/claw Hermit Crab. The reasons why they’re the most popular is due to their social natures (thus you can have more then one) and the fact they’re semi-aquatic. Which means they are quite easy to maintain and keep happy.

Quite hardy and adaptable, these social little crabs are a semi-aquatic animal that requires both land and a water domain. There are specially designed trays for Hermit Crabs (amongst other pets) for this very purpose of getting in and out of water; these items coming in a variety of colors, shapes and forms.

Purple Pincher Hermit Crabs are rather distinct in appearance, as they have one large huge purple claw. This claw is primarily used to aid in eating. This claw is also common for defending and some for mating display. Due to their exoskeleton it’s very important to have a variety of shells of various sizes in their enclosure as they moult on a regular basis. This means in order for them to get bigger they need to push out their old skeleton.

Though not always active, these little guys become alive when they are placed upon the palms of your hand or in water.

Because these are land crabs, as well as semi-aquatic, it’s important to have a high humidity level as this will supply good amounts of oxygen. Thus their humidity level should be about 70% and their temperature reaching 70F-80F.

Due to their social natures, it’s very important that they have at least one other grab to be with. They should have access to salt water (there are conditioners specifically for this purpose) and they should have sand as substrate. They should also have access to fresh water, as this is used for hydration. All water should be treated before hand.

These clownish crabs should also have various things to climb on, as well is to hide under or in. Hermit Crabs are expected to live over 3 years. Don’t be afraid if you hear weird sounds from your Hermit Crabs, this is a normal and natural behaviour that they do. Regardless of sex, Hermit Crabs have a relatively same disposition; however it has been our experience that each Hermit Crab has its own unique and distinct personality.

As stated above Hermit Crabs moult, as such it’s important to have a variety of shells in their enclosures. This is also partially to their finicky and picky natures.

Food comes in a variety of forms, the most common (and appropriate) is a pellet base diet that has been specifically geared and targeted for Hermit Crabs.

All in all, Hermit Crabs are robust, clownish and personable little guys. They are hardy and easy to take care of, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many people like to decorate the shells, and due to their social natures they are perfect for any household.



Teeth, and Ears and Paws! Oh My!

It should come to no surprise that regular and proper maintenance of your pet insures a happy, healthy and pro-active life! But all to often it’s the little things that seem to build up, often times overlooked or neglected. Many people come in for both cats and dogs to get regular grooming but many are unaware of the importance of what might seem as “the small stuff.” In this blog post we’ll tackle three most commonly overlooked body parts of your cat and dog that often times impact their health.

Teeth are an essential aspect to a carnivore like a dog or a cat, obviously their used for eating. Dog and cat dentistry is vitally important to keep up those healthy purly whites of theirs. Without proper maintenance you can run into a serious risk of loss of teeth. This is one reason why it’s important they have hard foods over soft foods to eat, this will help reinforce the teeth. The most common aspect of lack of animal dentistry is gum problems. It’s estimated that 85% of canines (for example) over the age of 4 develop some form of gum disease. Other common problems with teeth include cracking, the loss and crooked teeth which can cause infection.


The loss of teeth is usually due to some sort of gum disease in older dogs. It’s important to understand that if this happens it’s important to make an appointment with your vet ASAP as this could be a sign of illness. Mangled teeth, or crooked teeth, can cause problems with eating. It’s important to use proper toys, for both dogs and cats. A good indication if a toy isn’t good is if there is blood left over after the animal has played with set item. The real problem comes when plaque begins to build and is left untreated.

Plaque untreated can cause gingivitis and eventually cause periodontal disease among other gum related problems.

Though it’s quite important to have hard things for dogs especially to chew on, it’s also important to understand when items are too rough or problematic. Chewing the wrong thing can cause tooth trauma, and eventually this could potentially lead to cracking or crooked teeth and left untreated can cause infection.

From a cracked or broken tooth comes tooth root abscess, this is a very painful and problematic bacterial infection. This happens when the root of the tooth comes into contact with bacteria, and thus causes an infection. If this has happened it’s important to see a veterinarian immediately. It’s a very painful and agonizing experience for your pet.

There are many, many wonderful products for breath, mouth and teeth found in pet stores specifically for the mouth of your pet; often times they are toys, sprays, liquids, treats, foods and brushes geared for protection and maintenance of teeth, gums, tongue, breath and mouth!

Moving away from teeth and moving unto ears.


Ears that consistently have build up, that has been left unchecked, can cause problems of infections and temporary deafness. Not only that, the build up in ears can encourage the presence of mites. Ears are very sensitive, especially in cats. Without proper maintenance of your pets ears you run the risk of damaging the ear which can lead to further problems down the road. Another common problem is blood blisters, this is where blood accumulates in the ear flap. This usually comes due to mites, fleas and infections.

Lastly the paws.

Though nails are common, people just seem to overlook it. If nails aren’t properly maintained it can cause walking problems and nerve problems in the nails. It can be very painful. Overgrowth is quite common, in minor cases it causes discomfort and difficulty of walking. In extreme cases it can cause separation of toes, arthritis, problems with the paws themselves and bone problems. With paws themselves, they can be easily scratched and torn open, which can lead to infection. That’s why dog boots are very much encouraged for those who walk their dogs in forested areas for example. The protection of your cat and dog pads and nails is crucial.



When all of these things are taken into consideration and properly looked after, not only will you have a healthy, happy pet but one where you minimize the risk of severe problems in the future. A healthy pet, is a happy pet, and a happy pet is a happy you!

Safe Foods for your Scaly Friend!


A balance diet, everything in moderation

Most people think that reptiles just need their daily insects or pellets and their good to go. Some don’t even realize that there are other options for most reptiles other than their meat or insect diet. In this blog post we will be exploring healthy foods you can feed your lizards, while talking about those foods that are not so good for them.


  • Seedless grapes
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Apples (avoid the core and seeds)
  • Bananas on occasion
  • Kiwi 
  • Bell peppers are great
  • Broccoli 
  • Squash
  • Cantelopes 
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cucumber 
  • Cauliflower 
  • Green beans
  • Pears (avoid core and seeds) 
  • Zucchini 
  • Sweet Potatoes 

All reptile species are different as such it’s advised to research what are acceptable food supplements to their diet. Some darker green vegetables leech the calcium and other vitamins cannot be properly absorbed. This list of foods is one way you can start supplementing the daily diet of your lizard.  

Ball Pythons


“Snakes are just very instinctive to me. I’ve been playing with snakes since before I could walk. It doesn’t matter where or what it is, from the biggest to the most venomous.”– Steve Irwin

The snake is a complicated figure in our modern world, for many there is a deep seeded fear that is often encouraged by various factors, including but not excluding too: religion, culture and personal experience.

Psychologists and scientists are doing new research in the fields of phobias, and they found something remarkable. That many humans have evolved with an innate sense of fear. Studies have found that among children and adults they could detect images of snakes among non-threatening objects more quickly than they could point out the non-threatening images; like a flower.

People who haven’t even seen a snake in their lives are also capable of having this deep seeded fear. Many speculate that it’s a genetic trait past down through the generations as a survival mechanism–let’s face it not all snakes are cuddly like our Percilla! And not all snakes are non-venomous either.

The purpose of THIS blog post is for two reasons:

1) To educate people specifically about ball pythons, because we always hear complaints about ball pythons or snakes in general are dangerous.( not true )

2) For those perhaps looking to purchase a ball python, what you’ll need and what you should know.

It’s important to understand that reptiles, as a whole, don’t have the same mentality as a dog, or a cat or even a bird. As the quote starting this blog post suggests is that snakes (and reptiles as a whole) are instinctual creatures.

So what exactly is a ball python?

A ball python, is a type of python found in Africa. It is the smallest of the python species in Africa and by far are the most popular pet snakes around due to their docile natures.

Adults rarely grow longer than four feet, though there are cases where they grow to five to six feet, and on average can live up to twenty years or more, the oldest recorded age of a ball python in captivity was 48 years.

Ball pythons are the most popular snake species because of their mild temperament, easy care and also for their manageable size. Four or five feet might seem big, but wait until you actually see one up close, we often get asked: “Is that really four feet?”


They get the name, “ball python”, for their tendency as a defence mechanism to curl themselves into a tight “ball”. This also enables them to fit into small nooks and crannies and preserve space by curling tightly unto itself.

Typically ball pythons reach sexual maturity at the age of 3-5 years.

Due to their popularity they come in a variety of different morphs and colour patterns. Typically the rarer the morph, the more expensive the snake is.

Though not terribly active, they will often seek out a water source during times of shedding, they enjoy to curl themselves in the dish of water and moist their scales. As such they should be given a decent size water dish for them to do so, you could also gently mist your snake once a day or so.

Adult ball pythons, at a minimum, should be given a terrarium of at least 30 gallons. They are escape artists, so make sure you purchase a terrarium where the lids are securely fitted, can are easily be snapped on, or locked shut.

For substrate (the thing that lines the bottom of your tank) it’s all a matter of debate, you can use a reptile carpet which is easy to maintain and clean, we highly recommend aspen shavings, as they are safe for the animal and they come in a variety of sizes and colours which will help personalize your terrarium and bring out the subtler colours of your snake.

Heating and lighting are important as well. It’s important to have a basking light, we recommend an infrared basking spot light, such as the ones made from Exo Terra, as not only do you provide sufficient heat, you also encourage a normally nocturnal animal out of it’s hide giving you the chance to see the animal when you normally wouldn’t. Many like to add heat pads, and you may wish to do so in larger terrarium set-ups, as long as the temperature is 80-85F (no lower than 75F) there should be no need for a heat pad. We recommend having a thermometer to help keep track of the temperature inside the enclosure.

Mentioned above, ball pythons enjoy small quarters, it’s important that they be given a proper hide and shading (such as appropriate artificial plants and leaves) to sleep, relax and get away from heated areas.

Feeding ball pythons should be done outside of their enclosure, as you risk the animal becoming cage aggressive. They are more opt to strike, and in some cases you won’t be feed the animal all the time.

A good rule of thumb is to have another container to feed the snake in, that way it can’t slip away unnoticed, and that the food should already be presented before the snake arrives.

Whether frozen or live, the choice in yours. If frozen it’s important to thaw them first, it’s not good for an animal to eat a block of ice. You also start to lose nutritional factors with frozen kill as opposed to live. If live feed, we suggest doing fresh kill, as live prey can (and often do) defend themselves, and if your snake makes a wrong calculation, that mice or rat won’t hesitate to take a chunk out of your little friend. This can lead to a traumatic experience for your pet, leaving it hesitant and unwilling to eat.

Before and after feeding your pet it’s important to wash your hands thoroughly as to eliminate the scent trails of a prey animal. This is one of many reasons as to why people are often bit by their snakes.

The other thing you should be aware, and not to panic over, is that many ball pythons enjoy to fast from time to time. Suddenly that snake that was eating two rats a week, will no longer eat. Sometimes it’s for a week or two, and sometimes it’s months. This is common in all snakes, not just ball pythons. This is natural and should be expected. Don’t panic.

During these fasts it’s important to offer water on a daily basis, and to once a week try to feed the snake. If doesn’t eat, it doesn’t it. No harm done. You can always store that rat in the freezer for next week. Ball pythons can fast up to 6 months to a year. So it’s important to have good heating, water and a hide and shaded areas for the snake during these times.

The important thing to look for is a drastic drop in weight, sneezing, vent problems and watery nasal. These are typical signs that your animal is sick and should see a veterinarian. Typically during these fasts the snake will be in consistent fine body condition. After six months of fasting and it continues to deny food, it’s always best to go see your vet and have it a check over to see if the body condition is still in working condition. Other than that, expect the fasts and don’t panic. Continually offer water daily and food once a week, and eventually your little guy (or gall) food strike will be over and will eat once again.

We’ve talked about how to take care of a ball python, let’s talk about why they make such good pets in the first place, and why many hobbyists recommend them as first time snake pets.

Did we mention that their docile? Though a private and secretive species, as pets ball pythons rarely ever bite. Though it’s important to understand that anything that has a mouth can bite. Compared to some of the similar types of snakes that reach to similar lengths, they are by far one of the most manageable and easy to care for snakes.

Due to their lack of biting and even tempered heads, they make good pets for children over the age of 7, like any animal (whether it be hamster, rat, dog or cat) it’s always important to monitor a child’s interactions with the animal, to properly educate and to properly instruct how to handle an animal problem.

Good tips are no quick movements, and no touching the face. Though many ball pythons enjoy their heads been scratch on and under, not all ball pythons are inviting.

Do to their docile natures many people have no fear or aversion to keeping their animals around their necks, and taking them for walks. They are also curious animals, and after the animals gets to know you, they are interesting animals as they often seek your time and affection.

Easy to maintain, care and handle, the ball python is one snake that doesn’t deserve the fear and stigma commonly attached. They are truly one snake that will captivate your heart.

Black Eyed Leucistic Ball Python

Black Eyed Leucistic Ball Python

Emperor Pin Ball Python

Emperor Pin Ball Python