Caring For Your Rats
Rats are highly intelligent rodents and can make ideal family pets for the family with older children. Contrary to popular belief, rats are generally very clean animals (they will often dedicate one corner of their cage for use as a toilet). Rats will usually live for two - two and a half years old. Rats are highly sociable animals and must be kept in same-sex pairs or groups.
When purchasing a rat cage try to find the biggest cage you can accommodate and afford (a standard hamster cage is NOT suitable for rats). Often cages have multiple floors connected by rope ladders and tunnels which will provide opportunities for exercise and fun play time for your pet rats. Ideally the cage will have bars as rats love to climb! Your cage should get a spot clean once every other day (this involves removing any visible mess such as faeces), and will need a detailed clean once a week. A detailed clean will involve changing the cage litter and bedding and using a pet safe disinfectant and hot water to clean the cage itself.
Rats will appreciate items in their cage such as hammocks for taking naps and playing on, and little huts or houses to sleep in. They will also benefit from mineral blocks and or toys made from wood to chew on. This helps to keep their teeth to a suitable size (rats teeth never stop growing). If you are going to buy a wheel for them to exercise on, make sure it is large enough and that it will not trap a rat's tail, wheels made with open metal bars can lead to trapped and skinned or broken tails. The best food bowls are metal or ceramic as these are Gnaw-proof.
The easiest way to feed your pet rats is with rat nuggets. The right brands of rat nuggets (often referred to as complete) contain all the required nutrients for your rat to lead a happy healthy life and prevents your pet rats from selective feeding, a problem associated with muesli where the rats may pick and choose what parts of the muesli to eat. Water should be made available via a water bottle designed for use by rodents. Food and water should be available throughout the day and fresh food and water should be given daily.
When you first take your pet rats home allow them to settle in for a few days before attempting to handle them. During this time you may let your rats sniff your hand so that they can get used to your smell. Rats should be carefully scooped up with two hands. NEVER pick up a rat by its tail. Not only would this stress your rat and cause it to become fearful of you but the skin may shed from the rat's tail exposing the bone, this is both extremely painful for your pet rat and a potentially life threatening condition. After regular handling rats will become quite tame and relish the opportunity to come out of the cage. Rats should be supervised at all times when out of the cage to make sure that they do not chew anything (especially electricals).
A healthy rat is active and playful, with a full shiny coat, bright eyes and clean nose. Signs of illness include red staining around the eyes and nose, bald patches or skin irritation, lethargy and loss of appetite. If your pet shows signs of being unwell contact your vet immediately.
Key Points To Consider:
- The larger the cage the better.
- Rats are highly social and enjoy same-sex company of other rats.
- You will need to make sure you can afford the upkeep of your rats including food, bedding, litter, cleaning equipment and toys.
- Rats teeth, like all rodents, never stop growing. Providing toys to gnaw on such as mineral blocks is essential.
- Rat cages will need to be cleaned in detail at least once a week and should be spot cleaned at least every other day.
- Rats live for two - two and a half years
- Food and water should be provided daily and should be changed daily.