Rats are amazing pets. They are friendly and they will love you as much as a dog or a cat. They will play with you, cuddle with you, and be there when you need them. They are also pretty darn easy to keep and after the initial expense of a cage, they are cheap to keep. Their basic care is easy.

Your rats need a cage. The bigger the better, but finding one isn't always easy. You should make sure that you are getting a cage the rats can't escape from. You want them to have enough space to do things throughout the day and especially throughout the night. To find more on the cage you should see Rat Cages: Finding a Great Cage.

Rats are like most rodents and they love to snuggle down in some good bedding. You will need to provide some that is suitable for them. While many pet stores will recommend a pine or cedar bedding because of the freshness of these items and the fact that they are less expensive than alternatives, you should avoid them because they can cause or irritate respiratory problems. Many rats are already prone to respiratory problems and it is best if you buy a bedding that is safer for them. CareFresh is one of the best options, but there are others made from recycled materials. You can also use shredded paper (by hand and not in a shredder since a shredder can leave sharp edges), but it should be noted that this will have to be changed much more often. For information on cleaning a cage check out the article Rat Cages: Cleaning Your Rats Cages.

Choosing a food at the pet store can be confusing. There are lots of seed blends labeled "hamster" food and other little critters. What you should buy is a basic "rat" block. These are small greyish looking blocks that were created to be complete nutrition for rats and mice in labs. You should get a seed mix labeled "rat and mouse". Each night give them small portions of each. Make sure you don't go heavy on the seed mix or that will be all they will eat and they will ignore the rest.

To this you should add treats of fruits and vegetables. This will give your rats a wide range of healthy foods. It is important that you avoid giving your rats junk food (think of their little arteries), chocolate (they are allergic), fizzy pops (it can make them explode), and caffeine (again, tiny body!). Stick with things like bananas, apples, peas, and green beans. You should also give these things in small portions that they eat right now. This will stop them from molding in their cage and too many fruits or vegetables can cause diarrhea. For more on giving your rat the very best diet you can see the article Rats: Feeding a Great Diet.

Rats work best with a water bottle. Some have given rat dishes of water only to find that the rats played in it and made a mess. Some rats will even "bathe" in or drag bedding and paper into it. All in all a fresh, clean water bottle is the best option.

A Friend.
I have read all the arguments of rats and keeping just one. Many people think that rats won't bond with them if they are kept in groups. However, rats are very social in nature and no matter how much you love them and get them out you won't be there to play with them all night long, you won't be able to wrestle with them, and you won't be able to cuddle with them when they are cold. All in all, two rats (or more) should be kept together. A note about having more is that you can have trouble getting everyone out of the cage. If you have a large family who will all play with them then more is good, but if it is just you then you are likely to be difficult.

Play Time.
Even the best of cages isn't going to be enough for your rat fun. He or she needs human interaction, stimulation, and exercise outside of the cage. Many rat keepers suggest that you get your rats out of the cage for at least two hours a day. With a busy schedule this can be hard to do, but you should aim for getting them out a couple of times a day. It is great if you can do this at least twice for fifteen minute stretches. This gets them out and moving and stimulated.

Rats are creatures that definitely need toys. All females should be offered a large wheel (preferably a Wodent Wheel which is safer for their little feet). If possible it is good to offer males a wheel too, but they are less likely to use it. You should accessorize their cage with all sorts of great items (see Rat Cages: Accessorizing Super Cheap for tons of ideas). You should also create outside toys and toys that they can take home with them. Check out the article Rats: Make Your Own Toys.

Rats are good at keeping themselves clean, but every now and again it just doesn't work out that well and they don't smell fantastic. You can give your rat a bath in one of three ways. A dust bath such as the sort given to chinchillas can be used. This is usually fast, your rats will usually enjoy it, and if only used every now and again it will be good (this will dry their skin if used regularly). You can also wash your rat in the sink or in the bath tub. For more information on bathing your rats see Rats: Giving Successful Baths.

Taking care of a pair of rats (or more) is easy to do and well worth the time and energy. They will be a rewarding pet, will love you, and will be there for you. They have delightfully wiggly bodies and enjoy love and attention. What more could you ask for? Oh, how about inexpensive maintenance price?