If you are considering owning pet rats or have decided to add pet rats to your life, you may be wondering where to start. Our primer on rat ownership covers the basics of how to choose the right pet rats, quarantine, accessories that you need and daily care.
Rambunctious Ratties – Is a Rat Right for Me?
Are you ready to bring a rat into your life? Rats live on average for 2-3 years and are very people oriented small animals that crave time and attention from their owners. While they are easy to maintain and can be trained to use a litter box, they need plenty to keep them entertained and daily time out of the cage to be happy.
Rats on Lock Down – The Need for Quarantine
If you have rats are home and are looking to add another rat, it is important to understand the need to quarantine new rats coming in. Airborne illnesses such as SDA and Sendai can take 14 days to show symptoms and can spread quickly from rat to rat. Be sure that you are getting your rats from a reputable source, and know of a veterinarian who is experienced in treating rats should an illness ever arise.
Choosing Your Rat
Male Rats and Female Rats can both make great pets. If you are looking for a cuddly couch potato that will hang out in your sweater or lap, a male rat may be a better option. If you are looking for an active, on the go buddy to adventure with, a female rat may be a better choice. Both male and female rats may scent mark (leave small droplets of urine as they walk occasionally) so don’t let this stop you from adding a male rat to your life!
One rat or two? How about three or four? Rats are very social animals that do well with the company of other rats. If you plan on getting one rat, you should plan on having at least four hours of time to dedicate to your rat each day. No human company can replace the company of another rat to cuddle, sleep and play with.
Essential Rat Accessories
You will need the following items for your Rat: A Suitable Habitat, Safe Bedding, A Food Dish, A Water Bottle or Water Dish, A Nest Box or Hammock, Healthy Food and Chew Toys.
Rats love to climb, and a cage with more vertical climbing room can make a great cage for rats. Be sure that they have at least one solid surface to stand on to prevent injuries to the feet.
Your Rat’s Bedding should be made of a safe material. We recommend using recycled cardboard bedding like Carefresh. Be sure to choose a bedding that is low in dust, as rats are susceptible to respiratory problems. Never use Cedar or regular Pine bedding, as these can cause respiratory damage.
Your Rat’s food dish should be large enough to hold plenty of food, but not large enough for them to get their whole body in. Use a heavy material to prevent your rat from tipping it over.
You can use a water bottle or a water dish to keep fresh water available for your rat. Just remember that rats like to wash their hands, so if you are offering them a water dish you should change it out twice a day to keep things clean.
Your rat will appreciate a nest box or hammock to take a nap in. You can purchase nest boxes, or make them simply from cardboard boxes. You can also purchase hammocks or make one simply by hanging up a spare square of fabric or sleeve for your rat to nap in.
Your Rats may tell you otherwise, but the key to a healthy rat is a healthy diet. Many rat owners feed nutritionally complete lab blocks, while others feed homemade rat mixes.
Rat Care: The Basic Routine
Your rat will appreciate some time out with you every day to play and explore outside of their cage. Spending time with your rat in the evening when they are most active will make them look forward to seeing you every day.
Your rat should always have access to fresh food and clean water. Refresh food bowls and water bottles daily to keep your rat healthy.
Spot cleaning the cage and wiping off levels can be a big step in rat health. Rats have very sensitive noses, and will appreciate you cleaning up any messes from their area daily! On a weekly basis, you should completely clean their cage and all of their accessories.