Rats make good family pets. They are intelligent and interactive, they become tame when handled regularly. Rats like to live together and pairs or groups of the same sex. It is best to introduce animals together when they are young. The average life span is two and a half years.
A cage of 60cm x 35cm x 25cm will give your rat adequate space. However they love to climb and will appreciate separate areas for feeding, sleeping and exercise. Cages specially designed for rats will usually be of plastic and wire and may be on two or more levels; most importantly they must be escape proof. Rats will enjoy a varied environment with branches, tunnels and ropes. Soft wood dust free wood chips make an ideal floor covering. Your rat will also appreciate a nest box with soft shredded paper. Rats are clean in their habits but will need their bedding changed and cage cleaning with a pet safe disinfectant at least once a week.
Rats are indoor pets they should be kept in an even temperature ideally between 16 - 22 degrees C. You should avoid putting their cage in draughts or in damp or humid conditions.
Feeding and Watering
Rats are omnivores and so will enjoy a varied diet. A complete rat mix should be the basis of the diet. This can be supplemented with small amounts of fruit and the occasional boiled egg. Uneaten fruit should be removed the next day. Most rats will enjoy a mineral block which should be available for their use. Food bowls should be sturdy, gnaw proof and easily disinfected.
Fresh drinking water should always be available for your rat. It should be provided by a water bottle designed to fit your rat cage.
Handling your rat often will help them build up a relationship with you. When you first get your rat home give him 24 hours to get used to his environment. Allow your rat to sniff your hands before handling him because this will get him used to your smell. Stroke your rat and be sure he is facing you, cup both hands around him and pick him up. Always concentrate when holding your rat, he is quick and can slip out of your hands. Never pick your rat up by the tail. Care and Welfare
Rats normally stay healthy throughout their lives. They can, however, suffer from sneezing and breathing problems. Ensure you are using dust free woodchips in your rats cage. If symptoms persist contact your vet. Rats can get mites in their fur, recommended small animal sprays can usually deal with these.
Your rats teeth constantly grow and are worn down. You can help him do this by providing him with a mineral block or wooden chews. Over grown teeth result in weight loss and must be treated by clipping.
*If the Rat becomes ill, veterinary treatment may be needed; the cost of this is likely to be three or four times the cost of buying the Rat, perhaps more. Unfortunately, because of this, some people may regard a Rat as a ‘disposable’ pet because it is cheaper to leave an ill Rat untreated and buy another than to seek veterinary care. Any animal is a living creature that deserves the best care to remain healthy and this includes treatment when it is ill. If you are not prepared to care properly for the Rat and seek veterinary advice when it is ill, then you are not ready for the responsibility of pet ownership. Although many Rats will never need veterinary treatment during their life, you should be prepared for the possibility when taking on the commitment of a pet.*