Rats

Rats make good family pets. Contrary to popular belief, rats are very clean animals. They are intelligent, interactive and can become tame when handled regularly. Rats like to live together in pairs or groups of the same sex. It is best to introduce animals together when they are young. Their average life span is two and a half years.

Housing

Rats 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. Softwood 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 environment, ideally between 16 – 22º 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

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 rat’s cage. If symptoms persist contact your vet. Rats can get mites in their fur, so small animal sprays are recommended for dealing with them.

Your rat’s teeth constantly grow and are worn down. You can help him do this by providing him with a mineral block or wooden chews. Overgrown teeth result in weight loss and must be treated by clipping.

Important information

If your rat becomes ill, veterinary treatment may be needed. 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 rat as a pet.

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