How to Care for Rats
Rats are excellent pets which are usually clean, intelligent and fun. They are suitable pets for older children but not for toddlers. Rats are relatively inexpensive to keep and live between 2 and 2.5 years.
Housing and Company
Rats are sociable creatures and so it is advisable to keep same sex pairs to provide your pets with company. It is best if the rats come from the same litter or are at least introduced to each other whilst they are young. It might be possible to introduce rats at a later date but this will not always prove successful.
You should invest in the largest cage that you are able to afford and to accommodate. Rats are curious and adventurous animals who need terrain to explore. They will be happier in a larger cage, even if you let them out regularly.
Handling your Rats
When you first take your rats home, leave them undisturbed for a day or two to acclimatise to their new environment. You can then start putting your hands into the cage to let the rats sniff you and familiarise themselves with your scent. Start stroking the rats gently and when they appear comfortable with this level of contact you can begin picking them up. This should be done by gently scooping up each rat with both hands. You should never try to pick a rat up by its tail. Your rats will eventually feel comfortable interacting with you and will then enjoy coming out to play.
Rats and Play
Rats require a stimulating environment as they love to play and explore. You should feature plenty of toys and distractions in the cage. Rat, ferret and bird toys are all great choices but avoid hamster toys as they will be too small. Include boxes and tunnels which the rats can explore and a wheel so they can burn off some energy. If you do include a wheel, then choose a style which does not have open bars as these cat trap rats’ tails.
The cage should be thoroughly cleaned at least once a week. Use hot water and a disinfectant which is safe for animals. Any area of the cage which is used as a toilet should be cleaned daily. It is easier if you provide a litter tray for your rats.
Rat nuggets or pellets are a sensible choice as they contain all of the nutrients which rats need. These also prevent rats from engaging in selected feeding. You can also feed your rats fresh food such as egg, chicken scraps, fruit and vegetables. It is nice to provide your rats with a few proprietary treats and these can be hidden around the cage so that your rats can be stimulated through foraging. Feed fresh food and treats in moderation to prevent your rats from becoming obese.
Ceramic and metal food bowls are best for rats as they can’t be chewed or easily knocked over. It is essential that you provide a large water bottle as rats drink more than other rodents.