Rats are intelligent and social creatures that make great pets. Congratulations on your decision to bring a rat into your home! Caring for a pet rat is not tricky, but there are certain things you'll need to do to ensure your new friend is healthy and happy. This Ultihow guide covers everything on How To Care For A Pet Rat.
Get to Know About Pet Rats
Before taking care of a pet rat, learning more about these animals is essential. Rats are social animals and love human companionship. Furthermore, rats are very intelligent and can be trained to do tricks. Most rats enjoy being petted, but some may not like it if they are not used to it. It is best to let your rat approach you first before trying to rub it.
Rats need a moderate amount of care, but once you get the hang of it, they are easy to take care of. They are also hardy creatures and can live for up to four years with proper care. If properly trained, rats make fun of pets that will enjoy you for hours.
If you think a rat is not the type you are looking for, you may consider a ferret as your new pet. Find out if ferrets match your preferences by reading Are Ferrets Good Pets?
Rats come in two sizes: Standard and Dwarf. Standard rates can grow to be about 18 inches long, while Dwarf rats are usually only about half that size. If you're unsure which size rat you want, consider how much space you have for a cage and whether or not you want a smaller or larger pet.
Rats have two types of fur: smooth and fancy. Smooth-coated rats have short, soft fur that is easy to care for. Fancy rats have longer, thicker fur that needs to be brushed regularly to prevent mats and tangles.
Rats come in various colors, from black and white to brown and gray. Some rats even have markings on their fur. When choosing a coat color, remember that some colors may be more challenging to find if you ever need to re-home your rat.
Behavior and Temperament
Rats have different personalities, just like people. Some are playful and active, while others are more laid back. When choosing a rat, it is essential to pick one whose personality matches your own. This will make it easier to bond with your new pet.
Tip: Ask the breeder about the rats' personalities you are considering. This will help you choose a rat that is right for you.
Whether a playful or laid-back rat, it will recognize its owner and enjoy being around them. Rats are nocturnal creatures, which means they are most active at night. During the day, they like to sleep in their nests.
Once tamed, most pet rats love to climb on their owner's shoulders and cuddle on their laps. Rats are also inquisitive creatures and love to explore. They are quick learners and can be trained to do tricks.
Although rats are relatively silent animals, they can still make some soft vocalizations. Rats do prefer living in pairs or small groups. Female rats generally get along well, but males might become aggressive toward each other unless introduced at a young age. Likewise, a male and female can live together as long as they're spayed/neutered; otherwise, you'll have many baby Rats very quickly. For the safety of your rat and other household pets, it's best to keep them apart.
Prepare a Suitable Rat Cage
Before bringing in a new pet rat, it is essential to have a suitable rat cage and other rat accessories set up and ready. Rats are active creatures and need a spacious cage to run, climb, and play in. The cage size you'll need for your rats depends on how many rats are living together. The minimum cage size for two rats is 24" x 24" x 36", but the larger the cage, the better. You should buy a much larger wire cage if you have multiple rats. Most pet shops sell cages specifically designed for rats.
You can also check The Best Reviewed Rat Cages for more inspiration.
When choosing a cage, avoid any made of glass or wire floors. These can be harmful to your rat's feet and cause health problems. Instead, look for a cage with solid foundations and bars close together (1/2" or less).
The cage should also have a water bottle, food dish, bedding, and a hiding place. These items can be bought at most pet shops. It is also essential to include a litter box in the cage. Rats are spotless animals and will use a litter box if one is provided.
The best substrate for a rat cage is recycled newspaper bedding. These are absorbent, dust-free, and easy to clean. You can also use wood shavings as an alternative. Avoid using cedar or pine shavings as these can harm your rat's respiratory system.
Pet rats love to burrow and nest, so it is important to provide them with bedding material. The best bedding for rats is recycled paper fiber or fleece. Avoid using cotton batting as it isn't safe for them to eat and can become tangled in your rat's fur.
You can also buy The Best Rat Cage Bedding from this UltiBest list.
Provide Rat Toys and a Nest box
Rats are inquisitive creatures who enjoy exploring. To keep your rat entertained, provide it with a variety of toys. These can be bought at most pet shops or made at home.
Some ideas for rat toys include:
- Climbing ropes and ladders
- Hanging balls
- Exercise wheel
- Paper towel rolls
- Cardboard boxes
- PVC pipes
Rats also like to nest and will appreciate a nest box in their cage. Anything from cardboard boxes to plastic storage containers can be used. Line the nest box with a bedding material for extra comfort.
Place the Rat's Cage in a Suitable Location
Rats are relatively quiet animals but can still be disruptive at night when most active. For this reason, it is best to place the cage in a quiet house area, such as a bedroom or den.
The cage should also be placed out of direct sunlight and away from drafts, as direct sunlight may overheat the cage, and drafts can cause respiratory problems.
Clean The Rat's Cage Regularly
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says pet rats' urine, saliva, and feces can transmit diseases like Seoul hantavirus and germs like Salmonella, Giardia, and rat bite fever. Therefore, it is essential to clean the wire cage and all its accessories regularly.
At least once a week, remove all the bedding, substrate, and accessories from the cage. Hot water and soap can be used to clean these. The cage can be disinfected with a solution of one part bleach to 32 parts water.
After cleaning, dry the cage and accessories completely before putting them back in the cage.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services also recommends safety precautions when cleaning up after rats. These include but are not limited to;
- Wearing latex, rubber, or vinyl gloves when cleaning rat urine and droppings.
- Disinfecting gloves after removal.
- Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water after cleaning.
Provide Your Pet Rat a Nutritious Diet
Rats are omnivorous creatures and mainly feed at night. A healthy diet is vital for all pets, and pet rats are no exception. Rats require a diet rich in fat and protein.
A diet for pet rats can include the following:
- Commercial rat food pellets (Here are The Best Reviewed Rat Food Products In 2022)
- Fresh vegetables and fruits
- Cooked meat
- Whole grain bread and pasta
Many rat owners are used to offering a day's worth of food in a dish, as pet rats love to graze on food throughout the day. However, it is essential to remove any uneaten food from food bowls before it spoils, as spoiled food can make your rat sick.
When rats eat, they tend to gnaw and tip their food bowls. So, it is essential to use heavy ceramic food dishes to prevent tipping and spilling.
Water is also an essential part of a rat's diet. Clean, fresh water should always be available in a water bottle with a metal sipper tube. You should clean and refill the water bottle daily. Not all rats like to drink from a water bottle, so you may also need to offer a shallow water dish.
Learn About the Health Conditions of Rats
Before bringing in pet rats from pet stores, it is essential to learn about their health conditions. Usually, rats are hardy creatures, but they are also prone to health issues.
Common Health Problems of Rats
Respiratory Diseases - Respiratory diseases are more common in rats, especially respiratory infections. According to the journal, rats are more prone to 3 infections; M. pulmonis, S. pneumoniae, and Corynebacterium kutscheri. Some common symptoms of respiratory infections in rats are; a runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Treatment for respiratory infections generally includes antibiotics.
Respiratory infections are highly contagious, so quarantining the infected rat from the other rats is essential.
Cancers - Cancer is also a common ailment in rats. Some tumors, such as mammary tumor, is often malignant in rats.
Overgrown Teeth - The overgrowth of teeth is common in rats. This is because rats have teeth that grow continuously throughout their life. Overgrown teeth can cause problems with eating and drinking and pain from growing into the nasal cavity. Treatment for green teeth generally includes regular trimming by a veterinarian.
Skin Parasites - Rats are also susceptible to skin parasites, such as mites and fleas. These parasites can cause itching, hair loss, and skin irritation. Treatment for parasites generally includes topical medications or baths.
Preventing Health Problems in Rats
The best way to prevent health issues in rats is through regular vet check-ups and preventive care. This includes daily observation, avoiding exposure to other rats and rodents carrying diseases, and maintaining a clean and healthy environment.
Since rats are commonly used in research, you might expect that there would be a vaccine for common rat diseases. However, as of now, there are no commercially available vaccines for rats. So, preventative measures are the best way to keep your pet rat healthy.
Important: Rats are also susceptible to zoonotic diseases, which can be passed from animals to humans. So, practicing good hygiene when handling your pet rat is essential. This includes washing your hands before and after running and not letting your rat lick open wounds.
Provide Love and Care For Your Rat
Your responsibility as a pet rat owner doesn't end after preventing and treating health problems. You also need to provide your pet rat with love and care. This includes providing a safe and comfortable home, training, exercising, and grooming your rat.
A Safe and Comfortable Home
Your pet rat's home should be safe, clean, and comfortable. Although you keep your pet mainly in a cage, it should be allowed to roam in your home too. However, you should rat-proof your house before letting it roam. This includes removing poisonous plants, cleaning up any food that may attract pests, and putting away any tiny objects or wires your rat could chew on.
If you want your rat to be a good pet, you should hand-tame it. This means getting your rat used to being handled by you. It is best to start hand-taming when your rat is young, but it can also be done with older rats. The process of hand taming includes letting your rat get used to your scent and slowly getting it used to be touched and held.
Exercise and Training
Rats are intelligent creatures that can be trained to do tricks, such as coming when called and jumping through hoops. Training your rat is a great way to bond with it and give it some much-needed exercise. Rats also love to play, so give your rat plenty of toys to keep it entertained. Positive reinforcement, such as treats, is often used when training rats.
Litter training your rat is a great way to keep its cage clean and give it some extra exercise. The process of litter training generally includes teaching your rat to use a litter box and encouraging it to bury its waste. This can be done by providing your rat with a litter box filled with sand and rewarding it when it uses the litter box.
Rats are relatively clean animals and groom themselves regularly. However, they still need your help to keep them looking their best. This includes brushing their fur, trimming their nails, and cleaning their ears.
Unlike many other pets, rats don't need baths. However, if your rat gets very dirty, you can take a quick bath using a damp cloth. Just make sure to avoid getting water in its ears and nose.
Spay and Neuter Your Pet Rats
If you keep multiple rats in your rat cage or let your rat roam freely with other rats, you may need to spay or neuter your pet. This is because rats are generally very active and can reproduce quickly. So, if you don't want your rat population to get out of control, spaying or neutering your pet rats is the best way.
There are many benefits to spaying and neutering your pet rats. This includes reducing aggression, reducing the risk of cancer, as well as increasing the lifespan of your pet rat. Spaying and neutering is a relatively simple procedure that most veterinarians can do.
Tips and Warnings
- Some veterinarians do not accept rats, so it is best to find one that does before you get a pet rat.
- When you handle rats, support their back and avoid squeezing it too hard.
- Rats are relatively fragile animals, so handle them with care.
- If you don't want to spay or neuter your pet, be careful to keep only rats of the same sex.
- If you want to keep multiple rats, introduce them young to avoid aggression.
Pet rat care is not complex, but there are a few things you need to do to keep your rat healthy and happy. This includes providing a safe and clean environment and plenty of exercise and playtime. Additionally, you should hand-tame your rat, litter train it, and groom it regularly.
Finally, spay or neuter your pets to avoid overpopulation if you have more than one rat. By following the above tips, you can be sure to have a happy and healthy pet rat for years to come. Thanks for reading!
Do pet rats like to be held?
Yes, pet rats generally enjoy being held and played with. However, it is essential to slowly introduce your rat to being handled, as they can be a bit skittish at first. Once your rat gets used to being held, it will likely enjoy spending time with you.
Do rats pee everywhere?
No, rats generally only relieve themselves in their litter box or in a designated area. However, your rat may pee anywhere in its cage if it is not litter-trained.
Do pet rats smell bad?
No, pet rats generally do not smell bad. However, if your rat's cage is not cleaned regularly, it may start to smell. Additionally, if your rat is not groomed regularly, it may start to develop an odor.
Are rats high maintenance?
No, rats are not high-maintenance pets. However, they do require some care and attention to keep them healthy and happy.
Behavior and Temperament
Spruce Pets: Cedar Chips and Pine Shavings as Bedding
RSPCA: Creating a good home for rats
Clean The Rat's Cage Regularly
Wisconsin Department of Health Services: Animal Safety
Provide Your Pet Rat a Nutritious Diet
NCBI: Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals
Common Health Problems of Rats
PubMed: Disease Problems of Small Rodents
PubMed: Disease Problems of Small Rodents - General Comments
PubMed: Disease Problems of Small Rodents - Teeth
PubMed: Disease Problems of Small Rodents - Skin Parasites
Spay and Neuter Your Pet Rats
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