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If you are thinking of purchasing a pet rat or you already have a rat, this is a great resource to teach you how to take care of a rat effectively. This is a simple rat care guide to help you provide a cozy home, give useful tips on nutrition, and show how to groom your rat.
Rats are fascinating pets. They are clean, smart, friendly, cuddly and are lovely animals to keep around children and family. In the past 100 years, people have been keeping these tiny creatures as domestic pets, and they are easy and relatively cheap to care for compared to dogs and cats. They have an average lifespan of about three years and come in different varieties. Rats can have white, cinnamon, blue and parti-colored coats with dark or pink eyes.
Male rats are known as bucks and females are called does, while the babies are known as kittens. Before buying a rat, make sure you choose a reputable breeder and ensure you only pick ones that are clean.
How To Take Care Of A Pet Rat
Before buying a rat from a pet store or reputable breeder, make sure that they have been sexed and separated from the opposite gender by the time the males are five weeks old. Rats are social animals that thrive on companionship.
Hence, it is advisable to have at least 2 of the same-sex rats in one cage. This is because rats reproduce quickly as early as five weeks old and the females can become pregnant again within 24 hours of giving birth.
Housing Your Pet Rat: Fancy Rat Care
Rats are active pets like most rodents. They love to climb and play around. This is an important note to keep in mind when buying a cage, and it needs to be big enough for your pet to play and run around. You can use a litter on the floor to absorb ammonia from droppings.
Basic Rat Care Sheet
Cage: The cage should be at most 50cm x 80cm floor space, by 50cm tall. Avoid aquarium cages because they do not have proper ventilation.
Flooring: The floor of the cage should be solid rather than metal. This is to prevent bumblefoot. You can use thin wood boards, plastic or even cardboard.
Bedding: Apart from the solid floor you’ve provided with a wood or plastic, you’ll also need to provide a bed in their cage. Utilize materials like inkless paper, tissue or paper towels for their beddings, avoid using cedar and pine wood shavings which can cause respiratory problems in your rat.
Types of Beddings for Pet Rat Care
Asides from wood, you can use the following materials for your rat's bedding;
Cloth: this is one of the best options for rat’s health, and it is inexpensive. You can use an old absorbent towel you are no longer using on the bottom of the cage. You will rarely need to buy new towels. However, you will need to change and wash the beddings every week.
Shredded paper: As mentioned above, you can use shredded paper which creates a little dust that keeps your rat’s respiratory system safe. Utilize, phonebook pages, unused office documents, or newspapers.
Hay: this is the least expensive option, and it is suitable for most cages. It can cause respiratory problems if the cage is not adequately ventilated. It is easy to clean and has no smell.
Keep your rats away from direct sunlight and draught. They are susceptible to extreme cold and heat dehydration.
Fancy Rat Care
Fancy rats are the domesticated form of Rattus norvegicus, a subspecies of the brown rat. They can grow to about 7 or 10 inches long (18-25 cm) with a 2- to 8-inch tail. Fancy rats are the most popular species of rats kept as pets in the U.S and are so intelligent that they can obey simple orders like name calling.
They generally feed on pellets which makes up 75% of their diets. It would help if you kept their dishes ¾ full and refresh it daily.
Unlike other rat species, fancy rats can live for up to 2 years and are mostly active at night. Most of their primary care is similar to basic rat care mentioned in this article.
How To Take Care Of A Baby Rat
If you have a pregnant rat or you are breeding, you should expect 8-15 babies or more. The babies will have to be separated 4 to 4.5 weeks after birth. The female rats can stay with their mother, but you will need another cage for the males because the males can impregnate their mums. By the 7th day, their eyes are still closed and will only open 15- to 22- days later.
Basic Baby Rat Care
When rats are newly birthed, it is best to leave them. You can only pick the newborns up seven days later. The mother takes care of the babies for the most part. At this stage, they will need a special diet comprised of cheese and yogurt. By the 22nd day, they can eat solid meals, but their mother might still feed them for up to a week.
How to Care for Rats with Games
Rats love company, so you will need to interact with them at least an hour a day with physical contact. They also like to climb so you can provide them with hammocks, tunnels, ropes, ladders and multiple platforms. Other toys you can provide include;
• Blocks of wood for chewing
• Cardboard mailing tubes
• Crumbles paper
• Paper bags
• Cardboard boxes
• Exercise wheels
• Wood and nuts
• Washed coconut shells for hiding and chewing
How To Take Care of Rats With Food and Water
Rats are omnivores in nature- wild rats eat a mix of plants and lean meat. It is important to imitate the natural diet of a rat in the wild in its diet.
Most meals specifically designed for your pet rat can be bought from the pet store. Meals sold in pet stores are often pellets (especially large pellets) and blocks. Do not use loose seed mixes because your rat might not eat all of it, resulting in an unbalanced diet.
Most of the meals for rats are usually low fat and low calorie. Taking care of a rat’s basic needs like food and water is easy and affordable. Basic foods you can feed your rats include;
• Fruits such as cherries, strawberries, melons, grapes, plums, and bananas. Always remove the seeds from larger fruits.
• Vegetables such as cooked sweet potato, peas, carrots, bok choy, kale, squash, and broccoli.
• Cooked liver and over lean cooked meats
• Pasta and bread (Wheat based)
• Cooked beans like soya
• Brown rice
• Small dog biscuits
• Unsweetened cereals
• Nuts can occasionally be given such as almonds, brazil nuts and walnuts in their shells.
• Sunflower seeds can be given as special treats.
• Carob chips
Avoid meals that are high in carbs and other foods such as;
• Raw beans
• Raw sweet potato
• Cabbage and Brussel sprouts
• Caffeinated beverages
• Carbonated drinks
• Green potatoes
• Poppy seeds
• Black pepper and nutmeg
Most importantly you will need to provide your rat with regular water with a clean water bottle with a sipper tube.
Sweet Tooth, Diabetes and other Illnesses
Rats are susceptible to diabetes, and they have a bit of a sweet tooth. Hence, avoid feeding them junk foods that are sugary like chocolates and foods high in fat and salt.
They can also suffer from tumors, respiratory and digestive problems. If you suspect any illness in your pet, you can take it to the vets for a check-up.
Best Woods for Gnawing
Rats love to chew, gnaw and shred things which keeps their teeth healthy and also stops them from getting bored. They can gnaw on untreated softwood, before giving them softwood, heat it in the oven for an hour and give it a good wash. Here are some of the woods and things you can give your furry friend to chew on
• Coconut shells
• Hay cubes
• Unbleached loofah
• Pumice stone
• Willow (Goat, weeping, or pussy willow)
• Grape and grapevine
• Elm and red elm
How to Care for A Pet Rat: Grooming
Rats are generally clean animals, contrary to popular belief. They spend hours grooming and cleaning themselves. If you notice that your pet has dirt on its fur, you can use puppy or kitten shampoo to wash them, never use shampoos made for humans which can cause skin irritation.
Do not scrub too hard on your rats’ body in order not to harm their delicate skin. Their teeth do not need to be brushed, but you can provide them with toys to chew on. Chewing toys allow your pet's teeth to wear down naturally.
How to Take Care of a Pet Rat: Nail Trimming
You might find out that rats have sharp little nails. You will need to check their nails every 1- to 2- months. It is not difficult to trim your rats’ nails, but your pet might find it uncomfortable and try to squirm away. Use a nail clipper and try to trim off the tip. Avoid touching the pink part that is the blood vessel and nerve.
Carol is a head content developer for ultimatepethub.com and mother of 2 adorable chocolate labs(and one child). Growing up on a farm, she has handled all kinds of animals and pets. When Carol isn’t taking her two labs to the park, you can find her researching products and topics to keep you updated with the latest info for your pets!