Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Keeping Pet Rats – Getting Started

For many people, having rats in their home is a disturbing thought, but as pets they bring joy to thousands of owners worldwide. Pet rats have the potential to be affectionate animals with high levels of intelligence as long as they are given the care and stimulus to develop, but are they right for you?

Pet Rat

Are Rats Right for Me?

There are number of factors you need to consider before plunging in and buying a pair of rats (rats should be bought in pairs). Firstly you must be able to afford a cage, accessories and of course the vet bills. More importantly however, you must be able to spare the time to give the rats some attention, handle them and allow them to leave their cage and explore the outside world. You will also need to clean their cage regularly, at the very least every week.

You should also consider whether anyone in your home has allergies as this could cause problems in the future and also that if you do let your rats roam your home, then you will need to ‘rat proof’ it. Finally you will need to find someone that can look after your rats if you need to go away or take a holiday. If you can safely say you can do all the above, pet rats might just be perfect for you.

Rat Facts

  • On average a rat will live for 2-3 years.
  • Rats are nocturnal and most active during the night.
  • Rats will grow to around 9-11 inches, with a tail of around 8 inches.
  • Male rats are bucks, female rats are does.

What will I need to keep pet rats?

As mentioned previously rats are social creatures and should be bought in single sex pairs as a minimum. As such you will need a large cage like the Rat Cage Jenny Chrome or the smaller Rat Cage Mary Chrome both by Tube Line. These cages have solid floors so that the rats don’t hurt their feet and the larger, Jenny cage has multiple levels and ramps, ideal for rats that love to explore.

As well as the cage you may also want to consider suitable bedding materials such as hemp, cloth and paper (not pine or cedar shavings as these can cause respiratory problems). Naturally you will need a food bowl, water bottle and of course rat food, which should be readily available for the rats.

As intelligent and active animals you also should be giving your rats plenty of stimulation so it is always advisable to get some toys and treats that will keep their minds and bodies entertained when you can’t be there to play with them. This could be a treat ball, a rat hammock or treats like Vitakraft Rat Donuts or rat snacks like those from Naturals.

Rat Care Checklist

  • Spend as much time as possible with your rats as you will build a bond and they will be more active, friendly and healthy.
  • Vary diet so that your rats do not become bored over time and only treat them occasionally to maintain a balanced diet.
  • Clean their cage on a regular basis, once or twice a week is fine although you may also want to spot clean often. When cleaning avoid harsh chemicals as this can harm the rats’ respiratory system.
  • Keep your rats at a comfortable temperature, neither allowing them to get too hot or cold.
  • Look out for sneezing and troubled breathing in your rat as this could be a sign of relatively common respiratory disease.

Ultimately if you can devote enough time to caring for your pet rats they will be a rewarding and entertaining pet to keep. This commitment combined with the right cage, accessories and foods will allow you to keep healthy, happy rats for the years to come.

  • Liam ‘Lewy’ Shepherd

    My pet rat was fantastic, one of the best pets I had growing up. Very friendly, intelligent and, contrary to popular belief, very clean too. My Mum was petrified of rats before I got one as a pet and after a couple of months of having him she was converted.