The Pet Circle Rat Care Guide

MON 11 SEPT 2017

Squeak! While some people might think of rats as dirty little critters that like to chew on wires, we think the complete opposite here at Pet Circle. Pet rats are affectionate, highly intelligent and downright adorable creatures that make great pets, but can be rather misunderstood from time-to-time...

With rats' bad rap coming from the devastating effects of the Black Death in the 1300s (it was the fleas, darn it!), many people get their rat facts mixed up. For example, did you know that rats are super clean? And that they're able to be trained to do tricks? If you think you'd love to have one of these smart creatures by your side, read on and discover our beginner's rat care guide.

1. Finding Your Furry Friend

Like most pets, rats are available to be adopted from rescue groups - you may just have to do some clever hunting, as they aren't as popular as cats and dogs. Alternatively, you can seek out a registered breeder to ensure that your new companion is healthy and free from diseases. We do not recommend pet shop rats, as they tend to carry nasty surprises that may shorten their life span...and no one wants that!

There are a few other things to consider as well when looking for a pet rat, such as: male or female? Males tend to be more affectionate, but should be desexed to prevent spraying. But whatever gender you choose, it's best to stick with all males or all females to prevent unwanted pups and to encourage good behaviour.

2. Get Them a Companion

You probably noticed that we just said "all males" or "all females"...that's because you should never own just one rat. Like guinea pigs, rats are highly social animals, and tend to do better with a friend or two. On their own, rats will develop depression and anxiety, so make sure you adopt or buy a pair to ensure a happy family.

3. Get the Right Supplies

Rats don't need any specialty equipment, which is why they make such great pets! We recommend you grab the following essentials before bringing your new rodent home:

  • A roomy cage, made from wire with (preferably) a solid floor. Cages made for ferrets or guinea pigs are perfect for this, as rats love to climb, play and explore, so they'll appreciate the extra space!
  • Some bedding and/or litter. Steer well clear of birch or cedar shavings (these can make it hard for your ratty to breathe and are also toxic!) and focus instead on paper-based litters. These will make a big difference in the long-term health of your rat, keeping their respiratory system nice and healthy.
  • A corner toilet will work nicely if you plan to toilet-train your rat (yes, they can be trained - they're very clean!).
  • A nest or hideaway, if one wasn't included with your cage. Rats like to nest and feel secure, just like many pocket pets. Rats also seem to LOVE hammocks, so definitely consider one!
  • Feeding accessories. Consider a heavy food bowl that cannot be tipped, as well as a glass or clear plastic drink bottle that cannot be contaminated. A vegetable basket is also a great idea to keep your rat's cage even cleaner.
  • Toys! From things to nibble on to things to climb, providing enrichment for your rats is essential for their wellbeing. Toys for both ferrets and birds are great for rats.

4. Diet

When it comes to your rat's diet, you'll be surprised at what's on the menu! Rats are omnivorous, so they can eat a huge variety of fruits, vegetables and meats.

High-quality food formulated especially for rats will play an essential role in your rats' health, and should be made readily available in their cage. You can further maintain your rat's healthy diet by including animal protein (around 18%), as well as fruit, vegetables and grains that are safe for rats. Some of these include...

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • Chicken
  • Dry rolled oats
  • Cooked green beans
  • Pasta
  • Pears
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Yoghurt
  • ...plus much, much more!

There are certain foods that are not safe for your rat including citrus fruits, some raw vegetables, apple seeds, and anything sugary such as candy and chocolate. If you're ever unsure, a quick Google search will help you out. Always be sure to supply fresh drinking water, and you'll have created the perfect nutritionally balance diet for your rattie.

5. Grooming

Rats are actually very clean critters - but of course, if you allow them to lie about in old treats or can't keep up with maintaining their litter, chances are that your rat will need a bath at some point. This is easy enough to do with a shallow basin, warm water, and baby shampoo or shampoo for kittens. Make sure you get right down into the undercoat, too.

If your rat is not particularly active, or does not have toys that naturally wear down their nails, you will also want to trim their nails (especially if you want to avoid scratches when handling your rat). Small clippers designed for puppies are a good idea - then, just follow the rules you use for clipping cats' or dogs' nails.

6. Parasite Prevention

Rats can suffer from numerous ailments, including mite and lice infestation. These can be treated with very small doses of Revolution - but you must be careful that you don't over-treat your little companion, so make sure you consult with your vet before use. Once you have sorted out the mites and lice on your rats, you should also thoroughly clean their cage, toys, and anything they have recently been in contact with to prevent a re-infestation.

7. Training

Would you be surprised if we told you that you can not only litter train your rat, but also clicker-train them and teach them to recognise simple words? Rats are intelligent and love to run obstacle courses, and of course are happy to cuddle so long as you approach them gently (never pick a rat up by its tail!).

With the correct training, love and care, you're sure to find a rat to be a wonderful addition to your life!

Posted by Gemma Radcliffe

In her life, Gemma has owned cats, dogs, budgies, tropical fish, hermit crabs, chickens, guinea pigs, a rabbit and a stubborn rat named Bijou. She now writes all about pet wellbeing and products here at Pet Circle.

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