How To Take Care Of A Rat - A Genuine Care Guide
Although rats have only been domesticated over the last 100 years, they are one of the friendliest and smartest pets. You might be wondering: “Is a rat a good pet to have?”. The answer is yes. A pet rat is extremely intelligent and you can train it to learn different tricks. They like to keep themselves clean, are extremely social, and they like cuddling.
Most pet rats belong to the breed of Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus). They are also referred to as domestic rats, brown rats, and common rats. There are different varieties of pet rats and have different fur and eye colors. Having a pet rat also demands a strict pet rat care regimen.
Here is everything to know about pet rats.
How Long Do Rats Live?
Rats that are kept safe in captivity as a family pet will live for around two to three years. The average lifespan of a rat also depends on the pet care provided, habitat, and access to food and water.
Rat Behavior & Temperament
Contrary to popular belief, rats are extremely clean and love to keep themselves groomed. Moreover, unlike other rodents kept as pets, rats tend to be more playful and sociable. They are also smarter than most rodents and can be easily trained to learn new tricks. Caring for a rat is fairly easy to manage, thus making them the perfect pet for first-time owners.
Rats are highly active and mostly nocturnal. They like staying in groups and prefer spending time digging, climbing, and hopping inside the cages.
Rats are considered to be smart and learn a lot through observation. They require a lot of human interaction to learn and adapt. You might want to spend at least an hour a day with your rats to help them get acquainted with yourself and their surroundings. Placing the cage in a place with a lot of social action is a good choice.
How to Know if Your Rat is Healthy
In general, rats do not normally encounter many health problems. A healthy rat will show one or more of the following characteristics:
- Bright eyes
- Shiny fur
- Healthy appetite
- High energy (if not sleeping)
- Clean, dry rear end (no signs of diarrhea)
The best habitat for your rats is a wired cage. The bigger and higher the cage the better because rats are energetic and love to climb. Avoid hamster cages as they are not large enough. For more on this point, read our hamster care guide.
The rat cage should be at least 50 cm x 80 cm in floor space and 50 cm in height. Aquarium-style glass cages should not be used because ventilation will not be sufficient enough. You must also avoid using cages with wire flooring as researchers have pointed out that rats who spend too much time on wire floors are prone to smaller cuts and bruises on their feet. In turn, this could lead to a disease called bumblefoot. It is a good idea to cover hard metallic or wire floors with thin melamine, wooden sheets, or anything else that is easy to clean.
The cage should be placed in a comparatively quiet place within the house, yet close enough to provide ample social interaction. It must be placed away from direct sunlight and drafts. Since rats are nocturnal creatures, it is important to keep their cage well-lit during the day. The cage must include nesting materials such as tissues and paper towels which can also double-up as the rat’s bedding. You may also want to thoroughly clean and change the bedding at least once every week.
Rat blocks are the basic diet that you can feed to your pet rats. The ideal rat block will be low in calories and fat while being high in corn and soy content.
A variety of fresh fruits and vegetables can be used to supplement the primary diet. It can also include cheese, seeds, yogurt, occasional low-fat meat, nuts, bread, and brown rice.
Always remember to place fresh water in the cage. It is important to change their drinking water regularly. You may want to use a ceramic bowl or any other dish that will not tip over and is sturdy.
Purchasing Your Rat
When purchasing the rat, it is important to select the healthy ones from the litter. A healthy rat will be alert, observant, and active. Other telltale signs include:
- The eyes, ears, nose, and anal openings should be dry and free of discharge.
- The fur coat should be well-groomed and clean.
- The skin on the ears and tail should be pink.
- The feet and claws should not have sores.
- It should also be free of dandruff, nits, and lice.
How To Hold A Rat
First and foremost, when you bring your rat home, give it time to adapt to the environment. After you have given your rat enough, it is time to try and hold it.
Here are a few things to note about holding your rat:
- You must let your rat come to you and not try to grab it forcefully.
- Once it comes close to your hand, let it sniff and smell your hand before you start petting it.
- Do not scoop or hold the rat by the tail as you may cause an injury. Rats can become stressed quickly and can be extremely skittish.
- Try to place your palm below its body and gradually hold it between your palms.
Rats can develop similar health issues as dogs, cats, and guinea pigs. They can range from digestive and respiratory issues to more serious ailments like tumors and cancer. If possible, it is a good idea to get exotic health insurance for your pet to cover the costs of possible treatment. That said, ensuring a regular check-up once every six months can go a long way in preventing diseases.
Interested in getting another pet? Check out our guide on rabbits as pets.