Rats

Rats are one of the best pets you can have; they are smart, clean, social creatures that don’t require a super huge cage or a lot of special care. When they are young they are easy to handle and are easy to train. They do not bite and are easy to learn to feed. 

Rats are very sociable and will become very attached to you and your family. They are great for kids because they are not very big or loud. Teaching kids to handle them and care for them is a good lesson in responsibility. Anyone can handle a pet rat and they are small enough to not be intimidating. They are very easy to train and love to be petted.

There are a few misconceptions about pet rats that you should be aware of. First, they don’t carry the plague. Rats are actually really clean animals, and will groom themselves much like cats. 

Rats are social, intelligent, playful, and affectionate animals, and make great pets for children. Because rats are so intelligent, they can learn tricks and solve puzzles and they can even be trained to use a litter box. They love to have fun and can really amuse themselves and their owners. 

Rats are short-lived animals, living up to three years. They don’t like to live alone, and prefer to be in a group, so plan on having at least two.

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Information about Rats

  • Average size: 9 to 11 inches
  • Coat Colors: Brown, black, white, blue, silver lilac, and silver black
  • Grooming Needs: Low Need
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Good tolerance to Heat and Cold: No Rats suffer if exposed to extreme cold or heat
  • Good Pet: Yes
  • Safe with Children: Yes with training
  • Good with Other Rats: Yes
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable for First-Time Rat Owners: Yes
  • Training: They learn fast but trainers should exercise patience
  • Exercise Needs: Moderate
  • Weight Gain: They gain weight fast and can become obese
  • Health Concerns: They tend to have scabby, tumors, obesity, and respiratory diseases
  • Allergies: Poor ventilation causes respiratory problems
  • Average Life Span: 2 to 4 years
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Physical Appearance of Rats

Rats are small rodents with a small head compared to the rest of the body. Rats grow to an average size of about 9 – 11 inches without including the tail. Generally male Rats are bigger than the female ones. Common Rats are covered by smooth fur but there are also some exotic varieties that are furless.

Rats come in different colors with the most common ones being brown, black, gray, or white. Some of the exotic Rats can be blue, Siamese, silver lilac, or silver black. Rats usually have two incisors protruding from their mouths.

Temperament of Rats

Rats are very playful pets that enjoy cuddling with their human caregivers. Rats can also learn awesome tricks because they’re very smart pets. 

Rarely will Rats become aggressive. They enjoy living in groups, so if you only keep one Rat in a cage it might become stressed.

Training Rats

Spend time to create a strong bond with your Rat before starting on training. Create more time to handle your pet so that they get used to you. Also make the training sessions as short as possible to avoid boredom. Repeat the tricks many times until the Rat learns.

Rats have different personalities and not all Rats can perform certain tricks. Take time to learn the character of your pet and come up with tricks they can handle with ease. Also make sure that the training area for your Rat is safe.

You can train your Rat how to use litter boxes easily. Once your Rat learns to use the litter box, you’ll have an easier time maintaining the hygiene of the cage. Other tricks you can teach your Rat include sitting down, clapping, or even standing. To encourage your pet to perform better, you can give them treats and toys to reward them.

Their Compatibility with Children

Rats make good pets for both adults and kids alike. If you buy a Rat for your kids, teach them how to safely handle them. For example, the Rat should never be held by the tail because it’s painful and could lead to more serious injuries. Kids should also learn to never drop the Rat on the floor because it could injure them if they fall badly.

An adult should help kids learn how to handle a Rat without harming it. The technical work of cleaning and feeding should be done by an adult.

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The Attention Requirements of Rats

Rats are social pets and should be kept with at least one other rat, but they will do well in small groups too. They also love human companionship and should be given as much time outside of their cage for playtime as possible. Make sure the room or area that you let them move around is Rat-safe because they can chew almost anything, or find a way to escape.

Their social behavior lets them enjoy being carried on shoulders or just being held and petted. Avoid holding them by the tail as Rats do not enjoy it and it can also hurt them.

They are active during the night and if possible that is when you should play with them. Rats are intelligent and love doing new things. Rotate their toys to prevent them from getting bored.

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Best Habitat for Rats

Cage

A Rat needs a wired cage measuring at least 20 inches by 32 inches. The height of the cage should be about 20 inches tall. One with multiple levels will be best because it will give them things to do. Since Rats are very active and they enjoy climbing, the bigger the cage, the happier your Rat will be.

A ceramic tray should be on the floor of the cage because having only wires can easily hurt the legs of your Rat. Never use a wooden tray on the floor of the cage because the Rat may chew on the wood and escape. It’s also important to note that wooden cages are hard to disinfect and may lead to accumulation of germs.

Avoid the aquarium style glass cages because they have poor ventilation that could make your pet sick. Rats are susceptible to respiratory illnesses that are often caused by poor ventilation in their habitat.

Location of the cage

Place the cage on top of a surface to give your pet a sense of security. Having the cage on the floor where the Rat can see pets such as dogs or cats could cause them unneeded stress. The location should also be free from direct sunlight because Rats are inactive during the day and prefer sleeping most of the day. 

Bright light could make them uncomfortable. Rats are also affected by extreme cold or heat and prefer a habitat free from strong wind or extreme hot conditions. The best temperatures for your Rat cage should be about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything above this temperature could give your Rat heatstroke.

Bedding Materials

Rats should be provided with comfortable bedding materials. If you don’t want to buy expensive bedding material, you can place some shredded toilet paper in the cage for your Rat to sleep on them. You can also shred some of the clothes you rarely wear because they make an inexpensive hack for good bedding material for your Rat.

No matter what you choose you will need to keep replenishing the toilet papers or clothes. Chewing is something that Rats do instinctually. Anything given to them will be chewed up eventually. 

Avoid using wood shavings or corn cobs as bedding for Rats because wood shavings aren’t digestible and could cause stomach complications for your pet. Corn cobs get moldy especially when exposed to wet conditions and can cause respiratory infections to your Rat.

Toys

Rats are playful pets and it’s important to give them things to play with. Make sure that the toys are safe for your Rat to avoid injuries. Also avoid toys that make squishy noises at night when Rats are most active because it could disrupt your sleep.

Toys are great additions to a Rat’s habitat because the Rats can also chew on them. Chewy toys are especially important for your Rat because they help them trim their teeth and to sharpen their claws.  

Litter Box

Rats are smart and with training can learn to drop their poop in the litter box. You can also enhance the litter box with pellets to help absorb the smell of poop and urine in the cage. The pellets are necessary because they protect your pet from respiratory compilations brought about by pungent smells in the cage.

Habitat Maintenance

Clean the Rat cage every day to remove any food leftovers, and to wipe any spilled water. Replace the bedding materials whenever the Rat chews on them. Make sure your Rat has enough toys to play with and other chewing materials to give them a long healthy life.

Health Issues

Rats just like other pets can become ill especially if fed on improper diet or if their home has poor conditions. Here are some of the diseases to watch out for if you have a Rat.

Respiratory disease

This disease in Rats is caused by a bacterium called mycoplasma. The disease is also caused by overcrowding in a Rat cage, or a dirty and damp habitat. A sick Rat makes a wheezing sound while breathing, the eyes and nose appear to have some red gunk, lethargy, lack of appetite, and weight loss.

A Rat with the respiratory disease should be taken to a vet for proper treatment. The housing conditions should also be improved by reducing the number of Rats in one cage, and a proper cleaning. Also make sure that the Rat habitat is dry and well ventilated.

Tumors

Tumors are very common in Rats with some being cancerous but most are benign. Tumors are mostly common in females often occurring around their mammary glands. There isn’t any particular cause of tumors in Rats but they are easy to treat.

As you handle your pet, check for any possible lumps on its body. Hopefully it can be caught early. If left to grow, tumors can impede movement on your Rat or worse still become cancerous..

The removal of a tumor is a painless and fast procedure but should only be conducted by a veterinarian. Usually, once the tumor is removed, you can go home with your Rat and some pain medication. The Rat recovers in a day or two. If you want, you can take the removed tumor for testing to determine whether it’s cancerous or not.

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Scabby

Scabby is caused by external parasites such as mites, lice, and ticks. A Rat can only become susceptible to external parasites if their health isn’t great. Try to feed your pet a well-balanced diet and reduce stress within its surroundings so that the health of your Rat remains good.

Scabby makes your Rat feel itchy that it even scratches on objects. The fur around the affected areas may also fall exposing the skin. The skin underneath may also appear discolored.

The best prevention for scabby disease is proper hygiene, and a good diet. If you suspect your Rat might have parasites, consult your vet for a check up.

Overgrown Teeth

Rats have two incisors that grow continuously throughout their lives.  They trim their teeth naturally as the Rat chews on things. In some rare cases, the teeth may not trim as they should and they may overgrow, and eating becomes painful for the Rat. A Rat with overgrown incisors also drools a lot.

Such a Rat should be taken to a veterinarian who manually trims the teeth. If you realize that your Rat doesn’t naturally trim its incisors, try making regular visits to the vet for regular trimmings.

Obesity

Rats are prone to becoming overweight especially if fed on high calorie diets. An overweight Rat tends to have slower movements and may eventually become unable to move. An obese Rat is also likely to develop heart problems or even suffer a heart attack. To prevent your Rat from becoming overweight, feed it the right diet and in small quantities.

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Grooming and Care Tips for Rats

Bathing

Rats are generally very clean pets and they spend time cleaning and grooming each other. Once in a while, it’s okay to give your Rat a soothing bath without causing it stress. The best way to clean your Rat is by using your fingers to gently massage through the fur using water and a shampoo.

The tail is usually one of the parts to concentrate on because a Rat isn’t able to clean its tail. Avoid overdoing on the cleaning and take the shortest time possible so that you don’t deplete the essential oils on the skin of your Rat.

Some of the cases when you may want to consider regular baths for your Rats are listed here:

  • Old Rat that doesn’t groom itself
  • Sick Rat
  • Before treatment for external parasite
  • An obese Rat that cannot groom itself

Nail trimming

Nail trimming isn’t necessary for healthy Rats because they trim them on their own. If you have a concern due to human interactions and want to avoid scratches, you can consider nail trimming for your Rat. For older Rats, you can help them trim their nails regularly because at old age they aren’t able to do it as easily.

Ear checkup

Just like humans, Rats produce ear wax that trickles down their ears during sleep. Don’t try to remove the wax from the ears because it helps in trapping dust and other things from entering their ears. If you notice an unpleasant smell from the wax or if the Rat seems bothered by the wax, then consider consulting with your veterinarian.

Feeding Rats

Rats’ diet should constitute about 80 percent carbohydrates, 4 percent fat, and 16 percent protein. Most people make the mistake of feeding Rats on seed mixes. These seeds contain high fat and protein content which aren’t the best foods for your pet.

Since Rats are omnivorous, they can eat meat and vegetables. Commercial pellets and Rat blocks are also good foods because they are nutritionally balanced for Rats. As you buy the Rat blocks, opt for the ones with low calories and fat. The Rat blocks with high soy meal instead of corn are the best for your Rat.

Feed your pet with fruits like apples, bananas, and pears. Rats also enjoy cooked or raw vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, broccoli, cucumber, and carrots. Feeding your pet with some cooked meat is also a great way to supplement its diet with protein.

Once in a while, you can offer your Rat a treat with some yogurt, nuts, dog biscuits or even cheese. Make sure not to overdo it on the treats because they have lots of calories that could make your Rat obese. 

As you feed your Rat, avoid foods such as chocolate and other sticky foods because they can easily choke your pet. Another food to avoid is avocado because the skin is toxic to Rats and can kill them.

Another important aspect of feeding Rats is providing them clean water at all times. Sipper water bottles are the best because they reduce contamination and your Rat can drink water whenever it gets thirsty. It’s also worth noting that the Rat may end up chewing on the water bottle to satisfy its need for chewing. This is perfectly normal and you will always want to have extra ones at hand.

The feeding bowls should be made of sturdy ceramic material to enable the Rat to perch during feeding without toppling. A weak bowl could topple over your Rat, eventually suffocating it to death.

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Related Questions:

How often do Rats breed?

Rats can breed very fast if you keep them in pairs. If you don’t want to rear Rat babies, then you will only want to keep similar sexes of Rats. Female Rats can give birth to a litter of about 8 – 10 and even get pregnant the same day after giving birth.

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