Rats are said to be one of the most intelligent small rodents and if handled properly with care and love can be one of the most rewarding.
Rats need lots of attention and should be handled from the minute they are taken home to allow them to adjust to their new surroundings and more importantly their new owners.
Rats should never be picked up by their tails. It can cause injury and they do not like it. It is best to lift the rats by placing one or both hands under the chest, behind the front legs. Owners that are well bonded with their rats usually carry them around on their shoulders or inside a sweater. Rats are very cuddly once they are bonded.
Rats should be kept in same sex pairs or they can live in groups. However, rats are prolific breeders so this should be taken into account. Rats will play fight with each other but if the fighting persists, veterinary advice should be sought, as the problem can usually be resolved.
The average life span of the rat is 24 – 36 months (2 – 3 years)
- There is not much that a rat will not eat but not all foods are good for them!
- They should be fed on a main diet of rodent or rat pellets to give them adequate vitamins and minerals.
- They should not be fed on food designed for other animals as these may not be suitable to meet the rats’ dietary requirements and may even be harmful.
- Food changes will need to be made gradually as this can sometimes cause upset stomachs.
- The rats’ diet can be supplemented with fresh fruit and vegetables in moderation.
- Citrus fruits, onions, junk food and anything with too much sugar must be avoided as these can cause serious health problems.
Wire cages are by far the best type of housing for rats. As well as providing good ventilation they are ready-made rat climbing frames! Rats need to be kept busy so the bigger the cage the better so they can explore and get into mischief. - 60cms squared would be the minimum size cage for a single rat and it obviously needs to be high enough to allow the rat plenty of room to move around. This will have to be multiplied if multiple rats are housed together.
Contrary to popular belief rats do not generally smell if they are cleaned out regularly. They can even be litter trained to avoid smelly cages.
Rat Proofing Your House
Once rats are used to their owner they can be let loose to roam free around certain areas of the house and will come back when called.
Rooms will need be rat proofed. Electrical cords will need to be kept out of reach. If left to their own devices they will chew however if they are supplied with lots of fun and interesting items they will not need to chew. Make sure windows and doors are shut and that there are not any possible escape routes. Some houseplants can be poisonous to rats so these should be kept out of reach.
Fun and Games for Rats
Rats will really appreciate any extra time you can spend with them but toys are great to keep their little minds occupied!
Rat balls are popular and allow them to exercise. The rats are actually placed within a ball and then they control the ball themselves. Not all rats take to these but most will and get lots of fun out of them! Specialised rat balls are an alternative. These also provide the rats with ropes to climb and sticks to gnaw and this will help to prevent their teeth from over growing.