There are few animals that can elicit such strong and contradictory reactions as rats. For those who despise them, the mere image of one can cause complete disgust, but for those who keep them as pets, the invoke nothing but adoring and affectionate responses.
Rats have gained quite a bit of popularity as pets over the past hundred years. These adorable little creatures make wonderful pets, especially for young families. They’re relatively easy to care for and are always eager to return whatever amount of affection you offer them. However, they still require a responsible owner who will meet all of their needs, from housing and feeding to medical care and entertainment.
Basic housing for rats generally ranges from cares to aquariums. Cages made from wires with good, solid floors are usually considered the best option. Cages that were designed for use with ferrets will usually work best. While there are many guinea pig and rabbit cages available, it is important to mention that rats can climb very well and therefore, require a cage with a good, secure lid. Plus, rats love to climb, so a cage that is situated vertically with shelves is more desirable than a horizontal cage with more length than height.
Whichever bedding you choose can make all the difference between giving your rat a long and healthy life and a short and sickly one. Bedding really is that important Choose paper-based cat litter, shredded paper, paper towels, or non-clumping corncob litter. If you must use wood, use aspen shavings. Whatever you do, avoid using any bedding that is made from softwood. Pine shavings, spruce shavings, cedar shavings, and birch shavings are horrible for pets. Never use clumping kitty litter either. If ingested, clumping litter can expand in your rat’s belly making him very, very sick.
Rats need fresh, clean water that is available at all times. The plastic, sipper bottles that are sold at pet stores for rodents will usually work just fine. However, if your rat turns out to be a bottle chewer, you may want to opt for the ones with the aluminum plate that separates the bottle from the cage.
For meals, you can feed your pet rat block food and a grain mix. Look for foods that are specially designed for rats as their dietary needs are quite different from other pet rodents. You can offer your pet rat snacks in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables or little pieces of sugar-free breakfast cereal.
Also, remember that your pet rat has incisor teeth that are constantly growing. In order to prevent dental problems, your rat needs to be able to chew on something in order to rasp the teeth down. You may be able to find chew toys that are specifically designed for rats. If you can’t find any rat chews, you may be able to offer him chew toys designed for parrots or even dog chew toys.
Rats need lots of exercise and exploration. Giving him lots of shelves, ladders, swings, and boxes will only make him happier. If your local pet store doesn’t have any toys specifically designed for rats, then you can look for parrot or ferret toys. Some rats may enjoy running in an exercise wheel, while other prefer to nap under the wheel. If you decide to get one, avoid the wire ones and opt for solid plastic to avoid getting any toes or tails getting caught.
Contrary to popular belief, most rats are actually amazingly clean. Healthy rats who live in clean environments will keep themselves very clean with constant grooming. If, however, the bedding is filthy and his home is filled with poo and urine, it will be very difficult for him to keep up with his personal hygiene.
If his coat does become soiled, then you may want to help him out a bit by giving him a bath. Using baby shampoo, fill a small basin with warm water and a few drops of the shampoo. Fill a separate basin with clean water. Use water that is warm to the touch but not hot. Test the water with a thermometer or on your wrist as though you are testing baby formula. Set up in a warm room that doesn’t have any drafts and grab a small cloth. Gently wash off his little body with the soapy sponge and then use a clean cloth to rinse him off. Gently towel dry him carefully and offer lots of soothing words and treats as you go. The more positive you make the bathing experience, the easier it will be next time.