How to Take Care of a Pet Rat
Rats As Pets
A rat is a great beginner pet to own. Taking care of one is easier than taking care of most animals. Rats love to interact with people, and they love to be out of the cage. Some can even learn tricks because they are highly intelligent.
Most people believe that rats are filthy rodents, but you are less likely to contract a disease from a rat that was born and raised in captivity. In the wild, rats roam around in horrible places outside. Those rats can be mean and have diseases. As long as your rat was born and raised in captivity, you will be safe from any diseases. Before you purchase your pet, make sure to have everything ready before you bring it home.
Never house a different species of animal with an animal!
Rats can grow up to ten inches in length, so you will need to find a large multi-level cage. Make sure the cage is escape proof and has a solid bottom. The cage should have a 1/2 inch bar spacing to prevent your rat from escaping. This cage should be at least 36" X 24" X 24". Juvenile rats need 1/4 bar spacing. Place the cage in an area that is between 60F- 85F. This is to prevent heat stroke. Critter Nation cages are excellent for rats.
Use paper or fleece bedding and add two inches to the bottom of the cage. Fleece can come in any different designs, but make sure that there are no loose strings attached to the fleece. Carefresh is another good bedding choice. Do not use any type of wood shavings, because it will cause your rat to have respiratory issues and infections. Purchase some organic cotton, because your rat will need to use it for nesting and to keep warm during winter.
Purchase a food dish and a water bottle. Try to find a heavy ceramic food dish or a feeding hutch. This can prevent your rat from tipping over its food. It also saves food and money. Find a water bottle that you can attach to the cage. Make sure this water bottle doesn't leak and keep it away from the bedding.
A hammock is a great sleeping spot for your rat. Your rat will use its hammock during winter and to stay warm. Purchase a hide that you can place on the ground floor of the cage. Make sure the materials can not easily be chewed through.
Rats need something to chew on to grind their teeth down. Their teeth will always grow, so this is a very important item to purchase. The safest item for your rat to chew on is a lava ledge. You can find a lava ledge at your local pet store or online. I suggest you buy more than one. Do not use any type of wood for your rat to chew on.
Find and purchase some toys that can help with mental stimulation. Rats are very intelligent and they love to solve puzzles to help prevent them from being bored. Tubes are great to have for this. A wheel should also be purchased, because rats do love to run. Make sure your wheel is solid with no holes or else your rat can get its feet caught.
A good commercial diet to feed to your rat would be Oxbow Regal Rat Food. Provide about a cup of day and change the food every day. Mazuri Rat & Mouse food is another great diet. Since you can train your pet rat, you need to purchase some treats. Good treats for a rat to have are cheerios, yogurt bites, or raisins. Fruits and vegetables are great to feed your pet rat. Give your rat about 1/2 a cup a day of fresh fruit and vegetables. Nuts and seeds are great in little amounts to give your rat some protein in its diet. Avoid corn, sugary foods, acidic foods, potatoes, and peanut butter. These food items are not healthy for your rat and are toxic.
Rats are social animals and love to interact with people. Grab some tubes and toys for your rat to play with outside the cage. Hold your rat and let him/her climb on you. Talk to your rat, because some rats are very smart and can learn their own name. Keep an eye on your rat at all times and wash your hands before and after handling.
Cleaning The Cage
Cleaning a large cage can be a difficult task and you will need to clean it every two weeks. The easiest way to do this is by using your bath tub. Fill the tub up with hot water and antibacterial dish soap. Remove everything from the cage and make sure someone keeps an eye on your rat while doing so. Place the cage in the tub and let it soak for an hour. Meanwhile, fill your kitchen sink up with hot water and baby shampoo. Place all cloth items in the sink and let it soak. You can use hot water and dish soap to clean everything else. Be sure to rinse and let everything dry completely before placing anything back in the cage. You can put the cloth items in the dryer.
Rats are social animals and make great pets. I suggest you purchase two rats of the same sex. Make sure these two are raised together through the same litter. If you take care of your rats the proper way, they will live a long healthy life. Rats can live up to six years with proper care, so be prepared before committing to owning one.