Pet Profile: Pet Rat

By Valdette Muller| June 14, 2017 | Blog

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Over the past century rats have gained popularity as pets.

For many people the idea of keeping a rat as a pet is a frightening thought. The truth is rats are some of the friendliest and easiest to train pets available.

Rats are social animals by nature and make wonderful pets. Rats are intelligent and loyal.

While rats are known to be much easier and cheaper to care for, no pet can really be considered “low maintenance”.

Like any pet they depend on their human parents for everything such as food, housing, warmth, medical care, and entertainment.

Rats that are socialized and handled from birth make friendly, inquisitive and very interactive pets.

If you do consider getting a rat, do your homework first. Caring correctly for any pet no matter its size, is very important.

Facts about rats:

  1. Contrary to popular  belief, rats are very hygienic animals. Rats groom themselves several times a day and are less likely to transmit parasites and viruses.
  2. Rats can be easily tamed and are social so they do best if kept with another rat.
  3. Male rats are called bucks, female rats are called does and babies are known as pups.
  4. Rats can live for around two and a half years.
  5. Female rats go on heat every four or five days for about 24 hours. They may appear agitated or restless during these times.
  6. They are nocturnal creatures and are mostly active in the night.
  7. Rats are curious by nature and require stimulation similar to a dog, because of their intelligence.
  8. Many rat owners compare the companionship of a rat to that of a dog.
  9. Male rats are larger, have coarser coats and are somewhat lazier. Females are smaller with softer coats and are known to be more active and playful than males.
  10. Rats love to learn and solve problems, so set up obstacle courses containing hidden treats to mentally stimulate and make it fun for your rat.
  11. When acquiring a rat, adoption is best, since there are so many rats out there needing a home. Rats are best acquired from a breeder or a rescuer. If you buy from a pet store make sure that the rats are well looked after.
  12. As they are rodents, their teeth grow like a rabbit, so its good to get them something to chew on to wear down the growth. Just like a dog our rat friends love gnawing on bones! They benefit from the marrow and protein and this also gives their teeth a workout.

Caring for your rat

  • Buy a good cage: Buy a large cage with a solid flooring. Preferably one with ramps and levels in the cage. If you can, get flooring with a wire grating that has a floor draw that can be pulled out, this can then be easily removed when you want to clean the cage properly. 2 rats need a cage that measures at least 45 x 70 x 80 cm. Do not house your rat in a tank, this causes ammonia build up which can be poisonous for your pet.
  • Good bedding: Use wood shavings from a pet store or soft material that they can snuggle up inside. Make sure to clean the wood shavings out weekly. If you use old blankets, clean them out with hot water and no harsh chemicals that can be toxic to your rat. Then make sure the blanket is fully dried out before putting it back into the cage.
  • Food and water dishes: Set up an eating and drinking area for your rat. Sipper bottles are great if you want to keep the water clean and fresh. Make sure they are well hydrated and fed. Make sure they have fresh water daily.
  • Give them holes or hideouts: It is natural for a rat to want to hide away in a hollow area when if feels vulnerable or when it wants to sleep. Buy them a plastic house or cave from a pet shop.
  • Get a rat toilet: Yes rats do use toilets. Rats do not like to mess their excrement in their sleeping or eating areas. Sometimes a rat would have a specific area in the cage where it does its business. The toilet looks like a mini sand box, but with wood shavings and a wire grating on top of it. Place this toilet at the opposite end of the cage away from the eating and sleeping ares.
  • Get toys for your rat: Rats love to be entertained and explore their world. Toys such as hammocks, tunnels, wheels, even ping-pong balls and toilet paper rolls are great to keep them busy while you are away. Do not put items that are too small in their cage, as this can be a choking hazard.
  • Spend time with your rat: Keep in close contact with your rat. The more attention you give them, the more they become happy, healthy and friendly. Do not worry if your rat is aggressive, be patient and love them, they will warm up to you eventually.
  • What they eat: It is good to give your rat a diet of fruit, veg and a mix of dry rodent food. Good fruits to give them are pieces of apple or banana, and even a strawberry. They enjoy melon and a bit of plum now and then as well. When it comes to vegetables, a bit of broccoli, peas, carrot, and cooked sweet potato and beans are always welcome. Even kale, parsley, bok choy are good for them to snack on. Rats are omnivorous and can eat both veg and meat. A bit of Light Dog food is a great treat and an all-in-one protein source for your rat. You can also feed your rats a little bit of cooked chicken or beef, or if you really want to treat them – some cooked liver.

Sources: https://www.pets4homes.co.uk/pet-advice/5-reasons-why-rats-make-lovely-pets.html

https://www.thespruce.com/pet-rats-1236745

https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/caring-your-rat

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