August 3rd, 2021
Rats are often thought of as scary-looking, disease-carrying pests. The truth, however, is that they really have a bad rap! Pet rats are curious, fun-loving, silly animals with a wide range of personality types! If you can get past the initial “ew” and get to know them, they will steal your heart.
However, before deciding to add one to your family, there are a few things that you should consider.
Although rats are not as small as mice or hamsters, they are still fairly small, coming in at around 7-9 inches in length and an additional 6-8 inches for the tail. They require supervision when being handled by little hands. While rats are not prone to biting, they may if they are squeezed too tightly.
Rats need friends:
Rats are very social creatures and need companions in order to be happy. If a friend is not able to be provided, they will need more time with and attention from their humans. If you are not planning on spaying or neutering your rats, it is best to keep at least two males or two females together.
Rats are omnivores and benefit from a diet that consists of proteins, grains, fruits and vegetables as well as pellets. Many people think of rats as sewer dwellers, capable of eating any and all scraps. The truth is that they actually have sensitive digestive systems and it would be recommended to research foods before introducing them to your rat’s diet. (Did you know that citrus fruits can actually cause kidney damage or even kidney cancer in male rats??)
Other than pellets, whatever foods you choose to give your rats should be given in moderation. Certain proteins and fruits can be high in calories, resulting in weight gain, which can place pressure on their tiny joints.
Rats should have free access to pellets and have vegetables and grains at least a couple times a week.
Fruits, proteins and fats should be given no more than 2-3 times per week.
Beyond nutritional enrichment, rats also need mental and physical enrichment. Puzzles, games and brain teasers are excellent ways of keeping your rats entertained and happy.
When selecting a cage for your rats, make sure it is large enough to keep them comfortable. Rats have sensitive respiratory systems and as such, would benefit from a cage with bars to allow for proper air flow. Tanks are not ideal. One rat requires a minimum of 2 cubic feet. The minimum cage size for 2 rats is 29” x 15” x 18” (72cm x 36cm x 44cm) but more space is always better.
Bedding needs to be clean and free of dust. This is why paper pellet, straw pellet or fleece blanket bedding are recommended.
Even though pet rats are tiny, they still need veterinary care. A veterinarian can monitor your rat’s body condition, teeth health and determine if any intervention needs to be done. Any concerns can be brought up and discussed during your visit.
If well socialized, your pet rat can be a wonderful companion and provide so much love and entertainment.