Tips on caring for your pet rat
Whether you’ve had a pet rat before, or you’re a first-time owner – here are some tips you need to know. The ASPCA has a very helpful guide for tips on food, cage size, exercise and more here. Today, we’re going to share with you some of those tips!
Pet rat care tips
In every pet supply store and feed store you should be able to find high-quality “rat blocks.” Look for a brand with soymeal as the main ingredient.
Your rat should have access to water 24/7. The best way to do this is with a water-bottle drinking tube attached to the side of their cage.
You can also offer bite-sized bits of fresh fruit and vegetables daily. The ASPCA recommends peas, broccoli, carrots, apples, bananas and recommends avoiding chocolate, corn, candy, caffeinated beverages, chees and sticky foods such as peanut butter.
Remember the movie Ratatouille? Well it’s true that rats love people food. You can give occasional bits of table food like cooked pasta or pizza crust. Make sure to limit these treats so you don’t have a fat rat!
Cage & Environment
Rats are very social, and the ASPCA advises to keep them in pairs at a minimum. To read their recommendations for gender and ages that are most compatible, see the full brochure.
The ASPCA recommends a solid-bottom, powder-coated wire cage for your rat. The absolute minimum size for a pair of rats is 2’ X 2’ X 2’, but they suggest getting the largest cage you can afford and can accommodate in your home. The best location for the cage is inside, away from drafts, direct sunlight, and extreme temperatures.
The cage should be lined with bedding, but do not use cedar or pine chips as they contain oils dangerous to rats. Many rats like to make nests, so provide them with shredded paper towels or napkins to do this. Your rats will also appreciate a cave for sleeping and resting, which could be a small flower pot or box.
Behaviour and handling
Rats are friendly animals, but they still need time to get used to you and being handled. The ASPCA suggests starting this process by feeding small treats by hand. Once they’re comfortable with that, you can pick them up with one hand supporting the bottom and the other on the back.
When your rat is hand-tamed you can start giving them time outside the cage to play. The ASPCA says out-of-cage playtime is mandatory and will keep your smart, active friends mentally stimulated and physically fit. They do need to be continually supervised, however, because rats will chew anything they come across!
Exercise & toys
Rats are very active animals! To keep your rat happy and healthy, the ASPCA recommends providing PVC tubes, ladders or tree branches to climb, swings and ropes. If you get an exercise wheel for your rat make sure it has a solid surface without rungs so their tail won’t get caught when running.
Rats teeth grow continuously, so you will need to provide appropriate chew toys to help wear down their teeth.
To clean your rat’s cage, remove the soiled bedding, droppings and stale/uneaten food daily. Your rat’s water bottle should also be cleaned and refilled every day. Once a week, replace dirty bedding and scrub down the rest of the cage with warm, soapy water.
Signs of illness
Some common signs of illness to watch for includes sneezing, lethargy, weight loss, dull eyes, open wounds, diarrhea and difficulty breathing. Contact a veterinarian if you have any concerns for the health of your rat.
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