Tips on caring for your pet rat
Whether you’ve had a pet rat before, or you’re a first-time parent – here are some tips you need to know on food, cage size, exercise and more.
In every pet supply store and feed store you should be able to find high-quality pelleted rat food. These are nutritionally balanced and should be available to your rat at all times.”
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, such as peas, broccoli, carrots, apples, and bananas. Avoid chocolate, corn, candy, caffeinated beverages, cheese and sticky foods such as peanut butter.
Remember the movie Ratatouille? Well, it’s true that rats love human 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 an overweight rat!
Cage & environment
Rats are very sociable and should be kept in same sex pairs at a minimum.
Provide a solid-bottom, powder-coated wire cage for your rat. The absolute minimum size for a single rat is a 2’ X 2’ X 2’ cage. Pairs require more cage space to remain as comfortable and healthy as possible. 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 flowerpot or box.
Behaviour and handling
Rats are friendly animals, but they still need time to get used to you and being handled. You may start 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.
Once your rat is hand-tamed you can start giving them time outside the cage to play. Out-of-cage playtime is essential and will keep your smart, active friends mentally stimulated and physically fit. They do need to be continually supervised, however, because rats like to chew.
Exercise & toys
Rats are very active animals! To keep your rat happy and healthy, try providing PVC tubes, ladders or tree branches to climb, swings and ropes. If you get an exercise wheel for your rat, make sure they have 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 include 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.
Why rats make great pets
Rats can make for great pets because they are loyal and affectionate. They are highly intelligent animals and very playful. They can also be taught to follow cues such as responding to their name or even fun tricks!
If you’re interested in adopting, visit ontariospca.ca/adopt to see our animals available for adoption.
For more resources on caring for your pet rat, visit Husbandry & Health of Rats.
Also, check out this Rat Care Guide by the BCSPCA.
We have supported the OSPCA since 1951
We have supported OSPCA since our arrival in Canada in 1951. Keep up the greatest T.L.C. for animals.