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Oh, Rats? Getting and Taking Care of a Pet Rat

Oh, Rats? Getting and Taking Care of a Pet Rat

When someone says, “Oh, rats!”, they may not be horrified or upset.  They may be admiring real rats.Domestic rats have been bred for nearly a century.  They are curious, intelligent, and very social with other rats. 

Buying a rat

Because rats are social animals, it’s best to get two or more rats so they can have company.  If you get a male and female together, make sure they are spayed and neutered.  Unentered males and unsprayed females will breed.

When looking for a rat, go to a reliable breeder, or check for adoptable animals in a local animal shelter.  Look for an alert, active rat.  If a rat is curious enough to approach you, it may make a good pet.  Avoid rats that panic when handled. Check the rat’s eyes, ears, nose and rear for discharge.  A rat’s coat should be clean, and the skin should be a healthy pink.

Feeding Your Rat

The main ingredient in a rat’s diet should be rat or rabbit mix. One type of food made specifically for rodents is rat blocks, which is a pellet chow.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, in small amounts, should also be part of a rat’s daily diet.  While rats do love people food, limit the treats that you give them; otherwise, they will get too fat.  Don’t feed a rat corn, candy, drinks like Coke or Pepsi, sticky foods, or junk food. Keep fresh, clean water available by attaching a water bottle with a drinking tube to the side of your rat’s cage. 

Housing and Caring for Your Rat

One of a rat’s favorite activities is climbing. A multilevel cage made of wire is an excellent choice for a rat’s home and gives a rat plenty of climbing practice.  Wire cages also are well-ventilated. Get a rat cage that is at least two feet wide, tall, and deep, and that is easy to clean. If you have more than two rats, you will need a larger cage.  Clean the cage at least once a week, more often if necessary.  Keep the cage away from drafts and direct sunlight. 

A rat’s cage needs a solid floor.  For litter, use material such as shredded paper, pellet bedding, or cloth such as old diapers. If you use cloth, be sure that it doesn’t unravel.  Long strings from raveled cloth can wind around a rat’s legs and injure the rat.

Inside the cage, put things such as an exercise wheel for the rats to run on and boxes or containers where they can hide. Like snakes, rats need places to retreat to. Rats also love many of the toys that parrots enjoy, such as swings.

Rats enjoy exploring the world outside of their cages. Since they will nibble on things, they need to be closely watched while out of their cage. Investing time and money in a pet rat will reward you and your rat with hours of pleasure.

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