Rats have a bit of a misinformed bad reputation, which is a bit unfair considering they are wonderful pets to have!
Whether you have a rat yourself, or you are looking into buying one, there’s lots to consider in order to give them the time of their lives.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking after a rat.
Rats Are Social
Rats are very social animals and need a friend to thrive in life. You will find that your rats will be very affectionate towards you and each other, showing it through grooming, licking and nibbling. Sometimes rats will like to cuddle up to their owners, maybe hanging out on their shoulder while they go about their day, or cuddling in their hoods and pockets.
They very much like to cuddle up and snuggle together in hammocks, so always make sure that you buy one that is big enough for everyone to fit in. If you have more than one option of hammocks for them, they will be even more happy, since they like to have options.
Rats squeak and make noise when playing, much like dogs and puppies do! If you hear your rats making short high-pitched squeaks while playing this is fine and all fun and games, they might sound a little more distressed in their squeaks but usually it is just for a time out before playing again. If your rats’ squeaks are more prolonged and consistent, it may be that they are distressed or unhappy.
Rats need an absolute minimum of one hour out of their cage every day for supervised exploring and playing. Rats typically have lots of enrichment in the wild, with lots to explore and get up to, so it is important for pet rats to have that same enrichment with play time.
Cages and Bedding
When looking into cages for pet rats there are lots of important things to keep in mind from the cage itself, to the things you put inside it.
Rats love to climb, so their cages should be tall and wide to accommodate their climbing prowess! Cages can be bought with multiple levels which are great for exploring, and as long as the cage is set somewhere safe, they will have lots of fun playing.
Rats have very sensitive lungs, and lots of typical bedding can irritate them and cause problems for your pet. For that reason, felt bedding or animal safe, vegetable-based ink newspaper bedding is better for them.
Hides for your rats’ cage are really important, since they like to snuggle down and hide under them. While rats do often like to hide together, it is important to have one for every rat plus one, since they like to have options.
Cages with a wire or mesh bottom is often considered a possible cause of bumblefoot, so a solid bottomed cage might be better. That being said, wire bottomed cages are not the sole cause of bumblefoot and keeping your cage floor clean and free of irritants is the best way to prevent it.
Rats need lots of chew toys for them to grind their front teeth on, otherwise they will get too long and become painful for them. These toys are often made of wood, but you can make them out of things you likely have at home already, such as cardboard, toilet paper rolls, paper, nuts and other harder things. You can make games out of these things to help encourage your rat to grind.
While your rats’ sneezes are adorable, it’s often a sign that their sensitive lungs are being irritated. Continuous sneezing must be checked by a vet, so keep an eye on their sneezing habits.
Rats can often get bumblefoot, which is where a wound on the animal gets infected with E.coli often due to unsanitary living conditions. Symptoms are often small red bumps, that can grow larger and even start to bleed and scab over. If your rat is limping, excessively licking feet, leaving bloody footprints, or is reluctant to walk or climb, they may have bumblefoot, so you should immediately contact your veterinarian.
- Regular breed rats have ears on top of their heads, while Dumbo breeds have them on the side of their heads. Adorable!
- The Manx breed have shorter tails and are often rounder and shorter.
- Hairless rats are called Sphynx rats.
- Rats are long, flexible and have cylindrical bodies which means they can easily squeeze into tight spaces, and also completely flatten!
- This flattening is called pancaking, and they do it to cool off or when they’re relaxed.
- On a similar note, when rats curl up in little balls, it is called a rat potato!
- Final food related rat fact is that when they are excited and feeling playful, they bounce around and hop, which is called popcorning.
- Rex rats are a breed of rat that have coarse and sometimes curly fur. Sometimes, their whiskers curl too!
- They are very affectionate and love to snuggle! With each other and humans.
- Male rats tend to be more affectionate than females, especially when neutered.
- A group of rats is called a ‘mischief’
- Rats can be trained- to go to a certain place for the toilet, to come when called, and some scientists even trained some to play hide and seek, which they actually really enjoyed!