Wild rats have always lived around humans but most people wouldn’t consider having them as pets. The bad preconceptions about rats in general, make it difficult to see them in a different light, but there’s so many good things to know about them!
Domesticated rats (bred especially to be pets) are truly wonderful animals and can be fantastic pets for kids as well as adults. They are friendly (if handled from birth), playful and intelligent, making them a great addition to any family.
But before bringing a rat home, there’s a couple of things you should consider. Here’s a real life guide to taking care of rats!
Before Buying A Rat
Before getting a rat, you have to ask yourself a couple of basic questions.
- Do I have time to take care of an animal?
- Am I home everyday?
- Will I remember to put fresh food and water in the cage?
- Will I be able to offer my rats the best life possible and handle them daily?
If you answered no to any of those questions, sorry but rats are not for you.
But if your answer were all yes, here’s some fundamental things you should know about rats.
Takes Two To Tango
Rats need company of their very own kind, so if you are planning to adopt some, get at least 2 as it’s unfair to keep one on its own. To prevent undesirable babies, it’s best to get two or more rats of the same sex. Mixed sex pairs can breed one litter after another, starting at 5 weeks old! Each litter will contain 8 to 12 babies and even a new mum can conceive a brand new set of kittens as early as 24 hours after giving birth.
Bringing Rats Home
The best way to buy a rat is to find a reputable and knowledgeable local breeder, who will be able to advise you on how to care for your rats, especially if you are a first time rodent parent!
Baby rats are usually ready for adoption at 6 weeks old and by then they should be eating solid food and know how to use a drinking bottle. Make sure the breeder knows exactly how to sex the rats before you take them home. If you are buying rats from a pet store – ask the shop attendants about the sex and where the ratties came from. They should have a fair knowledge on basic information about the rats they are selling.
Making A Cage A Home
Before bringing your babies home, make sure you have a cage set up with lots of soft hammocks, hideways and toys… You need to provide entertainment as well as cosy place to sleep so your rats can settle in.
If you can, get a smaller cage at first, and then after a week or so, transfer your new rats to their proper home. It will help them to calm down and know the new environment without overwhelming them.
Food And Drink
Rats are omnivores which mean they will eat almost anything! A store bought rat food in form of blocks or pellets is a good way to start your animals culinary journey. You can supplement that with rat muesli or other mixes but stay away from human versions as they often contain sugar. To get your little ones settled, a bowl full of standard food and a drinking bottle filled with water will suffice. There will be time to experiment later!
Even though rats like their own company for the most time, it’s really important to interact with them on a daily basis. Handling, bonding or playing round with your little ones helps them develop into pets that won’t be scared of human touch and even crave it!
At least an hour of playtime outside the cage is advisable to provide your ratties with the necessary exercise, so you will need a secure space in one room or hallway where they can run around and explore.
It’s normal for rats to pee around their cage to mark their territory and although it happens in males more often than females, they can faintly smell! To keep their habitat clean and smelling fresh you will need to clean your rat’s cage at least once a week and wipe everything down with a pet safe cleaner.
When you handle your rats you should expect them to mark you as well by dribbling tiny urine drops wherever they go. It’s their way of telling you “I like you, you are mine!”, so it’s good to know about this little issue before getting rats.
Did I Make The Right Choice?
Rats in general are wonderful pets – inteligent, cute, affectionate and friendly. Having a pair or a bigger group helps them to stay social and entertained when you are not around. Even though daily handling can be time consuming, a bond with your rat is like no other – it will make you smile and laugh many times, making the effort of taking care of them a breeze!If you enjoyed reading this article, please share it with your friends and on your social media! Also leave us a comment below with your thoughts or questions.