Contrary to popular belief that rats are unhygienic, pet rats are actually very clean creatures. In fact, they spent half of their waking hours grooming themselves. Similar to other rodents, rats are inexpensive and do not require a lot of space. They are sociable pets that thrive in the company of other rats. That said, it is important to get at least two rats of the same gender. When its needs are well-met, pet rats can make wonderful pet companions because they enjoy human attention.
Are pet rats high-maintenance? Are rats good pets? Use this post as a guide in rearing a happy and healthy pet rat.
Rats as pets: Behaviour
Rats are not only cage pets but they require a good amount of exploring and interacting with their owners. Have a well-behaved rat by providing what it needs.
- Bear in mind that rats are nocturnal. Activities should match your rats’ active hours such as food provision, cleaning of the cage, and interaction. They are most lively at night and during dawn/dusk.
- Provide an area where they are free to climb, explore, forage, hop, and play.
- Do not trim their whiskers. They need their whiskers for balance and direction.
- Provide them with toys and training that will mentally challenge them. Food treat is an effective motivator during training. Rats are trainable and are fast learners. Remember to use positive reinforcement and never resort to punishment.
Rats as pets: Housing
The ideal home for pet rats is a large and tall wire cage; at least 50 cm x 80 cm surface area and 50 cm tall. The cage should be kept on the floor because rats prefer solid floors over wire mesh or grid flooring. This helps avoid any possible injuries.
Make your rat’s housing interesting and entertaining as possible.
- Make sure that it is easy to clean and well-ventilated. For this reason, aquarium-style glass cages are not recommended because of the lack of ventilation.
- Provide plenty of appropriate bedding for burrowing such as shredded paper, recycled newspaper pellets, and aspen shavings.
- Provide hiding places and sleeping areas. You may use cardboard boxes, hard plastic tubes, and others.
- Keep a regular cleaning and changing of beddings to prevent ammonia build-up formed from urine.
- Make certain that the enclosure is escape-proof and the rat is protected from predators.
- They should be kept under a temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit and should be in absolute darkness at night. The cage should not be placed in an area where it gets direct sunlight.
Rats as pets: Feeding requirement
There are plenty of commercial food pellets created according to a rat’s nutrition requirement. In general, rats are omnivores. As such, they should be provided with a balanced diet of both animal meat and plants. Provide a protein level of at least 16 per cent, a fibre content of at least 18 per cent, and less than four per cent fat. In addition, easy access to fresh water is a must at all times.
Provide a good feeding of:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables ( including apples without seeds, bananas, beans, and greens including broccoli, cabbage, celery, and others)
- High-quality commercial rat pellets
- Chicken or other raw bones
Avoid the following food:
- Green bananas
- Green potato skins
- Orange juice
- Sticky-textured food (dried fruits and peanut butter)
Rats as pets: Health
Domesticated rats have a lifespan of up to two to three years. Generally, these are robust pets with health issues caused by the ageing process. We can maximise the lifespan by providing appropriate nutrition, exercise, and veterinary care.
Further, be keen in observing any changes in your pet rat’s behaviour. Notice the following signs:
- Excessive drinking of water
- Eye or nasal discharge
- Lack of food intake
- Less social interaction and activity than normal
- Oily or unkempt coat
- Sleeping more than usual
- Sunken eyes
- Weight loss
Beware of these common health problems seen in rats:
- Respiratory diseases
- Heart disease
- Mammary tumours
- Pituitary tumours
- Dental diseases
- Heat stress
Confirm your suspicions by having a visit with the vet.
Rats as pets: Pros and cons
So, are you thinking of welcoming pet rats in the family? Look at this quick list of advantages and disadvantages to help you decide.
Pros of having rats as pets
- Rats are intelligent animals.
For years, rodents have been labelled as filthy animals that lack hygiene and intelligence. However, in truth, rats have a high level of intelligence. This is one of the reasons why many scientists opt for lab rats in their experiments.
- Rats are affectionate.
Pet rats do enjoy being handled by owners when held with proper care. In fact, they are capable of forming strong bonds with their caretaker.
- Rats are a smaller variety of pets.
Rats are a perfect choice for apartment dwellers. They do not demand bigger spaces to be happy and contented than most pets.
Cons of having rats as pets
- Rats have short lifespans.
Whilst dogs and cats can live up to twenty years or more, rats have only two to three years. This can also be a good thing if you are not ready to keep pets with long-term commitment.
- Concerns on allergic reactions.
There are some people that are allergic to rats. As such, before getting one, ensure that your roommates or members of the family are fine with having pet rats.
- Vets who specialise in rat care are hard to find.
Be sure to do research and see if there are available vets near your area.
You may like to read:
- Calls for More Flexible Housing Policies to Allow Pets
- Ways to Help with Vet Bills for Low-Income Family
Did we answer your questions on pet care? Spread the information with your pet owner friends!