CARING FOR YOUR PET RAT
Rats are one of the most intelligent small animals you can have as a pet. Rats can be taught to recognize their name when called and are easily shoulder trained. Some owners have even succeeded in litter training their rats. Best of all, rats can be very cuddly and affectionate!
Rats have a highly developed social instinct and display their interesting behaviour best when kept in numbers. They are pack animals and need contact with other rats; therefore, it is best to start with more than one. Neutering (by a small animal veterinarian) is the responsible thing to do should you wish to keep a male and female together. Otherwise, two females or two males will get along if they are very young when introduced or if they are from the same litter.
Our pet counsellors are small animal lovers and because they are, they hold and play with all the small animals in our store. Our guests also play a big part in our small animal’s social skills. *This is why Petland’s small animals are quick to bond with their new owner.
Sexual maturity for a rat occurs at 50 to 60 days and the gestation period is 21 to 23 days. If you have an expecting mother rat, give her peace and quiet in her own home separate from other pets. The litter size maybe eight to 10 and their eyes open at 14 to 17 days. During birth and during weaning, only the mother should be with her babies. Very little intervention, other than fresh food and water are required. Anything more than a quick change of food and water dishes and the occasional spot-cleaning of shavings will cause the new mother distress.
The optimum room temperature is between 68°F – 74.84°F (20°C – 23.8°C). Place the cage away from direct sunlight, heat or air conditioning vents and any drafts.
To provide a happy, healthy atmosphere for your rats, Petland recommends the following necessary and fun accessories. We have listed them as your new pet’s four basic needs: Nutritional, Environmental, Maintenance and Behavioural. When these needs are met, along with a loving environment provided by you, your rats will live a long and happy life. Typically, a healthy rat may live between three and five years.
Your Rat’s New Home – Whether it is a cage with a removable plastic bottom, or an aquarium with a snug-fitting screen lid; do not underestimate your potential escapees! Remember, they should have enough room to sleep and run about and a separate bathroom area. We encourage you to choose the largest home that your budget will allow.
Nesting Material – This material is specifically made for rats, hamsters, mice and gerbils. One package goes a long way in providing your new pet with soft bedding that he can form into a cozy bed.
Hiding Place – Every living creature needs an area to call their own. Their hiding place is necessary to reduce stress and to make them feel secure. Their home can be made of ceramic or wood and should be bought specifically with a rat in mind. Tissue boxes or toilet paper rolls, although happily slept in and chewed, are potential health hazards that you should avoid. Your rat will grow, so choose a large enough home to fit them when they’re all grown up!
Your rat is an omnivore, which means he eats both plant and animal food. Your rat’s primary diet is extrusion food. A few cubes placed in his dish every day, plus the following extras in his daily feeding program, will keep him satisfied. Provide mixes with nuts, corn, seeds and fruits as a treat only. Rats have a habit of selecting these tempting morsels and leaving the healthy pellets.
Treats and Other Diet Variations – Supply grass hay to stimulate natural foraging activities to help in the prevention of obesity. The bonus here is that they also love it! Hay is an excellent source of nesting material. Choose from a variety of hay. Rats especially enjoy oat hay, which often contains immature seed heads.
Treats are a great way to help keep your rats from becoming bored with their fare, and stay healthy and active. Your rat should be introduced to new foods gradually. Never more than 5% of their total diet should consist of treats, or about a ½ tsp daily. These also include mixed seeds and treat sticks. Offer treats to encourage interaction between you and your pet, but only after your pet eats his basic diet.
We recommend that for the first few days in your home, you do not feed your new pet any fruits, vegetables or treats. It is at this time that he will be most prone to getting diarrhea (wet-tail). Limiting the variety of foods is best until they are settled. Fresh foods are considered treats for rats rather than a staple in your pet’s diet. Carrot and beet tops, dandelion greens and flowers (that have not been subjected to spraying), kale, collard greens, romaine and leaf lettuce (not iceberg lettuce), parsley, carrots and pea pods are some good choices. Large amounts of green foods should be avoided, since they are difficult to digest and can cause health concerns.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplement – This should be added to the drinking water or food according to bottle directions. In the wild, animals can choose the foods their bodies require. With domesticated pets, even if we do give them a wide variety of foods, we may not be providing them with certain vitamins and minerals they need.
Salt/Mineral Stone – Your rat(s) will need a salt and mineral stone available at all times. Salt will encourage them to drink enough water, and the water aids in digestion. A salt and mineral stone will help keep them happy and regular!
Water Bottle – Use a large water bottle, not a dish, to keep their water clean, so you do not waste the liquid vitamins. Fresh water must be available at all times.
Crock Bowls – These are easy to clean, and cannot be chewed. Pick up two, one for food and one for treats.
Litter – Cedar or other aromatic litters may not be used due to a rat’s sensitive respiratory system. Instead pelleted litters made from wood pulp or paper should be used on the cage bottom and aspen or soft bedding made from natural fibres (e.g. CareFRESH®) as a toy layer for comfort and absorbency.
Cage Cleaner – There are pet safe stain and odour removers available for small pets. Many are enzyme-based formulas that work naturally to permanently break down stains and odours. Once a week, you should clean his cage with a pet safe cleaner, or hot water and mild soap, rinse well and dry. Do not use bleach, or other household cleaners, which will irritate your rat’s respiratory system, or even cause worse problems. Use a litter scoop to spot clean corners every one or two days.
Brush – Rats spend a great deal of time grooming themselves; however, they still enjoy being brushed regularly. This will help their coat to stay healthy and shiny. Afterward, reward them with a treat – it’s an activity they’ll look forward to!
Chew Blocks – Your rats’ teeth will grow throughout their life. Give them a variety of chewing aids to help keep their teeth trimmed. A branch from outside may not be safe nor will a toilet paper or paper towel roll. Small animal chews are generally made from balsa wood, which is hard enough to gnaw on, but soft enough so it won’t splinter or cut. Your new pets do not play fetch with a ball, or run after a squeaky toy, as other pets do, but they do have a few behavioural needs and one is to chew!
Exercise Ball – A large exercise ball can be a fun and safe way for your rat to gain a little more freedom while staying in shape. Some rat owners simply allow their rat free reign of the house without the use of a ball. Be very careful of this practice and never let your little explorer out of your sight!
Harness and Leash – Yes, even rats enjoy an outing. Take them out for a safe walk (don’t worry they won’t pull you over!) Never leave your rats unattended outdoors.
A Book on Rats – Petland has many excellent books on rat care available. Your pet counsellor can help you select a book that will best suit your needs.
Please ask your pet counsellor if there are any more items that pertain to your particular pet’s needs.
*Ask about the volunteer programs at your nearest Petland location.
Cleanliness and Safety
All pets must be kept in a clean environment to avoid the spread of dirt and contaminants to yourself and others. Always keep your pet’s home clean, and wash your hands before and after handling your pet or cleaning his home.
Please remember that all pets may bite or scratch, and may transmit diseases to humans. Young children, infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with pets or their homes.