Caring for Your Pet Rat
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!
One, two or more?
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 better to keep them in a group. However, they are also very prolific breeders, so keeping only rats of the same sex in the same cage is recommended.
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 may be 8 to 20 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 3-5 years on average.
Your Rat’s New Home – Your rats will need a place of their own where they can find security and quiet time. A large escape proof cage with two or three levels is important to satisfy their natural urge to hop, jump and climb. Your rats will need physical and social stimulation, which no cage can provide. Take your rats out daily, and with close supervision, this routine will become a much loved event for all of you!
Hammock and Hiding Places – Every creature needs an area to call their own. Hideaways are necessary to reduce stress and help make them feel secure. Rats love exploring and finding new hiding places. Select at least two amongst grass hut (chewable), hammock, tunnel, tent and hanging bed to name a few, all made for small pets to satisfy their natural instincts to nest and snuggle. Please ensure your rat does not eat the cloth material.
Your rat is an omnivore, which means he eats both plant and animal food. Your rat's primary diet is an extrusion food. Follow the recommend guidelines on the bag of food as to how much should be offered daily. Plus add a teaspoon of a gourmet rat food mix to the extrusion food daily feeding program, to keep him satisfied. Rats have a habit of selecting mixes with nuts, corn, seeds and fruit morsels and leaving the healthy pellets behind, so a primary diet of extrusion food is the best option.
Many small animals are susceptible to diarrhea, especially when new foods are introduced too quickly or they encounter a stressful situation (i.e. being adopted). By providing food that is familiar to them, their digestive systems will prevent this type of health problem.
Moss Hollow Adapt – Using Moss Hollow Adapt, while minimizing stress, can help your new pet adapt to their new home by promoting relaxation from stress caused by the environment (Echinacea), offering a prebiotic for building gut flora (Burdock Root), easing diarrhea (Psyllium Husk), increasing palatability (Wheatgrass), providing a natural dewormer (Diatomaceous Earth), and nutrient rich clay (Bentonite). This veterinary health product uses natural ingredients which can aid all small animals before symptoms emerge.
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 rat(s) from becoming bored with their fare, and staying healthy and active. All rats 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. Offer treats to encourage interaction between you and your pet, but only after your pet eats his basic food.
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 and replaced daily. Water bottles need to be kept clean of not only any bacterial growth, but also of sediment that may be caused by using nutritional supplements. Use a bottle brush set to clean both the inside of the bottle and the inner surface of the stainless steel drinking tube. Brushes may be used with dish soap. Be sure to rinse bottles and tubes well and to wash and rinse brushes themselves following use.
Crock Bowls – These are easy to clean, and cannot be chewed. Pick up two, one for food and one for treats.
Bedding- Popular and safe choices include: soft bedding made from natural fibers (e.g. CareFRESH®), Aspen shavings, eco-bedding, pet mats, fleece or flannel blankets. Litter training will also help you save time and money and keep things neat and tidy. Select a small animal litter pan placed in the corner where they like to go to the washroom, with pelleted litter made from wood pulp or paper covering the bottom of the pan.
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.
Comb/Brush – Rats spend a great deal of time grooming themselves; however, they still enjoy being brushed regularly with a small animal comb/brush. 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. They love to chew and it is a behavioural need that must be met to prevent malocclusion (improper alignment of teeth). 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.
Ladders & Branches – Rats love to climb and will entertain themselves (and you) with their acrobats! In order to provide them with mental stimulation and exercise, ladders and bird perches are necessary.
Exercise Wheel – Select a giant exercise wheel to be used inside the cage for a safe way for your rats to stay in shape. All forms of exercise help to prevent obesity. Your rats need the opportunity to emerge from the cage and stretch their legs, and the opportunity to run at top speed (you will be impressed how quickly those stubby legs can move!). Safety is key during free-range, and it will be necessary to “rat-proof” the free-ranging area that you choose. Supervision when free-ranging is necessary.
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.
Cleanliness and Safety
All pets can potentially carry diseases that may be contagious to people. 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 environments. Regular cleaning of your pet’s environment with a pet safe cleaner may help avoid the spread of contaminants.
Hygiene procedures such as washing your hands before and after handling your pet and/or after having any contact with their habitat, is a necessary routine. Children should be assisted with hand washing and always have adult supervision when interacting with pets.