Rats should be homed in same sex pairs or groups because of their social nature. It will make them happy and keep them company when they are alone. Wire cages are the best choice for housing because they provide great ventilation and allow for more climbing area. Rats should be provided with solid areas to rest on in order to prevent a foot injury known as bumble foot. Bumble foot can cause large sores on the rat's feet, which are painful and need to be taken care of. There should also be 1 sleeping area per rat (they may cuddle together most of the time, but should have the option of having their own space).
For bedding there are a variety of good choices, but two that should be avoided entirely: pine and cedar. Rats has sensitive respiratory tracts and pine and cedar have aromatic oils which can cause serious lung damage in rats. Some good alternatives include: aspen bedding, carefresh and yesterday's news. At Amour Petite, we use a mixture of aspen and carefresh. Aspen has a fresh smell and carefresh helps dramatically with absorbtion of urine.
Rat cages should be cleaned once every other week for a pair and once a week for 3+ rats. The cage should be disinfected with soap and warm water each time they are cleaned. There are a variety of rat safe products available that can be used in the place, or addition to the soap. Don't leave cages until they smell, because the ammonia build up can cause lung damage in rats. Water bottles and food dishes should also be cleaned when the cages are cleaned.
Handling your Rat
All young children should be supervised when handling a rat. Rats are not prone to biting, but if they are not handled properly, they may. In order to avoid nibbling from your pet rat, always wash your hands before picking them up. Another good practice is to avoid sticking fingers between the bars of rat cages. Rats have poor eye site and may think that a finger is a treat. In addition to keeping fingers out of the cage, also avoid sticking treats between the bars as well. If your rat knows that treats do not come through the bars, they will be less likely to bite if a finger accidently goes in.
Rats make perfect shoulder rats, but it may take time before a rat will sit comfortably. Always handle a rat carefully and be sure not to pull on their tails.
Average life span: 2-3 years
Gestation: 21-23 days
Sexual maturation: 4-5 weeks
Average litter size: 6-13 babies
Females are called does
Males are called bucks
Babies are called pups or kittens