Lifespan: 2-4 years
Average weight: 400-800gms
Diet: Omnivorous (average 20-25 grams per day)
Rats can be housed in a wire cage with a plastic base, a plastic rat home or in a large viviarium with a well-ventilated cover. Wooden cages should not be used as rats will chew their way out. A rat enclosure can never be too big as they love to explore and exercise. Multi-level cages are a good idea as they add interest for the rat.
Rats are best kept indoors in an area with a constant temperature, away from direct sunlight and draughts and out of reach of other pets. Their hearing is extremely sensitive so they should be kept away from loud noises such as a stereo or washing machine.
Cages should be cleaned out on a regular basis. Rats should be provided with absorbent, dust-extracted bedding.
Feeding your rat:
It is not recommended to feed your rat human food as this may be high in sugars and fat. They should be given food specially designed for them, preferably one portion in the morning and one in the evening. Follow the feeding guidelines on the pack. A mono component diet will prevent selective feeding and ensure that your pet gets all the nutrients it needs.
Treating your rat:
Rats can occasionally have treats, as long as they are good for them. Try hiding some in the cage to encourage them to forage.
You need to provide a large, secure run for daily exercise. This can be free-standing or attached to the cage. You could use a large cardboard box and put bedding on the bottom. Put in some toilet rolls and hang a piece of rope for them to climb on. They will also love a piece of apple wood to gnaw on. Make sure you always keep an eye on your rat while it’s in the play area.
If you provide a wheel, make sure it is big enough for them to run in without bending their back. Also ensure that it has a solid floor and not rungs, as they can cause injuries to their feet and tail. Although rats sleep during the day, they are really energetic and will exercise for 3-4 hours a night.
Handling your rat:
Make sure your rat is awake before handling them, as they may bite if startled. Let them sniff your hand and climb into your open palm if possible. If they don’t approach you, you can grasp them around the shoulders, with your thumb just behind the front leg and supporting the hindfeet with the other hand. Never pick up a rat by its tail.
Rats are social animals and will become unhappy if left alone. Keeping them in pairs or single-sex groups from the same litter are best. Rats enjoy play-fighting but may fight seriously if you introduce an older rat to a younger one. Males should be neutered to avoid unwanted litters.
Mites: You may see your rat itching, especially around the neck, shoulders and ears. Scratching can damage the skin so seek treatment from a veterinarian.
Respiratory disease: Signs include struggling to breathe, ‘rattling’ breathing sounds, snuffling, sneezing, nasal discharge, lethargy, weight loss and ruffled coat. Take your pet to the vet at the first signs of illness.
Overgrown teeth: Rats’ teeth continue to grow throughout their life, so they need to gnaw to keep their teeth in trim. If there is a chipped tooth or their teeth don’t meet, your vet can trim them.
Overgrown nails: Nails can also become overgrown and therefore should be trimmed by a vet to ensure that your rat is comfortable.
Always consult a vet if you have any reason for concern.
If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk