Rats for Pets

Filed Under: Pocket Pets, Diet & Nutrition, General Care, Rats

Anyone who has known a pet rat will tell you how friendly, intelligent, compassionate and adorable rats can be. In addition, they are very easy to care for, provided you can dedicate enough time to bonding with your new friend.

Rats live to about 3-4 years on average, although much higher ages for rats are not unheard of. Rats are omnivores, and so enjoy eating fresh and dried vegetables, fruits and seeds, along with some meat. A food pellet is sold commercially that can serve as the backbone of your rat’s diet. One of a pet rat’s many quirks is hiding secret stashes of food inside their living space, rather than always eating directly from a bowl. You may observe your rat ingesting his own stools, but this should not be alarming, and does not indicate any illness. Naturally rats are coprophagic; eating their stools contributes to their digestion. Rats may also occasionally eliminate in their food and water bowls, so be sure to give them new food and fresh water daily.

Any home provided for your rat must be very securely closed. Rats are extremely intelligent and agile, and are likely to sneak out of any housing that is not fully enclosed. The rat house should be large enough for your rat to run and climb; provide some chewing toys and stacked boxes or steps for climbing and your rat should be thoroughly entertained while he’s inside. Of course rats love to burrow, so construct an area in which they can do so. The bedding for this area should be something soft, thick and pliable. Cotton fill is an excellent choice.

If you handle your rat from a very early age, he will easily grow accustomed to being held. When dealing with a rat who isn’t used to handling, restrain the rat’s lower jaw with your thumb and forefinger while your hand is on the rat’s back. Do not put heavy pressure on any of the rat’s bones. Although they are larger rodents, their bones can be very delicate. No rat will thank you for holding him by the tail.

Check with your veterinary practice to see if any of the vets on duty have experience dealing with rats. If they don’t, they can likely recommend to you a vet that does. Rats are on the whole a healthy and hardy animal, but it’s definitely worth it to have someone to go to if there is any sort of problem. Humans can have an allergic reaction to rats, often the saliva proteins in a rat’s mouth. If you experience any allergy symptoms, see your physician or allergist.

Topics: adoption, diet

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