- Common Names: Rat
- Scientific Name: Rattus rattus
- Adult Size: Body reaches 9 to 11 inches, with an additional 8 inches of tail on average
- Life Expectancy: Up to 3 years
Rats are playful animals, plus they’re smart, friendly, and like to cuddle, making them great companions for families and kids. Caring for a pet rat requires the right cage, accessories, and toys.
Rat Habitat Set-Up
- A large wire cage is best, with horizontal bars that allow the rat to climb the sides. Generally, for a pair of rats, a cage of about 12 inches by 24 inches by 12 inches is large enough. Rats are active, and a larger pen is always better.
- Use a layer of a substrate at the bottom of the cage, such as Aspen shavings. Consider using pelleted products (absorbent) under a layer of softer loose bedding. Rats will choose a designated bathroom area in one part of the cage. Scoop out heavily soiled litter daily, and add more litter when needed.
- Rats need a nest box to feel secure. They will hide out in their nest box and use it for sleeping. A sturdy wood or ceramic nest box is preferable to plastic since any plastic will quickly be destroyed by chewing; wood will likely get eaten and can be hard to clean but tends to last a little longer.
- Rats are nocturnal, so the cage should be placed in a quiet area, but still near the home’s social activity. Limit access to the cage by other household pets; a rat will feel threatened by a hovering cat or dog. Placing the cage on a table or stand will help pet rats feel more secure.
- Provide lots of climbing and enrichment items, such as ladders, ropes, hammocks, tunnels, and platforms. Wood toys or simple blocks of wood, branches, hay, wooden and rope parrot toys, and small cardboard boxes are all excellent choices for chewing. Rats will chew on just about anything. Rats are very intelligent and need a challenge, so rotate the toys regularly to avoid boredom.
- You can consider getting an exercise wheel, but not all rats enjoy them. If you decide to try one, get one with a solid surface to prevent injuries.
- Clean the whole cage and provide all new litter and bedding once a week. Finally, avoid placing the cage in direct sunlight or drafty zones.
About the Rat
Rats are smart and playful animals that crave human companionship. They’re also very clean and have almost no smell. They love to play and can learn tricks.
Diet and Nutrition
- Rat diets should consist of pelleted or block type diets. While rat blocks should comprise the essential nutrition, a variety of fresh foods can supplement their diet.
- Try feeding your pet rats small amounts of fruits and vegetables, whole grain pasta and bread, and occasionally low-fat cooked meat, mealworms, cheese, seeds, nuts, and dog biscuits.
- Use heavy ceramic food dishes since they are harder to tip over than a plate or lightweight bowl.
- Always provide a clean source of water for your rat, and refresh it daily. Cage water bottles work well because they are easy to keep clean and sanitary. You can also use a shallow dish for water until your rat learns to drink from the bottle.
Rats have sharp toenails; trim them every one to two months. Nail trimming is not difficult, however, your rat will probably object and try to squirm away. Use a pair of human nail clippers to trim a little off the tip if needed.
- Use caution when handling pets and remember they may bite or scratch (especially when stressed).
- Supervise children around pets.
- ALL ANIMALS can potentially carry viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases contagious to humans.
- Thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after contact with any pet or its habitat.
- Adults should assist children with handwashing after contact with a pet, its habitat, or aquarium water.