What should you expect from your rat?

Rats make excellent pets, being clean, quiet, and easy to care for. Strong bonds can quickly be formed with these intelligent, inquisitive, and affectionate animals. Because rats are so social (free-ranging rats live communally), it is best for at least two same sex or altered rats to live together. Single rats must receive more attention than most pet owners are willing to give. Rats are reluctant to bite unless they are frightened. Most rats will allow you to pick them up by placing your hand firmly over the back and rib cage, or by scooping them up with both hands.

What do rats do all night?

Rats are mostly nocturnal, so evening is the best time to observe and interact with them. Daily attention, handling, and regularly scheduled play times at least 30 minutes in length will lead to a calmer, gentler pet.

Rats like to explore their surroundings and favor tubes, climbing toys, exercise wheels and areas to investigate. Safe items on which to gnaw, such as commercial chew sticks, pesticide-free hardwood branches and ink-free cardboard are also necessary. Rats thrive best in full darkness at night; nightlights or uncovered windows in their environment should be avoided.

What should you feed your rat?

Rats are omnivorous, eating both plants and animal foods. Commercially available pelleted diets made specifically for rats are adequate to meet nutritional needs. Rat blocks should be offered. The best treats are fresh fruits and vegetables. Poor nutrition can lead to weight loss, obesity or overall ill health.

Fresh water should be available at all times, ideally provided via a drinking bottle. The bottle and sipper tube should be cleaned each time the bottle is refilled, making sure the sipper tube properly functions.

How can you keep your rat healthy, happy and safe?
  • Handle gently.
  • Rats can suffer trauma from a fall.
  • Provide daily playtime.
  • Maintain a clean environment to minimize stress and the risk of respiratory disease.
  • Avoid overcrowding.
  • Feed a fresh, high quality, pelleted diet formulated specifically for rats/rodents.
  • Provide fresh water at all times.
  • Frequent lump checks and weight, teeth, and respiratory health examinations are recommended in order to quickly observe and treat any impending health problem.
  • Check fecal pellets: they should be firm, oval, yet contain moisture. Constipation or dehydrations may be indicated if stools are hard, dry and smaller than usual; illness may be present if feces are overly soft.
  • Monitor water bottle levels.

Housing for a single pet rat should:
  • Be at least 14" x 24" x 12" high, the bigger the better.
  • Be made of safe, cleanable, escape-proof material.
  • Have solid flooring of plastic or metal, large enough to allow nesting, burrowing, and exercise areas.
  • Contain bedding material, which should be changed about once a week.
  • Use suitable substrates, such as shredded paper without ink or other paper-based bedding, recycled newspaper composite materials or pellets, alfalfa pellets, and hardwood chips or shavings. Pine and cedar are toxic and should be avoided.
  • Be maintained at room temperature (65-80 F) with 40-70 % humidity.
  • Include a hammock, box to hide in, or sleeping box.
  • Be located off the floor and away from windows and heating/cooling vents.

Things you must keep away from your rat:
  • Dogs, cats, ferrets, birds, and other small mammals (without proper introduction and supervision)
  • Small children without supervision
  • Electrical cords or wires
  • Pesticides and other toxins
  • Tobacco and cigarette smoke
  • Cedar and pine shavings
  • Ammonia from a dirty cage
  • Elevated floors or ramps made of wire mesh
  • Items you do not want your rat to chew
  • Toxic houseplants
  • Temperatures over 90 degrees
  • Wire exercise wheels