Selecting a rat.
I always recommend adopting first. You can check local animal shelters, but usually rats are only available in pet stores. I recommend buying feeder rat pups. These will cost about $3 each and they will be around 6 weeks old. This is a perfect age to start taming them. For the most part these rats will be afraid of humans, but it is not hard to tame down a rat and it also does not take long. Start at an early age and work with them every day. When buying a feeder rat make sure that you check to see if it is healthy. These rats are often over bred and may have some problems. What to look for… Eyes, ears and nose are not runny, teeth are clean, straight and not too long, body is clean with no bite marks or tumor growths. Always keep at least two rats together. They are social animals and it considered animal cruelty to only have one.
The size of the cage really depends on how many rats you have. I start off two rat ups in a ten gallon tank for about two weeks. This makes it easy to catch them and handle them every day. After two weeks they should be tame enough to move to a better cage. A 30” x 18” x 18” cage is large enough for two rats provided that they are allowed to play outside of the cage on a regular basis. Provide a larger cage for to house more rats.
Bedding. There are different types of bedding that you can choose to go with. You can provide old blankets and towels; these will need to be washed every few days. Or you can go with shavings, cob, paper bedding, etc. There is a lot on the market. My favorite is recycled paper bedding for pets.
Hides. Your pet rats should have different places to hide and sleep. Hides in my rat cage currently include, a card board box, a soft material bag I sewed, a ferret banana hammock, and a flower pot. You can get as creative as you like when it comes to their hides.
Water bottle. For small animals it is important to have a water bottle. Putting water in a bowl causes unnecessary messes, makes the bedding smell bad sooner, and makes the whole cage dirtier. The animal will often step in its poo and then step in the water. Avoid all this and buy a bottle!
Food Bowl. Do not use anything plastic as a food bowl. Tupper wear and other similar items can be chewed by the rat (or any small rodent) and ingested. This will kill your pet. Safer options are a tin dog food bowl from the dollar store, or a ceramic bowl.
Toys. Rats are very intelligent and require a lot of brain stimulation to live happy lives. Toys are essential! There are plenty of rat toys you can buy at the store, but I have found homemade toys are usually more successful. For example, fill up a tub with rocks and sticks and then sprinkle treats throughout the tub. This will keep the rats busy for hours as they search through the rocks for toys. Follow my blog for more rat toy ideas.
And now we get down to food. Pet rat food sold at pet stores is a waste of money! You can keep pet rats and never buy a bag of rat food. Rats can eat almost any human food. Before they were pets, that is what they lived off of! You can provide a balanced meal to your pet rats buy giving them fresh food from your own kitchen every day! And this is another reason why I say rats are the cheapest pets. Provide your rat with fresh fruits, veggies, seeds, pastas, cheese, bread, grains, and seeds, and you will have very happy rats! Follow my blog to learn more about their diets. I will be talking more about what foods you can feed pet rats in another blog.
Pet rats are great pets for adults and responsible children. And, in my opinion they are the most economical pets to own!
Meghan Arriola is an animal care consultant from Texas that spends her time promoting holistic wellbeing for humans and animals, while also caring for her many pets including dogs, ferrets, reptiles, goats and much more!
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