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Caring for a Pet Rat

Category Rats
Rats are intelligent and, if well cared, for make great pets. This is a guide about caring for a pet rat.
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By 6 found this helpful
February 7, 2005

Here are the five pluses of keeping rats, an often overlooked pet.

  1. Rats are affectionate.

    Unlike most small animals, such as hamsters and gerbils, rats know how to love and even how to recognize their caretakers. Some rat owners, such as my myself, claim that the affection some rats can give can rival that of a dog.

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  3. Rats don't take up a lot of space.

    Rats only require about two square feet of space, a bit more if you decide to buy them a larger cage.

  4. Rats can be affordable.

    Rats don't break the bank when it comes to money. Food and bedding costs run low if you find the right store, and money can be saved if you potty train your rat (yes, it can be done!) and feed your rat a homemade diet (see Suebee's diet on the RMCA website). Toys can be made at home too - a pant leg from slacks or a chicken bone make good toys for rats.

  5. Rats make excellent first pets for children.

    Hamsters aren't always the best choice when it comes to first pets for children, choose rats instead! These easygoing creatures don't mind if they get awoken while taking a nap and are "a lot" less aggressive than most other small animals. However, please supervise young children when they handle rats or any other animal.

  6. Rats are low maintenance.

    Rats need their water and food bowls cleaned and filled daily (include fresh food). Rats only need about 30 minutes of attention from you a day (compare that with a cat, dog, or ferret). And of course, your rat could use a yearly check up from the vet and a clean, disinfected cage every week.

By Misha

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August 17, 20140 found this helpful

I have never had a rat, I've had frogs, toads, fish, gerbils and hamsters. I now have 23 rescued cats and a rescued dog! If all goes well I am seriously looking into getting a rat. All other creatures carry diseases, so a rat can't be the only culprit to carry bad stuff. So saying that, I will research rats to find out where to get one (but I don't think it will be from the slums). Lol.

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By 3 found this helpful
December 3, 2012

I remember when I was young I had these wonderful rats! We must have bought them from the pet store, and they mated and had babies.

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From the time the babies were young, we played with them. We had them out and loved them and they were tame.

Now, forward to many years later, when I go to the pet store and wonder if I can do this again, in a word, NO.

The rat babies at the pet store are treated roughly and they come to hate human contact because of this. I have been bitten so many times. I wondered why this was. I finally realized that the reason our early rats were so wonderful as pets, was because they were socialized. If you have rats that are socialized, then advertise them and sell them. You will be saving someone lots of trouble down the road. Other than that, you can look up rat fanciers and rat breeders to get one from them. Even though the rats at the pet store that sells snakes are cheaper than breeders they have not been socialized or cared for in a way that would make them suitable pets. Of course, there are always exceptions.

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December 4, 20120 found this helpful

I have adopted rats from a pet store, and while I had no problem socializing them, they all developed a form of pneumonia as they matured. The Vet told me it is epidemic in pet store rats that are factory raised for feeding to reptiles. I enjoyed all of my rats, but their lives were much shorter than they should have been. Not to mention the Vet bills. If I ever have another rat I will find a local breeder. They were among the best pets I ever had.

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Catherine Forman1 found this helpful
May 2, 2006

In many ways, setting up for a pet rat is similar to preparing housing for other small furries -- rabbits, guinea pigs, or ferrets.

You can house your rat in a cage or a large aquarium. Cages are generally more popular because they offer climbing opportunities and good ventilation -- aquariums have poorer circulation, which can lead to health problems for your rat. If you choose to outfit a cage for your rat, make sure that the bars are close enough that a baby or young rat can't squeeze out.

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When it comes to cage size, a good rule of thumb is to allow two cubic feet for each rat. But really, the bigger the cage, the better. Your rats will love having the space to climb and play!

A plastic tray for litter at the bottom of your rats' living area will make life a little easier for you -- especially when it comes to cleaning. Your rat habitat should be thoroughly cleaned every three to five days. All tubes, toys, shelves, and litter trays should be removed and washed. You may need to pick up food waste and excrement every day. Soiled or wet bedding should be removed as soon as you notice it.

Your rat habitat will need a nest box -- somewhere for your rat to sleep. Choose a bed that is warm and secure, like a small plastic basket or even a cardboard box. Your rat may even like sleeping in a hammock! Offer bedding like shredded paper, chopped straw, or old linens. Try to avoid cottony, fluffy bedding, as your rats can get their toes tangled or even choke on the fluff.

Make sure your rat has access to water at all times! A gravity feed water bottle works very well with a cage. If you choose to provide a bowl for water, be prepared to wash it frequently -- the rats may use it as a bathtub. And make sure your bowls (for food or water) are heavy enough not to tip when your rats lean or climb on them. Ceramic, stainless steel, or plastic bowls should work well. You should provide separate bowls for dried food and fresh food.

And rats love to play. They can spend hours climbing, crawling, and exploring. Your rat's particular tastes may vary, but you can try tubes and tunnels, ladders, shelves, ropes and swings, or even a wheel. Use your imagination to make your rat's home a fun one.

Comment Was this helpful? 1
February 26, 20130 found this helpful

Having rats as pets is very rewarding, educational, and increases creativity as one thinks up new ideas for an interesting habitat, games to play, and interaction with an intelligent, fun, affectionate pet.

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Jess Hampton0 found this helpful
June 25, 2005

Rats in Hammock

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Pet accessories can be very pricey, and aren't always made of the safest or best-quality materials. Don't despair! Rather than let a pet sit in a boring cage, you can outfit your pet's domain with objects you have around the house.

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November 11, 20040 found this helpful

This website has a lot of information for people with pet rats. "The Rat Fan Club, founded in 1992, focuses on rats as companion animals.

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November 11, 20040 found this helpful

Trust Training: "If you have a baby rat who doesn't like to be held, remember that baby rats tend to be very active and often don't want to hold still to be held. Instead they want to run around and play and explore.

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By 12 found this helpful
July 12, 2011

Bandit is a 1 year old rat, who we bought at the pet store. She loves to run around on the couch and in the bathroom. She likes climbing all over me. She is very friendly.

Rats get a bad rap. People automatically get squeamish when I say I have a rat for a pet. Rats are very clean animals. They are always washing themselves. They are affectionate and become attached to their owners like a dog or cat.

By Judy from Waterloo, IL

White rat with black face on the back of a couch

Comment Like this photo? 12
Anonymous
July 12, 20110 found this helpful

Bandit's name certainly matches her markings :-) What a cutie! I love rats! I still miss my buddy boy, Yodi, from way back in the early 70's! He was my very first pet when I moved out on my own.

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By 0 found this helpful
October 30, 2006

Lady is one year old and she is my Pet Rat. She was born to the pet rats I have at home. Lady enjoys playing with me and riding on my shoulder. She is the boss of all the other pet rats I have.

By Denise1955 from Lincoln NE

Photo of a pet rat named Lady.

Comment Like this photo? Yes
By guest (Guest Post)
October 31, 20060 found this helpful

She's darling! My mother had a pet white rat that she loved very much. Long, happy life to you both!

Reply Like this photo? Yes
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