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.
Rats only require about two square feet of space, a bit more if you decide to buy them a larger cage.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have two rats, and one thing I've come to understand about them is their curiosity and love of anything novel that they can interact with. Once our girls grew up, we upgraded them to a large metal birdcage that initially seemed too empty. It was boring, and the girls didn't have much to do, so I had to get creative and make their new home into a fun and exciting place. These are just a few ideas to help transform your basic rodent cage into a playground for your pets.
The cage I bought came with two plastic perches that bisect the cage and fit into the vertical bars on either side. I used these perches to create a foundation for a '2nd floor'. I found a cheap Tupperware box, and sat the lid on top of the two perches. Then, I made two small holes near the edge of the lid with a screw, and hooked a pet ladder (which I found at a Dollar store) to the lid, via the holes. I made two holes, one in each far corner of the lid, and strung wire through them to ground the lid to the cage bars.
If your cage does not have perches to use for a foundation, you can easily have narrow dowels cut to fit your cage at a hardware store, and use them in the same way. Alternately, it would be easy to make two extra holes on the front corners of your plywood or lid, and secure all four corners to the cage bars with wire.
A note regarding wire: Make sure that no sharp ends are accessible to the rats. You can use a small piece of duct tape to cover the exposed wire. Keep in mind that rats and other rodents can (and will) find opportunities to gnaw anything, and you may have to replace the wire from time to time. Voila! A second floor, with a ladder for access!
What I did next was make two 'chains' with sturdy split rings. I attached a small metal creamer to one chain via its handle. I attached a whisk to the other chain, via the loop at the end of its handle. Both of these items hadn't been used for ages, and were on their way to the trash, so I'm glad I was able to recycle them. I hung the chains from the two corners facing the second floor, high enough so both the creamer and whisk were 5 or 6 inches from the cage floor. I've been using the creamer to hide small amounts of treats in. The rats will climb up to it, swing from it and even attempt to hide in it. The whisk has worked out great. I've stuffed paper towel and other nesting material into it, and the rats shred and tug to their hearts' delight. It would also work well as a hopper for veggies.
For an inexpensive rat hammock, find an old bandanna, or cut a large fairly even square of fabric. Fold it in half diagonally two or three times, until you have a well-reinforced triangle that's about 5-7 inches wider than the cage. With scissors, make a hole in each corner and place a grommet in each hole.. Attach three split rings to the triangle via the grommets.
Next, you'll need to attach the hammock to the cage somehow. If your cage roof is detachable, you can easily hang the hammock from the roof using the jump rings.. Find three bars that, when the three corners are hung from them, will allow for drape. You don't want the hammock to be stretched taut.
Your cage may open in a variety of different ways, it might have a roof that lifts off, or sliding doors. Usually, cages can be disassembled conveniently for cleaning purposes. If your cage roof doesn't come off, attaching the hammock may be matter of removing the bottom/tray and coming at the roof from below. Wherever you decide to hang the hammock, make sure there's a fairly loose drape so the rats can easily climb in and out of it.
By Jess Hampton