Rats are intelligent members of the rodent family that make wonderful pets. In general, they are friendly to humans and even other animals (if introduced properly). Rats typically weigh 350 to 700gm full grown and live around 2 years in captivity.
Rodent block or rodent nuggets are a fully nutritional and easy food for pet rats. Adding fresh fruit and veggies to their diet is a great source of nutrition and variety. Fortified grains, dried pasta, cooked eggs, and boiled chicken can all be fed as occasional treats and enrichment. A fresh drinker bottle should be available at all times.
An ideal rat habitat is a large, two to three story cage; wire floors are not recommended as they can damage rats’ delicate feet. Cage furniture can include: ramps, climbing ropes, hammocks, hide boxes and toys. Substrate material can include: aspen shavings, recycled paper products, and newspaper. Because of the large amount of ammonia in rats’ urine, it is important to scoop the cage daily. Rats can be litter trained. A corner litter pan with a litter made from recycled paper products. Do not use cat litter as rats may ingest it, resulting in GI obstructions. Rats cannot tolerate temperatures above 90oF, their cage should be kept in a cool, dry area, away from direct sunlight; they need total darkness at night.
Rats are social, curious, mischievous animals that bond strongly with their humans and other household pets. Most are very food motivated and can be trained to do tricks. Rats need time outside of their cage every day to exercise and explore. It is important that they be supervised when out of their cage as they have a tendency to chew on electrical cords and eat string. Never pick a rat up by the tail, as it can result in de-gloving injuries.
Just like dogs and cats, rats should have yearly wellness exams by your veterinarian to check for illness. Rats commonly suffer from mammary and pituitary tumors (spaying/neutering rats can decrease the risk of developing tumors), respiratory disease, dental disease and overgrown teeth, and heart disease.