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Did you know that rats are smart, affectionate, and playful? While rats—or Rattus rattus, as they are officially called—may not ever be a very popular pet, they do have some pretty devoted fans. An Ayr, ON vet goes over some rat care basics below.
Rats are social animals, so are best kept in groups of at least two. Of course, you’ll need to take care to keep only same sex or fixed rats together. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a lot more pets than you bargained for!
As far as cages go, you’ll need something with good ventilation and a solid floor. Rats like to climb, so your furry pals will be happiest with a multi-level cage. We would recommend a wire cage with powder coating. For substrate, you can use paper pellets or aspen. Avoid hardwood products, such as pine and cedar: the oils in them are not safe for small animals. Shredded tissue, napkin, or paper towels will work for nesting materials.
Rats can be litterbox-trained. Put a small litterbox where your pet usually goes, and use a different type of litter than what you have for substrate. Litterbox or no, you’ll need to spot clean the cage daily, and thoroughly clean and disinfect it about once a week.
Rats love to chew: in fact, they can develop serious dental issues if they don’t, as their teeth will grow continuously. Many things made for Guinea pigs and hamsters are suitable. You can also use many ferret or bird toys. Just don’t give your little buddies anything plastic, as they’ll quickly gnaw through it. Your pets will also need some sort of hide or housing. You can buy these, but you can also use a flowerpot.
Rats are quite active, and need to be let out of their cages regularly. Make sure to contain them in pet-proofed areas. (Note: rats aren’t the neatest roommates. Choose spots that are easy to clean, or put washable covers down first.)
Your tiny pals can have commercial rat food, supplemented with fresh fruits and veggies, whole-grain bread or pasta, and yogurt. For treats, you can offer cooked chicken or beef, cheese, seeds, nuts, and mealworms. Ask your vet for specific advice.
If you have questions about rat care, don’t hesitate to contact us. As your local Ayr, ON pet clinic, we’re here to help!