Urbanization has caused the pet rat to perhaps be the perfect pet. When space or locale eliminates the possibility of a dog or cat, the rat can be ideal. Pet rats are very inexpensive to keep and require no vaccinations. Very little living space is needed to house a rat. Rats as pets have been domesticated for over 100 years. The domestic rat is unlike their wild relatives. They have sweet personalities and are very affectionate. However, they do have one small quirk: they are terrible little kleptomaniacs. They love to steal and stash!
Rarely let your rats run free. If you do let him run free, supervise him 100% of the time. Many calamities that can strike a rat are found in a common household. Some of these dangers include being trapped under reclining chairs and rocking chairs. They can escape out of the smallest of places. The rat will find holes they must investigate. You have to consider if the people that lived in your house previously had hidden rat poison in an out of the way place, like behind the stove. When you do let them down on the floor, supervise their play very carefully.
Picking out Your Pet Rat
In the wild rats belong to colonies and are very social. They like to play together and cuddle up and sleep together. It is a good idea to purchase two rats instead of one. It should be two rats of the same sex for obvious reasons.
Make sure you pick out a healthy and happy rat. Check to be sure that they are friendly. A friendly rat will be inquisitive. Rats rarely bite, though baby rats will nibble your fingers. Nipping is very normal and is not biting. If a rat comes up and licks your hand, you have found a very sweet rat.
Check out the rat's coat, is it glossy and healthy looking? Make sure there is no discharge coming from the nose, mouth, or eyes. Is he or she listless or hunched up with a ruffled looking coat; this is an unhealthy rat. Go to another pet store. Male rats are larger than the female rat. The rat's lifespan is from 2-3 years.
Always supervise young children around the rat. They may hold the rat too tight and injure the rat, resulting in a serious bite to the child. All pets and children visits should be supervised. The cage should have a lid that locks if you have young children, children that visit your home, or have an animal that may attack the rat for example, a cat. As far as I am concerned rats are the best pets for kids. Pets for kids have to be sweet, friendly, not nippy, just a good pet! You however, have to determine the maturity of your child so that the rat nor the child is injured.
Housing and Accessories
Housing your rattie is an important consideration. Over the years often aquariums were used. Back then the wire cages were awful, rusted, could break the little limbs off our beloved rats. Because rats are so susceptible to breathing problems because of their sensitive respiratory systems Ė even with a mesh top, ammonia can build-up quickly. The rat can become overwhelmed and succumb to death quickly. Many rodents get upper respiratory infections (URI) because of aquariums. Aquariums should NOT be use.
There are new wire cages made especially for rats and other rodents. The cages should have multiple layers and provide more space for the rat and his or her belongings. These cages are also easier to clean and sanitize. Do make sure the cage is big enough for a rat they need room to exercise and to relieve boredom. The bar spacing should be no more than .5- inch. Here is an example.
Super Pet My First Home for Exotics, Large This is an outstanding example of a cage for a rodent, in particular a rat.
They need room for their little sleeping house, a running wheel, feed dishes, and a water bottle and, plenty of additional room to run around. Remember that the rat is intelligent and needs toys and interesting things to do. There should be plenty of air-flow through the cage.
Bedding material has to be non-toxic. Never use cedar or pine as it will cause damage to the ratís respiratory system and can cause serious damage to his vital organs. Some great hardwood shavings are safe for the ratís use. Aspen is one of these hardwood shavings. They also like to take old cloth to make into bedding.
The food dish needs to be heavy enough so that it does not tip over. The water bottle should have a chew guard designed for a rat. An excellent bed for your pet is a Quaker Oats box. Be prepared to change it periodically since the box can be transformed into bedding.
Rats like to chew. In fact rats have to chew; chewing will wear down their teeth. Their teeth incisors never stop growing. In fact, if the teeth get too long they will be unable to eat. A very painful result of teeth not being worn down would be that the teeth would grow through the top of their mouths. Rat gnawing blocks are great to grind down teeth. You can also use dog biscuits, rawhide bones and cooked soup bones.
Your rat will need an exercise wheel, make sure it is big enough for a rat, about 14 inches in diameter. Donít use the old wire wheel. Many rodents have been injured getting their little feet and tails caught.
Make sure the cage is not in direct sunlight or in too hot of a location. Especially if he or she is housed in a glass container, it gets hot, quick, very much like a car with the windows closed.
Sanitize the cage once a week. Clean and sanitize the food and water containers once a day. The rat's bedding should be changed every couple of days if your rat wants you to or not. If he has a stash of real important stuff, you can sort it out for him and return it to the cage. Do not use pine cleaner or any cleaner that can injure your petís respiratory system. Ask the pet store or the pharmacy what would be a safe sanitizer to clean you rat's cage and accessories. Some people use peroxide and vinegar combinations, this combination works great in the kitchen too.
Toys are important to your rat; they are much more complex and intelligent than some people give them credit. Toyís such as ladders, PVC tubes, wooden bird toys and boxes are great toys. My rats just loved the bird toys that had a treat hidden inside. It takes them awhile to figure the puzzle out, but they will get it. Small balls, ping pong ball size are great fun to push around.
Feeding your Rat
There are plenty of specialty foods formulated with the health of the rat in mind. This is the correct nutritional requirement for the rat and should be available for him all the time. You should supplement the rodent food with fresh fruits, vegetables, and greens. Make sure you wash all fresh fruits and vegetables. You can also give your rat whole grain breads. If in a pinch you do not have access to rodent food you can feed a very high quality dog food, make sure the fat percentage is not over 8%. Cat food is too high in fat and protein for a rat. Make sure he has plenty of fresh water. Change it daily.
Bonding and Training
The first couple of days leave the rat in his cage, but spend small amounts of time talking to him. After he adjusts to his new home start, begin offering him treats with your hand; treats like banana or cheerios. It may take a little time before he will take the food from you. Speak his name when offering him food. He will get to know his and will come to you when called. After awhile you can begin training him to come when called. Put him down on your bed or floor, a short distance away. Take a treat and hold it out to him, calling him by name. Soon you can substitute some of the treats with hugs and kisses and he will be every bit as delighted.
Rats are sweet natured and intelligent. They are easy and inexpensive to keep as pets. Pet rats are perfect for the urban home, since they require very little space. Rats make sensational pets for children. Especially the 8-12 year olds that really need a trusted companion to share his life. A rat is a good pet to teach your kids responsibility. Treat the rat with love and you will have a wonderful little companion. Above all, enjoy your pet rat!
My article Rats Ė Ratties Perhaps the Perfect Exotic Pet
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