How To Take Care Of Pet Rats For Beginners
Updated: June 2016
If you are thinking about buying your first pet rat, or you have just bought your first rat then you are probably wondering how to best take care of your new pet/s.
Taking care of rats involves making sure their needs and requirements are met and that they are given the necessary level of attention required.
Rat Care 101:
Taking care of a rat is fairly simple, but still more difficult than common rodents like hamsters, guinea pigs and gerbils.
Rats live for between 2 and to 3 years, so deciding to take a Rat into your home is a big decision that involves a little planning.
When buying your first rat you should ensure that you’re buying one from the right kind of place, some breeders aren’t very reputable, this means little regard is given to the rats health or genetic traits.
If you can it's always a nice thing to adopt a rat when possible.
What You're Going To Need:
Good rat care just isn't possible if you don't make sure their basic needs are met and this starts with investing a little money in their happiness.
- You'll need a good rat cage.
- You'll also need a house for your rats to sleep in.
- Some quality dust-free bedding for the cage.
- A good rat food.
- A water bottle to let them quench their thirst.
- Some toys and accessories to brighten up their days.
- A carry case for emergency vet trips.
Additionally things like toys and accessories are really quite optional at the beginning...
If this is your first time with rats you're probably going to need to spend a little to get set up, so you can always delay getting toys for the first month.
One thing that's extremely important other than the cage and food, is the bedding.
Certain beddings can make rats sick so it's important to know which rat beddings are best.
How To Take Care Of A Rat Once You Get It Home:
When you get your new rat home, it’s important to find out the sex of your rat to avoid unwanted breeding and litters.
If you’ve bought them from a store, make sure to check their sex yourself or have them checked by a professional as inexperienced staff can often get this wrong.
If you haven’t got a rat yet, it’s worthwhile thinking about getting a minimum of two rats as they are very sociable creatures that prefer company.
Many beginners are deterred from getting two to begin with, but caring for two rats is essentially the same as caring for one.
Letting Them Settle In:
Despite the temptation you'll initially feel to handle your rats in the beginning, it's best to let them settle in for the first day or two.
During this time your rats are getting used to their new cage, their surroundings and all the strange smells.
Sneezing during this time is really fairly common, but after a few days if sneezing persists consider that your rat may have a small infection.
If you believe this is the case, a quick trip to the vets for some cheap antibiotics will do the trick.
Keeping Them Clean:
You'll soon learn that baby rats make a lot of mess, and do a lot of poos!
In fact, just about any new rat whether young or old is likely to do a few fear poos initially, which are squishy and smelly.
It's important to establish a good cleaning routine early for your rats cage, this is really one of the most important aspects of good rat care, so don't take this advice lightly.
One way you can reduce mess in your rats cage is by litter training them early, which has saved us countless hours of extra cleaning time over the years.
Nutrition & Diet:
Nutrition for rats is a fairly complex subject, which is why we have such a comprehensive nutrition section on site.
Despite the fact that it's complex compared to other pet rodents diets, there are some incredible positives about this.
A better diet for your rat might make the difference between them living for 2 years and 3 years, additionally they'll get sick less and they'll just feel more energetic and happier.
Good pet rat care should be built around the idea of having a good staple diet, and for this reason we've always recommended using block food, which contains everything they need in it worked out down to the micro-gram.
With all that being said, there are certain things you should never feed your rats, and you can find a list of those here.
Here's a handy infographic we've put together, while not comprehensive it'll give you some ideas to get started!
One essential aspect of rat care is making sure your rats get lots of social time with you.
In order to do this your rats are going to need to trust you, and that's where trust training comes in.
At its most basic, you can begin trust training by offering them food in your palm and calling them by name.
Handling your rats before they're ready can be more frightening for a new rat owner, and your rats will sense that, so there's a definite argument for starting slow if it's your first rats.
We've put together a huge article that gives you four different, proven trust training methods so definitely check that out!
One important aspect to caring for your rats is making sure they remain healthy, and acting quickly if they're not.
While many rat sites will suggest self-diagnosis and self-prescribing, we prefer to advise all illnesses to be taken to a professional veterinarian.
But still, you should do regular health checks on your rats and look out for signs and symptoms of illness that tell you it's time to book a trip to the vets.
You can also do your best to keep your rats healthy in the meantime.
While rats are more susceptible to certain illnesses, it's possible to keep them healthy for a long time and know that if they do get sick that you've done everything you can to keep them healthy.
Avoiding common rat care mistakes is another great way to ensure that you're keeping your rats healthy.
Taking care of your rat is fairly simple, but you’ve got to ensure that all their needs and requirements are met.
Following our advice above will make sure that all of those needs are met and that your rat/s are as happy as possible in their new home.
If you liked this article, share it with your friends or let us know in the comments how this guide was helpful. If you have any questions, tips for other beginners or general advice feel free to let us know in the comments also.