Nutrition and Care
The rat care packet was written by Michelle Angelico AKA Darksong, a big thanks goes out to her for letting us use it and for her taking the time out to format it.
Rats As Pets:
Rats generally have a pretty bad image due to Hollywood movies and myths. The truth is rats actually make very clean and affectionate pets. Have you ever seen a hamster grooming itself? Well rats do that to! The term "dirty rat" certainly doesn't make sense to most rat owners. Another thing to note is that rats are actually less likely to bite than a hamster because they live in family groups in the wild unlike hamsters. A rat will consider you a part of it's family group and bond very closely with you, always eager to play with you. The average lifespan of a rat is brief like many rodents at two and a half years. Because rats are so social it is very important that they live in same sex pairs or groups so that they don't get lonely when you aren't available to play.
It is unfortunate in that many pet store rat and mouse foods are nutritionally inaccurate. The best I have come by are Regal Rat (put out by the Oxbow company and found in Discount Pet Supplies), Reggie Rat (put out by Supreme, and found in Petco and Petsmart), and Mazuri lab blocks for rats and mice (put out by Mazuri, and found in Petsmart). If you want to feed something healthier, I would recommend a homemade diet called Suebees mix. It is cheaper than pet store foods, and easy to make. You will find a link to the website for that at the end of this article. Rats should also be given fresh fruits, vegetables, and water (in a water bottle), daily.
Rats get much bigger than a hamster and thus hamster cages are definitely not fit for rats. When purchasing a cage you want to make sure that it has more than one level to it as rats love to climb from level to level, also make sure the bar spacing isn't to wide apart (such as in some ferret cages) as rats are masters at squeezing out. Make sure that the bottom of the cage is not wire, the upper levels may be wire but your rats should have a nice solid bottom floor (filled with bedding) so that they are not always on wire. I recommend making sure the cage is powder coated as well, powder coating ensures that the cage will not rust and begin to smell quickly such as with galvanized wired cages. Some of the best cages I have found for rats are Martin's Cages, which are available only through online purchase. If you purchase a Martin's cage make sure it is powder coated and do not get anything smaller than The Rat Cabin cage for a pair of rats. A link to Martin's Cages will be provided at the end of this article.
For the cage you will need four things. A food bowl, a water bottle, a place to hide and sleep, and wood chews. For a food bowl I recommend you get one of those food bowl crocks that attach to the cage so the animals can't tip the food bowl over. For a water bottle a 16 oz will be fine for a few rats, just make sure the water bottle hangs on the outside of the cage so that the rats can't chew it. For a place to hide Super Pet igloos in regular size are great. And for wood chews (which are essential for keeping teeth from overgrowing) different shapes and sizes can be found in most pet stores. Other toys would be nice as well, such as a safe wheel (safe means not an open runged one, rats can get their feet and tails caught, use one of the newer solid or grated wheels), and hammocks usually used for ferrets. In my experience rats love to cuddle in a hammock!
Many people do not realize that there are BAD small animal beddings out there. You should never ever use pine or cedar bedding (even if it says it's safe). This is because studies have shown that these beddings are dangerous. If you have ever smelled pine or cedar bedding you'd know they smell very nice. Well the phenols (oils in the bedding) that cause that smell are very damaging to any animal kept on it. It damages the lungs and liver of small animals. Another bedding I wouldn't recommend is corn cob. This is because it has a tendency to grow dangerous mold when wet. So what are the good beddings? Well pine and cedar are wood beddings, and so is aspen. They consist of wood shavings. However aspen is a hardwood bedding, unlike pine and cedar which are softwood beddings, and lacks the dangerous chemicals that pine and cedar have thusly making it safe. Another good bedding is Carefresh, which is made from recycled paper. Still another good bedding is the cat litter known as Yesterday's News (do NOT use any other cat litter for bedding, it can be dangerous), because Yesterday's News is made from recycled newspaper and is thus safe.
Taking a rat to a vet!? Am I crazy? Not at all. Any pet deserves medical treatment when necessary. As for rats, finding a vet can be a bit trickier because they are often considered exotics. You will thus need to find a vet who works with small animals and exotics. Rats can become ill or injured just as any animal, treat your pet well!
(Even more information can be found on our website!)
(Suebee's mix, homemade rat diet)
(Martin's rat cages)
Great Deal on Critter Nation type cages
Our local Vet
Dr Kenneth Trippet - West Hazleton Animal Hospital
(Find an exotics/small animal vet in your area)
This is only the extremely shortened version of the rat pack thanks to Darksong.