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I have kept rats since I was a student at university. I had Guinea Pigs in the past but wanted a different rodent. Someone recommended a rat and I was sold! Why Rats? Rats are clever animals, they eat a diverse, fairly cheap diet. They are quite concerned with their personal hygiene, particularly females and therefore cleaning out the cage can be quite easy. I trained mine to a litter tray. Boys tend to smell more than Girls. You can teach them tricks, you can show them even! Girls tend to be more active than boys- boys tend to be bigger, lazier and cuddlier! I've always kept girls. You should always keep rats in pairs, and because they have a 'friend' they aren't a 24-7 drain on your time. If handled early they will be gentle animals- lack of handling and socialisation can make them quite aggressive and believe me, a rat bite hurts. They clamp down and don't let go! I once saw a child get a bite on the face from a poorly handled Rat. Honest Disadvantages: They need a big cage. And this can be a very big layout. In order for them to be socialble they need to be handled every day They don't live long- i've had one live to 3 before but they tend to go quite young Vet bills- very prone to tumours- I had one rat cost me over £1000 in vet bills They are quick rodents- probably not suitable for very young children because of this! Rats are a rewarding family pet with a bad reputation because of their wild counterparts. Look beyond that and you'll have a good family pet!
==Reasons Why Rats Have A Bad Reputation== Rats as a breed are thought of as dirty, smelly, disease carrying vermin by a lot of people, probably a majority of people I would imagine. Rats are in fact very clean animals; they like to groom themselves and each other. It is true that wild rats are rather dirty and smelly, and they can carry certain diseases. This does not automatically mean that pet rats do as well, wild rats are dirty because they are wild and have to fend for themselves, there is no human to come along and wash their homes for them so of course they are going to get dirty, which in turn will make them smelly. Wild rats can also pick up diseases because they wander around in some very unsanitary places. Pet rats on the other hand live their lives in a nice clean cage, being waited on hand and foot by a human, there is nowhere for them to pick up the diseases that the wild rats carry and they certainly do not wander into any unhygienic places. A lot of rat phobias I think may be brought on by our parents (and their parents before them). People think of the rats as vermin and so they teach their children that they are vermin, then this pattern continues. I witnessed this first hand many times in my capacity as a rat owner, friends children have wanted to see my rats, that is until their parents have made some comment about rats being nasty little things, then all of a sudden the children have changed their minds and not wanted to get within spitting distance of the rats. I have to admit it does make me angry when I see people going on about how nasty all rats are when they have never been within a mile of a pet rat in their lives and have no idea what they are talking about. They would not like it if I had the same attitude towards their pet goldfish or whatever pet they had so I don't see why they feel the need to have that attitude towards my pets. ==What Makes Rats Good Pets?== There are many reasons why rats make good pets, and reasons why they do not make good pets. The reasons they do make good pets are that they are incredibly funny to watch, loving, loyal and intelligent. If you have the patience to do so you can teach them tricks, although I have never succeeded in doing this myself I have known of people who have. They can give you hours of amusement watching them get into mischief, inside and outside their cage. Rats will happily sit on your head and groom your hair, or try to get inside your mouth and clean between your teeth, this all sounds disgusting but it is their way of showing their affection towards you. They will also curl up and sleep on you. There are also reasons why rats do not make good pets, the main one I can think of is that they tend to enjoy chewing things, especially things such as wires and curtains! They can be a bit noisy and smelly as well but all these things are only bad points if you personally see them as such, personally I think the bad points are worth it purely because the good points far outweigh them. ==Are Rats The Pet For You?== Rats are very socially orientated animals so you should ideally only get them if you have the time to spend playing with them. A good place to let the rat's free range is in the bathroom as there are no wires for them to chew through and usually no carpet that they can ruin. It doesn't matter what other pets you have, obviously if you have cats then you should put the cats in another room if you want to let the rats out of the cage, and if you have ferrets they should be housed in another room as the rats and ferrets will be able to smell each other which will be unfair on both of them as they are natural enemies. To be a suitable owner for rats you need to fulfil the following criteria ideally: - Be able to afford vets bills. - Be able to spend at least an hour a day with them (out of the cage free ranging). - Have researched what they need for bedding/food etc. - Have enough space for a decent sized cage. ==Where Should You Buy Your Rats?== The best place to buy rats from is a reputable breeder, someone who cares about the rats and not about making money. They are more expensive that rats from a pet shop but you do get a better quality pet if you spend that little bit extra cash. Pet shops tend to get their rats from rat farms where the breeders just stick the males and females together and breed them, over and over again. Proper breeders however carefully select which rats they breed based on what temperament they have and their medical history. Properly bred rats are less likely to have health problems and are also more socialised by the time you get them as the breeders interact with them daily. Most breeders will also say that if you can no longer look after the rats then to take them back to them so they can rehome them, they do this so they know that the animals they have bred are going to be looked after in the future, rather than pet shops who do not care who they sell pets too, anyone can just go in and buy their animals. ==How Many Rats Should You Have?== Due to them being social animals you should never keep rats on their own, it is advisable to keep them in at least pairs. How many you have also depends on how many you think you can cope with and afford to keep. Smaller numbers are easier to look after all round. I have five and that amount for me is hard to look after as it is hard to give them each enough personal attention when there is so many, also they need cleaning out daily whereas when I only had two they only needed cleaning out weekly. It is satisfying to see a little pile of rats snuggled up in the cage, five rats does make a brilliant sized pile when they are all asleep, and the more you have the more fun they are and don't mind as much if you can't get them out of the cage every single day. ==What You Need To Buy== Before you buy your rats you will need to make sure you have a suitable habitat for them. You will need: - A Cage: The most important thing you will need to buy before you get your rats is the cage; otherwise they will have nowhere to live. The size of the cage all depends on how many rats you are getting and whether they are male or female, males get bigger so they need more space. There are plenty of websites where you can pick up good cages for reasonable prices, a decent cage is going to cost you £50+ easily, and some of them are over £100. You need to think about how easy the cage is to clean out as well, if you don't want to move the cage around each time you clean it out then you should get one with a large front door, for example the Tom cage. This means that you will be able to clean out the cage without moving it, and, if you want too, without taking the rats out of the cage (basic clean out only, you will need to move it for a proper wash down). - Substrate: You will need something to put on the bottom of the cage, and in their litter tray if they are having one. Personally I use newspaper as it is cheap and effective. DO NOT use sawdust, wood shavings or wood based cat litter pellets, these are harmful to rats and can eventually kill them. If you want to use cat litter then it must be a paper based one that is not too dusty. It is advisable to use a different substrate in the litter tray that you use in the base of the cage however I use the same for both and have never had a problem. - Food Bowl: One food bowl should be enough no matter how many rats you have, just get different sizes depending on how many rats there are. It is better to get a heavier food dish as if you use a light plastic one the rats will tip it upside down guaranteed. You can get dishes that clip to the side of the cage in a little holder type thing, these are good if you do not have much floor space, but they get knocked down a lot. You don't actually have to have a food bowl for their everyday food, a good way to feed them is to scatter feed, basically just scatter the food throughout the cage so the rats have to scavenge around for it. This gives them something to do, and saves you the cost of the bowl. It might be an idea to have a bowl handy if you are going to feed them something messy as a treat though. - Water Bottle: The size of water bottle again depends on the amount of rats you have. As long as it is not too big for the rats to be able to get water out of then any size is alright providing you keep it topped up with water. It is also a good idea to have two water bottles in case one of them blocks up when you are not around, the rats then have a second bottle as a backup until you can fix the blocked up one. There are different types of water bottle, I prefer the traditional ones where you fill it up, screw the lid on, and then attach it to the cage with the lid pointing downwards, and admittedly the little wires that you use to attach them are very annoying. You can get ones that don't need to be removed for you to fill them up, they have a flap on the top of them that you lift up and just pour the water into them; I would not recommend this kind as they have a tendency to leak. - A Wheel: Rats need plenty of exercise and stimulation to keep them happy. A wheel is good for both, although not all rats will like a wheel. Make sure you get a large one as if it is too small it can cause back problems for the rats. I prefer the Large Silent Spinner wheel as it is easy to clean, and as the name suggests, does not make as much noise as normal wheels. There are other kinds though so just research each kind before you make your decision, it is advised not to get the metal ones though as they can cause injuries to your rats if they get caught between the bars. - A Bed: Rats like to sleep pretty much anywhere, so don't be offended if they don't sleep in the bed you get them. I would recommend that you offer them a choice of beds. You can get hammocks which are nice and comfortable for them; there are also hanging tubes and fluffy beds of all shapes and sizes that you can purchase for a reasonable amount of money. You can buy little plastic houses but in my experience the rats just pull the roof off and hide their food in them. - Toys: The beauty of rat keeping is that they will play with anything which means you can let your imagination run wild when it comes to toys. There are plenty of toys available in pet shops and on pet websites, or you can make your own toys. If you want to give them quantity over quality then making your own is the way to go, and as far as the rats are concerned they are going to eventually destroy it no matter how much money you spent. The most simple rat toy you can make is a roll of toilet paper hanging from the top of the cage. The rats will pull it all off the roll and make a bed out of it, which kills two birds with one stone as the saying goes, a fun toy and cosy bed all in one. If you join a rat forum the other members will soon give you ideas on what toys you can make. Pound Shops are perfect places to buy things for your rats; they are cheap and sell some really good stuff. One last example, a wine rack in the cage makes a great climbing frame for them. - Litter Tray: Yes, you can litter train a rat. Just buy a rat/ferret litter tray, stick it in the cage and off you go. The trick is to wait until the rats have chosen where their "toilet" is going to be, then just put the tray in that corner and they will automatically use it. If they don't get the hang of it just put a few of their droppings in the tray and they will soon figure it out. ==Looking After Your Rat== Rats are no more difficult to look after than most other pets. Make sure they always have access to food and fresh, clean water. Clean their litter tray out every day and do a full cage clean out at least once a week. The cage has to be closed at all times unless you are there to supervise them, the room in which they free range has to be rat-proofed, this means blocking off any dangerous areas that they could get stuck in or have access to anything harmful, also make sure doors and windows are closed and other pets and small children have been removed from the room. I would recommend that you bathe them once a month in an anti-mite shampoo to prevent an infestation. You can do this in a sink or the bath, or just in a bucket of water (make sure the waters not too hot or too cold). It is also your responsibility to provide them with exercise and entertainment, as well as socialisation. You cannot just leave them in the cage with no toys and never interact with them. You must NEVER pick rats up by their tails, if you do this then you can severely damage their tails. I found this out the hard way as I had to grab one of mine by the tail and the tip of her tail came off in my hand. I knew the risks but in that situation it was the safest option as she was trying to escape and if she had managed to do so then she would have been in more danger than she was in by me grabbing her tail. If you must hold them by the tail, if it is an emergency, then only do so for a few seconds and get them into your hands as soon as possible to minimise the risk of accidents. ==Health== Vet bills for rats can be very expensive and run into the hundreds, so I would suggest that you keep a vet fund handy at all times in case you need to take them to the vet. If you have two rats and they both need expensive treatment it can easily end up costing £400 or more in a short space of time. It is important that you take your rat to a vet if you think it is ill as rats can go down-hill very quickly. Indications that he is not well are difficulty breathing, refusing to eat, a dull coat, tiredness, also they may sit in the same place for long periods of time. Tumours - tumours are quite common in rats. Tumours can grow incredibly fast so if you notice one, no matter how small you should take the rat to the vets immediately. They can be operated on although it is not always successful and there are risks with putting the rat under anaesthetic. Mites - Rats can get mites or other parasites. You can see them on light coloured rats if you look closely. A good prevention method is a mite shampoo. If your rat itches more than normal it would be a good idea to buy some mite shampoo. Ear infection - If your rat develops a head tilt or had problems with balance then it is possible that it is an ear infection. This can be treated with antibiotics from the vet and clears up reasonably fast. It is possible for the rat to lose its hearing if it is left untreated. The head tilt should clear up once the infection has gone, sometimes it is permanent though. Respiratory problems - Breathing problems in rats can be caused by exposure to chemicals (e.g. air fresheners, deodorants etc.) and from chemicals released in wood based substrate and dusty bedding. Keep these sources away from the rats to decrease the chances of breathing trouble. When they get problems with their breathing they can go downhill fast so you should get them to a vet for some antibiotics as soon as possible ==My Rats== I currently have five female Dumbo rats, I did have a sixth one but sadly she died not that long ago. My five girls are sisters and I have had them since February this year. There are two brown ones called Prue and Piper, poor Piper lost the end of her tail in an accident a few months ago, she's alright now though. The other three are all white and are called Ella, Bella and Trudy. Trudy started off being white and champagne in colour but the champagne colour faded away so now she is pure white. Ella and Bella are pretty much identical and hard to tell apart, the only way I have figured out which one is which is because Ella has a little crease in one of her ears. I have wanted Dumbo rats for years and was so excited to finally get some. Dumbo rats are the same as normal rats except for their ears are a different shape and slightly lower on their heads, giving them a very cute look. There may be other differences that I am unaware of; the ears are the only ones I have ever heard about though. ==My Recommendations== I think that if you have the time, space and money to keep rats and are serious about doing so then by all means go ahead and keep them. They make wonderful pets and will give you a lot of enjoyment. However they are not for everyone and you should think carefully about what they need and whether or not you can provide it for them before you get them. It is no good realising after you've got them that actually they aren't the pet for you as by then you may have spent a lot of money and you also may have a hard time rehoming them. I would advise you to join a rat forum before buying them and ask questions on there, the members will be helpful and point out things that you should consider before buying them. Fancy Rats is a good forum to join.
Having read a few of the reviews on this site, I only have a few things to add to the general review that they are wonderful, loving, very entertaining and intelligent pets! Far better than any other small pets in my opinion. First, I would say if you decide to get rats, wherever possible PLEASE adopt your rats from a rescue place rather than buy them. There are so many ratties that need rehoming. This does not mean you have to get adult rats instead of babies - many litters of baby rats get taken in at rescue places which you can train/socialise just as well as ones you might buy. It also does not mean that the rats will have health or behaviour problems. The person running the rescue will be able to advise you, and will usually have some information on where the rats came from or whether they have shown any health or behaviour problems. Of all the 10 rats I have adopted over the last 3 or 4 years, only 1 of them had behaviour problems, and that one I adopted knowing that she had behaviour problems and therefore couldn't find a new home. The rest were gorgeous and the majority healthy. In fact the least healthy one I adopted that died quite young was one that had originally come from a breeder. It is not all about genetics - the sister of the aggressive rats is the most soppy and cuddly rat of all I have owned and likes to go to sleep in my jumper or draped round my neck. With some of the other ones I adopted as adults I could see the amazing difference in their behaviour within a couple of weeks - one rat who was nervous and jumpy became relaxed and cuddly within a month. It is so rewarding to see this change in them and to know that you are giving them a good second home. As for bedding and cage lining, I would strongly recommend newspaper rather than sawdust or chips. This is because a lot of rats have or develop respiratory problems and any sort of dust from their bedding will only make the problem worse. Also they like ripping up newspaper to make their bedding, it keeps them entertained for hours! As noted by one reviewer, females are prone to get mammary tumours - I've had 9 female rats in all over the last 3 or 4 years and the majority of them got tumours - but they are not generally malignant, and one piece of advice I was given that has proven very useful is that if you get them spayed the first time they have a tumour removed (or before they get any), they will usually not get any more. Otherwise they usually come back with increasing frequency the older the rat gets, and can often grow very quickly. I would also recommend getting as big a cage as possible - in my opinion the minimum cage sizes recommended by most people is too small, at least for female rats who are very energetic and curious. If you are leaving them in a cage all day while you're at work, it is important they have enough space (and preferably enough climbing space!) to keep them happy. The other thing is that, although rats are clean as everyone says, and they smell so gorgeous, sometimes like honey when they have cleaned themselves! (by the way I wouldn't recommend bathing them as one reviewer did, unless they look particularly dirty! They don't like it and they do a very good job of cleaning themselves and each other), they do have a tendency to leave little trails of urine wherever they go, I'm not sure if this is scent marking or just weak bladders! This doesn't bother me particularly, I just put an easily removable and washable cover on the sofa etc, some people do find it unpleasant. They also have a habit of peeing in their nesting boxes and only seem to use litter trays for their droppings. Don't quite understand that! But anyway it's not a problem you just have to clean out the box (and cage) regularly or the cage will start to smell. Females generally don't smell as much as males though. I would also say that you will have very different pets depending whether you choose female or male rats! Females are much more active and curious - and mischievous! - than males, much smaller too, and males are slower and more teddy like. I would disagree with the statement that they are nocturnal - actually they are most active early morning and evening, and are usually waiting enthusiastically to greet you when you get up in the morning and get home from work! They do make a bit of noise in the night though too! Another thing is I would disagree that they look after each other if one is ill. In my experience they just ignore illness. If a rat is particularly poorly it will usually try to separate itself from the others and stay in a corner by itself. Tell tale signs I have learnt to recognise (and this usually means the rat is past recovery) are when a rat fluffs itself up in a ball and sits in a corner, sometimes with its eyes half closed. It can be difficult to tell if a rat is this ill because after a few minutes it might start running around again as though nothing is wrong, but generally if you notice this behaviour several times over a day or a week, it is likely that the rat is very ill. What else... well, vet bills are the main thing. While rats are young you should have minimal problems or expense, assuming the rats are healthy, but as they get older they usually require some vet trip or other, sometimes repeatedly. At one point when I had 8 (female) rats, and at least 4 or 5 of them were roughly the same age ie 18 months upwards, I was spending at least 100 pounds a month on vet bills. It gets very expensive. So my advice would be, if you want more than 2 rats, make sure they are of differing ages so you don't have too many old rats at once. Lastly, several of my rats have lived to more than 2 1/2 years, my oldest rat lived to 3 1/2 years. Even vets and other people I know who have experience of rats don't seem to realise that once they get past 2 1/4 or 2 1/2, their back legs (maybe their hip joints) begin to weaken, they start shuffling instead of scampering, and eventually end up dragging themselves around on their front legs and can't climb any more (ie they just need 1 storey in their cage). At this point they obviously find it much harder to keep themselves clean as they can't scratch with their back feet and have much less flexibility to lick themselves in awkward places, so if you're particularly worried about their cleanliness this might be the point to start giving them the odd bath. However, my old rats have generally seemed to be perfectly OK and happy pulling themselves around however they can, and it's normal though sad that this happens so don't get worried! So, I would say if you want a pet that is as loving, sociable and entertaining as a dog, but doesn't require such a long term commitment, allows you more freedom eg. to go away for a weekend (they will be fine for a couple of days if you leave them enough food and water) and are fine to be on their own at home while you are at work, then rats are the right choice! Just make sure you get at least 2.
I was so pleased to come here and see the fact that rats had the 5 stars they so deserve! I have 13 (yes!) pet rats - made up of 8 does and 5 neutered bucks. I also have 3 bucks gone to the bridge. So what can I say about rats... Personality: I've seen them described by duel rat/dog lovers as very small puppies - and it fits so perfectly. They have their own personalities, their own quirks, their own likes and dislikes. They are into everything they've ever seen, smelt or touched, and for most nothing beats exploring every nook and cranny of you and your home. Cleanliness: Obviously quite a big factor due to their undeserved reputation of being dirty - they are anything but. Rats not only keep themselves very clean, they keep one another clean (my elderly rats never once were dirty as the younger ones kept them looked after), and they also tend to give manicures for free - where else will you get that?! Care: Unfortunately a lot of rats are kept in out of date methods and aren't ideally cared for. Cage: The recommended size (by www.fancy-rats.co.uk - the biggest open website for rat care in the UK that I know of) for a cage is around 2 cubic feet per rat - this is a little flexible, my cage is rated for 12 not 13, but the larger the cage the less an extra 1 - 2 makes a difference. Likewise due to that a cage even for a pair should be large enough for 3. Bedding: Rats have very delicate respiratory systems, and such the standard sawdust isn't a good option for them. Many people use newspapers, fleece, cardboard (my personal choice) or wood SHAVINGS - any horse beddings are popular as a general rule, there are lots more options besides such as paper based (not clay based) cat litter. How many? Rats should ALWAYS* be kept in a minimum of pairs - it's just best, it's the natural way for them to live, and they will care for each other if one gets ill. Many people are now advocating a minimum of 3. * = always being healthy rats under normal circumstances, ocassionally rats may need to be separated short term due to health problems, and can sometimes become aggressive towards cagemates - in males this is usually a hormone issue best solved by neutering, however very ocassionally it can be a temperament problem or caused by other medical problems such as brain tumours. Where from? There are many choices - pet shops, breeders, rescues - all have pros and cons. Pet shops: Pros; availability. Cons; Temperament/lack of handling, potential health issues, incorrect sexing, breeding conditions are atrocious. I personally only a few weeks ago took in a 16 week old female rat from a large chain pet store who couldn't be homed due to aggression - this rat in a few weeks has gone from attacking any person who went within about a foot of her, to being a licky, friendly rat - like many her problem wasn't a poor temperament, it was fear from the environment. Unfortunately these issues can take days or months to fix, some never do come around, and it can be hard even if you have experience - and almost impossible without. Breeders: All good breeders will keep their rats in large spacious cages (note Mums and babies may be in smaller than suggested for obvious reasons!), will only breed from healthy rats and ones with good temperaments, usually with a family history of such. Rescues: Adult rescues can have problems to varying degrees - but many don't, and were given up due to owners getting bored. There are also hundreds of rat kittens born in rescue every year - these will have all the handling help of breeder rats, however less certainty/no/little history for health, but still make great pets. Alongside rescues from known sources (both rescue centres, usually small ones with no funding bar a bit of help from sympathetic rat owners and individuals who take in such rats off their own back) there are also rescue rehomes who are rehomed by a current family - this while a lovely thing to do for the rat, does bear risks as you have no idea of their temperament and health, these things do need baring in mind. Feeding: This is a well argued issue, however the general belief is that the common foods aren't the best - some smaller makes are better, but many people make their own mix up in various ways - for more information on this I again have to suggest fancy-rats website as there are too many issues to cover in this already long review! But in short, as well as prepared food fresh vegetables are a necessity, often fed along with amounts of fruits and healthy table scraps. Veterinary care: The last main issue I feel the need to touch on. Rats, just like dogs and cats can and do get ill - in fact, probably more so. However both legally and morally they of course deserve care, not to be left like so often was done in the past. And like anything, this can get expensive. A good small animal vet can be hard to find as some know very little - others are fantastic. Some price them lower than dogs and cats for consults, where a dog may be £20 (a very very rough guide) some may charge half that for a rat - others see them as exotic and charge £30 or more. Actual medications tend to cost little due to being done on weight - the most common ailment in rats is respiratory diseases requiring antibiotics, often the antibiotics cost less than the consult. For males the next most common things are hormonal aggression (moreso in pet shop and rescue rats) requiring neutering - depending on areas this could cost from around £25 to over £100. There is at least some genetic link so if 1 of a pair of brothers requires it the other is more likely to - although by no means certain. Usually becomes a problem between 6 and 12 months old, though has been known much younger or older. For females it's mammary tumours - which aren't cancerous, but do grow and then the decision to leave or remove needs to be taken into account depending on age and health of the rat, and location (attached to anything) - this can cost again quite large amounts of money. Usually occurs after 18 months but can be much younger. As you can see, while fantastic loving pets, they CAN end up as very expensive ones too. With 13 rats (2 of which I only rehomed recently) I've spend only probably £100 or less in the last 12 months, although my rats are mostly quite young - my 2nd and 3rd rats (RIP) were a pair and were back and forth to the vets from 4 months old. Some people with a young pair of rats have racked up easily 3 - 4 times that in a year. But even in spite of the potential costs - I would, and do, recommend them to everybody. Most people spend a couple of hundred per year on dogs for standard vaccinations, worming tablets and flea treatments, plus they cost more to feed - you could care for a lot of rats with that same amount. And they are without doubt the most loving small animal I've ever owned (amongst mice, gerbils, hamsters, guinea-pigs and rabbits). Sorry to plug the website again (it's a free website so I'm not getting paid for this!) but detailed information can be found at www.fancy-rats.co.uk along with a discussion forum, it's a great resource for rat lovers and owners. Sorry for the length, I do have a lot of passion about my little friends! 2012 update: At this point I felt I would update - to date I now have 24 rats with a further 22 previously owned who have left me. It's been hard work - in July and August I lost 3 of my dear babies in each month, leaving me heartbroken. I've cared for a litter from 4 weeks old, I've helped with rescue situations and I've wondered if I've lost my mind having so many. But they are worth it - no doubts.
I have kept rats on and off for about 6 years now, so I feel reasonably well qualified to offer my opinion! I think rats are the ideal small pet. They are friendly, sociable, interactive, clean, cute and funny. They are not as easy to keep as you might imagine however and need a lot more space, time and input than a hamster or a gerbil. Unlike these, rats really enjoy human contact and will form a bond with their owner if you spend enough time playing and interacting with them. They will rush to the bars of their cage when they hear you come home, they will happily take food from your hand and they will sit on your shoulder or in your pocket as you wander round the house or sit watching TV. Rats rarely bite. Rats must never be kept alone, they are social animals and get very lonely and suffer on their own. You need at least two and in fact I'd recommend at least three so that when one rat inevitably dies first the other won't be left alone. I also recommend (if you intend on keeping rats long term) to introduce new ones while your existing rats are relatively young and healthy rather than waiting for one to leave you. Rats can get on with newcomers perfectly well in most cases but you must be very careful with introductions, they should be gradual and supervised. Rats need a lot of space, so make sure you have this before buying any. There is no such thing as 'too big' when it comes to rat cages! At least 2 square feet of space per rat is a good guide, and they like their cages to be filled with exciting accessories for them to climb on such as hammocks, ropes, tubes and shelves. Be aware of the spacing of the bars though, baby rats can fit through a gap of less than half an inch, as I discovered on my very first night as a rat owner! Rats are prone to several health issues, so make sure you are informed about these so you can spot the signs, get a good book about pet rats. You should also make sure you are prepared financially for the possibility of regular vet trips, prescriptions and operations as these can get costly. Finally, don't get rats because you think they will be easier to look after than a cat or a dog. They need a lot of attention from you and need to be able to come out of their cage to run about and exercise regularly, preferably every day but every other day is ok if that's not possible. I love my rats, and I wouldn't be without them but they are a commitment, especially when it comes to finding someone to look after them when you go on holiday! If I had a cute little bunny it might be easier!
Bart was my first rat who I got from the Glasgow Vet School. He was an albino and I spoiled him rotten. I was 12 years old at the time and naive. I loved Bart but I over fed him treats and I shouldn't have kept him alone. Rats should live in same sex pairs or small groups. They are very sociable animals, which need the company of other rats. They bond to each other and their owner, given the chance. They are highly intelligent and can interact with people. You can get rats from rehoming centres, breeders or pet shops. Male and female rats are very different. In general females are smaller and more active, whereas the males are bigger and lazier. If your looking for a rat to sit on your knee, a male would be your best bet. On average they live between 2 and 3 years. They make great children's pets as they are up during the day, rarely bite, and enjoy being handled. I used to put one of my rats on my shoulder when I went to the post box. I certainly turned a few heads! Rats have a negative reputation, but once you have had rats you will never go back. Though unfortunately I've had to as I've become allergic to everything furry, with the exception of my 2 hammies. CAGE Rats need very large cages, as they are very active and large rodents, so buy as big as money allows. Multi level cages are great and there are a variety of great rat toys on the market, including rope bridges, wooden ladders, hammocks, and large plastic tubes, which can be hung in the cage. Rats need mental stimulation, so get a variety of toys and change them around regularly. I've found that adult rats don't tend to use wheels, so I wouldn't waste my money on one. Toilet tubes make fun, cheap toys for rats to chew up. SUBSTRATE Rats have delicate respiratory systems so I wouldn't recommend wood shavings or sawdust. One of the best products I ever used was called Yesterday's News, made from recycled newspaper. It is available in pet shops. It helps absorb the moisture from urine and droppings, and helps reduce the smell. Rat droppings can be smelly so this substrate is great. Shredded paper or torn up paper towels make good bedding. Rats like a bed to hide away in so make one using a box or buy one. CLEANING Rats are very clean animals in themselves, but they don't urinate in one corner like a hamster. For this reason, they can get pongy. Depending on how many rats you have, you may need to do a part clean in the middle of the week. In general, change the substrate and bedding once a week and clean the cage using a natural washing up liquid. The bars of rats cages can get very dirty, so give these a good scrub every month at least. Most rats are quite happy to get bathed. I used to part fill a sink with warm water and used mild baby shampoo. Rat's tails get dirty as they drag on the ground. A soft toothbrush with shampoo on it can be used to gently scrub away stains. FEEDING Rat mix can be readily bought in pet shops. Which ever one you choose, make sure that your rats eat everything in their bowl. This way they will get all the nutrients they need. Complete pellets can also be bought to, which prevent selective feeding. Like all rodents, rats teeth are constantly growing so make sure to provide hard foods for them to eat such as dog biscuits and wooden toys to chew on. When supplementing their diet it's important not to give them too much protein, as this causes spots to develop. Rats are omnivores like us, so they will eat anything and everything given to them. Try and give healthy treats such as fruit, vegetables, rice, pasta and cereals. Baby food also goes down a treat, especially with baby rats. Give fresh water daily. HEALTH Rats are very prone to respiratory infections and tumours. All of my rats have died from one or the other. Many rats sneeze a red discharge and have wheezy chests, but don't necessarily develop an infection. It's important to observe what's normal for your rat, and take it to the vet if it looks poorly. I've had mostly female rats, and they tend get mammary tumours. These can be removed straight away, removed when they become bigger or left. The surgery is expensive and tumours frequently come back. If you choose to leave the tumours, don't let them become so big that the animal has difficulty moving or is in pain. If this happens, it may be time to call it a day. However hard it is to day goodbye to your wee friend, his well being is what's important. * My mum and her friend started the Scottish Rat Club a few years ago. It now unfortunately has very few members and people coming to its shows. If you want to check it out go to - www.scottishratclub.co.uk
When my daughter was about 5 or 6, she went mad for a hamster because many of her friends had them. I went to pets at home and talked to the staff but was advised against a hamster because they aren't as much fun because they sleep through the day. The woman recommended a rat which at the time, I thought was ludicrous! A rat in my house? NO chance! I said I'd think about it and went home. Laughing about it with a mate over coffee, she agreed and said her kids had had pet rats and they were great. After hearing how friendly and nice they could be, I decided to go for it. I went the store and purchased a big cage, it was plastic at the bottom and had wire bars at the top with very small gaps between them to stop the little critter getting out. I had to buy some saw dust to go in there which wasn't expensive at all, it was about £5 for a big bag. I also had to get rat food and a water bottle that fits onto the cage. I went home and set it up which was simple enough then went back to the store to choose the lucky pet. Looking at the little white and grey fluffy bundles, it was tough but I picked out a little one with a white body and grey head. The assistant said you're meant to have 2 really because they're very sociable animals and get lonely if they're on their own so I also chose another one. I took them home in what was similar to a happy meal box although, I wouldn't have eaten them! They were only £5.99 each, much cheaper than any dog or cat out there! I bought two girls as rats can breed very quickly and before you know it, you can have 12 of them running around. My daughter was thrilled to bits and would take them out and hold them carefully. It was a good way to associate her with animals and teach her to be careful and caring to something that couldn't really harm her like a dog or a bigger animal could. At worst, it could give her a small bite, but suprisingly, it didn't. The cage was really easy to clean out, just take out the 'furniture' like the food bowl and the walkway, take off the lid and empty all of the sawdust into a black bag before filling it again with clean sawdust and putting everything back in . This needs to be done about twice a week although you can buy a little scoop and take out poo every now and then which saves your cage looking awful if you've not go time to give it a full clean. The rats don't smell bad like you'd expect because the sawdust soaks up the urine and their poo is the size of a chocolate chip so you can't smell that either. The rats themselves are very clean too. We could let our rats out in the lounge and they would run around and nibble things for a while and when we tapped the floor, they'd come running. They loved to sit on our shoulders and sniff in your ear too. They were more like little puppies than rats, very sociable and interesting. One of the rats, Fluffy died after after 3 years. It was very sad, and my daughter broke her heart. The rat was just lying there. We did a small rat funeral for it so our daughter could say goodbye properly involving handpicked weeds/flowers and a shoebox. The other rat, Rizzo however was fine for a long time after that. We moved house, and bought another rat to keep her company and it was another two years later when Rizzo seemed ill, much slower and not as friendly, not coming to the front of the cage when you tapped it so I took her to the vet who said she was very old. Most rats don't live past 3 years and she was 5. She said it would be kindest to put her to sleep, and with my daughters permission, she did. It absoloutely broke her heart as she had the same pet since she was very young and she had a better understanding of death too. We had another small funeral for Riz the next day because we wanted to bury her rather than the vet keeping the body as she had offered to. The other rat died a year on and we had to go through the whole process again. It was a bit emotional, but after a lot of years of fun with them, I guess it was worth it. It's sad that they don't live very long because your kids are often still quite young when they die, where a dog or something lives much longer. Pricewise, these are cheap loving pets, they're easy to afford to buy and maintain and they're great fun over the years. I'd definitely recommend getting one, we never regretted ours. R.I.P Fluffy, Rizzo and Milo.
*This review exclusively covers pet rats* Pet rats, otherwise known as 'fancy rats' are quite possibly the best small rodent to own as a pet. Positives: - Very friendly creatures (rarely bite) - Just about big enough to cuddle! - Sociable (they like to live in pairs or groups - just make sure you get a big enough cage) - Very clean (they spend a third of their lives cleaning) - Cheap to look after - they don't eat too much, their food isn't expensive to buy and lasts a long time, they don't need lots of expensive toys either - they're happy with the cardboard tubes from kitchen roll. Negatives: - Cages can take up quite alot of space depending on how many rats you have. Even for a single rat the cage should be at last 2 to 3 times the size of your average hamster cage. - Some people have an aversion to rat tails (personally though I like them and contrary to what many people believe they are not slimy). - They don't live very long (roughly 2.5-3 years). Health: Unfortunately rats are prone to illness, in particular they are likely to get fluid on the lungs (often fatal) and tumours (almost always fatal). Of the 4 pet rats I've had who are now dead, only one died of old age, two died of fluid on the lungs and one died of a tumour that appeared from nowhere at a frightening speed. Looking after your rat: Food: - Pet shops often sell prepacked bags of rat food, some are in a regulated pellet form and others are a mix. The pellet form is better in the sense that the rats can't pick and choose the bits they like best and therefore they get all the nutrients. - Feed your rat/s every day or two. Your rat/s will invariably empty the food bowl as soon as you fill it, this doesn't mean they're very hungry and have eaten it all - they have invariably tucked most of it away in storage for later. Do not be tempted to over feed. - For a bit of variety you can give your rat/s some treats - mine are particularly fans of any kind of meat and dried slices of banana. Cleaning: - You should clean out the whole cage at least once a week - replace bedding, wipe down shelves etc. - Instead of sawdust which can be an irritant to rats, use either paper or clay based cat litter to line the baseof the cage. This is also much more absorbent than sawdust and better at reducing odour. - You might want to give your rats themselves the occassional bath. I usually give mine a wash roughly once a month. You can buy specialist small pet shampoos from a number of pet shops. Advice: - Unless you're planning on breeding, only keep same sex rats together (it's very easy to tell the males from the females). - If possible house more than one rat together, they are sociable animals by nature. However if you try to introduce rats to each other later on there is a greater possibility that they will start fighting so if possible buy your rats together. - Get your rat/s out on a regular basis. They like human contact and will happily run round the floor/sofa etc or sit on your shoulder while your wonder around. The more your handle them the more relaxed they will become in your company, this is particularly important in the early stages. - It's normal for rats to play fight, this is often similar to the way that deer 'spar' - they stand on their hind legs and push at each other with their front legs. This is quite funny to watch and nothing to worry about. - Keep your rat/s entertained, they are very intelligent animals and need lots of mental stimulation- give them lots of things to do, chews, tubes to run through etc. - Keep an eye on them when they're out and about - one of my rats (Baldrick) stole the Fn key from my laptop keyboard, don't know what about it appealed to him but he pulled it straight off.
Rats...!! Domestic or wild - I love them all. I know wild rats are considered a 'pest' ,and I understand the reasoning. Although I believe any pest is just something that is somewhere that is inconvenient for us as a species. Wild and domestic rats are quite different beasts, domestic rats have been bred in captivity for hundreds of generations and are free from the diseases of their wild counterparts. The wild rat can carry Weils' disease (Leptospira interrogans)which is present in the urine of the rat. I know from experience that rats although pretty clean in their habits do tend to urinate on the go, so if you are in contact with areas where there are well used rat runs; particularly where there might be contaminated water, or for some reason you have handled a wild rat and you have broken skin which comes into contact with this then you could contract Weils. The incubation period is 3 - 19 days, if you google weils disease sypmtoms you will know what to watch out for, it starts off fluey and achy but can become serious quite quickly. Although rats can carry Weils not ALL wild rats do, and there have to be quite particular circumstances for it to get passed on to us, so I don't lose much sleep over it. Rats were also the primary carriers for the fleas which carried bubonic plague in the Middle Ages. These are probably the reasons why many people when hearing the word rat recoil, and it is an understandable reaction as contact can possibly be harmful. However I think we over estimate their affect on health in the modern western world. It would be a different story of course were we living in slum conditions where rats frequent the same water source as the human population. At a more mundane level a wild visitor may gnaw pipes or wires in domestic dwellings. However they are not doing any of these things to intentionally bug or endanger us, it is not their problem that we have invaded their space with warm 'boxes' filled with food, and dry nesting places. There are animals that we live with everyday that endanger us in some way or another. Cats can pass on toxoplasmosis amongst other things, while dogs can be plain dangerous - witness the cases of dogs turning on children in the family and maiming or killing them. Our fellow humans are riddled with disease which we pass to and fro with no compunction, aids, colds, chicken pox, swine flu, war - the list is endless. So I don't hold any truck with claims of rats being any dirtier or more disease ridden than your average human. If we leave them alone they will leave us alone. Be as careful (as you can be) with your rubbish and you won't invite them in. Domestic Rats I have kept and bred many rodents over the years - including, hamsters, mice, gerbils and rats, (plus a few non rodent animals too), and the most interactive of these pets has been the rat. My last domestic rat, a black hooded female I named Tiddles, was unfortunately an only rat. This was because when I brought her home from the pet shop (she was the only one left otherwise she would have had a litter mate with her from day one) despite 'only' having three hamsters, a cat and a fish the reaction of my husband to my "filling up the house" with furry critters was an insistence on a strict no more rats policy. I was most miffed. Because of Tiddles 'only' status she needed much more attention than a rat kept as part of a same sex pair or group (they are very sociable animals). As my cat had never quite grasped that Tiddles was a fellow member of the household and not a potential toy or meal I had to arrange out of cage play time fairly carefully. I would often have Tiddles scampering around the bathroom whilst I did my ablutions, she particularly liked it when I had a bath, (I don't tend to use bubble bath and the like) when the water cooled a little she would dive in and swim around using my knees as a little island to rest on when she was fed up of doing the rat paddle. Enfys (the cat) was often shut out of the living room so that Tiddles could have unmolested play, she quite liked to sit on my shoulder while I watched TV, and burrow in my hair. I once returned to let Tiddles back into her cage to find Enfys sitting in there as If waiting in ambush. Tiddles knew her name, and I'm sure she knew the names of the other pets and members of the family, as well as many other words. She most certainly knew the words for chicken, and broccoli and would get quite excited when I 'asked' her if she wanted some. If you're going to keep a pet rat, buy or make the biggest cage you can possibly afford, you need to allow at least two square feet per rat, but preferrably more, there is no such thing as a cage that is too big for a rat. Try and keep two or more of the same sex. Give them lots of stimulation, mental and physical play. An example of mental play might be to hide some of their favourite treats in a small matchbox for them to find, and try to get into. They even like to play with a (small cat type perhaps) ball and will often bring it back to be rolled again. There is plenty to be said about the practicalities of keeping a rat as a pet in books and on the internet, so my intention is just to give a feel for the animal here. Be prepared though for their short life span, even the best cared for rat is unlikely to live beyond about five years, and often a lot fewer, usually between two to three years. This can be hard as you are likely to get very attatched to your whiffly friend. Just to mention on a final note, owning (currently) four cats - I have crossed paths with many wild rats and mice over the years, sadly mainly as stiff little corpses on my doorstep, or the occasional disembodied limb. Very occasionally though a small miracle happens when I have the opportunity to intervene and by some stroke of luck manage to free the captive from the jaws of certain death. And so it was that on a bright sunny morning some two months ago I rescued a bedraggled cat spit covered 'wood mouse' from cat number two. An area of my home is closed off to the cats and dog as it is about to undergo renovation, so I promptly placed mousey in a safe high sided box in this part of the house. This was to give her a chance to recover (or die in peace if she was injured) before releasing her a distance from any houses. Unfortunately she recovered so well that she jumped the two foot walls of the box during the evening, and until recently had not been seen again... until two nights ago. I had placed a waste paper basket on its side, with a water bowl nearby and a supply of mouse food and treats in the basket every night, to get her used to coming to this spot until I could get a humane mouse trap (I was in no particular hurry). However my husband was working in that part of the house when he heard a rustle in the basket, and swore he saw the rat equivalent of Angelina Jolie emerge and dash off into the lounge carrying half a sprout. As Neville as she is now known has been with us since she was only a few weeks old, I would hate to turf her out into the cold. So we have ordered a rat palace and are going to attempt to lure her in, where she will be given all the toys and company that she can stand - also possibly if she can be tamed enough to handle a visit to the vet to check for parasites etc., Before anyone shoots me down for keeping a wild animal caged, rats are extremely adaptable, and she will be given free rein of certain areas of the house very regularly. To sum up rats are just about the best small pet you can have, as intelligent and interactive (at least) as dogs, as silky and snugly as cats - without the haughty demeanour, and a lot less bitey than hamsters . As for their wild cousins, obviously you don't want a rat city on your doorstep, but they are far from the villains that popular culture portrays them as being.
When you say to people ''I have a pet rat/pet rats'' you get one of two reactions. ''Oh,cool! I've never had a rat,what are they like?'' OR ''Ew! But rat's are filthy,disease ridden animals! They smell and they bite!'' My only reply to the second reaction is ''Well,no - they're quite clean,smell fine and only one of my rats has ever bitten and it was because my fingers smelt of mince at the time.'' I'd be willing to put money on the fact that rats are cleaner,carry less disease/germs than,smell less and bite less than your average baby/toddler/child! And,let's face it - they're much cuter! We (my partner and I) bought two brothers at a pet shop - one fawn with red eyes and one tuxedoed - black with a white belly. The fawn we named Nico,the tux we named Rico. From the minute they hopped out of their little box onto our laps and peed on us to mark their territory,we were smitten. (They only ever peed on us just that once,as a sort of greeting,I think) They were inquisitive and lively and so damned cute. As they settled in and began to trust us they would wait for us at the front of their cage ready to be brought out. They're crafty little nippers - God knows,they outsmarted me many a time! Rico was meant to be mine and Nico was meant to be my partners,however things don't always work out the way you plan - Nico turned out to be much better suited to me,and Rico to my partner. They have individual little personalities,and can clash with each other or the human companions - so don't just assume you have a 'bad' rat if he or she isn't very nice to you - you might just not be their type! So,they would sit in our hoods or pockets as we watched DVD's,sat on the bus or just generally went about our business. Usually they'd curl up and sleep but sometimes they'd sit chirping in our ears,nuzzling our earlobes and generally being sweet. Unfortunately,Rico died a short while ago. According to a lot of people,when a rat dies the cagemate can become depressed and starve to death - Nico hasn't,he's just adopted me as his cagemate instead. Every spare minute I have,he's with me - nuzzled into my neck or curled up in a blanket beside me on the bed or couch. If I have food sitting by me (snacks while I'm studying,for instance) you can guarentee he'll be off with it in a shot if given half a chance - as I've been typing this he's attempted to steal a scone from me 3 times! A full sized one,mind you. They look so sweet and funny when they're dragging bits of food heavier and bigger than themselves around - they're so determined and sure of themselves! (And,damn - he dosn't half put up a fight when I try to get the scone back off him!) The thing about rats is that they're the perfect balance - they play with you but they're also happy to curl up and sleep while you read a book. They can amuse themselves,or be amused by you. I've rambled on enough,I think. Overall - rats = intelligent,affectionate,clean,funny,beautiful animal companions who you'll grow to adore if you let them into your heart.
I have only recently this year become a rat owner but they have made a big impact on me and I would always have them as pets as they are very intelligent, fun, social rodents. I've had gerbils and hamsters in the past but rats are on a different level. When walking into the room where their cage is they often come out to greet me and love nothing more than to spend time riding around on your shoulder or in my pockets. They all have learnt their names and will play chase with my hands, one of my girls loves to lick me to death. Rats do have a bad press for being dirty and spread disease but they are nothing like this. Rats should be kept in single sex groups unless you are breeding (which should only be done with lots of consideration to ensure the health and wellbeing of the rats) they are very social animals and need company. Housing Its important to ensure they have a large cage as they do spend a lot of time in here, if you have females the bar spacing is an important consideration as they can get through very small gaps, I personally wouldn't have anything larger than 1.50cm, ideally 1cm. Their cage needs to have plenty of things to climb in, on and over these can be made from simple everyday items like old socks, trouser legs, cardboard boxes or you can purchase hammocks, cosy fabric boxes but be prepared most rats like to make them their own usually chewing a new entrance/exit. Rats respiratory systems are sensitive so you need to because on the litter/bedding material used they need something which doesn't produce dust so no sawdust, I firstly used towels but found they rats burrowed under it so now I use sheets of newspaper you can buy the paper in littler which looks like cat litter but I get my papers for free and its easy to roll it up every other day and replace. Rats cages only smell when they need cleaning so I find a quick clear out every other day is enough to prevent the smell being a problem. All rats need time to free range obviously the longer the better but at least 1 hour per day this can be done in a rat proof room (basically somewhere they can't nibble anything they are not meant to) or you can buy/make a solid wall playpen beware more rats can easily just 2 - 3 feet to they can't be left unattended in the playpens. ¬Food I feed my rats on a home made diet of rat food, pasta, various sugar free cereals, dried meal worms, monkey nuts, baby rusks, dried dog food. I make this up about once every 3 months and give them a bowl each time its empty. They are also fed a bowl of my tea, cous cous, fresh meat, fresh fruit/veg, toast and as treats chocolate drops. The more variety the better. Illness The more common problem for rats is respiratory infections this is usually shown with a rattly chest, sneezing and brown discharge from the eyes and nose. Its important to get a rat seen quickly as being so small they can go down hill fast. A lot of vets recommend putting the antibiotics in their water but I found giving it mixed into baby food was better as I knew they where getting it all. I also give my rats Echinacea & goldenseal in their meal a few days each month as it seems to help boost their immune system. As rats age females can also suffer with tumours. A rats life expectancy is around 2 years.
i love rats! out of all the pets we have owned i loved these the most ( and we've had cats, dogs, guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, turtles, mice and ducks.) they are easily the most intelligent small animal you can buy. i brought two males from a pets at home store (i think, this was over a year ago now!) they were around 8 pound each i believe. i have a black rat and white one. they do need fairly big cages thou and will need to be handled quite a lot to be happy. they are fantastic animals but they are much more work than other small animals, like hamsters or mice. you can get rats balls and wheels but mine never enjoyed those. they like big cages with lots of levels and vecause they are so intelligent like challenges. we will sometime put their food the other side of the room, let them out and they will find it and take it back to their cage. despite what many people still think rats are extrememly clean animals. when out of the cage once they know you and are no longer nervous you will find they will go back to their cage to go to the toilet. they are well behaved but do like ot chew anything they can reach so make sure the area around their cage is secure and if let out theres no toruble they can get into. would definately recommend this pet for older children and adults. they are fairly cheap to look after once you have brought the initial things too (cage, water and food bowl, house etc) you can pick up bedding and food fairly cheap. pet shops will sell special rat food, but i've been caught out a few times and they are just as happy with guinea pig or hamster food, but only ona temporary basis. there are many thigns to prove you can train your rats. but we have never done this!
Rats, what can I say, if you can see past their tail, which seems to freak lots of people out, they are a superb pet- Can be very Loving, Very intelligent, Nosey, Greedy, Very sociable, but, they do tend to have a good wash after being handled, its as if they want to wash the human scent off themselves. Its amusing to watch the minute you put them down they start the long ritual of washing. There's not much cuter than the sight of a rat licking it's paw and washing its face and ears. Its generally better to get 2 rats together because they do get lonely, our last rats were 2 delinquent brothers who went by the names Ben n Jerry ( no prizes for guessing my favourite brand of ice-cream). They were a pair of hooligans and caused havoc every time we allowed them out of the cage. They were very good fun, but needed constant supervision when out. Among their tricks were stealing- anything especially that can be eaten. Climbing up the curtains. Chewing plants infact, chewing anything, they are not really fussy. I came downstairs one morning to find that one of them had worked out how to open the cage and the pair of them had enjoyed their unsupervised all night party to the max! We had a lovely pattern chewed in the leather settee, chewed tv remote, chewed cushions I could have strangled the pair, we do laugh about it now. Two tiny bulldog clips were promptly employed as locks on the doors from then on. You do need a large cage, especially if you have more than one. Foods also an issue you have to be careful as with all small rodents what you feed them, I advise you to get a book all about rats. It will advise the best bedding, snacks ( they can't eat sunflower seeds) and Love shredded paper as bedding thats eco-friendly isn't it? You must handle them regularly when they are young and they will be your friend for life, they Love to sit on your shoulder, even when your walking round.It is said if a rat has a wash while your are holding it thats a sign of Love and trust from it. Pet rats are meticulously clean, but the cage gets very smelly so you must clean them out regularly especially because they don't like a dirty cage. But, I do think you either Love them or Hate them and I Love them.
My first real pet of my own was a rat when i was 13ish. My sister had wanted one for ages but my aunt bought me one instead. My sister wasnt at all impressed but she got over it. Poor little Basil only lasted a couple of weeks, the pet shop had let him go too early but they were great and gave me another for free. Louis's parents were show rats, white with a strong black line down their backs but his wasnt straight so he couldnt be shown, so i got him!! We had a pretty big cage for him, with a wheel and shelf above it. It had loads of space for his little house of tissue paper. The guy at the pet store advised us to handle him as much as possible to get him tame so i got him out a couple of times a day until he got bigger. Rats are really smart and one day i ended up building him a little maze in my bed room with some food placed in certain places and he did really well with it and when he found the food he started clicking his teeth. (Rat sign of happiness). He started getting really big and he would just sit on my shoulders at the back of my hair quite happily clicking away. We even shared breakfast together sometimes. Id be eating my cereal with him on my shoulder and every now and again he'd run down and steal some...he wasnt silly, he knew what he wanted and was cheeky enough to just take it. One day the family ordered a pizza and again he was on my shoulder. I wondered out of the toppings on the pizza he would take given the choice. I laid out 1 of each topping on floor for him and what does he do? He runs past all the toppings and tries to take the whole pizza before realising it was way too heavy for him. Rats are also one of the cleanest pets ive ever had, yes their cages do get stinky if you dont clean them out enough but we used to do it once a week. 1 big issue i do bring up though is choice of bedding for a rat. Tissue paper and toilet roll tubes are great for them to make their houses out of but i would strongly advice not using any sawdust, no matter how fine. When Louis was 3 years old (which is OLD for a rat) he started getting sores/ blisters on his feet from the sawdust and caused infections so the vet gave him little rat socks to stop this. He wasnt so impressed with them though. Please dont think Rats are horrible and dirty because they cant be more different than that, well pet rats anyways. They're loving and do show affection, they can be trained well and become very tame. Louis was a member of the family without a doubt and provided us with a lot of laughs.
== Why Are Rats Good Pets? == Rats make good pets for a number of reasons. The main one I think is that they are extremely loving. They love to come out and explore, they also love cuddles and kisses. They are just as loyal as a dog or a cat. They are extremely intelligent and can be taught tricks if you want to teach them (I don't). They are clean and easy to look after, once you know how to take care of them that is. If you love them they will love you back, they are a bit more independent than dogs and cats and will give you hours of fun just watching them. Especially when they decide to misbehave and not do as they are told. == Why People Don't Like Rats == Many people dislike rats, many of them can't even produce a valid reason as to why this is. They just say because they are dirty or disgusting. In these cases it is usually because they have been told from a young age that rats are pests and are nasty. I've seen it first hand, a toddler I know was looking at photo's of my rats, and seemed really interested, then her mother turned around and said "eww rats are yucky" to her. This automatically puts it into a child's head that rats are nasty. We need to stop people from passing these prejudices on to their children as it is just creating another generation of children who are scared of rats. People say rats are dirty and they bite. My rats are cleaner than some humans I know and they don't bite me. Pet rats do not carry diseases nor do they go around savaging people. I cannot speak for wild rats as I have no experience where they are concerned and I should imagine that being out in the wild they won't be as clean and healthy as pet rats. == My Rats == Melody: Melody was my first ever rat, I got her when she was eight weeks old. She was a black and white hooded top ear. I got her from Pets At Home. Sadly she died at five months old from a large tumour, I had her operated on but it was too advanced so I had to have her put to sleep a few days later. She was very outgoing and loved trying to escape whenever she could. She also loved to build little nests out of newspaper and groom our dog Henry. Cleo: Cleo was Melody's sister, I got her a week after Melody from the same place (she had been there when I got Melody). She was also a black and white hooded top ear but had different markings to Melody. She lived until she was two and a half years old and died from old age. She had a few health problems, mainly to do with her breathing. She also had a head tilt (unsure why) which she recovered from but it left her as deaf as a post. She was my favourite rat as she loved to snuggle up with me for hours on end. Snowdrop: Snowdrop was my third rat and was about seven months younger than the other two (I got her after Melody died). I originally thought she was an Albino top eared rat but as she grew older she got markings on her nose and the base of her tail which led me to figure out that she was a Himalayan. She died about a month after Cleo from four cancerous tumours. She was very nervous all of her life and wasn't very sociable. She did like a cuddle now and again though and went mad for her wheel. == Are You A Suitable Owner For Rats? == To be a suitable owner for rats you need to fulfil the following criteria ideally: - Be able to afford vets bills. - Be able to spend at least an hour a day with them (out of the cage free ranging). - Have researched what they need for bedding/food etc. - Have enough space for a decent sized cage. Rats are sociable and need a lot of stimulation. If you have more than one they keep each other company which means you can spend less time with them. They need to be able to run around outside the cage for at least an hour a day (a bathroom is ideal). If you have any other pets it is best to keep them out of the room where the rats free range. Vet bills for rats can run into the hundreds so you need to be able to afford to take them to the vets if they need it. If you want a low maintenance pet you would be better off with a hamster or some gerbils. == How Many Rats To Have? == The amount of rats you have depends on how many you feel you can cope with looking after. Bear in mind however that rats should always be kept in pairs at the very least. Many people think it is ok to keep a rat on it's own if they get it out and play with it a lot but the fact of the matter is that you cannot replace another rat. You cannot snuggle up for a nap with your rat, nor can you groom it fully. They say the best toy for your rat is another rat. I know this from personal experience as when I first brought a rat I didn't know any better and got a lone rat. I had her a week before I bought her a companion and I noticed a difference right away. When she was alone she slept all the time and seemed depressed. As soon as I put another rat in with her she was like a new rat, running around and playing. She seemed so much happier. Then when she died there was a few months that passed before I replaced her, in those months the second rat I had got slept a lot and was very subdued, again when I got another one this changed totally and she was like a new rat. == Where To Buy Your Rats == You can buy rats in most pet shops for a small fee, however I wouldn't recommend it. Most pet shops source their rats from breeders that breed just to make a profit, this results in rats that are more likely to get sick and also aren't as human friendly when you first buy them. They breed for quantity not quality. I would recommend either re-homing rats from an animal shelter or going to a proper breeder. Proper breeders breed their rats for quality. They don't over breed and they breed to get healthier rats with good temperaments. These are the best kind of rats to buy. If you buy from a pet shop you are encouraging them to source their rats from the rat farms which don't care how often a female gives birth. They breed them too young and too often, it is cruel and should be stopped all together. == What You Need To Buy == Before you buy your rats you will need to make sure you have a suitable habitat for them. You will need: - A Cage: The cage is obviously the most important thing you need. The size of cage you need all depends on the amount of rats you want to keep. This cage calculator will give you a rough idea what size you need - http://www.rattycorner.com/odds/calc.shtml. You will also need to think about how easy it is to clean out. A good website for cages is www.zooplus.co.uk. The more space the rats have the better so if you can afford a bigger cage then it is worth getting one. - Substrate: You will need something to put on the floor of the cage, rats cannot have sawdust or wood shavings as they release chemicals when wet which can damage the rats lungs. They also cannot have any wood based cat litter. The best one I think is newspaper as it is cheap and easily available. Paper based cat litters are also good but make sure they aren't dusty. - Food Bowl: The size of bowl you need will depend on how many rats you have. If you only have two then a small bowl would suffice. If you have three or more then you would need a bigger one. It is also better to get the heavier bowls rather than the plastic ones as the plastic ones can be tipped over and make a mess. You will need a separate bowl for any fresh food you give them (fruit and vegetables etc) so it would make sense to have two bowls. - Water Bottle: The size of bottle again will depend on how many rats you have. A rabbit water bottle is about the right size for any amount of rats. It is advisable to have two bottles just incase one gets blocked up and they can't get anything out of it. Also if you want to give them Soya milk as a treat then you should by a mouse water bottle especially for the milk as they are smaller. - A Wheel: This is very good exercise for rats. You need a large wheel as when the rats are fully grown a small or a medium one would be bad for their backs. Also don't get the metal ones as they can get their feet caught up in them and injure them. You can buy 'silent spinners' on eBay. They large (blue) silent spinner is around £15 and is the right size, it is also quieter than normal ones. - A Bed: Rats need somewhere to snuggle and sleep. You can buy houses for small animals, you'd need a large one for rats as they can get quite big. You don't need to put any bedding in it as if you put newspaper in the cage (or a toilet roll on string) they will make their own bedding. Hammocks are also good beds for them as they like snuggling up on them. I had a house and two or three hammocks. - Toys: Rats like to play with toys. Some rabbit toys are good for rats, as well as cat toys (anything that jingles). You can also buy toys that have food in the middle which the rats have to figure out a way of getting out, this is good for stimulating them as they are very intelligent. They will also need things to chew to keep their teeth healthy. - Litter Tray: You can buy litter trays for rats. Once they settle in they will choose a corner to do their business in. Put a litter tray in this corner (you can get ones to fit corners) and put some substrate in it. The rats should automatically use the tray as it is in the corner they have chosen to use as a toilet. If they don't just pick up any droppings they leave elsewhere and put them in the litter tray. The rats will soon get the message. == Looking After Your Rat == Rats need to be cared for properly to give them the best quality of life. You will need to replace their water and any fresh food daily. Dry food can be left in until you clean them out. They will need feeding regularly, but not necessarily every day, I personally would fill up the bowl and wait until they had eaten all of their food (dry food only). Once you have had them a while you learn how often you should be feeding them, mine were fed every other day and the food would last them until the next feed. The litter tray should be emptied and cleaned either daily or every other day (depending how full it is). The rest of the cage should be thoroughly cleaned out once a week (replacing all substrate and washing all the toys and bars etc). Hammocks should be washed once a week also. Rats will groom each other and themselves. I would recommend giving them a bath (in a bathroom sink or a bowl) once a month with mite shampoo to make sure they do not get mites. The water should be neither hot or cold (barely warm). It will be messy as most rats dislike bath time, but it benefits them. You should make sure you dry them properly as they may get ill if you leave them wet. You should also clip their claws once a month or so as needed to stop them getting too long. Once you have clipped their claws a few times it becomes easier. Just clip the very tip of the claw off. Rats need a lot of exercise. You should buy toys for their free ranging time (tunnels etc) and find a room which is safe for them, a bathroom is ideal. In any other room just block off any escape routes. == Health == It is important that you take your rat to a vet if you think it is ill as rats can go down hill very quickly. Indications that he is not well are difficulty breathing, refusing to eat, a dull coat, tiredness, also they may sit in the same place for long periods of time. Tumours - tumours are quite common in rats. Tumours can grow incredibly fast so if you notice one, no matter how small you should take the rat to the vets immediately. They can be operated on although it is not always successful and there are risks with putting the rat under anaesthetic. Mites - Rats can get mites or other parasites. You can see them on light coloured rats if you look closely. A good prevention method is a mite shampoo. If your rat itches more than normal it would be a good idea to buy some mite shampoo. Ear infection - If your rat develops a head tilt or had problems with balance then it is possible that it is an ear infection. This can be treated with antibiotics from the vet and clears up reasonably fast. It is possible for the rat to lose it's hearing if it is left untreated. The head tilt should clear up once the infection has gone, sometimes it is permanent though. Respiratory problems - Breathing problems in rats can be caused by exposure to chemicals (e.g. air fresheners, deodorants etc) and from chemicals released in wood based substrate and dusty bedding. Keep these sources away from the rats to decrease the chances of breathing trouble. When they get problems with their breathing they can go downhill fast so you should get them to a vet for some antibiotics as soon as possible == My Recommendations == If you have the time, space and money to own rats then it would be worthwhile getting them. You need to be committed though as rats generally live for two to three years and can cost a lot in vet bills. They are worth all the hassle though as the pros far outweigh the cons.