Newest Review: ... are quick rodents- probably not suitable for very young children because of this! Rats are a rewarding family pet with a bad rep... more
Member Name: Buggsy2008
Advantages: loyal, funny, lovable. entertaining
Disadvantages: upsetting when they die
== 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 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 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 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.
Summary: rats are the best pets!
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