Rats as Pets

A rat could be the perfect addition to your family if you have limited space, don’t want the long term commitment of a dog or cat, or simply if you want to enjoy the pleasure of owning a pocket pet.

Rats are intelligent, curious animals that can make wonderful pets, living on average 2-3 years. They are easily tamed and can bind quite strongly to their owner. Contrary to popular belief, rats are very clean animals, spending most of their day grooming. Male rats tend to be lazier and amenable to cuddles, whilst female rats tend to be more active and curious. They are very social animals so it can often be best to have more than one, however if you want to avoid unwanted pregnancies only keep rats of the same gender.

A variety of foods in their diet is advisable. Specific pelleted rat feeds can be purchased from your local pet store or produce store, with each pellet containing essential dietary requirements. Mixed seed diets are not recommended due to the rat’s ability to pick and choose only the tastiest and fattiest seeds from the mix. Fruit and vegetables should also be offered, eg. grapes, broccoli, celery, apples, tomato and watermelon can be a huge hit. Foods to avoid include green bananas, raw sweet potato, rhubarb, onion and orange peel. To round off the diet, the occasional treat of cooked meat, such as chicken, will be very well received!

Cage size must provide sufficient space for separate sleeping, eating, playing, and toileting areas. An escape-proof metal wire cage is ideal due to ventilation and ease of cleaning. The bottom of the cage ought to be covered with litter that is chemical and dust free, eg. shredded newspaper or recycled paper kitty litter. Don’t forget toys to mentally stimulate them.

One of the most common health concerns with rats is respiratory disease, most often attributed to a pathogen called Mycoplasma. This pathogen is able to cause disease when there is damage to the lungs. This damage is most commonly caused by dust, from inappropriate litter such as wood shavings, or from ammonia from their own urine. For this reason it is recommended that the cage be cleaned as often as possible, ideally once a day. When purchasing a rat be sure to avoid those that have laboured breathing, any signs of a “cold”, such as sneezing, or red staining on the ears, nose and feet.

Rats are highly intelligent creatures that will enthusiastically play with you daily, and are guaranteed to provide you with years of entertainment. So when next contemplating purchasing a new addition to your family why not consider the humble rat.

Katelyn from Anstead Vets