Are you looking for a smaller less traditional pet? One that is still cuddly and very intelligent? A pet rat might be right for you! Here, our Gallup vets offer some information about owning a pet rat, what they are like and how to properly care for them.
Having Rats as Pets
If you are looking for an intelligent and very social pet that isn't a cat or dog, look no further than a pet rat! With some specific attention to their care, you can have a pet that will form a strong bond with you.
What is it like to have a pet rat?
Rats are one of the most common types of non-traditional family pets. They are cuddly, social and full of personality. Did you know that you can also train them and teach them to perform tricks? While they can be trained to enjoy being handled and played with you should also ensure that small children aren't left unattended with these pets.
Things to Consider When Getting a Pet Rat
One of the first things that you will need to do when you purchase a pet rat is to bring it to the vet for a complete examination. This will ensure that your rat is in tip-top condition and has no health concerns.
Along with performing the exam, your vet will perform a fecal test for intestinal parasites that could make your rat sick and discuss the at-home care needs for your new pet. You should bring your pet rat in for annual parasite testing as well as routine examinations. One difference between rats and other types of pets is that rats do not require any type of routine vaccinations.
Pet Rat Care
Regardless of your experience owning pet rats, a guide to owning a pet rat is a helpful tool. Here, our Gallup exotic pet vets offer some useful information for pet rat care:
Providing Their Nutritional Needs
All rats require high-quality pellet food. These pellets have been created with everything your pet rat needs from a nutritional standpoint.
Like most other animals, rats will need to be able to drink water at any time. This can easily be offered with the use of a water bottle on the side of the cage.
Pet rats also enjoy eating fruits and vegetables. Some of their favorites can include:
Avoid chocolate, corn, candy, caffeinated beverages, cheese and sticky foods such as peanut butter.
One thing that you may have heard is that rats love human food. This is actually true! While you can share some of your dinner scraps like pizza and pasta with your rat you should keep in mind that these should only be a treat. If you feed them too much it could result in your rat becoming overweight and other potential health issues.
Ensuring a Safe Environment
Rats love being kept in pairs. They are social animals and benefit from living with a friend. Always remember that the second rat should be of the same sex.
Your rat's cage should be a minimum of two feet wide, across and tall and have a solid powder-coated bottom. If you have two rats you should take that into consideration when choosing the size of the cage. This cage should be kept in a safe place indoors and away from any draughts.
You will need to cover the bottom of the cage in bedding and be sure to offer your rat some materials like paper towels or toilet paper to allow them to build a nest. A small box inside their cage can also provide them with a safe space to rest.
Do not use cedar or pine shaving or wood chips in your rat's cage as these have an oil coating that is toxic to rats.
Proper Handling Technique
It will take time for you to get your new pet rat to trust you, this is especially so when it comes to handling. One way you help get your pet rat to warm up to you is by offering them treats. Once you have entered a stage of trust, you can begin gently picking up your pet rat by using one hand to hold their bottom and the other hand to hold their back.
Satisfying Their Exercise Needs
Once you are regularly handling your pet rat you can begin to provide them with play time outside of their cage. This is one of the ways that you can help ensure that your rat can get enough exercise. You should keep in mind that you will need to continuously supervise your pet rat during their playtime.
Your rat will also benefit from various ways to exercise within their cage such as branches and climbing apparatuses and even a wheel to run on! Just be sure that the wheel has a solid surface and no rungs.
Daily Care For Your Pet Rat
You will need to take time out of each day to clear away any soiled bedding and uneaten food in your rat's cage as well as fill up their water bottle with clean fresh water. On a weekly basis, you should be replacing all of the bedding and washing down the sides and floor of the cage with warm soapy water. Be sure to use a mild soap and rinse the cage very well afterward.
The Typical Signs of Illness
Some common signs of illness to watch for include:
- weight loss
- dull eyes
- open wounds
- difficulty breathing
If your rat shows any of the signs above you should reach out to your exotic pet vet right away.
How long do rats live as pets?
Pet rats typically live a lifespan of 2 to 3 years. As with all animals, this lifespan can be affected by the care that your rat receives. If you don't properly care for the rat or their environment it can have a great effect on their overall life expectancy.
It may be difficult to think that you may be saying goodbye in two or three years but this is the typical amount of time that a pet rat will live under the best of circumstances. Even though their lives are short it doesn't make your time with them any less fulfilling or meaningful.
Speak with your vet to see if a pet rat might be a good fit for you, your family and your life.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.