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Pet Rats - How to select your first pet rats!

How to choose your pet ratties

Whether you buy your rats from a breeder or a shop, there are certain things you should look out for when choosing your rats:

Petting the cutest blue pet rat

  • When choosing your rat, choose one that does not appear skittish or does not squeal when picked up. Males tend to be calmer than females. Males usually enjoy being held for longer amounts of time especially as they get older.
  • Is the rat old enough to be away from its mother? Any kitten offered for sale should be at least 6 weeks old. Ask the date of birth. Is there a pedigree? If the rat is a male, at what age was he separated from his mother and sisters? Boy rats should be separated at 4 weeks at the earliest. Bearing in mind that rats can start reproducing at six weeks old, donít pick a female that has shared a cage with males if you donít want several rats in your home!
  • Is the rat's fur clean and free from any visible parasites? Are there any scabs (possible indication of mites)? Is the fur smooth and silky? Are there any thin patches in the coat?
  • Is the rat friendly and inquisitive? Ask how often the rat has been handled since birth. Baby rats should be handled daily; a rat that hasn't been handled enough will be skittish and afraid, and will need a lot of work building its confidence to the point of being a happy, well-socialised pet. Some pet shops won't allow you to handle the rats due to inadequate socializing. 
  • Does the rat run around normally without any signs of lameness? Look out for any rat that sits hunched over in a corner with its coat fluffed up and "staring"; such rats are ill and should be avoided.
  • Hold the rat close to your ear to check breathing; it should be clear and unlaboured, with no signs of wheezing or panting.
  • The eyes should be clear and bright, with no reddish-brown stains around eyes or nose (porphyrin staining - a sign that the animal is ill or stressed in some way).
  • The ears should be clean, with no staining, bite marks, or visible parasites.

These are all standard things to watch out for. In addition, whilst handling your prospective new pets, note the environment they have been living in; do they have adequate food and water? Look at their companions; are they all the same age, or does there seem to be a range of ages? Are there any sick animals in the cage/tank? last updated 1 Oct, 2017


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