Learn what kind of food, diet, cages, bedding, and toys are good for your little pet rats!
Pet Rats - Cage and Tanks!
Pet Rat Housing
Your pet rats will spend most of their lives in their tank or cage, and because they are such intelligent, active animals, it is a shame to keep them in a small space. If the tank/cage is sited in a busy part of the home, the rats will enjoy watching their humans passing by, and if part of the tank/cage is at eye-level, you will find that you interact with them more.
There is no such thing as a tank/cage that is 'too big' for pet rats -- giving your animals more space is an easy way to make their lives more interesting. As a bare minimum, the floor-space should be at least 24" long and 12" wide, but this is the minimum acceptable tank/cage size and most pet owners want to give their pets more than the minimum. It is really important to check the dimensions of any tank/cage before you buy; it can be hard to guess accurately, and a few inches of space can make a lot of difference to animals as small as rats.
The Importance of Ventilation
The importance of ventilation is that decomposing droppings and urine give off ammonia. This irritates the respiratory tract of rats, making rats vulnerable to respiratory problems (breathing difficulties).
Litter on the cage floor absorbs moisture from droppings, which slows or halts the decomposition process, but some ammonia release is inevitable, even with the best litter.
Good ventilation allows ammonia to dissipate in the surrounding air, thus reducing the amount that rats are exposed to in the cage. Ventilation is therefore a very important element in keeping rats healthy, and should be given particular attention whenever a rat suffers from respiratory illness.
Pet rats are *not* wild rats - they are not build to live outside in the elements. If you absolutely have to have them outside, make sure they are sheltered from the sun, wind and rain. Mosquitoes and ants may pose a problem for outdoor rats. Keep the cages up on tables where possible, and either spray around the table legs, or scatter ant dust around (make sure none goes into the cages). Mosquito coils and citronella candles can be used to keep insects away, but don't put them too close to the cages, as rats have very sensitive noses.
Unlike rabbits and guinea pigs, domesticated rats are not hardy in cold weather. They must live indoors, preferably in your home, although an enclosed outbuilding could also suffice. For this reason they need a cage rather than just a hutch. Rats kept in an outdoor hutch are at risk of coming into contact with wild rats, and would be lucky to survive a winter without illness or death from cold. The temperature should not fall below around 45 Degrees F / 7 Degrees C, and ideally should not rise beyond around 75 Degrees F / 24 Degrees C.
How Many Rats in a Tank/Cage?
ALWAYS keep rats in groups of two or more. They are social animals that need not only human attention but interaction with their own species. However, do not mix them with any other species - NO mice, gerbils, hamsters, etc... Rats are predators!
Most rat owners choose one of two housing options: aquariums or cages. No matter what you choose, it should have adequate ventilation, and no sharp edges or places where a foot or head could get caught.
But What's Really Best?
The ideal thing to get is a wire cage (a solid floor is better because it's more comfortable and rattie hands and feet won't get caught) because it allows for climbing. Don't get a really tall cage without putting in levels to break falls though.
My rat Jump climbed all the way up to the top of my 160 cm tall cage, and fell down. My heart skipped a beat, but thankfully he was okay. In fact, he immediately stood up on his hind feet and sniffed the air like nothing happened. You can create a level with a piece of plastic tied onto the cage with wire or put in a hammock (which can simply be a piece of fabric.)
Scatter-less Pet-Ware - Dome Dish
Scatter-less Dome Dishes feature a domed scatter-less design that helps prevent messy accidental food and water spills The Scatter-less Dome Dish is perfect for guinea pigs ferrets chinchillas pet rats and even birds!
If you provide an exercise wheel for your pet rats, DON'T use a wire one. Your rat's tail or leg could get stuck in a wire exercise wheel. Use a closed wheel like the Wodent Wheel. Read more about Exercise Wheels for Your Pet Rats. Good toys to put in the cage are a PVC pipe, a cardboard box, or bird and ferret toys. Read more about toy ideas for pet rats.
FancyPetRats.com last updated 8 Feb, 2017