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San Diego Humane Society

Rat Care

BACKGROUND

ALSO KNOWN AS: Domestic Rat / Fancy Rat

WEIGHT: Males, 1-1 ½ pounds; Females ½-1 pound

LIFESPAN: 2-3 years

FUN FACT: Rats will grind their teeth when they are content - this is called bruxing!

Please check out Wee Companions small animal rescue for more information and resources on rats: Weecompanions.org

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FOOD

  • High-quality rodent chow (called rat blocks) should be the main food source. Avoid rat foods with artificial coloring and corn products. Seed and grain mixtures can be used to supplement the rat block diet.
  • Fresh, clean water in a water bottle should be available at all times.
  • You may offer small amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as healthy “people food” such as pasta, sugar-free cereal or dried fruit. 

HOUSING & ENVIRONMENT

  • A solid bottom, powder-coated wire cage with multiple levels is recommended. Rats enjoy climbing and exercising, so the larger the cage, the better! Cages sold for ferrets are perfect for rats as long as they can’t fit through the bars.
  • Provide a litter box lined with paper-based bedding.
  • Spot clean the cage daily and deep clean at least once a week using vinegar and water or mild soap and water.
  • Keep the cage indoors, away from drafts, extreme temperatures and direct sunlight. A room where the family gathers in the evening is ideal.
  • Provide a cave for sleeping and resting, as well as a hammock.
  • Provide shredded paper towels, newspaper or old t-shirts for nesting. Towels are not recommended because they have long threads.
  • Rats are very social and should be kept in a pairs at a minimum. Do not house intact males and females together.
  • Provide safe toys to help wear down teeth, which are continuously growing, including cardboard tubes and untreated wood blocks.
  •  Provide daily exercise time outside of the cage to keep your rat happy. 

BEHAVIOR & HANDLING

  • Rats are friendly and curious by nature, but it may take time for your rat to get to know you.
  • Use small treats to coax a rat to the front of their cage. Do not attempt to pet or pick up a rat that is puffing up their fur or backing away from you.
  • Pick them up carefully using minimal restraint and allow them to climb on your lap and shoulders.

SIGNS OF ILLNESS

  •  Bring your rat to a small pet/exotics veterinarian annually for check-ups. Seek help immediately if you notice signs of illness, including sneezing, difficulty breathing, lethargy, lumps, sores, diarrhea, dental issues, hair loss, weight loss or changes in behavior.

RAT SUPPLY CHECKLIST

  • Spacious cage.
  • Rat blocks (Harlan Teklad brand or similar).
  • Seed and grain mixture (purchase at Wee Companions or make yourself).
  • Paper-based bedding.
  • Hammocks.
  • Water bottle.
  • Small, heavy food dish.
  • Untreated wood or cardboard toys.

 

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