Rats are clean, intelligent, playful creatures. They are very social and much fun to watch. They are also inexpensive, easy to care for and responsive to handling.
There are several types of cages available for housing small rodents, and some things you should consider before purchasing your cage are:
- Size – Adult rats require a minimum floor area of 1m square, and a height of 18 cm.
- Shape – Round cornered cages help discourage chewing.
- Material – Durable plastic bottom with wire sides and top, for good air circulation and easy cleaning.
- Toys – Rats love toys, and wooden toys are especially encouraged so that they chew the toys and nothing else. A plastic roll-ball, in which the rat can be placed, is great for exercise.
As a rule of thumb, the cage and accessories should be cleaned at least once a week.
Good quality food and clean fresh water are both a must at all times. A good quality commercial diet of pellets or blocks should be their main diet. Seed diets are also available, but should only be used as a supplement to the basic rodent pellet as a treat item. Rodents prefer sunflower-based diets to pellets, BUT these seeds are low in calcium and high in fat and cholesterol. High seed diets can lead to obesity and nutritional deficiencies. Other foods that can be used as treats are:
- Plant matter
Care should be taken to change food once a day, and this is a good time to wash the seed bowl out. Remember most food is consumed at night.
Water bottles with sipper tubes should be provided to keep the water from contamination. Position is important; water must be low enough for the rats to reach it.
When handling, the best way is to scoop rats up in your hands, and cup your hands together. Remember not to disturb them while they are sleeping; they may bite when startled.