Pet rats come in a variety of color and coat combinations, from white with red eyes to black and white spotted; from the curly coated rex to the hairless variety. Rats are available in pretty much any fur type and color you desire.
A new baby rat will usually be between 4 and 5 weeks old, at this age they are old enough to leave the nest but young enough to be handled and trained to enjoy human company. The sex of the rat can be determined at this age, which is of great importance if you don’t want baby rats of your own in the future.
Rats are very sociable animals and it is highly advised that you get at least a pair so that they always have company. Don’t worry that your rats won’t like you if they have a rat friend, this is very rarely the case. If you do choose to get more than one rat, determining the sex of them, with the help of a knowledgeable person, is of great importance.
Now that you have picked out your new furry friend, it is time to think about a its new home. There are several choices available for pet rats:
Aquariums are low cost and readily available
Wire cages cost a little more, but offer benefits that aquariums don’t.
Aquariums are great first cages for baby rats, they are easy to clean and come in many different sizes. If you choose to use this type of cage, a screen top is required – this is also inexpensive and available at any pet shop.
The biggest problem with an aquarium cage is that it does not allow for good airflow through the cage and gases tend to build up making the rats smell worse than they need to. Regular, thorough cleanings will help to alleviate this issue. However, if you would like, cage toppers that are made from wire are available for most sizes of aquariums and will allow adequate air flow and the option of multi-level cages.
If you prefer a more ‘open’ look to the cage, then you may want to take a look at wire cages. These often have built in levels, and allow good airflow without any additional equipment. The one thing to remember with these cages is that the smallest of baby rats may be able to slip through the spaces, care must be taken to be sure this does not happen.
The next thing is bedding, your rats will need something to sleep on, dig in and play with. Please remember to stay away from pine and cedar shavings as these have been shown to cause breathing issues and allergies in rodents.
Your choices for bedding are almost as varied as your choice in the rat itself. Pet stores will have a variety, including ‘fluff’, corn cob and even shredded paper. Any of these will make good bedding. You will need to compare the pricing and how often they each need to be changed to determine the right kind for you.
Your new rat will need a good quality food, again, there are many to choose from. Rats are scavengers by nature and will eat just about anything. There are rat blocks, with are nutritionally complete, and seed mixtures available. Ether of these will be good choices.
However, if you choose you can also feed your new rat whatever you eat. They will enjoy everything from spaghetti to crackers and green beans. If you choose this way of feeding your rat, please remember that too much salt and fat is just as bad for them as they are for you.
Remember to pick up a water bottle too. Again, there is a variety of types and styles to choose from, any of which are just fine.
This is all that is needed for your new pet. Now, you can choose the fun stuff, toys. Some rats, if started young enough, will spend hours on a wheel. They enjoy playing with everything from cat toys to toilet paper rolls. So let your imagination run wild when providing toys for your new pet.
Rats are very intelligent and can learn tricks. I have had rats that have learned their names and even one that learned to come back to my daughter when “Old McDonald” was sung to her.
Enjoy your rat, take it out of its cage for some one on one time with you often and you will be rewarded with a friend and maybe even a kiss or two.