This section describes the care, feeding and handling for standard and dwarf rats.
Please consider the articles below as a starting point.
Rats are social, they need to live in groups of two or more. This article, from the National Fancy Rat Association explains why: Want to know to know more?
There are many pros and cons that come with owning either a male or female. In some cases, if you are willing, you can also have a rat neutered or spayed, and in doing so, keep a mixed gender group. No matter which gender you decide on, your new friends will surely love and bond with you!
Before you bring your new friend home, you need to have a few things set in place. Make sure that you have already set up the cage. Here is a list of things to think about and simple supplies to purchase.
Many, if not most, of the pre-packaged so called rat food diets are is not an appropriate diet for ratties. Mainly because, it doesn't have what they need and has a few items that rats really shouldn't have, such as corn.
Here is a list of items you can gather that will allow you to create your own mixture. This is the list we base our diet off of.
The diet is supplemented (30-40%) with yogurt, fresh fruits and veggies every day. Email me if you would like to learn more about foods that rats should not eat! Always inquire first, if you are unsure because some foods can be dangerous!
Don't have time to mix this diet? Visit our Rattie Boutique and purchase the mix made fresh, brought on ratlet pick-up or shipped to you!
Growth and Development: Click on this link (picture to the left) to learn more about how rats grow and develop from birth to adult hood.
Color Development in Rats: If you would like to learn more about color development in the rat from birth to several months of age click here!
It is always best to learn as much as possible and do your very best for your pet rattie to head off any problems (as they say, prevention is the best medicine). This is very true when it comes to understanding behavior and handling for the development of a strong bond with your new pet. Rats are not very complicated but, like the dog, do not speak humanese. Therefore, it is up to us to meet them half way by learning a little about how they communicate, with their own kind, to enable us to show love and make them feel safe. If we do this right from the start, we will eliminate possible behavioral problems, unless they are genetic, enabling us to have wonderful experiences with our new friends!
With this section, I intend to provide a very simple article on the amount of time, how to interact, pick up and handle your rat. There are other methods available and explained on various websites. I plan to discuss what has worked for us over the years. Feel free to visit other sites to continue your learning. Discussing problematic behavior is beyond the scope of this article and a subject that will be treated in the future.
Time Well Spent:
Picking up a Rat:
Holding a Rat:
Here is an example of an appropriate rattie cage, for two-four rats. Approximate sizes are: 30" x 18" x 36" or larger.
The cages have multiple levels and ladders because rats love to climb. You can also add coffee cans, wheels, igloos, boxes, food dishes and water bottles.
We also add hammocks and dangle various types of toys from the top of the cage as well (toys not shown).
There is one thing that you can't see in this picture, that I would like to add here. Rats are pretty good about being clean.
.....I mean as far as using a litter pan if offered one. The picture below, shows a larger cage with litter pan. Bijou, one of our ratties, is demonstrating how to use this time saving (for me) device.
If you can afford a larger cage, that would work as well. Just try to select one that allows for easy access to clean the platforms. You can also visit the "Martin" website to check out even cooler rattie cages!
Just remember, that bigger isn't always better. If you are planning to only keep two or four rats, then a smaller cage would be more suitable. With larger sized cages this provides the opportunity for behavior issues to crop up. Evidence suggests that larger cages enable rats to establish territories and become increasingly aggressive. Also, if you load a large cage up with too many goodies at first, your rat may become overwhelmed and get "cage bound". When you first bring your rat home, it is best to only put a few toys in so that you can easily pick up your rat in the cage if they don't immediately come to you. when you have to chase a rat around a large cage and they run and hide behind things you are creating and increasing fear of you.
Here is a collection of photos and explanation of how we set up our rattery to comfortably and responsibly manage our herd.
Cages and Tubs:
We also use tubs to house our ratties. They are large, opaque plastic storage bins that have been modified to encourage proper airflow. We fit the top and sides with chicken wire that is safely secured with zip ties. We also offer this product in our EVWD boutique. They are easier to keep clean, in comparison to cages and are more space efficient. We currently use them for travel to the vet, keeping males, females, placing breeding pairs together, pregnant moms, and raising kittens.
The other reason we switched to tubs is because the rats do not kick out their bedding and their area outside of the cage stays way cleaner! This is a bonus as I am very busy, and would like to spend most of my time playing with the rats, not cleaning up after them. Also, the type of tubs I use are very tall and have smooth, curved bottoms that are easy to clean. I can take a paper towel and wipe the bottom with a disinfectant. This is a stark contrast in comparison to cage wire that collects food particles, waste, urine and dust. It is also hard to haul the large cages out, not to mention dismantling them, and cleaning them down on a regular basis. So, I have a clean conscious knowing that my ratties have a clean, secure place to live in!
The use of a tub has been shown to improve kitten social development with humans. It is most evident when you open the tub to interact with the young ratties and they all stand up to greet you. Sometimes, when young kittens are weaned and placed into wire cages, they hide from you. When you chase after them with your hand it creates a fear response and we would like to avoid that.
The rats that live in tubs are very happy and therefore, healthy. They all receive a Wodent Wheel, a large water bottle, a hammock and some toys! They are also out each day for two hours in the play pen and are handled and interacted with during that time. They do not appear to need the large spaces afforded by the cage and did not appear to use all of their large cage when they lived in one. So, I feel this is a more appropriate solution to, catering to the needs of the animal.
There has been much discussion over the past few years regarding the type of bedding used in cages. Here is the low-down. Pine shavings are out! They contain poison that can lead to an uncomfortable rattie and even death. There are many alternatives.
I like to use Yesterdays News, brand recycled newspaper for the litter pan and cloth for the bottom of the cage, such as old towels. You might have to change the towels frequently until the rats get the idea. Some boys do not potty train well.
Care Fresh Bedding
I have also used "care-fresh", in the past for a soft cage bottom. I didn't personally like the smell and do think that it is a bit dusty.
We are currently using shredded paper. I like the smell of aspen and have found it to be absorbant, but I believe that I am allergic to it! The only other issue that I have is that the aspen is expensive. So, we started to incorporate the shredded paper. The ratties go nuts pop-corning and tunneling through it.
This is something I make and sell. I like the paper because it is absorbant and the rats love it. There is some dust and it does not manage odor well, so I have to clean cages more often. To fix the problem I usually put aspen at the bottom of the cage and some paper on top of that.
Every serious pet owner and breeder should have some type of items handy that acts as a first aid kit to help you deal with any non-veterinary issues. Buy yourself a medium sized closing plastic type container with a handle to store the items.
Check out this site for information on what to stock in your first aid kit, by clicking on the image to the left.
You can go to the AFRMA First Aid Kit by clicking on the blue link.
Here is but a third website, for comparison. This one is the
Prevention is the best medicine, indeed! However, sometimes your rattie may fall ill. If you are not sure what the problem is and appears to be persistent please make an appointment to see a vet.
Check out this page for information on first aid care for common aliments.