SOME USEFUL FACTS ABOUT RATS
I've received many notes lately asking me some usual questions about rats : how to take care of them, should they live alone or with other friends, what should they eat, common diseases, etc... so I thought it would be nice to give some informations about them.
First of all, rats make wonderful pets. They are very playful, cuddly, curious, smart, licky, they have a lot of personality. Their behaviour is very similar to dogs' behavior and they are as clean as cats.
They unfortunately suffer from a very unfair bad reputation.
Rats don't carry many diseases, they actually carry way less than cats or dogs. They can be potty-trained, they can learn tricks, they are very affectionate towards their owner, you'd actually be amazed at how loving and funny they are. Once you've owned rats, you can never forget about how sweet and fascinating they are.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about rats (including a paragraph about breeding although I'm firmly against people breeding their pets. Better giving informations than having people breeding their pets in bad conditions though).
UPDATES : more cage calculator formulas, some warnings about breeding, drugs, illustrations, treat receipe...
IS A RAT SUITABLE FOR ME?
First of all : a rat is not a toy, it is an animal and therefore needs to be fed, taken to the vet when sick, have his cage cleaned quite often and needs a lot of attention. If you can't buy rat food every month, take your rat to the vet or buy a decent cage, please wait before planning to adopt ones.
Rats LOVE to interact with their owners unlike hamsters or other small rodents who prefer running in their wheel and exploring everything.
Rats' behavior is very similar to dogs' behavior, therefore you should be able to spend at least one or two hours per day with them to play, pet them, talk to them, etc...
Rats average lifespan is quite short (21 month, sometimes less, sometimes more) so if you don't like short-lived animals, do not adopt rats as it can be quite painful (they often die because of tumors, strokes or respiratory diseases, few rats have a peaceful end )
Rats are especially suitable for teenagers and adults, most young children could have sudden movements that could scare rats and/or not pay enough attention to their rats while they absolutely need to interact with their owners everyday.
WHERE CAN I GET RATS?
You can get rats from breeders, animal shelters, people who have got unwanted litters or pet shops.
I would strongly encourage you getting rats from animal rescues as these rats are often put to sleep because not enough people want to adopt them. If you can't find rescue rats, adopting them from good breeders is the best solution.
Good breeders are used to breed well-tempered and healthy rats, (and often nice looking ones which is a plus but shouldn't be the main reason why you choose your rat). These rats are also handled from their birth so they don't fear people and get used to their new owner very quickly. These breeders often have websites explaining the goals of their rattery, their ethics and showing photos of their rats, cages, etc...
A breeder who focuses on phenotypes rather than health and temper is NOT a good breeder.
I'd strongly discourage you buying animals in pet shops as rodent farms who sell animals to petstores are some kind of "animal prisons". Animals are often sold when they are not even weaned, they live in uber small cages, they are almost never handled and their parents are not selected according to their health or behavior...
Plus you may buy a pregnant doe as both sexes are most of the time thrown together in a sink awaiting for people to buy them...
If you want to know more about pet shops, just read this : Why not use Pet Shops?
Links where you can find rescue rats :
If you know more please tell me so I can add them here.
SHOULD I ADOPT ONLY ONE OR MORE RATS?
Rats should NEVER live alone. Unless your rat is a territorial old male who doesn't accept any other rat even once neutered, your rat should have at least one buddy of the same sex else it could develop several behavioral issues (apathy, tricophagy, aggressiveness, depression...).
Having 3 is usually better : if one rat dies or is getting sick, the two other can stay together. It's also better when it comes to hierarchy : the alpha rat won't bother the same rat all the time.
If you need a proof that rats should live together, here's a cute video explaining it all : Pet rats - why it's important to have two or more
By the way, although you may have read the opposite somewhere, male rats NEED friends too and should live with other male rats (I've currently got 10 bucks living together and they love each other very much, they play a lot and are very happy).
CAN I KEEP A MALE AND A FEMALE RAT TOGETHER?
Unless they are neutered, this is a big no-no! Don't do this unless you want to feed and take care of 15 babies every month. This could also kill your doe...
Having so many babies can be exhausting, she could also have troubles giving them birth and die (vet expenses can be quite high when it comes to help a doe deliver her babies).
Plus, there are PLENTY of rats up for adoption in animal rescues and there are plenty breeders, no need to give birth to even more rats. Finding them a good home can be really tough and I'm pretty sure you wouldn't like to know the babies get mistreated by bad owners.
I'VE GOT A HAMSTER/MOUSE/GUINEA PIG/RABBIT/DEGU/ETC... CAN IT LIVE WITH MY RAT?
NO! And I really mean NO. Why so?
- First, rats are territorial animals and will try to kill any animal which enters their territory. It might not happen all the time of course, but better not trying to introduce two different species than having your mouse/hamster/chinchilla/whatever killed (or the rat killed by a larger rodent or lagomorph for instance).
- Second, rats and other animals do NOT have the same needs. Rats need to eat very specific food which won't be suited for degus, chinchillas or any other rodent/lagomorph. They do not need sandbaths, they have to get out of their cage at least one or two hours per day everyday, etc...
- Third, rats and other rodents or lagomorphs do NOT have the same social codes. Two different species would most likely have troubles understanding eachother and this could lead to a big fight... I guess you don't want your rat and other rodent to be severely injured or killed, do you?
- Fourth, rats have some hunter instincts and might want to eat your mouse/hamster/gerbil/*insert any other specie here*. Not all rats act this way but some won't hesitate to act as predators.
- Fifth, some animals can carry diseases that may not affect them but may severely affect other species.
It's exactly the same as introducing rats and cats, which is a very dangerous thing to do in my humble opinion. Cats are rats natural predators, why would someone absolutely need to introduce them? I've heard of many stories of rats (and other rodents) and cats or dogs who used to get along very well but someday the cat/dog killed the rodent for no apparent reason. Instinct can sometimes reappear and the animals won't always be able to control themselves.
I'VE ALREADY GOT A RAT AND I WANT TO GIVE HIM/HER A BUDDY, WHAT SHOULD I DO?
First of all, good decision! Your rat will be much happier
Giving a buddy to a rat who has lived alone for several months can be tough, especially with males. You'd better adopt TWO rats at the same time so the new ones won't be alone if the old one doe not accept them.
Most of the time, rats finally accept eachother and can live happily.
Rats should ALWAYS be introduced in a neutral place (such as bathtub) after a 2 weeks quarantine period for the newcomers (to be sure they aren't sick).
When introducing rats, be sure there's no scent of your first rat in this place else it could be territorial and attack the newcomers. Bathtub or bathroom are usually nice to introduce rats.
First, add the two newcomers in the room and let them explore for some minutes, then add your first rat and don't stay in the room to avoid any territorial behavior. To make things easier, you can wash all your rats and rub them with orange blossom water or baking vanilla flavouring so they'll all smell the same which would somehow make them "neutral".
Fights are NORMAL : rats fight to determine who is the boss and to set up hierarchy. As long as there's no blood, there's no problem. If your rats seem to be too stressed, put them back in their respective cages and start again the next day. If one of the rats behaves in a very aggressive way towards the others, never try to separate them with your hands : use a water spray or a towel (this doesn't happen often )
You will have to introduce rats in this neutral place for some days until hierarchy is set up. When the rats seem to be more relaxed, you can fully clean up the cage they'll share including toys, accessories, shelves and bars so there's no smell of any rat remaining and put them together inside of it. To remove any scent, you can use white alcohol vinegar.
There are usually some fights during the first days as hierarchy is often a bit unstable but it usually gets much better within less than a week.
ARE MALES OR FEMALES BETTER?
Well... This is a matter of taste I'd say Males tend to be more laid-back and calm than females who are usually very playful and curious. Males tend to cuddle while females are exploring the whole house. There are of course exceptions in both sexes
Females are usually more prone to mammary tumors (unless they are neutered when they are still young enough : it reduces a lot the risk to grow tumors), some males can develop hormonal troubles which will require them to be neutered.
Males are much bigger, their fur is a bit rougher than females'.
Average males weight is around 500g while average females weight is around 250g.
Their smell is a bit different, some people say males smell more than females but I think females smell a bit more (I've fostered 13 females and over 50 males, maybe I've gotten more used to males' smell), it depends a lot on people I'd say.
As long as the cage is cleaned up often enough rats are not smelly animals though, they actually smell waaaay less than mice and many other rodents.
HOW OLD DO RATS GET?
Average rats lifespan is 21 months old based on statistics (from ratteries/rat owners/labs/breeders). Though, if you take good care of your rats, there are good chances they live longer.
Females usually have a shorter lifespan than males (they are more prone to develop mammary tumors), males tend to live at least two years old and often make it to 3.
Some rats may even live to 4 years old but that's unfortunately rare. The oldest rat lived for 7 years according to the Guinness book of records.
When your rats gets old, be very careful with proteins : too much proteins may damage their kidneys and might cause tumors, it's usually better to slightly lower the protein rate in their food then.
I WANT TO BREED MY RATS! IS THERE ANYTHING I SHOULD DO?
You may not like this paragraph but I'll explain you why NOT breeding your rats.
First, rats are not toys, they are animals. Sure, they may look pretty cute as pups but breeding means you're responsible for the parents and babies and it may cost you a lot.
When you first plan to breed your rat, there are some questions you should ask yourself :
- Am I sure I can find really good families for all the babies?
- Do I have enough money to pay for a cesarean in case the doe can't give birth to the babies?
- Do I have enough money to pay for the maternity cage, for the special food, for the bedding, toys, vet expenses in case the mother and babies get sick?
- Do I have enough free time to handle the babies enough so they get used to people and are well socialized?
- Can I bear the little ratties squeaks every night and day, their smell (babies poop and pee a lot so you'll have to change the bedding almost every day) and having the little ones running everywhere and chewing everything when you'll let them out of their cage?
- Will I be able to keep all the babies in separate large cages (one for males, one for females) if nobody wants to adopt them?
- Will I be able to endure losing them all at almost the same time when they are old?
- Will I be able to pay for all the vet expenses when they all get sick at the same time because they are old (tumors) or males get aggressive because the parents (although well-tempered) come from unknown lines suffering from hormonal troubles?
And most important : Why do I really want to breed my rats?
There are VERY few good answers. Breeding your rat to keep a baby to give it company is NOT a good one. If you want to give your rat a friend, then go get one in a rattery.
A rat almost never give birth to only 3 or 4 babies, the average amount of babies is around 10 or 12 (and 20 is not impossible) so what will you do with the other ones if you can't find them a good family?
Breeding your rat because you think the babies are very cute is very far from being a good answer either. This is actually very selfish, you'd be thinking about your own pleasure before thinking about these rats.
Your rat does NOT feel the need to have babies. This is anthropomorphism. Your rat won't be sad not having babies so this is not a good reason either.
The only "good" reason to breed a rat would be to breed rats coming from well-known lines with well-known ancestors (and I don't mean well-known phenotypes but ancestors who had a very good health and temper and a good longevity). This would prevent from most bad surprises such as having immunodeficient rats, agressive ones, etc... so breeding rats from pet shops is a bad idea.
Plus, females shouldn't be bred under 250g (at the very least) and 6 months old and ONLY ONCE, and males shouldn't be bred under 18 months and 450g (at the very least too). The older the male is, the more hindsight you'll have to know if he can develop serious health or behavioral troubles he could pass to his babies. The female shouldn't be bred after 12 months maximum though.
MY RAT IS PREGNANT, WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Most does coming from pet stores are pregnant as very few pet shops are used to separate sexes. If you've found out your doe is pregnant, there are some important things not to neglect :
- You should give your doe some rich food with her current food (around 20% proteins and 6% to 8% fat). You can give her eggs, cheese, baby food, cooked pasta, vegetables, etc...
- You should get a maternity cage. This cage should be a plexiglass one (such as the Ferplast Duna) as it helps preventing from air currents which could be fatal to the babies as they can't regulate their temperature. Plus, this could avoid the babies hurting themselves with the bars.
- You should save some money quickly in case the doe couldn't deliver her babies and would need a cesarean,
- You should use kitchen roll (or paper towels, whatever you call it) as bedding so the mother can make herself a nest and NOT change it fully when the babies are born so the mother doesn't panic because their smell has gone with the old bedding (changing only a small portion of the bedding is ok).
- Do not try to take the babies for more than 5 or 10 minutes before their thermotaxis is not functional,
- Keep on feeding your doe rich food so she can have enough milk for the babies.
When the babies have opened their eyes, you can then put them and their mother in a large cage with bars and many toys / accessories on hemp bedding so they can climb and play.
You will have to separate males and females when they are 5 weeks old. Rats can be sexually mature at 5 weeks old and you wouldn't want your doe and her daughters to be pregnant again...
Rats are not fully psychologically weaned when they are 5 weeks old so the baby males should be introduced to a nice adult male who can teach them ratties social codes.
You can ask your vet to make abortive injections to your doe in order to avoid a too young doe giving birth to inbred babies (which is the case most of the time with the unwanted oopsie litters). This would cost waaaay less than the basic cost of a healty litter (plus this would avoid those babies to "steal" homes from the ones who are already born and awaiting for someone to adopt them).
By the way, giving the babies to pet shops is NOT a good idea since most of them will end up deep-frozen and sold as snake food. This is illegal for pet stores to sell babies coming from other sources than professional breeders such as rodent farms/mills, this is business guys, face it... Some pet stores would take the babies and sell them anyway but most of the time they won't risk anything and just put them in a deep-freezer.
IS MY CAGE SUITED FOR MY RATS?
Rats can NOT live in hamster cages. They need much bigger ones. To know how many rats your cage can house, you should multiply its height by its width by its lenght and divide the final number by 50 000, 60 000 or 70 000. The measurements should be done in centimeters (cm). 1 inch = 2,54 centimeters, you do the math.
So, a 80cm * 60cm * 100cm cage could host up to 9 rats with a 0,5m2 base per rat (the 50 000 value), 8 rats with a 0,6m2 base (the 60 000 one) and up to 6 rats with a 0,7m2 base (the 70 000 one) .
Here's the equation :
80 * 60 * 100 = 480,000
480,000/50,000 = 9,6 OR 480,000/60,000 = 8 OR 480,000/70,000 = 6,86
The amount of rats should always be smaller than the exact final result (example : if the result is 7,7 rats, your cage can house 7 rats, not 8).
These values only work if your cage is equipped with enough shelves, hammocs and toys. If it were empty, such a large cage could barely house two rats.
The less rats you'll put in your cage, the best they'll of course feel. This doesn't mean they don't have to get out of their cage everyday anyway.
Rats LOVE to climb so large cages with many shelves are perfect (please avoid shelves made of wires : these can damage your rats feet and tail). Once they get too old to climb, a large rabbit cage can be a nice "rest-home" since it provides more space on the ground.
You should add many accessories in your rats cages : hammocs, tunnels, boxes where they can hide, things to climb... be creative! Having one "comfy spot" per rat is important to avoid any territorial fight. Please try to avoid wooden objects though as these can become soaked with urine. Ammoniac could damage your rats lungs then.
Wheels should be avoided too, especially the ones made of wire. Rats usually do not enjoy running in wheels plus these are not adapted to their anatomy and may damage their tail. Some does like wheels anyway but be careful choosing an appropriate one where the rat couldn't break its tail and legs.
Photos of my cage for the ones who'd like to know where my ratties live : Open cage and Closed cage
This cage is a Savic Royal Suite 95 double, a very nice big cage with large doors, easy to clean and arrange.
The 2 plastic blue trays are "swimming pools" with water changed twice per day. There are also 3 blue comfortable cat beds which my rats love very much, 2 baskets hanging from the bars, 3 large hammocs (these aren't the regular ones as the youngest ones are currently chewing them, I used towels instead then), 4 Savic "Sputnik XL" rodent houses, ferret tubes...
The more toys you'll add, the happiest your rats will be when they are in their cage.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I CLEAN THE CAGE?
It depends a lot on your rats : if these are potty-trained, it will be quite easy, you'll mostly have to change their toilets bedding and clean up the shelves and accessories a few times per week.
Hammocs should be washed up around every 2 days if your rats are used to pee in them, else they can be washed up less often.
Bedding should be changed every week. Cage should be fully washed up with a disinfectant cleaning agent then carefully rinsed and dried at least once per month (including bars, tray, accessories...). Doing it everytime you change bedding is even better though.
I do not use bedding anymore so I clean up the cage everyday using a sponge and homemade cleaning agend made of :
- water : 2 l,
- white alcohol vinegar : 2 tablespoons,
- sodium bicarbonate : 2 tablespoons,
- essential oils (mentha arvensis, tea tree, lavandula, eucalyptus) : 2 tablespoons (you can use half a table spoon of each one of these, or use only one or two...). These are antifungal and disinfectant.
Do not forget to wash up the cage again with some pure water and/or dry it carefully after using such a cleaning agent since too many essential oils can be noxious for your ratties lungs and feet.
WHAT KIND OF BEDDING SHOULD I USE?
Few people know about it but most wood shavings are TOXIC. Never use wood shavings, they are usually made of pine tree and contain phenols that may severely damage your rats lungs and respiratory system.
You can use hemp bedding, linen bedding, corn bedding, cellulose bedding. These are safe for your rats
SHOULD I LET MY RATS GET OUT OF THEIR CAGE?
Rats should be allowed to run free in a room for at least one or two hours per day. Rats are RODENTS, this means they can try to nibble many things so be sure to let them out in a "rat-proof" room so they won't chew electric wires or anything you wouldn't like them to eat.
Rats adore to play with their owners so being with them when they are out of their cage is very important
They'll ask for cuddles, "fight" with your hand (in a soft playful way), will follow you everywhere, climb on your head and shoulders, etc...
Do not use those transparent plastic balls to put your rats inside and let them run in the house
These are absolutely not suited for rats (neither rats nor any rodent actually) since they don't actually allow them to explore at all. Rats use their whiskers, sense of smell and touch to explore their surroundings and these balls don't allow any contact with their environment. Plus these are not adapted to their morphology and will most likely stress them instead of entertaining them.
CAN I TAKE MY RATS OUTSIDE (FOR A WALK ON THE STREET, ETC...)?
Many people do this but this is bad for your rats. First, there could be air currents carrying diseases, other people having sick rats around you carrying germs on their clothes, etc... Your rats could get a cold or even worse.
Second, this can be quite stressful for them because of strong noises (cars, barking dogs, etc...) and your rats could escape. That's not a joke, I've met several people on websites and forums who lost their rats because these had been scared by a dog or anything else :/
Rats should only get outside in a safe place under your watchful eyes. If you've got a garden without cats or any other predator, you can take your rats out when weather is warm enough and let them run on the lawn. Be careful not to lose them!
WHAT DO RATS EAT?
Rats are omnivorous, they mostly eat cereals, seeds and vegetables but they can also eat fish, meat, insects, etc...
Wild rats eat anything they can find, that's the way they can survive and adapt to almost every place in the world.
Fancy rats should have a mix of cereals and seeds containing 14% proteins and 4% fat maximum.
Young rats and pregnant does can eat food which contains up to 20% proteins and 6% fat but adult rats shouldn't eat food with higher protein and fat rates. This could make them become obese, develop heart troubles and tumors.
Mixes that can be found in stores are usually too rich and need to be mixed with other food to make protein and fat rates decrease.
You can also give fresh food to your rats : fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheese, etc... If you are omnivorous, giving meat to your rats WON'T make them aggressive, this is a false statement.
Always give your rats fresh water in a drinking rodents bottle.
IS THERE ANY PROHIBITED FOOD?
Avoid any doughy food else rats could choke.
Rats shouldn't eat spicy, sweetened or fat food. Avoid cabbage, onions, garlic, radish. Alcohol is prohibited : rats can't vomit so that would kill them. This is the same with sodas. Chocolate has not been proven to really be dangerous but as it is for many other animals you should avoid to give your rats chocolate.
Do not give citrus fruits to male rats, they contain d-limonene which is not compatible with their hormones and may severely damage their kidneys.
Kiwi is often too acid for rats so be careful when giving them some : it should only come in very small portions.
Some rats have troubles digesting rice.
Banana is good but can constipate them so be careful when giving them banana slices. It can be pretty useful for rats suffering from diarrhoea.
Be careful with your pot plants too! Some are highly toxic... Rats love to taste everything so take them off their way.
Be careful with celery : always remove its strings before giving small pieces to your rats else they could choke.
CAN YOU GIVE ME A MIX RECEIPE?
4 dry pasta portions
4 dry pasta with vegetables portions
1 puffed rice portion
1 corn-flakes portion(the sugar-free ones!)
1 green lentils portion
1 green beans portion
3 doves or pigeons seed mix portions (corn + wheat + sometimes other seeds)
2 oatmeal portions (I'm using Jordan's Special Muesli in my home mix, which makes it even more variated)
1 raisin portion
0,3 sunflowers seeds portion
0,3 pumpkin seeds portion (great to prevent from intestinal worms)
You can also add 1 cat or dogs kibble portion in their mix (these should be high quality).
CAN YOU GIVE ME A TREAT RECEIPE?
1 fruit flavoured yoghurt (soy yoghurts ones work pretty well too)
1/2 tablespoon sunflower oil
Mix the yoghurt with flour and sunflower oil to obtain a non-sticky dough (add as any flour as necessary). Cut the dough in small portions, make rough little dough balls then flatten them slightly and put them on an oven tray on parchment paper. Bake them at 160°C until they are a bit golden and dry (it usually takes 45 minutes approximately, sometimes a bit more).
These small biscuits can be given as treats to your ratties, they are hard enough for their teeth to wear out a bit and they love them. You can also do the same adding way less flour so the dough is wet enough to make some drops instead of biscuits. You can cook them the same way after having put some drops on the parchment paper, cooking temperature can be slightly higher then though (up to 180°C).
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY RAT IS SICK?
If you're starting wondering if your rat is sick, there are chances it is actually the case. Rats can show various symptoms, the most common ones are :
- too many porphyrin aroud their nose and eyes (stress, cold, sufferings),
- sneezing (any respiratory disease or allergy),
- weird noises (respiratory diseases, allergy, heart deformities...),
- masses under their skin (abcesses, cysts, tumors, inflamed ganglions...),
- holes in their fur (mange, ringworm, dermatitis, bites, lice...),
- spots on their ears (mange),
- weird nose/ears/paws/tail coloration (fever or hypothermia caused by various diseases, cancer, anaemia, pododermatitis - also called bumblefoot...)
- increase or decrease in temperature (fever or hypothermia caused by various diseases),
- apathy (depression, serious diseases, old age),
- labored breathing (respiratory diseases, heart deformities, tumors...),
- puffy dirty fur (sebum excess, hormonal troubles, serious diseases, old rat who can't clean itself anymore),
- colored and/or smelly urines (cystitis, hormonal troubles, kidney stones, internal tumors...),
- smelly ears (otitis, facial abcesses),
- rear legs paralysis (old age, stroke, fall...),
- bent head (stroke, meningitis, otitis, tumor...),
- loss of balance and control (stroke, meningitis, otitis, tumor...),
You should take your rat to the vet as soon as possible so it can get a suited treatment. If you wait too much, there are risks your rat can't be healed anymore and dies.
MY RAT'S NOSE IS BLEEDING, WHAT CAN I DO?
First of all, there are very few chances your rat's nose is bleeding. Rats "tears" are red, which can often be mistaken with blood. This is called porphyrin and is normal. Rats who just woke up usually have some red around their nose and eyes.
An unusual amount of porphyrin is not normal though and could be caused by a disease. If your rat has got more porphyrin than usual, you should take it to the vet.
MY RAT IS SNEEZING AND/OR MAKING FUNNY NOISES
Rats do NOT make noise unless they are fighting or gnashing their teeth when happy or stressed. Any other noise could be a disease symptom. Rats do not sneeze without any reason either.
Do you use wood shavings bedding? If so, you should replace it by hemp bedding and see if your rat gets better. If your rat doesn't get better quickly, it should be taken to the vet to be given an appropriate treatment (antibiotics, etc).
Rats have a very fragile respiratory system and tend to have a cold easily so please avoid any air current.
MY RAT LOST ITS BALANCE AND RUNS IN CIRCLES, ITS HEAD IS BENT...
GO TO THE VET, DON'T WAIT! This could be a stroke, an otitis or a meningitis. The vet will give your rat cortisone, antibiotics and sometimes vasodilator. This should cure your rat disease unless it's too late.
Your rat will need you to help it drink using a syringe without its needle. You should then give it liquid and soft high energy food to help it heal faster. Baby food can be pretty useful then.
Split up your rat from the group and give him a specific cage without shelves so it won't try to climb and fall. Rats who suffer from this kind of troubles need to rest a lot, eat high energy food and learn to control their balance again until they can be introduced to the group again.
HOW CAN I GIVE MEDS TO MY SICK RAT?
The vet gave you a treatment your rat won't eat. You can mix it with food your rat loves or put it in a syringe and pull it in its mouth. The first solution usually works better though, as the second one could make the rat choke. Medecines mixed with baby food or yoghurt usually works pretty well. Always ask your vet if the medecine is compatible with food though as some active substances may be altered by the ones contained in food.
Sometimes it's better to perform injections so the rat won't miss any bit of the treatment. Some antibiotics may cause skin necrosis on rats (there have been reported issues with metacam/meloxicam) so these should be given with food.
MY RAT HAS GOT A WEIRD MASS UNDER ITS SKIN!
Once again, you will have to take your rat to the vet. This could be an abcess, a cyst or a tumor... Most of the time, this requires some surgery to be removed. Do not wait else it could become dangerous for your rat's health, especially with abcesses or tumors. Abcesses could lead to blood-poisoning and tumors could become malignant...
MY RAT HAS GOT SPOTS ON ITS EARS, HOLES IN HIS FUR, ETC...
Spots on the ear are often due to mange. This can be cured using anti parasite treatment for cats (selamectin).
Holes in the fur can be due to ringworm and require a suitable treatment. This can be tough to heal so don't wait! Your rat can also have dermatitis, taking it to the vet is the best way to know what is the real problem and how to cure it.
Rex rats can also have holes in their coat when molting. Holes in the fur can also be caused by other rats bites when playing or fighting for hierarchy.
MY RAT IS SHY, HOW CAN I DOMESTICATE IT?
Some rats can be pretty shy, especially when they come from petstores or rescue missions... These rats usually need a lot of patience and treats to be tame. Do not hesitate to sit in front of your rat's cage for a long time in a rat-proof room, letting the cage door open and giving some treats to your rat. Good food always wins ^^
If your rat is still too shy, you can grab it softly (be careful not to hurt it, NEVER EVER hold a rat by the tail!!!) and put it under your T-shirt. The rat will first be scared but will finally understand you don't want to harm it. Some treats + cuddles + talking to rats softly + playing with them is the best way to soon become their best friends
MY RAT IS MAKING WEIRD NOISES AND HIS EYES ARE BULGING/VIBRATING?
Congratulations, your rat is happy! Happy rats grind their front teeth together which produces a sound called bruxing or chattering. Rats usually grind their teeth together to wear them down, they do it the same as happy purring cats. Rats can also do it when they are stressed but it is slightly different then : bruxing happens much faster and eyes do not move.
MY RAT USES TO NIBBLE MY HANDS!
Many rats do this when they are playing or grooming each other. Your rat may be grooming you (this is a love proof ). Though, if your rats nibbles you too hard, you can take it and turn it upside down (belly on the top ) and gently put a finger on its thorax to make it understand that's enough. Read next question for more details.
MY RAT DID A MISTAKE, HOW CAN I PUNISH IT?
You will have to act like the alpha rat. Rats turn themselves upside down to determine who is the boss. The alpha turns the dominated rat upside down and push its front legs on their torso until the dominated rat stops moving and accepts the fact it is weaker. When your rat did a mistake you can mimic this gesture by using your fingers as the alpha's paws and hold your rat until it stops moving for some seconds. Be gentle, do not hurt your rat!
If your rat keeps on moving and did a really big mistake, you can also blow some air on its nose. This usually works quite well.
For a simple small mistake blowing some air on your rat nose without turning it upside down is enough.
Do not punish your rat without any reason! Your rat doesn't know what it can eat into so if there's a hole on your brand new sweater or glasses, you can only blame yourself for having let it too close to your rat.
Punishment should be given for a valid reason, such as biting someone, doing something even when you said "no", etc...
Rats are VERY smart and can understand things easily. They are unfortunately also quite stubborn so sometimes you'll have to punish them (that happens especially during rats tenage crisis, which happens around their 6th month : rats tend to test their owners by nipping their hands, being up to all sorts, etc... Fortunately it doesn't last for very long )
MY RAT BIT ME!
RATS ARE NOT PRONE TO BITE, they actually bite way less often than other rodents. I've got over 60rats at home, most of them were aggressive ones suffering from hormonal troubles and/or abused ones who were afraid of people and I've only been bitten twice (once by a rat who mistook my finger for food and the other time by an aggressive abused rat suffering from hormonal troubles).
Though, your rat bit you. There can be several reasons why it did so :
Did your fingers smell like food? Is your rat a male or a female? Does he/she comes from a petstore or a rescue mission?
Pregnant females may bite because they are afraid of people or want to protect themselves and their babies.
Rats coming from petstores aren't often handled properly and may have been hurt by people who don't know how to handle rats so they might be traumatized. This is the same with rescue rats, many of them have been abused and are afraid of people. Foster families who know how to care about them won't put a shy/aggressive ratup for adoption but some don't really know about rats and could give you such a rat anyway. Don't blame these rats if they bite, they often need to learn to trust people which is easy to do with treats and patience.
Your rat is a male and bullies his cagemates :
- he severely bites them,
- there's some blood,
- he walks as a crab,
- his fur is puffed up,
- he is chattering fastly,
- his tail is wagging,
- he is hissing,
- he is rubbing his flanks and testicles on everything,
- he is peeing on everything (smelly pee),
- his skin is orange because of sebum...
"Congratulations, your rat suffers from hormonal troubles"
There is only way to deal with this : your rat has to be neutered. Once castrated, the hormones rate will slowly decrease and your rat will become a sweetheart again. He will be able to live with his cagemates again, to cuddle and lick your hands, etc...
Some male rats may suffer from hormonal troubles which makes them aggressive towards other rats and/or their owners, it mostly happens during their teenage crisis. These rats must be split up with the group and should live alone until their hormone rate has decreased, which happens from 2 to 10 weeks after they have been castrated.
HOW TO DEAL WITH THE WARMEST SUMMER DAYS HEAT?
To prevent your rats from dying because of strong heat, you can give them many fruits, vegetables, a "food swimming-pool" (a large plate with treats and water), you can wrap a bottle of frozen water in a towel and put it in their cage, you can also put a piece of paving in their cage and put a wet cloth on the top of it. DO NOT USE FANS as this could be bad for their lungs.
CAN I GIVE A BATH TO MY RATS?
Well, most of the rats don't like water at all... You can give a bath to your rats if they are really too dirty but this isn't necessary most of the time.
Baths could make rats produce too much sebum, they could also get a cold. If you want to give a bath to a very dirty rat anyway, there are some thing you should pay attention to :
- be sure to use suited soap for small animals,
- be sure the water is neither too hot nor too cold,
- be sure to rinse your rat enough so there's no soap remaining,
- put the rat in a dry soft towel right after the bath and avoid any air current,
- you can gently dry your rat by using a hairdryer at its softest mode (use it far from the rat to avoid blowing some too hot air on it), some rats could be afraid of it though so this step can be avoided.
Old or sick rats sometimes can't clean themselves and will need you to help them. You can use a washcloth with warm water to do so everyday. Always do it gently as this can be quite stressful for the rat.
Some rats may have dirty tails, you might help them clean them up by using a soft toothbrush and always gently brushing in the same direction as their scales (never brush their tails backwards!) with warm water and a little bit of suited soap. Rinse your rats tails and dry them softly.
CAN I CUT MY RATS' NAILS?
Rats' nails should be naturally wearing down when they are running, exploring, playing, etc...
Sometimes they don't wear down enough though so they may be quite sharp and some people might not appreciate having their skin scratched everywhere and other rats scratched aswell.
Cutting rats' claws can be quite difficult as they can't stop moving. I've done this many times but it remained quite difficult even when I was used to do it as rats can have unpredictable moves so you should be at least two when doing it : one who holds the rats, the other one who cut their nails.
I'd suggest you file their nails instead, or add some bricks or pottery in their cage as a ladder or anything they would often climb : the rough texture of terra cotta makes wonders when it comes to wear down rats' nails.
ABOUT MY RATS (since many people asked)
I've currently got 10 rats : 8 on my own + 2 little ones I'm fostering (Lorich's brothers Hermes and Eros).
I've had rats for 4 years now, most of them come from rescue missions except my very first ones since I didn't know I could adopt rats in animal shelters then.
I've had over 70 rats at home including mine + the ones I fostered until I could find them a nice home.
I've been a specialized foster family for aggressive male rats suffering from hormonal troubles and traumatized abused rats.
I do NOT breed my rats and am firmly against people breeding their pets.
I didn't choose my rats according to their color/markings/coat type/ear shape, I absolutely do not care about this. The descriptions (coat/markings/color/ears) under my ratties pictures are only meant to be informative, I'd love them just the same if they all looked the same
All my big boys live together in a large cage with many toys (Savic Royal Suite 95 double) and are allowed to roam in the house at least 1 hour everyday.
They all have very different personalities, I've never had two rats who behaved the same although I've had MANY rats.
They all are very friendly although most of them were afraid of people when I got them since they had been abused. None of them has remained lone or aggressive once neutered even if most of my rats had been aggressive due to their hormones (too high rate).
Some of my rats love to swim
If you have any question which hasn't been answered here, feel free to ask me.
N.B : all illustrations displayed here are mine and may not be used anywhere else.