Rats as Pets

Great Tips for Keeping Rats as Pets

Rats are gaining popularity as pets all over the world. If you are thinking of keeping rats as pets, you need to be aware of certain things. This article will answer all your questions regarding these unusual but highly-entertaining pets.
Most people consider rats as annoying little creatures, but it is not so. They can be fun-loving and adorable animals. If you are considering having rats as pets, you can be sure that they will entertain you for hours on end. Besides their friendly nature, it is also very easy to take care of them.

Difference Between Rats and Mice

Scientifically, there is no difference between rats and mice. Both belong to the same family, the rodent family. If there is any difference, it is only in their physical aspects. Rats are a little bigger than mice in size. Their head is broader when compared to that of mice. Mice have muzzles which are pointed. Another physical difference lies in their ears. Rats' ears are smaller than their heads, whereas mice have ears larger than their heads.

Things You Should Know

Bringing a pet home is like introducing a new member to the family. It is always better to know all about the animal before buying it as a pet. The following are some of the important points to remember when you have pet rats.
  • Rats have a life span of 2-5 years. However, a lifespan of five years is rare, as most do not live for more than three years.
  • Water is very essential for a rat. They cannot survive for long without it.
  • It is a common misconception that rats live on leftovers. Though they can be given leftovers, it cannot be their everyday food. Rats can consume both plants as well as small insects and animals. Always feed them fresh food, including veggies, fruits, and meal worms. Special pet food is also available.
  • Rats should be kept in cages as they are hardcore foodies, and like to munch on anything from bread to books. There are special cages for rats which are quite cheap. For bedding, wood stove pellets or hardware shavings are good options. You could also try using shredded paper.
  • Rats like to keep themselves clean, so there is no need to give them a bath. However it is necessary to clean their cages from time to time so as to keep them free from urine odor.
  • Respiratory diseases are most commonly found in rats, but if pet rats are not taken outside the house very often, there is little chance of this happening.
Getting a Pet Rat

Rats can be bought from pet shops or rat breeders. If you are buying one from a pet shop, you have to keep a few important things in mind, such as the hygiene of the shop, the general health of the rat, and if the males and females have been kept in separate cages. It is safe to buy rats from breeders. As they are breeders, they have all the required information about the animals, and thus the possibility of getting healthy pets are high. You can also think of adopting a rat as a pet from rescuers. They won't cost much, but again you have to be careful about their health. While choosing an ideal rat for your pet, look out for following things.
  • Female rats can get pregnant at a very young age (as early as four to five weeks). So remember to either choose a female below four weeks of age, or else a male.
  • Most people prefer males as they are a little less energetic as compared to females, and hence make perfect pets for younger children.
  • Sneezing, discharge from the nose, eyes, or ears, and puffiness around the face are all symptoms of ill rats. Don't choose such rats as your pets. Healthy ones are active and have thick fur.
Pets for Kids

If your child has been pestering you for a pet for a long time, then think about bringing home a rat. Rats like to be played with, and hence, kids really enjoy having them as pets. Rats also have a good memory. They can remember their names and can also be trained with very little effort. One more advantage of buying fancy rats for kids is that they don't bite, even when you play with them. Unlike other pets, rats take minimum space, so your house is always big enough for one.

Caring for Your Pet

The most important thing to remember is never to keep male and female rats together. As earlier stated, rats can get pregnant in a short span of four-five weeks, and a rat litter can have anywhere between one and twenty babies. And remember, this cycle will continue with the new babies too. So if you have opted for male and female rats, make sure you keep them separate. The best option, however, is to buy rats of the same gender. In their short life span of three years, rats can encounter some common problems like respiratory diseases, parasitic infections etc. It is always advisable to take them to a good vet rather than treating at home. To buy pet products for your rat is also a way of caring for them. Rats are fond of climbing things, so bring home a bird rope or a ladder. They are also fond of digging, so you can buy a digging box, or even make one. As we all know, nibbling on something or the other is one of the most popular activities among rats. So give all your waste cardboard boxes to your pet and make it happy. Rats are also highly-energetic animals, and do not like being cooped up in a cage all day long. You will need to take them out for an hour or so, but remember to block all holes as your pet might escape. Also remember to keep other pets like cats and dogs away from the rat when it is out.

Few Things to Remember
  • More than anything, rats love company, so it is always advisable to keep more than one of the same sex together in a cage. Most people recommend having 3 rats of varying ages.
  • Being nocturnal animals, they are extra active at night. Giving them their type of company will allow you to have an undisturbed sleep.
  • They are tiny animals and can get hurt easily. Care has to be taken while handling them. When they are left out of their cages, one should be careful not to step on them.
  • It is not advisable to keep a rat as a pet if anyone in the house is having asthma.
  • Don't make any wild rat your pet, as it might be diseased. Choose one from a pet shop. There are many varieties, like brown, black, or white rats. Children usually fancy white rats. Some may choose jumbo or small rats as pets.
Now that you have a brief idea about how rats can be good pets, you can get one home soon. Remember all the points you read above, and then decide which one you want to opt for.
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