I currently own several rats and have picked up a few things that I thought I’d share. The following is based off of my own experiences, as well as what I have learned via my own research and from others in the Facebook rat groups.
This information is meant as a guide to help assist in the general care of pet rats. As I learn more on the subject, I will update this page. Always seek the advise of a vet whenever you question the health of your rat.
How Many? Boys Or Girls?
Rats do get lonely and depressed if they don’t have a friend. Even when you constantly play with them, they need their own rat companionship as well. The only exception to this, is if you have a rat that gets aggressive towards other rats. We have one of those named Cedar. He lashed out a few times, but this last one was pretty brutal. That’s when we decided he needs to be on his own for the safety of others. While every rat’s personality is different, girls seem to be smaller and more adventurous and boys are chonky and more laid back. I’ve also read that boys tend to be messier and will piddle more on your things.
Cage And Accessories
Since you are now looking at getting at least two ratties, this means you will need a large enough cage for them. Do not use an aquarium. Rats are very susceptible to respiratory issues. A tank doesn’t allow for enough air flow to get through properly. A lot of people love the Critter Nation cages. You can sometimes snag a good deal on the Facebook Marketplace on a decent cage. I got mine at the pet store and Amazon. I also have used a bird cage and DIY cage bins in a pinch.
Whatever kind you get, it should give them lots of room and have multiple levels. They love to explore and will also need things like toys, hammocks, space pods. ropes, baskets, tissue boxes, and more. If you decide to get a wheel, please make sure it’s the larger size. Otherwise, it can actually hurt their spines. Same thing with the exercise balls. From what I’m reading, they are not good for them at all.
Besides having a decent sized cage with activities, I would suggest having the following. Some necessary, some is just what I do:
- Water bottle – Attach to cage. Example pic below.
- Food bowl – Attach to cage.
- Variety of Foods
- I mix two types of dry food in a large storage bin.
- They can eat mostly what we can, but Google to be sure. I’ll get a list on at some point.
- I used to use Aspen. It’s cheap and super absorbent.
- Skip the bedding and use fleece.
- Vinegar water mix for cleaning cage and accessories.
- Unscented baby wipes to spot clean the rats.
- You don’t want to bathe them often.
- Pea bobbing is fun and gets them wet.
- Litter Box
- Use in at least one corner of cage.
- Place flat, smooth “pee rocks” inside. I have stopped using pee rocks and they still use the litter boxes.
- Clips for attaching things to the cage
- Binder clips, bread ties, and shower curtain clips work great.
- Use zip ties minimally, as they can be easily chewed.
Shop around as much as you can to try to save some money.
When we first got our rats, I bought a starter rat setup from Petco for $110. The water bottle leaked, the food dish was a waste, and the spinning wheel seemed to just take up a lot of space. *Dec’20 Update: They chewed an escape hole in the bottom corner. I patched it up*Oct’21 Update: The repair has been holding so far, when used as a back up cage.
Once I realized the water bottle was leaking, I immediately replaced it with one from Amazon. It’s out of reach, and is really easy to refill. Once we had our babies, we needed another cage for separating the girls and boys, so I bought a slightly smaller cage on Amazon for only $50. It has a pull out tray for the bedding. The doors stick a bit, but it’s not horrible.
You can definitely save a lot on accessories if you shop at a Dollar Tree. They have lots of baskets, plastic bins, dog ropes toys, clips, rocks, and more.
Now it’s time to adopt
Although I’ve read great success stories about pet shop rats and feeder rats that have been saved, it’s better to adopt them from a rattery if that’s an option. A rattery knows the age and history of the rats, and most likely has several generations invested in the line. They are taken better care of and they tend to have a longer lifespan since they may be healthier. They should also be temperament tested prior to adopting. There will usually be a rehoming fee anywhere from $15 to $45 each from what I’ve seen.
Once you have chosen the right ones for you, and get them home, it’s time to start bonding. You are going to want to handle your new rats as much as possible. Be careful that they don’t wander off or jump away in the process. They are very curious. If you have other animals, gently introduce them at some point. We have a large black lab/pit bull mix. He just sniffs at them and tries to lick them once in a while.
Now that you have some new buddies, you want to be sure to continually interact with them. Play with them, give them kisses and pets, reward with treats, take them on shoulder rides, and let them free roam. The roaming still makes me nervous. I’m always scared they will wonder off. I just started trying it with my Malakai. He’s a big, super chill, chunky boy. My daughters will sit for hours with them bundled up in their hoodies.
Rats have very sensitive respiratory systems. They need lots of airflow so a cage is ideal. It needs to be cleaned but not overclean. Do not use any perfumes, incense, or candles around them. An air cleaner is ideal. Any signs of labored breathing, red around the nose and eyes, and barely moving could indicate a respiratory infection. The vet should be contacted immediately. This happened to us and we lost six rats, and 11 had to be medicated for two weeks.
I clean a lot because I’m OCD about the smell, and I currently have just under thirty rats in our tiny home. My fiance also isn’t fond of them. We have a Germ Guardian air cleaner set up next to the cages. Throughout the day, I keep up with any pee spots or droppings left on the shelves or bins and place them in the litter bin. Every couple days, I change the bedding. I also do a thorough washing of everything with vinegar water wipes.
I hope this information has been helpful.
For a few of our pet rat pics, see the Ratties page.