How to: Pet Rats

Written by: roboguru

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 Because rats are looked at so negatively by a lot of people I wanted to make an instructable on how to have rats as pets.

 Rats are considered an exotic pet and "gross" to some people and honestly, I would say the same thing about tarantula's. It's just not for me. However, they really make great pets. Rats are very intelligent, they love to learn tricks, and they can be super cuddly! Keep in mind though that every rat has a different personality just like your dog or cat, or whatever animal you might have. You can't expect each one to do the same thing or like the same things.

 The Perks:

 1. Smart
 2. Small
 3. Furry
 4. Litter Trained

The Cons:

 1. Short life spam
 2. Negative view

 Now let's get started.

Step 1: Research!

 It is very important to do a lot of research on what it means to have a rat as a pet. Because they are no common pets you probably won't know instinctively how to take care of one compared to say... a dog or a cat.

 Prior to getting my rats I did research on WHERE TO BUY, How big of a cage they need, what they eat, health conditions and life length, and how many to have.

 There are some good websites to check out VIA Google.

Step 2: Where to buy.

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This topic is highly debated and argued about by many rat owners. 

 Breeder:

The BEST PLACE to buy your pet rats is from a breeder who only breeds rats as PETS. Just like any other animal there are bad rats and good rats. If you buy from a breeder you are mostly likely going to get a healthy and very friendly rat.

 Shelter:

 Another place you can buy your rats from is a shelter. Many people give their animals to shelters when they are no longer able to care for their pets. You would be surprised how many pet rats are left at shelters. This can be a good and bad place to buy your rats. In this case you may run into older/more aggressive rats and health conditions, just like ANY OTHER ANIMAL you might get from a shelter. If you are new to rats, I would not recommend this option unless you are very good with animals. You might get lucky and acquire a great friend, but you also might encounter some issues.

 Pet Store:

 This is the most highly debated option for buying your pet rats. Why? Because just like any pet store your pet rat comes from a pet mill that probably doesn't take good care of its rats. They may have mites or other health conditions as they are bred for MONEY, not care. However, I have two pet rats from a pet store that sold them as pets and the only issue I've come across is mites, which are extremely easy and cheap to treat, about $5 to be exact.

 Food:

 Yes. Rats are sold as food for snacks. Why? I still don't know. Gerbils and Hamsters are stupid, so why not use them instead? Okay okay, I'll be nice. ;)

 You can buy your pet rat from a pet store that sells them as food. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS. You may feel like you are rescuing them, but you will run into a lot of problems. I have/had two pet rats this way, one of which I had to give away because I could not stop him from biting me. The other I still have. However, he gets in moods, just like an aggressive dog of cat might, where you can only pet him once or twice and then he'll back up. He warns you, but if you continue chances are he will bite. It's just a warning bite, he doesn't draw blood, but this is caused from him being bred and stuck with other rats in an aquarium where they are treated like CRAP. He is a great pet, but again, not recommended for those that are new to or not good with pets.

Step 3: What type of cage and accessories?

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 Cage Calculater: www.rattycorner.com/odds/calc.shtml

 Space Needed: 2-2 1/2 cubic feet per rat (Males need the larger amount of space)

 There are several types of cages you can buy for your rats, however, I recommend making one if you don't want to spend the money buying one.

 Most rat enthusiasts recommend Martin's Cages which are built specifically for rats. You can also get them a really nice cage such as a Ferret Nation/Critter Nation. We can all dream, right? :P

 Accessories:

1. HAMMOCKS. Your rat needs hammocks and they are easy peasy to make. You can buy them, but again, expensive! I've sewn mine some nice ones, but if you don't know how to sew (learn) you can use old t-shirts, pant legs, rats, etc.

 2. CLIPS. You need a way to hang your hammocks. Easy! Just go to the bathroom section where the shower curtains are and get some shower curtain hooks, the cheap kind. You don't need anything fancy.

 3. BOXES! Ratties just looooove boxes. They are an easy toy and you can use old tissues boxes, cereal boxes, or any kind and cut holes, tape them together and WALA! A rattie apartment complex.

 4. CHEW LOG. Rats teeth grow... and grow... and grow. They never stop. They must have something to chew on and this will keep them from chewing on other things such as their hammocks or cage. You can get one at Walmart of Petsmart for pretty cheap.

 5. WATER BOTTLE, FOOD BOWL, LITTER BOWL. This is pretty self explanatory, but I recommend getting something with high walls for your litter and food bowl. It will keep it from getting everywhere. The water bottle should attach on the side of the cage. A bowl won't work as they will just drag stuff into it and get the water dirty.
 

Step 4: Food they need.

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 They are many options for food as rats can eat anything, but you want them to get the right amount of nutrition in their diet.

 Harlan Lab Blocks are an option.
 Suebee's Rat Diet which can be found online.

 You can buy food at the petstore, but it's not the right amount of nutrition they need. They also need to be fed:

 Fresh vegetables and fruit daily:

 Carrots, green beans, apples, banana's, etc.

 *NOTE* Rats can pretty much eat anything we can, but keep in mind what is healthy for US and most likely that is what they should eat. This is something you should do more research on. If you make the mix yourself (Suebee's Rat Diet) you will save A LOT of money. A lot. Just put the mix into large containers and you're done! :)

Step 5: Health conditions and life span.

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 Find a good vet:

 Finding a good vet that has dealt with rats is a plus. You can call around in your area and you should ask some questions before you make a decision.

 Rat Illness':

 If you feed your rats right, give them attention, and they get daily exercise they will live a lot longer and have less health problems. However, you should be aware of health problems they may get.

 Mites are fairly common, but they are easy to cure. A little Ivermectin, which you can get online or at a farm store will fix this. Just a small dot the size of a grain of rice once a week for three weeks should cure it.

 Respiatory Problems can problems can be caused from too much dust or a type of bedding or litter you are using. DO NOT USE PINE OR SCENTED BEDDING.  Towels work great and they love to dig in them or you can use Yesterday's News.

 Bumblefoot is common with wire bottom cages. It is easy to cover these wire levels with material. You can tie them on pretty easily as well.

 Tumors, cancer, and other more serious illness' should be consulted with your vet. These can be better avoided by proper feeding and care.

Step 6: Cage mates.

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 Rats need friend. Getting one rat isn't really a good idea, but it can be done with a lot of attention and play time with it's owner.

 2 or more is usually the rule and your rat will be a lot happier. Many rat owners have as much as 8 or 9 rats, sometimes more. Remember though that this will require more food, more poo cleanup, more space for a cage, and more vet bills.

 Introducing New Rats:

 When introducing a new rat they should be quaranteed from the others for at least 2 weeks to make sure they are healthy. When introducing it may take a few days or even weeks to get them all in one cage. Be patient. Would you want to live with someone you met that same day? So be patient and give them play time together for at least an hour each day and try and expanding that time each day.

 If you have problems such as aggression with each other you may be forced to keep them seperate.

Step 7: Behavior.

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 As I mentioned with purchasing your rat this will have a lot to do with their behavior. Aggressive rats should be seperated from the others and worked with one on one with you.

 Males tend to be more cuddly and females tend to like to learn new tricks... or so I am told. I've only had males!

 Biting is NOT NORMAL. If your rat is biting you need to spend more time with him and find out when it happens and why. If it continues you may want to keep him seperate from the others and find someone that is good with aggressive animals.

Step 8: Litter training.

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 YOU DO NOT NEED BEDDING.
 
 Poo:

 This is pretty simple. Buy a bowl or use a large tuple ware container and put litter in it. For litter you will want to use YESTERDAY'S NEWS or small animal litter which is a bit more expensive, but works great. Start by putting their litter bowl in the corner they most poop in. Put their "raisens" in the litter bowl each time you see them not in the litter. You can also put little treats in their litter to encourage them. Be consistent with putting their poo in the litter and this will keep them from pooping other places. I found that the small animal litter made them poo there AUTOMATICALLY. I didn't have to do anything! It worked great, but unfortunately it got expensive. Using Yesterday's News was cheaper, but required more work to get them to poop there instead of everywhere else.

 Pee:

 Peeing... unfortunately your rats will pee everywhere. It's how they mark their territory. Fortunately they don't pee in large puddles. It's easy to clean up. At the end of the day take a wet clothes or lysol wipes and wipe down the levels of their cage.

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