Why choose a rat as a pet?Choosing a rat as a pet may at first seem a little bizarre, after all there are plenty of other animals out there that make more ‘typical' pets. However for me I decided to have pet rats for a number of reasons.
In an ideal world I would have had a pet dog, however I don't have the spare time or the room to look after it properly, take it for walks and to generally ensure that it has a happy life. Buying a pet dog would be very unfair on the dog
Cats were out of the equation immediately as I'm allergic to them, and am not particularly fond of them. They seem too selfish a pet for my liking.
Given my limited free time and space the ideal pet would therefore be a smaller animal that would happily live in a cage. There are plenty of choices, hamsters, rabbits, mice and of course rats. I chose the rats as they are supposed to be incredibly intelligent as well as being quite loyal creatures which are easy to look after
Buying the pet rats
Buying the pet rats was a simple matter of popping to the local pet store and having a look at what they had. I chose two baby male rats to take home with me. Male rats are supposed to be more sedate and docile than the female rats (who are often referred to as ‘flighty') and I was advised that rats do not like to be kept alone - they like the company of other rats.
Whilst at the pet shop I also purchased a rat cage and a few other essentials for the rats. The rat cage was pretty much the largest that I could find, it could take up to 4 rats apparently, but I was happy to think that I would be giving my two rats as much space as possible for these active and social creatures.
All in all my shopping trip cost me £123, of which only a very tiny amount was for the rats themselves:
- 2 rats - £15
- Rat cage - £80
- Rat hammock - £7
- Rat food - £6
- Rat litter - £5
- Litter box - £3
- Wooden ‘fort' - £5
- Rat treats - £1
The rats and their new home
Once in their cage one rat (Freddy) was clearly far more bold and adventurous than the other, running around all over the cage whilst the other (Rory) cowered in the corner wondering what all the commotion was about. After a while Rory too became curious about his new home and also explored it from top to bottom, however he has always remained the shy one out of the two...
The rats were still pretty young when I bought them and it fascinating to watch them grow so quickly. Within a matter of weeks they had learnt how to climb the cage bars with ease, and could even monkey climb across the top if they wished!
Handling the pet rats
The rats absolutely loved being taken out of the cage and given a run around the house. They quickly learnt (with the aid of peanut butter) that once the cage door was opened they just had to wait patiently to be picked up. They would then happily snuggle into my chest and allow me to carry them around.
Put them on the sofa and they will happily pad up and down the place all day, snuffling around the cushions and snuggling into the corners for a doze.
I don't allow them to run around the house completely, as I'm worried about a few electricity cables and some nooks and crannies where they could get stuck. However my conservatory is a perfect place for them to run around, and if I pop them on the floor there they will scurry and prance around the whole floor looking for things of interest.
Feeding Pet Rats
My rats get fed a mixture of foods and I try to keep as much variety as possible in their diets. They get some stable ‘rat nuggets' which are a dried food designed to give them a balanced diet. I then supplement this dried food with a large variety of raw vegetables and other tit bits. They love whole carrots, raw broccoli and lettuce leaves and I'm happy to feed them these whenever I can. They also like small bits of lean meat, all kinds of seeds (sunflowers are their favourite) and of course peanut butter. I try to keep the fattier foods to a minimum.
I have discovered that if I leave them a large amount of food they will simply hoard it somewhere safe, rather than just scoffing the lot. This means that if I go away for the weekend I just give them enough food to keep them going and make sure that they can't possibly run out of water. I don't like leaving them but they do seem to cope perfectly well on their own!
Toilet Training the Rats
Toilet training was remarkable easy. It simply involved putting a litter box in one corner of the cage and encouraging them to use it. To start with they just did their business wherever they liked and I would sweep it up and pop it in the litter tray. After a while they started to get the idea and if I ever spotted them using the litter tray properly they would get a small treat (usually peanut butter). We sometimes still have accidents, especially if I keep them out of their cage too long, but all in all toilet training the rats was very easy.
Toys for the rats
You can buy a great number of toys for the rats, but I enjoy making my own for them as well. Most toys I make consist of some sort of rat food or treat made inaccessible, and then allow them to work out how to get to it. Start simple my wrapping a small treat inside lots of pieces of paper, rather like a pass the parcel. You'll soon have the rats tearing through the paper! Other challenges for them include suspending a carrot from the top of the cage and letting them work out how to get it, rope ladders to climb to get to the dinner bowl, and large boxes full of packing chips and a couple of rat treats (beware they WILL throw out all the packing chips looking for the food).
Their favourite 'toy' is their rat hammock, its the only place they like to sleep now, both curled up (usually on top of each other) with their little noses poking over the edge of the rat hammock
Rats as Pets
My rats make excellent pets and I would recommend them to anyway. I get a few strange looks when I mention that I have pet rats, but people soon get the idea when I explain how intelligent and affectionate they are.
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"Awww it's great to hear that the lovely ratties have such a caring owner, i also have a rat ( a dumbo ) called Henry, they're amazing creatures"
"i agree rats rule and hamsters drool and so do any other small mammals lol love the info thanx"
"think twice on the peanut butter. rats cannot vomit. too much could be the last. RATS RULE!! HAMSTERS DROOL!!"
"That was a vey useful piece of infomation and i think you should write a book."