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Black and white fancy rat on blue blanket

New Pet Rat Tips: Rat Care Guide

Are you thinking of getting a new pet? Does the idea of a pet rat or mouse appeal to you? Or maybe you want a cute little guy to sit on your shoulder or in your T-Shirt pocket!

Whatever your reason for wanting one, it's important to remember that small pets are not always less of a responsibility or less expensive to care for than dogs and cats.

Pet rats (also called fancy rats) are loving and intelligent creatures that make great companions, and they don't require anywhere near the level of care of other, more exotic animals. Here are some new pet rat tips you should know before getting a new pet!

What Are Fancy Rats?

Fancy rats are different from usual rodents we sometimes find in our homes. They're a domesticated breed of rat specifically bred for companionship. Contrary to popular belief, rats make excellent pets, love to snuggle and play, and can learn to respond to their name with the proper training.

Black fancy rat on soft blacket

Fancy rats are generally friendly as long as they're socialized from a young age and handled gently, and unlike hamsters, they prefer spending time with their humans!

What makes fancy rats stand out from wild rats is that they come in different styles of coats, with hooded and Berkshire being the most common. Their fur is usually soft and thick but can also be wiry. Fur color can range from white to black with a combination of different shades in-between.

On average, these great pets live between two and three years in captivity if cared for properly. However, this can be lengthened by providing them with proper nutrition, exercise, and vet visits.

So if you're looking for a pet that loves bonding with its humans while not having too much maintenance or space requirements like bigger pets, a pet rat could be perfect!

Choosing The Right Pet Rat

Here are a few things to remember when selecting a pet rat that's perfect for you and your home.

Choose a Healthy Pet

You'll want to find a reputable breeder specializing in healthy, friendly pet rats. Healthy rats should have sleek, glossy coats and be curious and active. Warning signs of a sick animal include sneezing, hunched posture, eye and nose discharge, and bloated abdomen.

Pick a Color

Think about what color or type of rat appeals to you. Do you prefer calicos, agoutis, hooded or bald rats?

Fancy rats can come in many colors. Do your research to see which one you like best!

Take Note of Your Pet's Gender

Male and female rats have different personalities, so pick the one that suits your lifestyle best.

If you're concerned about possible odors associated with rats or mice, choose a female over a male. Male rats may mark their cage with urine more than females, although their natural odor is not offensive. Male mice can have a more "musky" scent than females, according to the American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association.

Additionally, make sure to neuter or spay your pet to avoid overpopulation. You wouldn't want too many rats in your home!

Check the Size

When considering a pet rat, it's essential to consider its size and age. Young rats are usually more active than older ones and need more exercise, while larger breeds require more space to roam and explore.

Additionally, you'll want to ensure the rat has been socialized with other rats before entering your home. Otherwise, it may be timid around humans or other pets.

Ultimately picking the right rat for you is about matching your lifestyle with the needs of the particular breed. It can result in an adorable companion who will bring years of joy into your home when done correctly!

Setting Up A Cage

All right, you've decided to get a pet rat and want to give them the best home possible. But where do you start? 

Black fancy rat in cage

A perfect home for your pet means creating a safe space for them. Here are tips on the best type of rat cage for your new pet.

Size Matters

Rats enjoy being active and having the freedom to move. They need room for playtime and space to stretch their cute, tiny legs. 

Ideally, a cage for a single rat should be at least 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide. However, you should invest in a bigger space if you plan on getting more than one rat.

Modular Cages Are The Best

Modular cages are one of the best cage types for your fancy rat. Besides being easy to assemble, modular cages are easy to clean and can be customized according to your needs. They're perfect for a rat's curious nature!

Plus, when your furry friend outgrows their current home, you can always add more pieces and customize their living quarters without buying an entirely new one.

Let Them Play

When setting up your pet rat's cage, include play equipment like ladders or exercise wheels. This will give them physical enrichment and help them explore their environment.

You can also provide them with a few safe chew toys, either store-bought or homemade. Just ensure these are safe for your rat to chew on without damaging their teeth or choking them.

Say No To Wire Floors

Wire floors may seem like a good idea, but they can harm your fancy rat. The metal wire can be too hard on their feet, leading to sores and other foot issues. Choose a cage with a solid bottom to keep your rat safe and healthy.

Line the Bottom

Finally, it's essential to line the bottom of your pet's cage with absorbent material. A bedding made of shredded paper is a great option, as it is easy to change and can help keep their cage clean. You can also use a ripped-up t-shirt or towel as a comfortable and soft option.

What Can Your Pet Rats Eat?

Feeding your pet rat can be an enjoyable experience for you both! Pet rats have a different diet than wild rats and require specific nutrition tailored to their needs, like any other pet.

When feeding your rat, it's essential to ensure its diet is balanced. A good rule of thumb is to provide a mix of pellets (50%), fresh vegetables and fruits (40%), and proteins (10%).

Besides specialized store-bought food mixes, you can supplement your rat's diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins like nuts and boiled eggs, and even cooked meats like chicken.

Vet Checkups For Proper Pet Care

It's essential to ensure your pet rat visits the veterinarian for regular checkups. As with any pet, your rat's health should be monitored regularly to keep them happy and healthy. 

Most vets recommend yearly checkups for pet rats. They'll check for proper vaccinations and can give expert advice on how to take care of your pet better.

If you think your pet is sick, trust your gut and get them immediate veterinary care. This way, you can get an early diagnosis and treatment if your pet is indeed ill.

Where To Get A Fancy Rat

Look for a reputable store or breeder when looking for a fancy rat. This way, you're sure of your pet's background and if it has any medical issues.

Reputable Breeders

Fancy rats from reputable breeders are properly screened for health issues. They may also provide information on breed-specific health issues, so you can understand what to expect. Don't forget to check if your chosen breeder follows humane practices for their animals. 

Pet Stores

If you plan on buying your fancy rat from a pet store, check if their animals are well cared for. Ask important questions such as health issues or proper care tips so you can take care of your pet better. Don't forget to get the appropriate documents for your pet ownership.

New Pet Rat Tips FAQs

Do rats like to be held?

Yes! Rats love cuddles and human interaction. Show your pet some love by giving them gentle neck tickles and head strokes. Petting is an integral part of building a connection with your rat. This way, it can identify you as a friend and be more comfortable in your home.

Do rats make good pets for kids?

Yes! Rats are low-maintenance pets and are great for children. Just make sure to teach them how to handle or interact with your pet properly.

What's the best way to introduce my pet rat to my existing ones?

Two fancy rats cuddling in magnolia blossom tree

A slow and careful introduction is always the best way to go when acquainting old and new pets. Rats are social animals but still need an adjustment period when meeting new friends.

You can start this process by placing your new pet's cage beside the old one. Your two rats can familiarize themselves with each other's scent this way. If you think they're already comfortable around each other, you can now let them interact.

How often do I need to clean my rat's cage?

Rats are notoriously clean creatures, so keeping their cage spotless is essential for their well-being! We recommend thoroughly cleaning the cage once or twice a week and spot-cleaning daily for feces or leftover food residue that accumulates between full cleanings.

Pet rats may be small, but they are not low-maintenance. They need proper care and attention, just like any other pet. While the initial investment may seem intimidating, taking adequate care of your pet rat can be rewarding for both owners and their furry family members.


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