Rats as Pets
June 10, 2007
I personally think rats make great pets, but I am probably biased, however, they aren’t the best pet for everyone.
They can’t live in a Hamster cage for a start, you need at least 2sq ft of space per rat and you should never have a lone rat, unless totally unavoidable. They should be in wire cages as tanks don’t have enough ventilation and can cause a build up of ammonia which can affect the rat’s respiratory tract. The cage needs plenty of room for climbing, as well as floor space so will take up quite a bit of space. My cage is a Tommy 82 T3 and is 82cm x 51cm x 152cm high.
Rats are very social and as I have already said need ratty company. Get at least two, three is often recommended so you don’t end up with a lone one when the other one passes away. They also need human company and time out of the cage. Aim to spend at least an hour free-ranging them a day. The area you free-range them in has to be rat proof. Rats are very destructive – they will chew wires, carpets, curtains, bedding and furniture if given half a chance. They will also scent mark when they are out – on you and your stuff. If you are house proud and don’t like the idea of rats peeing on you, then don’t get rats!
They can get quite smelly – some have disgusting habits and pee and poo on their shelves and in their hammocks, so as well as a weekly clean you will most likely have to clean their shelves every day and swap their hammocks and bedding over a couple of times a week.
Unfortunately, rats only have a short lifespan. Generally rats live for 2 – 3 years and some not even that long. They can suffer from a number of common things, tumours and respiratory problems seem to be most prevalent. Like any animal, they can cost a lot in vet’s bills.
Well, if you’ve got this far, you’re obviously serious about rats as pets! Now for the good things:
They are very intelligent. They can learn to use a litter tray, to come when called and to perform tricks. Each rat you meet will have a distinctive personality, some are very cuddly and are happy to sit quietly on your lap while you watch TV, others are on the go when they are out and you will be constantly entertained by their antics. Rats are very curious, they are always getting in things and on things and climbing up stuff.
They are also very friendly, when they are awake and you go into the room they’ll be climbing the cage, begging to come out, and when you open the door, there’s a fight over who gets out first. When I sit on the floor with mine during free-range time they will climb all over me, on my head and my shoulders, in my clothes. Even when they had the whole room to roam in, they still spent a lot of time using me as a climbing frame.
They are generally pretty easy and cheap to look after (if they are in good health), after the inital outlay of the cage. You can spend a fortune on hammocks that they will find great delight in chewing and toys they’ll ignore but they will be just as happy with tea towels hung up as hammocks and a cardboard box to sleep in. A good quality diet made of a dried food base mixed with good quality dog kibble, human cereals and dried pasta will cost quite a bit to buy in the first place, but the basic ingredients last a long time and if you have only a small number of rats, their fresh food quota can be simply what you have left over from your tea (provided it’s suitable for rats of course).
I wouldn’t be without them now, it’s their mischevious and friendly little personalities that have won me over.
Written by Laura Young, 10th June 2007