Pet Rat Care
- Norway or brown rat (Rattus norvegicus)
- Originated in temperate regions of central Asia
- Wild rats are burrowing, colonial animals.
- Rats will breed year-round in captivity.
- Sexual maturity is reached by 6-8 weeks.
- Gestation is approximately 21 days.
- Young are raised communally with shared nursing responsibilities.
- Life-expectancy for rats is 2.5-3.5 years.
- Rats are social and should be kept in pairs or small groups. A single rat may become lonely and develop behavioral problems.
- Fighting rarely occurs among adults.
- Are most active at night, hence their suitability for people who work all day.
- They are gentile and will usually only bite when in pain or very fearful.
- Rats are easily startled and should be awakened before being picking up.
- Wash hands after touching carnivores to reduce the chances of getting bitten.
- Spend time with your rats. The more attention you give, the more bonded, active, healthy, and friendly your rat will be.
- Rats are omnivorous and feed primarily at night.
- They are cautious feeders and may avoid new foods. Diet changes must be made very gradually.
- Diet should primarily consist of commercial rodent “block” or “chow”.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are provided in moderation.
- Only limited amounts seeds, raisins, etc. should be provided as treats.
- Studies indicate that rats live longer if fat and protein are somewhat restricted.
- Rats demonstrate more behavior when housed with other rats. Keeping at least two rats of the same gender (unless they are spayed/neutered) is strongly recommended.
- Because rats are nocturnal, the cage should be located where it is
fairly quiet during the day, but still near the social activity in the
home. A dimly lit environment is preferred.
- The cage should provide enough room for movement and exercise. A large, multi-level cage is preferred.
wire cage with a solid metal or plastic bottom is ideal; it provides
more ventilation than a glass enclosure, which helps prevent respiratory
- Rats enjoy privacy and require a “hide box” for security.
- Cage temperature should be 65-70°F (18-27°C); 72°F (22°C) is ideal.
- Humidity should be 30-70%.
enrichment is important. Rats enjoy tearing up paper or cardboard for
nesting material, and they will burrow if given the opportunity.
- Provide an exercise wheel with a solid running surface to avoid foot injuries
- Aspen shavings or recycled newspaper bedding are recommended. Pine and cedar should be avoided.
- Sipper bottle with fresh water should be available at all times
should be available 24 hours a day and is usually provided in sipper
tubes. Inspect daily for any signs of blockage or food obstructing the
Consult a veterinarian with experience treating exotic pets if you have any questions or concerns about your hedgehog’s health.
- Routine physical examination every 6 to 12 months
- Annual fecal examination for parasites
- Spaying female rats will prevent mammary gland tumors (very common)
- Blood tests as recommended by your veterinarian
Common Medical Disorders
- Respiratory infections (Mycoplasma, other bacteria, and viruses)
- Incisors malocclusion
- Head tilt (pituitary tumor, inner-ear infection)
- Chronic renal disease
- Salivary gland inflammation
- Ectoparasites (mites and lice)
- Mammary gland tumors occur in a high percentage of unspayed females
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