Rats

Biological Facts

Behavior
  • 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.
Diet
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A wire cage with a solid metal or plastic bottom is ideal; it provides more ventilation than a glass enclosure, which helps prevent respiratory infections.
  • 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%.
  • Environmental 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
  • Water 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 opening.
Preventive Care
  • Routine physical examination every 6 to 12 months
    • Consult a veterinarian with experience treating exotic pets if you have any questions or concerns about your hedgehog’s health.
  • 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)
  • Obesity
  • 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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