Although some may have an aversion to these creatures, they are actually very intelligent, cute and active animals and you will find that they are a pleasure to have as a pet.
Rats grow to about 15cm in length and can live up to 5 years.
Get your rat the largest cage possible and make sure to place it in your living area, as rats are social creatures that need company. The cage must be well ventilated, but escape proof.
Initially, when taking your rat home, give it a bit of alone time for a few days, just to get used to the new environment. Place their cage in a draught free space out of direct sunlight and sudden temperature changes. They acclimate well to in-door temperatures. For the first few days, just clean the cage and feed the rat. Then after a couple of days you may coax it a bit with some yoghurt on a spoon. It is highly important for the rat to gain your trust. Once that is done, you will find out what a social, lively creature that it truly is. In order to gain this trust, you should be very gentle. Rats need consistency and repetition in order to learn. However, being naturally intelligent this will not take long, as long as you are patient with them. Use positive verbal assurance when training your rat and be consistent with the praise for good behaviour at all times. Rats will naturally respond to training and can learn how to come when called, to understand the word “no” as well as be trained on an agility course and to retrieve articles.
Once they are out and about, they are very active and love exercise, so be sure to have a wheel, ball or ladder available for them. Also, have different ledges or shelves in the cage where you can hide treats for them, as they are naturally inquisitive and will spend time searching for hidden treats.
Rats are nocturnal creatures and you will invariably find them running around and playing in their cage through-out the night. Given this, however, they do need their safe place to rest and sleep. So make sure that you have a hidey-hole for them with good bedding and make sure their cage is in a quiet place, as they are easily startled. You will need a sheepskin bed for them and you can also use Aspen bedding, hardwood bedding or pellet paper-based bedding, which should be about 4cm deep. Hay and straw are not recommended for bedding as its sharpness can cause injury to your rats’ sensitive eyes and mouth. Also make a hammock available to them, as they like to be elevated. The flooring of the cage should be solid and should be lined with an absorption material, to soak up bad odours and urine. ALL wet spots should be removed from the bottom of the cage daily and the cage should be cleaned weekly with hot water and be left to dry thoroughly before replacing the bedding and food.
When keeping small animals, make sure that different species are separated. Rats are social animals but do not keep males and females together. The females co-exist peacefully but males need to be introduced at an early age or they will fight.
When handling your rat, make sure your hands are clean and detergent free. Pick your rat up gently in cupped hands. DO NOT EVER pick them up by their tails. They love running around, so when taking them out, give them a safe space in which to do this. Make sure that other pets do not pose a threat to the rat that is out of his cage.
Although they have the potential to carry serious diseases, rats are naturally very clean creatures and will spend time cleaning and grooming themselves, however, they are not partial to bathing. As long as their cage is clean, they will be more than happy to look after themselves, hygienically.
ALWAYS check the health of your pets on a daily basis. These are both the good and bad health signs in a mouse: