I've been here a while
Join Date: October 19th 2009
Re: I want to get pet rats, but I donít know if Iím responsible enough. -
July 28th 2010, 09:52 PM
I have three rats and am potentially adding a fourth this winter. They're lovely animals, and definitely make for great companionship. They're as smart as dogs and cleaner than cats, and they're a lot like dogs bundled into tiny packages. So if you feel you'd be responsible, and are willing to take on the care of an animal that could potentially live 5-6 years, despite the lifespan being 3, then I think it'd be a great idea.
If you're ever unable to care for the rats, however, I would recommend contacting the rattery you brought them from. Many reputable ratteries will take any of their rats back if the adoptee is able to care for them any longer, and they won't hold it against you. They'll want what's best for the rat, as well. The reason I say this is because rats can quickly wither under neglect, and if you sell them somewhere like Craigslist, they may end up being snake food, so it's definitely a good idea to have a plan in case you need to re-home the rats for whatever reason. Even I have one, and I don't expect to ever be in that predicament.
But even though you said you've done your research, and I commend you for doing so, I wanted to quote something I wrote on someone else's thread that I copied from another forum. Someone on that forum had asked for some information regarding rats and I feel it's helpful information. I'll also be starting up a blog once I get the layout up, if you'd ever be interested, but in the meantime, I'll copy paste what I wrote for someone else.
I re-did the links so they should work for you. Best of luck!
I wouldn't recommend an aquarium. For one, rats like levels; they're active little buggers and will appreciate the extra room and added stimulation. :P For another, and here's where your personal benefit comes in, the smell. Though rats are very clean animals, they do have an odour, and this odour is going to get trapped in a cage where there's very little ventilation, such as in an aquarium. You will need to clean the cage much more frequently to prevent the odour from getting out-of-hand.
I would recommend going with a Martin's cage, as if you're going with two or three rats (you'll want at least two), you can probably get a good Martin's for the same price as an aquarium. I wouldn't go smaller than a r680 or r685 for two or smaller than a r695 for three. I'd recommend staying away from the r690 simply because the ramps are steep and can become a problem for older rats later in life, and definitely go powder-coated. Yes, it's extra, but it helps prevent urine from rusting the bars, which will, again, prevent an unpleasant odour.
Here are some cage calculators you can use to help you determine the size of cage you would need and for how many rats:
I personally prefer the top two, where you're able to actually enter in the dimensions.
Males or Females
On average, male rats tend to be more mild-mannered and lazy whilst female rats tend to be more active.
I currently have both - twin girls, and a neutered male. Though I'm still working with my new boy, there is a clear personality difference in the sense that my girls are up and active a majority of the time whilst Leo prefers to curl up and sleep. This might, however, be because he's currently living alone.
On the contrary, when they're out of their cage, it's Leo and London who tend to be bold explorers. Paris, on the other hand, is very, very cuddly and prefers to sit in my lap, on my shoulder or in my hair whilst I'm doing whatever. So it really is dependent on the rat him/herself, though I also believe that it's reliant on how much time you're able to dedicate to each rat. All of my rats have been or are on their way to being completely rehabilitated from what they were.
As someone pointed out, however, you'll either want to get male rats who have been brought up together or females, simply because males do have the tendency to fight. Even if they've been raised together, they will still occasionally turn and become territorial, in which case neutering is your best option. However, neutering can get to be expensive. Here, it's around 200.00 per rat.
How many rats should I get?
You need at least two. Even if you had all day to devote to your critters, nothing beats the company of another rat. There is the rare exception, which might be the case with my Leo, who was brought up alone for many months of his life after he was bullied by other rats when younger. HOWEVER, unless it is clearly stated in the rat's description, such as through a rescue, that the rat needs to live alone, then you should have at least two. And even with Leo, I'm working on his socialability with other rats.
Is there anything major I should be aware of about rats?
One thing I would recommend is to not go through a pet store. There are several cons to this, one of which being that the conditions they're kept in are deplorable, and poor conditions can lead to a variety of health problems. They're often kept on improper bedding, bedding that commonly causes respiratory problems in rats (which would require a vet visit and antibiotics), and fed an unhealthy diet. Many times, pet stores do not properly separate their animals or do not separate their animals in time, which can lead to you bringing home a pregnant female (on average, they deliver litters of 18 or so). Most pet store rats also lack proper socialisation and handling, which can lead to problems with temperament, biting, etc.
I would personally recommend going through a breeder or through a rescue, neither of which should be very expensive. Sure, it'll be around 20.00 to 30.00 more than the 10.00 they'd charge you at a pet store, but you're going to be bringing home a happier, healthier pet with a sound temperament and that's unlikely to be pregnant, have as many health problems, etc. Google rat breeders and rescues in your area. Check out Petfinder if you haven't already. And don't be shy to e-mail a local or even a state breeder with any questions. Any good breeder should be willing to help inform a new rat owner, whether or not you decide to go through their breeding program or not.
Rats also need a very specific bedding and a very specific diet. Carefresh and Yesterday's News are popular bedding choices for rats, because they won't irritate the respiratory system and are also very absorbent. Carefresh can occasionally be too dusty for some rats, but none of my three have ever had a problem with it. Also, Yesterday's News is made from recycled newspaper but it is specially formulated. Do not use regular newspaper, shredded or otherwise, as the ink is toxic. Also, stay away from pine and cedar beddings, as even though these are commonly sold in pet stores, they will cause problems to your rat's health (respiratory infections).
As far as diet goes, I mix Suebee's Rat Diet every 2 to 4 weeks. The ingredients I purchase last me about a month or a little bit over. I also mix in Harlan Teklad lab blocks, which are crucial to a healthy diet. I choose to stay away from all pet store diets and mix my own food/order HT when necessary.