Rat Care

Rats are affectionate, curious, and very good as pets. These friendly and loving animals are unfortunately ignored or even despised by many people. Say the word “rat” and most people think of wild rats, but domestic rats are as different from wild rats as dogs are from wolves!IMG_8137

Rats are great companions for both adults and kind, responsible kids. Because rats are so small, children under age 8 should interact with rats under adult supervision to insure proper handling.

Rats are especially suited as companions because they’re social animals and love to interact with people. They’re very personable and bond to people. Most rats will beg to be petted or to come out and play, and many will show affection by grooming their people with licks and gentle nibbles. Many rats like to sit on a shoulder just to be with their person.

Rats are smart enough to learn their name and to come when called. They love to play games with people, from wrestling and chase, to hide-n-seek, tag, and peek-a-boo! They can even learn to sit up, jump through a hoop, play basketball and do many other tricks.

Rats have very little odor and they keep themselves clean with constant grooming. Any bad odor is caused by wastes and means the cage isn’t being cleaned often enough for the type of litter being used. Rats need less maintenance (and general care is less expensive) than larger companion animals such as dogs, but they do need regular care, and do best with plenty of attention and playtime.

They are also very clean; you’ll find them constantly grooming themselves. These little furry friends have a life span between 2 to 3 years.


Rats are very active animals. They love to climb, roll around, hide, etc. They can also get lonely so it is best to own more than one; however, some would rather live alone or are too dominant for a friend.

Rats are friendly, and love to interact with their owners. They will to sit and walk around on your shoulder and hide in your hooded sweatshirts. You should always pick them up with two hands and should never pick them up by the base of the tail. NEVER grab your rat by the tip of the tail, as this is very painful for the rat and can cause damage. Rats typically don’t bite unless you smell like food or you’re hurting them.

Popcorning is a movement that you will see with your little one. This is a hop or twitch-like action that you will see them do when they are excited, happy and have way too much energy! Very comical to watch, especially with more than one!

Eye Boggling is one of the silliest things you will see ever! It’s when the eye vibrates rapidly in and out of the socket. This occurs during bruxing, which is soft, repetitive grinding of the incisors. This is usually a sign of pleasure and contentment.

Coprophagy – If you see a rat eating their own poop, don’t worry. It may sound unsavory to us humans, but its very normal behavior for Rats. Rabbits and guinea pigs also eat their own poops. They aren’t the normal poops that you see in the cage; these poops are softer. They need to re-ingests these soft poops because the digestive system doesn’t extract all the vitamins from the food straight away.

Rattie kisses – rats will sometimes lick you. This is because they like the taste of the salt from your skin.

Sleeping – Pet rats are not noctural. They are actually crepuscular which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. They will usually learn your schedule so that they can be up mostly when you are around for play time.

Basic Care

Rats should be fed rat blocks or nuggets as they can be very nutritious but also, can keep the teeth from overgrowing because they are so hard. Hamster blocks are okay to feed them as well. This should not be the only thing in their diet though. It should be combined with veggies, fruits, some nuts, and a few choice table scraps.

Not recommended: Packaged mixed grain diets that can be purchased at pet stores often contain too high corn or seed content, and can be nutritionally incomplete. This type of diet will have the rat picking out only the pieces that they prefer to eat, leaving food not eaten, which can cause an undernourished ratty.

Gassy foods and dairy products should be avoided as a rat’s system doesn’t allow them to pass gas or throw up so it can cause very bad discomfort and pain.

If you choose to use a dish, use heavy lead-free ceramic food dishes, so that the rats can not knock them over. However, water dishes often get quickly soiled with loose bedding and food. Water bottles with stainless steel ball bearing sipper tubes are much better.

Like most rodents, rats teeth constantly grow. If not taken care of overgrow teeth can cause so much pain to the little critter. To prevent this make sure that rat blocks are used in the diet as well as chew toys. Most rats can care for it themselves with grinding teeth but it is best to be sure and to keep an eye on them. If you notice them looking too long and your rat refuses to eat or losses weight, you can bring them to the local vet and they can actually be trimmed.

Rats have sharp little nails so for your comfort when playing with your rats you may need to trim their nails. Check them every one or two months. Nail trimming is not difficult, except they may try to squirm away. You can use a pair of nail clippers and trim a little off the tip. Just take a tiny bit off the tip and avoid the pink part (quick) that may be visible inside the nail If you do happen to nick the quick, a little cornstarch applied to the nail tip should stop any bleeding. Local pets stores also sell product that will help with the bleeding as well.

Play time
It is important to make sure your pet rat gets out for play time. This will make them so happy and help with the bonding process. Please be sure to rat-proof the area by covering wires or making sure they are out of reach. Also, make sure that you take anything you don’t want chewed away from the area and out of reach as well, as they love to chew!


Wire cages can be found in a variety of sizes, designs, and costs from both local pet stores and online stores. Most people use the wire cage as the housing. What you choose for bar spacing will depend on the size and age of your rats. Often ferret cages can be used for males and large females. Young rats and small females need spacing small enough to not allow them to escape or get stuck in the bars.

Not recommended: Do not use hamster cages, plastic storage bins with lids, or aquariums as permanent housing for your rats. Size and ventilation is no good for the health of your little one.

Pine or cedar shavings are not recommended for rats as they have very sensitive respiratory systems and can get infections. CareFresh, Yesterday’s News, or any unscented bedding is the best choice. Please be sure to regularly change bedding, as ammonia can also cause respiratory issues. If you can smell the cage, it is most likely overdue for a cleaning. Try litter training your rat. This will help with the cleaning process.

Not recommended: Please do not have wires as the bottom of the cage. Long periods of time walking on these can cause sore feet for your rats.

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