Up next in How to Care for Small Pets (13 videos)
Small pets need special care. Learn how to tend to your little four-legged friend with these Howcast videos.
You Will Need
- Companion rat
- Wire cage or 20-gallon aquarium
- Rat food
- Greens and vegetables
- Water bottle for rats
- Nesting places
- Paper towels
- Large exercise wheel
- Fruit (optional)
- Untreated wood blocks (optional)
- Dog biscuits (optional)
Before bringing home a rat, do some research. Avoid rats with signs of respiratory infection: leaky eyes or noses, noisy breathing, and strong odor from the mouth or ears. Choose one with thick fur, and avoid those that are skittish or aggressive. Take time to handle the rats before deciding on one.
Rats love company. Your rat will be happiest with a friend to share its cage. Female rats get along well; male rats do fine once they've had time to get to know each other. Don't put a male and female rat in the same cage unless you want several more rats than you started with.
Get a large cage
Rats love to climb, so a large wire cage is best for them – especially two-story cages. Put the cage in a part of the house where there's a lot of action. More than most other rodents, rats like to see what's going on around them.
Line the cage
Line your rat's cage with aspen shavings or pellet or hay bedding. Don't use cedar or pine shavings, which contain chemicals that can be dangerous.
Feed your rats
Find a rodent food mix that's specially formulated for rats. In addition, give your rat small amounts of greens and vegetables each day. Remove uneaten fresh food from the cage every day.
Change its water
Make sure your rat always has fresh water. Since rats chew on their water bottles – and everything else! – use a metal bite guard.
Give it places to play
Rats crave lots of hiding places to play in and to sleep in. Put empty coffee cans, shoeboxes, overturned flowerpots, and cardboard tubes in the cage. Provide your rat with paper towels to shred for its nest.
Provide a wheel and toys
Put a large exercise wheel or two in the cage. The best exercise wheels are made of solid plastic, not wire. Like kids, rats get bored, so offer yours a variety of toys. Rats enjoy toys that are made for parrots, including ropes and swings.
When to call the vet
Call a small-animal vet if your rats have dull or runny eyes, matted fur, breathing problems, or diarrhea.
Enjoy your happy, healthy rat
Congratulations on overcoming one of the animal world's worst stereotypes! You and your new rat are in for a great time together.