Rats can make perfect pets
For many people, the idea of keeping a pet rat sends shivers down their spine.
The most common reason rats are hated are they are assumed to carry disease and are aggressive and will bite.
Pet rats belong to the same species as wild rats but are very different all together. If a pet rat has been handled and socialised well from a young age, it will be easy to handle and make a great companion.
There are many varieties of rats with different coat colours, coat types and eye colours. There are many rat shows around the country where proud owners can compete with their rats in the different categories and it is fabulous to see the variety out there.
Pet rats are much smaller than wild rats, but they do share their inquisitiveness and agility. Yes, their tails are hairless, which many people find disgusting, but it is fascinating to watch them use it like a hand, hanging on to branches with it for balance.
Rats are companionable and are best kept with at least one other companion. As rats can start to breed from five weeks of age, they are best kept in single sex groups.
If you are unsure of the sex of your rat, your vet or vet nurse can check it for you. If you are getting a young rat, it should be at least six weeks of age.
Rats need large wire cages in order to stay healthy, the larger the better. The floor should be solid and covered with dust-free bedding.
Rats love to climb and are very agile, so providing ropes, hammocks and sleeves inside the cage gives them plenty of activity.
They also need a water bottle or two and food bowls. Rats are susceptible to respiratory disease which easily spreads through stressed and overcrowded groups, so glass tanks are not suitable for rats and the bedding should be free from dust.
Rats are omnivores and are very successful on surviving on a varied diet. Commercial rat feeds are fine and can be supplemented with fruit and vegetables, peanuts and food scraps but only in moderation, as they should never get fat.
Rats are very curious creatures and when they are out of the cage love to explore the room and what you are doing.
They also have fun personalities. My friend’s rat would sit patiently while she studied but after a while would be bored, run in and snatch her pen and run off with it!
Never pick a rat up by its tail, but support under it chest and hind legs and never squeeze, as they can start to panic.
Rats live only about two to three years and as they get older can be more prone to diseases.
Most commonly, rats develop tumours and if small, these can be removed under anaesthetic.
Rats which are ill or stressed may pass a red discharge from their eyes. This is not blood but a red pigment in their tears.
Rats make great pets. They are fun, inquisitive and interact with humans well, much more so than hamsters and mice.
So, if you are looking for a more unusual pet, then a rat could be for you.