Domestic Rat Care Guide
The Species: Domestic Rats (Rattus norvegicus domestica) also known as Fancy Rats are common pets and have been domesticated from Brown Rats to make ideal pets. Rats are widespread and native to countless countries and invasive to even more, these animals are very successful and are unfortunately considered vermin in the wild, however this is because they can carry disease in the wild and have been known to cause species to go extinct when introduced to a country that they have invaded. Despite this, Domestic Rats are very clean animals and make brilliant pets, they are extremely intelligent and love to solve problems. Rats are social and would naturally live in large family groups so it is important to keep them in pairs or more. Rats are unfortunately overbred which has resulted in pet Rats today often having health problems and usually die due to tumours in the end.
Enclosure: Rats are prone to reparatory issues and because of this needs enclosures with a lot of ventilation. Rat cages are often the most commonly used enclosures however it is important to make sure that the enclosure is made from metal and not plastic or wood as they can easily chew out of plastic and wood. Some people use glass enclosures but this is not always suitable as they don't usually have enough ventilation. A minimum size enclosure for one pair should be approximately 70x70x45cm and should increase in size if there are more rats in the enclosure. Rats naturally live in a variety of environments including underground burrows, terrestrial landscapes and up in the treetops, their enclosure should match these environments providing suitable height, depth and length.
Rats need to be cleaned out 1-2 times a week so it is important to give them suitable substrates which are easy to clean but that are also non-toxic as they will try to eat most materials they come across. Giving them a base layer using a paper based material such as paper sheets, newspaper or puppy pads. It also helps to offer a top layer of substrate also known as litter, this absorbs the urine and can make it easier to clean them out, we recommend Back-2-Nature small animal bedding or Care Fresh small pet bedding however other substrates are also acceptable. We do not recommend using cat litter as this can effect their breathing and cause respiratory issues.
It is very important to provide lots of decor and apparatus to explore, hides, hammocks, tubes and more are very good to use. Rats are incredibly intelligent and need a lot of stimulus to occupy themselves throughout the day which means they need different forms of enrichment, puzzles, treat finders, toys and many more are extremely important to give your rats, the more full the enclosure is of enrichment, the better it is for your rats. Rats like many other rodents also need different toys to chew, this is because their teeth are constantly growing and if not given materials to chew on and ware their teeth down with, their teeth can eventually grow through their skull. Wooden toys/enrichment are very good for this purpose as its a natural a material to use and is often found it pet shops already treated.
Heating: Rats come from many different climates in the wild so can happily live in most temperatures within your home. This means that they don't require additional heat sources however they do still have a temperature range that should be monitored to make sure they stays safe. The temperature range for Domestic Rats is 15-27 degrees celcius (65-70 degrees farenheight) and shouldn't raise above 25 degrees celcius (77 degrees farenheight).
Lighting: Rats do not need additional lighting however this can be provided if you feel your rat doesn't receive enough light throughout the day you can add additional lighting to an enclosure. UVB lighting is acceptable as long as the bulb provided does not raise over 12%, LED lighting is also a suitable alternative but with all lighting it is important to have them on for no longer than 12 hours a day to provide a natural day/night sequence. If any additional lighting is added to an enclosure, make sure that the rats have lots of places to escape the light in different hides and that the lighting is a safe distance from the cage to prevent them burning themselves.
Humidity: Rats come from a range of different climates all around the world but they still have a humidity range that they are comfortable with. For Domestic Rats they need a humidity range of 30-70%.
Diet: Rats are omnivorous and scavengers by nature, this means they eat both protein and vegetation. There isn't much that Rats can't eat however you can get complete Rat diets from pet shops, we recommend Burgess Excel Rats or Supreme Science Selective Rat Foods however other are also suitable. Foods which contain nuggets of a singular colour and shape have been proven to provide them with more nutrition than foods which can come is different colour nuggets and in different shapes, this is because the animals tend to pick a specific colour, shape or flavour above the others and won't always eat the other nuggets in the diet which means they are then not getting all the nutritional requirements.
Rats can also have many treats including fresh vegetation, rodent treats, some dog treats, some meats and many more however there are some foods which should not be given to rats and should be avoided. Foods to avoid for rats are onion, citrus fruit, walnuts, rhubarb, grapes/raisins and chocolate.