How to keep happy rats
Lifespan: 2-3 years
Cage size: D90cm x W60cm x H60cm minimum for pair of rats (although we advocate for keeping groups of 3+)
Larger groups of 3+ rats will need a larger enclosure (such as The Critter Nation)
Time requirements: 1-2 hours daily
Must not be kept alone
Rats are incredibly clever and social animals that have complex care needs. Here are some of the things we believe are important for them to have a happy life.
What makes a good rat cages
The bigger the better! Some of our favourites include The Critter Nation, The Ferret Nation, Liberta Explorer. If you only have two rats ((although we advocate for keeping groups of 3+) The Savic Zeno 3 or Furat Plus are decent options. These latter two can be stacked using cable ties to make larger set ups.
As large as possible, with plenty of height for climbing.
Correct bar spacing to prevent escapes.
Filled with things to climb, chew and forage through.
Large opening doors to interact with the rats and make clean out day easier.
Solid flooring, no mesh or wire bases as this harms their feet.
A safe, dust free bedding material. Common choices include fleece or paper based substrate. No wood shavings.
You cannot keep rats alone; they need same species companionship. Humans cannot ever make up for rat friends as we simply cannot snuggle with them in hammocks, understand their communication or share play and experiences. No matter how much time you spend with your rat, it is unfair to keep them single.
Rats really thrive in groups of 3 or more, as the more friends the more fun! We always recommend keeping groups, not only as they are more fun, but if one passes away unexpectedly you won’t be left with a lonely single.
Veterinary care and diet
Rats are exotic animals and will need a specialist vet for any treatment that may need. If you’re in Edinburgh, this will most likely mean taking them to The Dick Vet’s Hospital for Small Animals.
Diet is also a very important part of rat health. Researching this is important as diets may need to be adjusted based on the rats age and health condition. The basic diet is made up of these elements:
A good varied grain based mixture, typically a dry mix. We recommend Rat Rations or researching how to make your own healthy mix.
A healthy range of rat safe vegetables and fruit.
Occasional wet meals.
Rats are extremely intelligent animals. You’ll need time and creativity to keep them occupied with activities, challenges and tasks. This doesn’t need to include expensive shop bought toys, there is so much you can make with very simple household items. Here are some common ideas:
Foraging in substrate for food
Teaching them tricks and commands
Changing their cage layout regularly
Giving them new spaces to explore during free roam time
How much time and money do rats need?
It’s recommended to allow at least 1-2 hours per day for play and interaction time. Cage cleaning and rearranging (which will need to be done around once per week) can also take over an hour depending on cage size and the number of rats in the group.
Rats’ dry food can vary in cost but you can make a quality dry mix quite cheaply, especially if you buy the elements in bulk. They are often happy have bits of whatever fruit, vegetables and wet meals you are having, but make sure you feed a wide variety and to leave out any foods on the rat unsafe list.
Rats are sadly very prone to health problems such as tumours and respiratory infections. They are likely to need veterinary attention at some point over the course of their 2-3 year life span. These appointments and treatments are usually just as expensive as dogs or cats would be.
Cage enrichment for rats doesn’t have to be fancy custom made hammocks and expensive toys. Plastic baskets from the pound shop, old cut up t-shirts, rope and toilet roll tubes can keep them just as busy if you are creative!
Contact us either by email, Facebook or by filling in a contact form stating a bit about yourself, which animal(s) you’d like to apply for and your background.
If we think you might be a good fit, we will send you a link to our online application form to learn more about the home you have to offer.
If your applications look okay we will need photos of your intended set up at this stage. This will be followed up by an in person or virtual home check.