I love rats and they make the best pets for children, they are not boring and they are very intelligent and love to play games or just sit quietly on your shoulder to see what you are doing. Their life spans are 2-4 years and usually die from respiratory conditions or tumours, the two also seem to hand in hand with old age.
Rat cages should be kept out of draught, direct sunlight and away from bright light and heat source; bright lights can cause damage to the retinas, particularly albino rats. They can endure the cold with a good amount of bedding, but they do suffer from heatstroke if temperatures go above 30⁰C. NANNA uses tubes and flower pots to give fun activities to the rats and they should be handled daily to check for lumps and to listen out for breathing difficulties.
We have moved them onto shredded cardboard and we have found that the respiratory conditions have been reduced; it may not look as clean as wood shavings, but the health of the rat is far more important then the looks of the cages! People are very quick to judge and they seem to be quick to come to the wrong conclusions. If you see something you don’t like or understand ask!
An adult rat feed should contain only 14% protein (too much can cause skin allergies) and this can be given by feeding a little dry cat or dog food, rats are naturally scavengers so they can eat most things, but a good stable diet can be found in already prepared food with treats. Ours love nothing more then a chicken bone to gnaw on especially if it comes with Yorkshire pudding, two vegetables and gravy! Like all rodents they need to gnaw and if you have no bones then dog biscuits come in handy, but care should be taken because rats are prone to obesity and obesity can cause other problems and have shown that it can cause an increase in tumours. Obesity can be restricted by introducing fruit and vegetables. Exercise should be encourages but we very rarely see the rats using their wheels, they intend to just eat it!
Lice, fleas and mites can become a big problem to rats especially if there are other furies in the household or they come in contact with wild rats, so good husbandry is needed.
Ailment to look for in rats:
Renal failure is common from the age of 12-14 months and once you see it the damage is done, however feeding boiled rice can help to slow the progress of renal failure. Teeth need to be checked weekly unless the rat is known to have a problem and then they should be checked daily.
Rats also suffer from strokes and they, like human strokes come on sudden and can have lasting damage, they usually affect one side of the body and sometimes leave the rat with a head tilt. We had one rat, called Pina, who had Degenerative myelopathy , he had signs of paralysis of the hind legs, but seemed to be quite happy pulling himself around the cage and cuddling up to Colada his best mate. He continued for a few month and we made a decision when he started to deteriorate and a sore came up which obviously caused him pain.
Rats are truly fun pets to have and they bound with their owners and get quite excited when they hear their voice and look forward to being handled and let out for a run around, but remember they are likely to make a nest under the sofa, so care should be taken when going to sit on the sofa just in case they are in the springs!
Did you know that a nursing mother rat will take on and foster other youngster of the same age of her own?