When adopting rats, it’s crucial to have their habitat set up & ready for their arrival. Eventually you can add new stuff if you desire, but in order to keep your rats happy, comfortable & safe these are the basics:
- Pet transporter (optional but safer)
- Reasonable sized cage
- Soft blankets/hammocks
- Bowls/bottles for food & water
- Exercise wheel (optional)
- Chew & play toys
- Rat pellets
- Treats (optional)
**IMPORTANT : get to know where you can find exotic veterinarians near you. Most cats & dogs vets do not know how to adequately treat exotic pets, since they have different anatomies & diseases.**
A transporter for your rats is an optional feature. It all comes down to the owner’s judgement. Most people will just walk around with their rats chilling in their hoodie or on their shoulders. In the case of more nervous rats that are not entirely tamed, then it would be wise to get a transporter at that point. A medium or large rodent transporter where they have space to move & turn around without being squished is perfect for 2 rats.
Pet rats require big cages since they tend to be quite acrobatic. In eager to satisfy their need to jump, climb & balance, the cage must be tall with multiple levels with added tubes, ladders, climbing ropes, etc. The minimum size cage for 2 rats (yes, rats live a happier life in pairs of the same sex) would be 31” length X 20” width X 31” height (80 cm X 50 cm X 80 cm). They live best in wire cages but the openings can’t be much bigger than 1 cm, as it is dangerous for rats to either get stuck or escape. A wire cage will allow air to flow through, keeping your rat’s lungs healthy, especially since they are prone to easily suffer from respiratory related illnesses. Closed plastic cages or aquariums will increase the risk of respiratory infections due to increased ammoniac levels in the rat’s environment & insufficient air circulation.
- Water bottle: keeps water clean & fresh. Water bottles are very practical when you want to save on interior space since you can simply hang them on the outside of the cage. **You might want to check your water bottle at leasttwice daily to ensure it’s proper functioning**. If your rats are not familiar with drinking from a bottle, it’s suggested to have both, a bowl of water and a bottle until they get accustomed to it. It’s acceptable if you prefer using only a bowl of water but it’s better if it’s made out of ceramic as they are harder to spill. Tip: when you fill up the water bottle, always fill it up to the top or it might leak.
- Food bowl: gives your rats access to fresh & unspoiled food even though they might take the food out & hide it somewhere else in the cage.
- Soft blankets and/or hammocks: provides comfort for when your rats needs to get cozy and rest their paws. It also reduces the risk of pododermatitis also known as sore hocks. ALWAYS check your blankets & remove any excess strings that can harm your rats as they can get tangled. Hammocks are usually very well appreciated by rats. It’s suggested to have one to keep them happy & comfortable.
- Bedding: absorbs urine. Always use recycled news paper pellets when housing rats as, like I mentionned earlier, their fragile lungs make them excellent candidates for respiratory issues. Wood shavings are really bad for them especially pine or cedar bedding.
- Hideout: brings your rats a sense of security and reduces anxiety. They can hide there when they feel the need to. It’s recommended to use plastic houses since the wooden ones tend to absorb odors & they are difficult to wash. When choosing a hideout for your rats, keep in mind that it should be big enough for more than one rat as they sleep in groups.
- Chew toys: satisfies your rats need to gnaw, even though they are not the biggest chewers in the rodent world. There are many types of chew toys that exist. I suggest variating them every once in a while or your rats might get bored. You must ensure that they do not contain chemical dyes or anything toxic for that matter. To garantee the quality of the toys, choose a trusted brand: Critter Ware, Oxbow, Whimzees, etc.
- Exercise wheel: allows your rat to exercise. Rats are really smart & unlike hamsters, not all of them enjoy using a wheel. If a wheel is added to the cage it is very important that the bare minimum size is 12 inches. There have been numerous reports of deadly spinal injuries with smaller ones. The wheel must be entirely closed & without openings big enough for a foot to go through.
- Rat pellets: provides a well-balanced nutrition for your rats. Pellets are suggested instead of mixed seeds food since they usually only eat what they want to and not necessarily what is best for them, which will eventually cause dietary imbalances. You should only feed your rats with high quality, trusted brand pellets. Adult rats (over 4 months of age) need pellets with a crude analysis of 15-16% protein & 4-5% fat. Babies on the other hand (under 4 months old) or lactating mothers need 17-18% protein & 5-6% fat.
- Rat treats: allows you to facilitate the taming process, especially if your rats are of a nervous nature. They are not essential.