Safe Foods for Rats
Dark, leafy greens
Cooked lean meats
Small dog biscuits
Unsweetened breakfast cereals
Whole nuts in the shell*
Whole wheat pasta
Whole wheat bread
Yogurt (especially live cultures)
* Give in small amounts
Foods to Never Feed to Rats
Raw sweet potatoes
Male rats: citrus foods or foods containing d-limonene
Caring for a Rat
Lifespan: 2-3 years
Rats are clean, intelligent pets with affectionate personalities. They love to interact with their human family, and can be taught a variety of tricks. They are very social animals, and need at least one same-sex rat companion to thrive. Rats are nocturnal by nature and will be most active at night.
Rats need daily attention to become trusting and easy to handle. Offering food from your hand, and avoiding loud noises and sudden movements will help to build confidence. Soon, your rat will enjoy being held. At least 1 hour a day should be devoted to exercise outside of the cage in order to maintain optimal health and a healthy relationship with your rat! Rats naturally produce a substance called porphyrin, which is red in color and is believed to lubricate. This can stain fur; small amounts of staining are normal. If you have other pets, watch them carefully when your rats are out of the cage, and never leave them alone in the same room; accidents happen!
Choose as large a cage as possible for your rats. An ideal cage size is about 24" x 24", with several levels and room for toys (a solid exercise wheel, ladders, tubes, hammocks, chew blocks, etc.). The floor should be solid, as constant walking on wire can injure rat feet. Place the cage in an area with a lot of family activity, out of direct sunlight and drafts. Cover the floor with bedding, such as Carefresh or pine shavings. Never use cedar as this can lead to respiratory infection.
A healthy rat diet consists of 85% rat-specific dry food (square meal), and 15% variety of fresh vegetables and fruit. Dry food and fresh water (in a water bottle) should always be available. Treats can be offered in moderation.
Spot clean any soiled areas of the cage a minimum of 3-5 times a week, and scrub out the entire cage weekly. Daily spot cleaning is always recommended. Food and water dishes should also be cleaned weekly. Always rise and dry the cage well before adding fresh bedding.
Rats can reach sexual maturity at 5 weeks of age. To avoid unwanted pregnancies, it is important to make sure that your rats are accurately sexed and separated no later than 4 weeks.
If you notice any signs of illness or injury to your rats, consult your veterinarian for treatment. Common signs include: discharge from the eyes and nose; sneezing or wheezing; head tilting; lumps and bumps; excessive scratching; difficulty urinating or bloody urine, excessive porphyrin staining; and abscesses (closed or ruptured).
Cedar shavings contain harmful oils, and should never be used for rats.
Male rats cannot digest d-limonene, commonly found in citrus foods. This has been linked to cancer.