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Rat FAQ

F.A.Q.

~Rats as Pets

Domestic pet rats are very intelligent and clean animals. They can be trained and will adapt to their surroundings very quickly. Pet rats are very social and will be happiest when living with other rats. It is strongly recommended to adopt a minimum of two rats at a time. Rats should be kept only with other rats of the same sex. It is strongly recommended to leave rat breeding to the experts, it is not for amateurs.

DO NOT pick up a rat by its tail, it is very dangerous to the rat. Always use two hands when possible to pick up a rat, one around its torso and one supporting its hind feet. Do not feed rats through the bars in the cage as the rat may get confused and bite a finger near the cage. Always announce yourself to your rat when you want to touch it. Rats have very poor eyesight and may not see you approaching. This also helps to make sure the rat is awake and not startled into biting.

For anyone unsure about rats i suggest you just stop and take a look into their cute little faces! Rats make wonderful pets, they make great Friends. It is common amongst the rat community to say that "You are owned by your rats", instead of saying "you own rats." As once you fall completely in love with your rattie friends it is very common they take charge and boss you around rather than you bossing them around! :) Once you get a rat you can never go back -most people are hooked for life and will never be ratless again!

~Types of Diets Not Generally Recommended

Packaged mixed grain diets that can be purchased at your local Pet Store are generally not recommended since they often contain too high a corn or seed content, and can be nutritionally incomplete. These types of diets all too often have the rat picking out only the pieces that they prefer to eat, leaving food not eaten as well as an under nourished rat. If you intend to use this type of base for your rat’s diet try to stick with a mix that is higher in soy than corn and that contains essential fatty acids. Do check your rat’s bowl to be sure that food is actually being consumed. Do not top off dishes if it appears that there is a small amount of food left as it may be only seed shells. Doing so may result in starvation.

~Types of Diets Recommended

Laboratory pellets or lab blocks, as they are referred to, should be considered to be your rat’s basic diet. These blocks are nutritionally balanced for rats and mice and are used exclusively by many laboratories and breeders as the animals’ entire diet.

Lab blocks are considered to be one of the most nutritious sources of staple or base diet to feed your rat, along with veggies, fruits, some nuts, and a few choice table scraps. A good brand of lab blocks that are specifically made for a rat’s nutritional needs are made by Harlan Teklad, and can be purchased in bulk at Harlan.com Another good block food that meets a rat’s nutritional requirements is made by Mazui , and which can also be purchased in bulk at the Mazuri website: Mazuri.com Add fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables to your rat’s daily diet. Rats do love table scraps, but don’t overdo. Chicken bones are fine. Rats gnaw the bones and will not choke on them like a dog will. Treats may be added sparingly.

Now you must try to keep protein levels within healthy limits. Protein range should be around 16 to 18 percent. Pregnant or nursing females as well as babies up to 13 weeks old can be fed a higher protein ratio. If rats are fed too much protein this can lead to protein scabs as well as excess orange looking grease on the skin of males.

~Treats

Rats can get treats for many things, such as a supplement to their regular diet, or as a reward for good behavior, or training accomplishments. Although great in the summer heat, a treat that can be served most anytime is frozen peas in a shallow bowl of water. Non-sweetened banana chips, yogurt covered raisins or peanuts, plain bread sticks, dry baked potato, cooked pasta are just some ideas. All things in moderation must be remembered, too. Every animal is different. Some rats may like the above treats, some may not. Part of keeping rats is learning what they do and do not like, and making sure they are correctly taken care of.

~Foods NOT to feed to your rat

Bitter Almond:

Bitter almonds may yield from 6 to 8% of hydrogen cyanide (Wikipedia Article), a deadly substance.

Blue Cheese:

Contains Toxic Mold

Fats (from meats):

Rats do not have gall bladders and therefore they do not have the enzymes needed to digest the fat of meat (credit to spazrats).

Green Bananas:

Inhibits starch digestion

Green Potato Skin and Eyes:

Contains solanine, a toxin

Licorice:

Contains a suspected neurotoxin

Orange Juice:

May contain d-limonene which can cause kidney cancer in male rats see also this post

Poppy Seeds:

Can cause neurological damage, or may cause death!

Raw Artichokes:

Inhibits protein digestion

Raw Bulk Tofu:

May contain bacteria (packaged tofu is safe)

Raw Dry Beans or Peanuts:

Contain antinutrients, causes red blood cell clumping (note: the peanuts that you buy in stores are almost always roasted so are okay. Frozen beans from veggie mixes are okay because they have been pre-cooked)

Raw Onion:

Can lead to anemia and an upset stomach

Raw Red Cabbage and Brussel Sprouts:

Contains an antinutrient that destroys thiamin

Raw Sweet Potato:

Contains cyanide-forming compounds

Rhubarb:

Contains high levels of oxalates which bind up calcium

Wild Insects:

May carry parasites

*Foods to be used with caution when feeding to your rat*

Apples:

Apples are fine, except for the seeds. Apple seeds contain a cyanide derivative that is deadly.

Avocados:

Avacadoes are high in fat and are a good treat to feed rats that need to gain weight quickly (make sure the fruit is ripe). However, the pit, rind, skin and leaves of avocados are toxic. The part of the fruit in contact with the pit has a higher concentration of toxins.

Carbonated Drinks:

Rats Can't Burp!

Carob:

Contains vitamin A, B vitamins, and lots of protein. Carob pods have been used to treat diarrhea for centuries. Carob should be taken with plenty of water. Too much Carob will produce the opposite effect and cause constipation.

Chocolate:

Contains stimulants that can lead to heart failure or neurological poisoning in high quantities. A very small bit of chocolate is okay and can actually temporarily alleviate respiratory distress.

Dried Corn:

Can have high levels of fungal contaminates which can lead to liver cancer. Make sure to inspect commercial seed mixes with dried corn. A little fresh corn is fine.

Iceberg Lettuce:

Full of water (which can be good), but has no nutritional value

Peanut Butter:

This can cause choking in rats. If you want to give your rats peanut butter, mix it with jam or something liquid to make it less sticky, or spread it in some bread.

Plums:

Good source of potassium, Vitamin A and fibre. The pit of the Plum has cyanogens in it, which are bound molecules of sugar and cyanide. When this bond is broken, the cyanide becomes free and able to act. The cyanogens don't leak at all into the flesh of the fruit, for some reason, but should it ever occur to you to try fermenting Plum pits, or to break them up and roast them as snack food, it might not be such a great idea.

*I hope this information will be of use to you in deciding what to feed your rat. Please remember to consult your veterinarian to determine the proper care of your pet. This list is only intended as a general reference - it should not replace the advice of your veterinarian.*

~Exercise and Play Time!

Rats are very intelligent and need mental exercise as much as physical exercise. Tunnels, igloos, ropes, ladders, blocks, and child or baby safe toys are some ideas, but the most important toy a rat has is their human. Rats need interaction with their owners on a daily basis. It is strongly recommended that there be at least one (1) hour of free range play time in a rat safe environment. This may be a bed, a sofa, a big comfy chair, or an entire room. The important part is the time socializing with the rats.

Exercise wheels should be solid or have very, very small mesh to protect the rats’ feet and more importantly to avoid a rat tail being caught and damaged.

~Rats Housing Needs!

There are several options for housing your pet rats. Whatever you choose keep in mind that the space you provide needs to be adequate for the number of rats housed. A rat’s home needs to be a safe place. It is important to make sure that the housing you choose has sturdy latches and is escape proof. This is especially true when there are other pets in the household that might harm the rat or if you have other rats of the opposite sex housed under the same roof. Get the largest environment that you can afford. Rats are happiest when they have plenty of room to explore, climb, and play. Do not use hamster cages, habitrails, plastic storage bins with lids, or 10-gallon aquariums as permanent housing for your rats. Cleanliness is a must for rat housing. Providing a litter box will help to keep the cage cleaner and most rats learn quickly how to use them.

Occasional wiping down of surfaces with a mild safe cleaning solution and changing cloth bedding as needed will keep the cage manageable in-between cleanings. Sterilization of the cage weekly will help eliminate odor, parasites, and bacteria. If you can smell that the cage is dirty then it is past time for a cleaning. Ammonia buildup can cause damage to their delicate respiratory systems and is easily controlled with a proper cleaning schedule. Once you have decided on housing is best for you and your rat, the next step is to purchase the items that will go into the cage. You will need a water bottle (two is better in case on gets a leak), proper bedding, hide away areas, toys, nutritional food, and accessories to provide a healthy and stimulating environment for your rat. Whatever you choose for your rats home be sure to keep on hand a small cage or aquarium in case you have a rat that is ill or injured and needs to be kept isolated and quiet.

~Bedding

DO NOT USE PINE OR CEDAR, or any other aromatic wood type shavings that contain phenols. Phenols are the oils that make the shavings smell good. These oils are very unhealthy for small animals in general. They can cause significant issues with rats’ respiratory systems. This can range from infections to scarring of the lungs. A good commercial product to use is "Carefresh" or similar types of products. Other commercial bedding materials to consider are Aspen, pellet bedding and shredded paper. Ecologically friendly bedding materials to consider are things likes fleece, old cotton clothes, cloth pot holders, etc. Be careful of excessive loose threads, especially with very young rats as they may get tangled up.

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