|Care of Pet Rats|
For centuries, rats have been much maligned by "civilized" society. Like mice, rats are unjustly accused of being "slimy," "disease-ridden," and "filthy." Urban legends tell of rats the size of dogs running rampant in the sewers and attacking people from dark alleys. The truth of the matter is, they are some of the cleanest, healthiest animals you could ask for. They require no vaccinations as they carry no communicable diseases. Indeed, the Black Plague of the Dark Ages was not caused directly by rats but rather by fleas that lived on the rats. Although the truth about rats is slowly overshadowing the myths and wives' tales, many people still operate under the assumption that they are free-agents and, therefore, requiring of little care. While taking care of pet rats doesn't involve unorthodox amounts of time or money, they are extremely intelligent, affectionate creatures who will either thrive or fail depending on the type of care they receive. Help your pet thrive by heeding the following advice.
First and foremost, rats are not solitary creatures. A lonely one is a recipe for disaster, both physically and mentally. For that reason, you should always buy a same-sex pair when you go to purchase your new friends. Two can live quite comfortably in a large wire cage made specifically for large rodents, especially if it contains several levels for your pets to explore and climb about on. Unlike their smaller rodent counterparts, rats do not need an exercise wheel. You will, however, need to add a large hanging water bottle, a heavy food crock, and a nesting box to your pet rat care checklist. Try to avoid wooden or cheap plastic nest boxes unless you want to replace them frequently, as your pets will gnaw them to smithereens. Speaking of gnawing, rats are chewers by nature and should be provided with pet-safe wood blocks and other toys that are meant specifically for the enjoyment of chewing rodents. If you decide to let your friends out for supervised playtime, be sure that any dangerous chewables (like electric cords) are out of reach! As for bedding, avoid pine or cedar shavings and opt instead for hardwood shavings such as those made of aspen. Clean their cage thoroughly at least once a week, changing the bedding and scrubbing down the toys and accessories.
Rats enjoy a varied diet, but again, as with mice, avoid feeding them cheese. They love dry cereal (no sugar, please!), fresh veggies, fresh fruit, and whole wheat bread and crackers. A food made specifically for these creatures should also always be provided, as it will offer a complete source of nutrition in addition to the other foods you choose to feed. Avoid feeding your pet anything that might be considered junk food, and remove any food from the cage that might spoil if it remains uneaten for too long.
As was previously mentioned, rats are extremely intelligent creatures, therefore, proper care of your friends requires intellectual stimulation in the form of interactive play and training. Many rats will love perching on your shoulder as you do chores, watch television, knit, or even take a walk around the block. They also enjoy riding in pockets and fanny packs. They can also be litter trained and taught to come when you call their name. While rats are, by nature, nocturnal, they are also highly adaptive and will adjust their sleeping and waking schedules around your interaction with them. Thus, many of them will be awake and ready to play when they hear you come in the door from work or school.
If caring for a pet rat sounds like a positive, enlightening experience, then it's time to put some effort into finding the perfect one (or preferably, two) for you. Due to the increasing popularity of rats as pets, breeders are cropping up everywhere, and rats can often be found for sale in the newspaper. You should also consider checking to see if there's a rat rescue near your hometown, or you could call the local animal shelter to ask if they ever offer them for adoption. Pet stores are also a good option, provided the ones available are healthy and well cared for. Spread the good word and show the world you know the truth about pet rats by becoming the proud new owner of a delightful pair or passel of these fascinating, affectionate creatures.