Rats as pets

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Rats as pets

Fancy rats Rat facts you need to know Handling your rat Clean, highly intelligent and affectionate, rats make rewarding pets for older children and adults, and bond to their owners in the same way that dogs do.   They are very responsive, quick to learn and very inquisitive.   Specially bred rats have been kept as pets since the late 19th century.   Beatrix Potter, the author of Peter Rabbit, was one of the first owners of a pet rat - an albino – and she dedicated her book Samuel Whiskers to him in 1908.   On average a pet rat lives between 2 - 3 years but some have been known to live longer. They are typically between 9 - 11 inches (23 – 28 cm) long and their tail is an additional 7 – 9 inches (17 – 23 cm).  Rats are very sociable and are much happier when kept in single-sex pairs that have been raised together from a young age.  They become miserable and ill if they have to live on their own.   BackTo Top Fancy rats Fancy Rat breeders have developed different colours, markings and coat types over the years.  Colours range from agouti, chocolate, black, blue, mink, cinnamon, champagne, silver fawn, buff, topaz, beige and lilac.   Pet rats can have markings of siamese, himalayan, berkshire, hooded, capped and variegated.  Rex rats have a curly coat and other coat varieties are velveteen, satin, silky and harley (with long straight hairs).  There are also hairless and tail-less pet rats available as well as the dumbo variety which has ears placed lower on the head. BackTo Top Rat facts you need to know Rats are extremely clean creatures, spending almost a third of their waking life grooming. They also prefer to keep their toilet areas separate from their sleeping, resting and feeding areas. Rats are nocturnal, and so they are most active at night and during dawn and dusk. Rats are sensitive to extremes of hot and cold temperatures and can develop heat stroke as they can not sweat like humans.  Rats regulate their temperature mainly through their tails so the tail-less variety of rat is particularly vulnerable in hot weather.  The ideal temperature for your pet rat should be between 19 – 23ºC.   Rats are explorers and are highly curious.  They are very active and need space to run, stretch up on their hind legs, climb and play.   Your pet rat will need at least an hours playtime outside their cage every day.  Because they are so intelligent rats can suffer if they dont have enough attention and stimulation. Like dogs, rats have an exceptional sense of smell - they can smell in stereo with each nostril working independently of the other!  They have even been trained to detect land mines. Rats have poor eyesight and rely heavily on their whiskers for information about the world around them.  As well as using their whiskers to feel their way through dark tunnels a rats whiskers can resonate like the strings of a harp and help them to navigate around.    Rats don’t like to be out in the open and prefer to hug walls rather than be exposed in places where they can not hide. Rats can hear sounds of a higher pitch than humans (ultrasound) and extreme noise can be very stressful for them. Rats are very sensitive to light, and bright light can cause stress and harm their eyes.  Albino varieties of red-eyed white rats are particularly affected by bright light. Rats eat their food sitting on their haunches, grasping it with their tiny front feet. Rats have excellent memories and can be taught to come by name and learn a variety of tricks.  They enjoy being kept mentally active. BackTo Top Handling your rat When you bring your rat home leave them for a day or two before handling so that they can get used to their new surroundings.   Before you start to handle your rat let them sniff your hand so they can become used to your smell.  You can encourage your rat by offering them a treat and see if they will take it from your hand.  Try stroking them softy. Once your rat has become used to you, lift them up by gently with one hand placed under the body and the other loosely over their back. Never hold your rats at a height; if they jump or fall they can injure themselves. You will soon find that your rat enjoys your company and wants to spend time with you. BackTo Top