Rats make excellent pets. They are clean and love attention. Since they are social animals, they should be kept in same sex groups of two or more.
Your New Pets
When collecting your babies, you will need a suitable carrier.
The carrier must contain an abundance of soft bedding, such as torn kitchen towels.
Carriers are available from most pet stores, and sometimes vets stock them.
There is a good example at this site http://www.petsathome.com/icat/sa1cr1
As many of us have found to our cost, the water bottles with the ball bearings in the nozzle are no use in a moving vehicle. (The momentum makes them empty all the water !) Instead, put pieces of fruit in the carrier, so the rats have moisture available on their journey. However, it is always a good idea to take water with you, in case there are any delays.
Once the rats are in there new home, let them have some peace and quiet, for a day or two.
Do not put the cage/tank near bright lights, and never in direct sunlight.
There should be at least one “hideaway” in their new living quarters, as rats naturally like to rest somewhere where they feel safe. From my experience they like an exit as well as an entrance to their “nest”. If there isn’t one available, they will usually make one themselves!
Most rats like hammocks, and some like toys. Be careful of the treadmill wheels because the slatted type can trap tails !
If you understand a bit about the rats’ natural behaviour, it will help you to provide your pet with the best possible care.
Security. Rats will respond to their environment in a positive way if they feel secure. They feel safe and relaxed in a warm, enclosed, cosy, environment; preferably a place that they can peep out from. - This makes the owners’ jumper an ideal place to begin forming a relationship ! As with any baby animal, your rats’ new home may be a bit daunting for him. Rats like to start exploring new territory “ one step at a time”, so let the rat make the first move. I suggest you sit in an armchair and let the rat use you as his base to start exploring from. He will then associate you with being in a safe place, and he will run back to you if he feels insecure or gets frightened.
There is nothing worse than trying to get a terrified rat out of the inside of a sofa, or from behind a wardrobe ! So, with this in mind, never just dump your new pet in the middle of a bed or lounge floor. He will be terrified and instinct will make him run for cover. However, once he is fully confident, and has explored by venturing out from a safe place, he will love to free range. Most rats learn their name and will come when you call. All it takes is a bit of patience initially !
Human Sneezing. When your rat is a baby (and also some adults) he will associate sneezes with a threatening sound, which is similar to a snorting noise made by an angry rat. An adult rat who is not used to humans may also respond to this type of sound by biting (either as a defence or attack) A baby rat who is not used to his new home, will regards sneezing as a threat, and will either “freeze” or violently struggle to run away. It is therefore very important to make the rat feel safe if you are about to sneeze. Put him down your jumper, or hold him firmly against your body by enclosing him with both hands. He will soon get the idea that you are not about to kill him !
Humans Giggling. Some baby rats find giggling and squealing (particularly from little girls) very upsetting. Children must be instructed to be quiet and calm around your new pet. The quickest way to produce a terrified and unhandleable rat is to ignore this rule. Once the rat is settled into his home and knows all his new “family” by smell he will be ok, and he will quickly learn to ignore household “noises”
Handling. Rats like to be handled very firmly. Being timid with a rat will scare him, because he will think you are afraid of some imminent danger. Mind you, obviously don’t hold him so tight he can’t breathe ! Once rats are used to you, they generally love to ride around sitting on your shoulder. However, please be aware that, like other baby creatures, rat kittens have no common sense, and may well suddenly leap off ! While you are training him, it is a good idea to have contact with his tail. I don’t mean grip his tail; I mean let it rest between your fingers. If the rat is about to jump, you can feel the tension in his tail, and take appropriate action !
Rats’ Senses. Remember that rats have very poor eyesight. They rely mostly on hearing and smell. Always call to your rat as you approach his cage. If he is curled up or resting, make sure he has heard you before you pick him up.
Some rats may object to a stranger suddenly picking them up. In extreme cases, the unfamiliar smell may cause the rat to panic and bite. Give your rat a chance to become familiar with the scent and voice of a new person, before you hand your rat to them.
Don’t feed rats treats through the bars of the cage. Rats usually grab food with their teeth, and can easily make a mistake if your fingers are in the way ! As a precaution, it’s always a good idea to make sure children wash before picking up the rat, so the rat doesn’t think their fingers are a piece of chocolate !
To Be Continued