Cage: Minimum of a 1x 3 foot enclosure for each pet. Make sure that the top is secure. Cage bottom should be solid – not screen mesh.
Substrate: Bedding should consist of a paper pulp product (like Carefresh or Yesterdays News), newspaper or computer paper.
Hide box: Hiding areas such as cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, and tissue boxes should be provided.
Wheel: A running wheel of appropriate size should be provided for exercise.
Cagemates: You can house neutered males or females together for companionship, but watch their behavior. Some rats will fight with one another causing injuries.
Lab or rodent blocks (e.g., Oxbow – Regal Rat): Should be offered “free-choice”.
Treats: May include small pieces of vegetables, fruit, unsweetened cereal and hay. Seeds and treat sticks are not recommended as part of the diet because they are high in fat and low in protein and calcium.
Water: Should be offered in a sipper bottle or a spill-proof bowl and should be changed daily. Clean bowls/sippers every couple of days in the dishwasher or soak them in 1:30 bleach: water solution.
Always use two hands and be very gentle. Try to avoid exposing them to excessive noise, excitement and over handling. If children are handling the rat, have the child sit on the floor and hold it in their lap. Only allow them to handle the pet with adult supervision.
Always have an initial physical exam performed on any newly acquired pet. During the exam the doctor will check the incisor teeth, eyes, ears, heart, lungs and abdomen. The doctor will also check the hair and the skin for external parasites. It is recommended to have your rodent return to the vet once a year for a physical exam.
CONDITIONS REQUIRING MEDICAL ATTENTION
Respiratory Infection: Respiratory infections are very common in rats and are caused mainly by a bacteria called Mycoplasma. The rat should be treated with antibiotics right away. If left untreated, the infection could develop into pneumonia.
Malocclusion of Incisor Teeth: This condition occurs when the front (incisor) teeth do not meet properly and grow too long for the animal to eat properly. Regular trimming of the incisor teeth may be necessary so that the animal does not lose weight. Symptoms: anorexia/inappetence and excessive drooling
Lice and Mites: Lice are very common skin parasites in newly acquired rats. Symptoms may include itchy and/or red skin, hair loss and irritability. Treatment for lice may include injections and/or a topical medication.
Lumps: Mammary tumors are common in rats, male and female. Neutering/Spaying around the age of 6 months can help decrease the incidence of these tumors. When kept together, rats will some time bite each other which can cause a pocket of infection called an abscess. Both of these conditions would require surgery and/or oral antibiotics to treat.