How to Care for Young Rats

by Lindsay in Rat Care

Peach and Apricot

Peach and Apricot

Rats are intelligent, loyal, inquisitive and fun loving little animals. Once a few basic needs are met they do not take much looking after. The more time and attention you give your rats the more confident and rewarding they will be.

So, here are some simple tips to set you on your way to having a rewarding relationship with your rats.

Making time for your rats

When getting pet rats, ask yourself if you have the time to properly care for some rats. Rats need more than just a big cage and some toys if you want your rats to be as happy and healthy as they can be it will take time and commitment from you. If you work, or go to school; will you make time to say hello to your rats? Will you get them out of their home for a cuddle? Will you check they have food, water and their beds are clean and just tell them that you love them before you head out for the day?

Cookie and me

Cookie and me

At the end of a long day, no matter how tired you are, will your rats be you main priority? Your rats won’t understand if you don’t let them out to play because you had a hard day, or because you are going out with friends. If you aren’t prepared to commit yourself 100% to your rats welfare, then you need to consider your motives behind getting pet rats.

Talking to your rats

Take the time to talk to your rats, always use a calm, happy voice. Ask them how they are and tell them about your day. It will help to strengthen your bond and your rats will come to associate certain words with playtime and of course it will also help you with teaching your rats their names. It may seem a bit silly to sit and talk to your rats, but as they mature and your bond grows the time you took will pay off in ways you can’t imagine.

Thinking of your rats tummy

Toffee nibbling a banana

Toffee nibbling a banana

The key to a young rats heart is through its tummy. Rats love yummy treats and they are fun to give, but be careful what and how much you feed. There are many small animal treats available at pet stores, but try to look beyond yogurt and chocolate drops, there are also great fruity treats available that good for your rats teeth and they will love just as much. Fruit and vegetables also make a great and healthy addition to your rats diet.

Young rats will not be used to rich or fresh food and if you give them as much fruit or vegetables as they can eat then there are going to be consequences. You don’t want to give your rat and upset tummy, which will be unpleasant and dangerous for your rat and smelly for you. The same is true of older rats, its great to share your dinner with them and healthy to supplement their diets with fruit and vegetables, but take things slowly. Don’t give your rats more fresh food than they can handle, because you will be the one dealing with the outcome.

Getting to know your rats

Until your rats know you and you know your rats take things slowly. Have plenty of treats on hand when getting to know your rats. You may know you are friendly and full of good intentions, but to your rats you are hairless, big and have an unfamiliar smell. Do not shove your hand in your rats cage and try to drag them out, this is a sure fire way to get bitten or terrify your little rats into not wanting to come out at all. If your rats are not naturally inquisitive about coming to the door, be patient. Hold a treat at the door, you’ll know if your rat can smell it as it will probably start bobbing its head to get a good whiff. If nothing happens, pop the treat in their cage and leave them to eat it - this lets them know that things taste as good as they smell. If you still get no response from your rat the next time you try the treat at the door take the treat away, they will soon learn.

Cleaning out time

Sugar, Daisy, Pearl, Peach, Apricot and Muffin all helping me clean out their cage

My rattie girls all wanting to help out at cleaning out time

It is important to consider your rats feelings when it comes to cleaning their cage out. It may sound a bit daft, but when you think about it their cage is your rats home and when you clean their cage you remove everything that smells of them. Of course cleaning your rats cage out is very important and should be done at least once a week, just take the time to involve them in the process and make it part of playtime. For a new rat having its home cleaned out can be very stressful and you should provide your rats with a box or old towel to hide in. Try to clean your rats cage out where they can come and see what you are doing, like on the floor, but of course be careful not to squash anyone if they do come to help.

Rat play time

Apple

Apple

Once your rats are happy and confident with their new family and home you can play with them whenever they are awake and ready. While you cannot play with your rats too much, it is important to consider how much regular time you will have to spend with your rats. Don’t go berserk playing with them every chance you get if you are not going to keep it up. It is best for your rats to have a bit of routine and consistency makes them happy. Is is also best for you that your rats learn your routine as they won’t be jumping up every time you walk in the room hoping that this is when you are going to play with them.

Interacting with your rats

Pepper and Pippin playing

Pepper and Pippin playing

One of the best things about having two or more rats is they will show you how they like to play. If your rats are always rough and tumbling, rolling each other on their backs and jumping on each other, then join in. Don’t be afraid to tussle with your rats, be rough but don’t overpower them. Remember though, that rats have play bites and they may well use them on you. Play bites can be a bit scary at first, but they don’t hurt and they are a real sign that your rats accept you as a friend.

If your rats are explorers then take an interest in what they are looking at. Ask them “What’s that?” and stick you nose up to it, just like they do. They will probably look at you like you are daft, but it is a great way to interact and show them you are interested in what they are doing.

Teaching your rats their names

It is great fun to teach your rats their names and it can be very handy for rounding them all up at the end of playtime. Teaching your rat its name is pretty simple, as with most animals offering a edible reward and a bit of patience is all it takes. The simplest way to start is by holding your rat and saying its name then giving it a treat. When it is out and about, if it comes to you say its name and give it a treat, then move on to calling it and offering a reward when it responds. What does vary is how cooperative your rat is about responding to its name. I have one chap who knows that when I say his name I want him, so he sees it as an opportunity to go bouncing off and start a game of chase.

Patience and understanding

Biscuit and Badger

Biscuit and Badger

No matter how naughty your rats are being or what they have chomped through, do not loose your temper with them. They are small adventurous animals and they like to get into and into everything. It is your responsibility to keep important items out of their way and make sure they are safe. If your pet rats are doing something naughty pick them up say “no” in a firm voice and return them to their cage. If they do the same naughty thing again say “no” and shut them in their cage for a little time out. They will learn. It is also worth remembering rats can also be naughty when they want something. I have two boys who start eating paper when they want to go in, even though their cage is right there for them.