Pet rats, or “Fancy Rats”, are domesticated from the common rat. Rats were originally bred for ill-fated entertainment in the early 18th and 19th centuries in Europe. Rats make great pets, and a variety of types can be found in the marketplace. They’re inexpensive, they don’t require much up front cost, they’re docile, and they’re easy to care for.
They have gained the name “Fancy Rats” because they have been specially bred for exhibiting, with hundreds of shows being held around the world. Years of selective breeding has produced a wide variety of colors and sizes.
Rats can eat a variety of foods but are primarily feed a seed based diet containing a blend of oats, wheat, milo, corn, sunflower seeds and buckwheat. Specialty blends such as our Tropical Carnival Pet Mouse & Rat food contains all of these seeds along with a blend of dried fruits, nuts, and vegetables such as walnuts, pecans, almonds, peanuts, carrots, lentils, peas, raisins, papaya, bananas and more. There are also extruded options available in the form of lab blocks that contain 100% of the nutrition rats need to thrive. A variety of fresh fruits and vegetables can be offered daily as treats along with other commercial treat options.
Rats have constantly growing teeth and need to chew in order to keep them ground down. Be sure to provide commercial chew items such as willow wood chews. This is essential to their health and also provides a source of exercise and activity for the animal.
Rats do not drink much water because they get most of the moisture they need from their food, but clean fresh water must always be provided in a bottle specially designed for small animals.
Rats are kept in wire cages, aquariums with wire screen tops, and plastic molded habitats. Wire cages are not as common because the constant digging and burrowing of the rat can push the bedding out of the cage, making a mess around it.
Aquariums with wire screen tops are the most commonly used cages. Aquariums are difficult for rats to escape from, they keep the bedding in place, they’re easy to clean, and they provide an unobstructed view into the environment. A layer of bedding material should be used to cover the bottom of the aquarium.
Molded plastic habitats are popular with children. They have many of the same advantages as an aquarium, and they often provide additional features to enrich the life of the animals, but they do have a few drawbacks. The plastic is easy to chew through and the mice will often chew holes in the cage or tubes and escape. The plastic also becomes cloudy over time, and is much harder to clean than a glass aquarium.
No matter which housing option you choose, you should also provide a wheel and several places for them to hide. There are many types of wheels and hides available on the market, but if you’re looking for something inexpensive, paper towel tubes make great hiding places.
Handling & Care
Rats are very intelligent, and they’re often compared to cats and dogs. They’re loyal pets and very easily trained. Domesticated rats are clean animals and do not pose many of the health threats as their wild counterparts.
Rats are easy to handle, and they can be trained to enjoy being held. Scoop the rat from underneath into the palm of your hand. You can place your other hand over the top of the rat to keep it contained and prevent it from jumping and falling to the ground. Take care when allowing a mouse to explore an elevated surfaces as they have poor vision and may fall to the ground if they get close to an edge and slip. Rats are very docile, and will rarely bite.
Various bedding options are available from wooden chips to alternative fibers. We recommend aspen shavings or paper fiber. Both of these types of bedding help reduce the risk of respiratory problems and other issues associated with the phenols contained in aromatic wood shavings.