A quick guide for new rodent owners.
Adopting Your First Rats
Getting your first rats is an adventure in itself! Do you get one rat or many rats? Boy rats or girl rats? Baby rats or adult rats? On this site and in the following article you’ll find some answers and helpful tips to these and other related topics.
Are You Ready for Rats?
First of all, before you go jumping into rat companionship, you need to realize that just because a rat does not cost a lot of money to buy does not mean that they are “cheap” pets. Rats require spacious living quarters, fresh food and water daily and often need the care of a rat experienced vet. They also require a lot of time on your part. They are not a pet to be put in a cage and watched, as hamsters and gerbils are. They require a minimum of one hour out of cage time daily and cages need to be thoroughly cleaned on a weekly basis.
How Many Rats Should I Get?
If you think you can handle the above criteria then it’s time to get your new pet. Go ahead and plan on getting at least two rats, if not more. Rats are very social animals and will be much happier and healthier in groups. They pack together in the wild and, though these are not wild rats, they still need the company of their own kind. Don’t worry, it won’t make them love you any less. Most likely they will bond with you even more, often fighting for your attention. Two rats are just as easy to care for as one – heck 10 rats are just as easy to care for as one!
Where Should I Get My First Rats?
So, now you know you want a few rats. So where do you go to get them? The best place to get a pet rat is from a responsible rat breeder. The great thing about buying from a breeder is that you get a healthy, well-socialized rat along with background information on the health and temperament of the parents. Most breeders are concerned about the well-being of the rats they sell and will ensure that you know all there is to know about your new friend.
If you can’t find a breeder in your area check out the local humane societies. Often rats can be found in shelters for various reasons. The shelter will most likely have the rats spayed or neutered before you can adopt them. Adopting a rat from a shelter is a great way to find a new friend and give a rat a home that it deserves.
As a last resort pet rats can be found in pet stores. Usually these rats are referred to as “feeders” because they are most likely destined to be a snack for another animal. Many wonderful pet rats come from these feeder tanks, but unfortunately many pet shops do not care for rats as they should and you could possibly end up with sick ratties. When you go to pick out your rats make sure they look healthy. Look for a well-groomed coat, no discharge around the eyes or nose and they should be fairly active (though rats are nocturnal so they may be quite lazy during the day when you will most likely be at the pet store).
The pet shop will most likely have very young rats, ranging from 4 weeks to 3 months. However, occasionally you can find older rats too. If you are a first time rat owner you may be better off to get a couple babies. They will get along better as they have not determined dominance or their territory yet. Getting older rats entails lots of patience and time if you get two that have never been together before. Now if they are in the same tank at the pet store and seem to get along, chances are they will be fine. But that is not something found in pet stores very often. If you happen to find them then by all means, take them home! Most older rats are destined to live a life in the pet shop or as a meal.
How To Choose the Rats For You
The best way to pick your rats is to let them pick you. Ask the sales associate to bring the tank down and let you play with the rats. If they will not let you do this try another pet shop if one is available. Once the tank is in front of you, slowly put your hand inside. Some rats will run away and hide and some will come to greet you with licks and sniffs. Licky, sniffy rats are the way to go. Of course, some of us can’t resist the little scared one tucked in the corner and just must have it! They all will usually make great pets given time and patience.
Males or Females?
Now, before you start letting all the rats pick you, a decision must be made – boy rats or girl rats? Please be sure to get the same sex, otherwise you will have way more rodents than you counted on. Both male and female rats have great qualities. But there are a few differences.
Males tend to be more laid back. They make great lap-rats and are often very lovey and snuggly. They tend to be territorial of their home, so try to get them when they are about 4 months or younger to make introductions easier and less stressful. Males do mark their territory, not a huge puddle or anything, but a few drops here and there. On average, males grow to bigger sizes than females.
Females, on the other hand, are often very playful and a bundle of energy. They will love running amuck in your very carefully
rat-proofed room and getting into anything they possibly can. Often it is hard to get female rats to snuggle because they are so interested in everything around them. But occasionally you get a calm one or a least a few second of cuddle time. Females tend to be more accepting of other females into their cage. They tend to be smaller and don’t scent mark everything as males do, however they do still “dribble a bit. Females will be smaller in size than males and may calm down as they age and become lap rats.
No matter what sex you get, all rats are wonderful animals and great pets. A little bit of love goes a long way and they will return that love ten-fold!