Brace yourself, summer is coming!
The summer months are approaching fast, and they are getting hotter every year. Unlike us, rats can’t sunbath to get a tan little butt. As furless creatures, we release sweat, which cools down our skin as it evaporates. But, our fuzzy little buddies can’t sweat like us, so they have to use other techniques.
Rats use their tails to regulate their body temperature. Their furless tails are filled with blood vessels. A study in 1984 found that rats can dissipate 17% of their body heat by using their tails, despite the fact that a rat’s tail is only 5% of its surface area. They control their temperature by dilating their blood vessels. By doing so, more warm blood flows through their tails and gets cooled down. Then, the blood runs back to their bodies, keeping them fresh.
The ideal temperature for your little fuzzy friend is around 15 to 20°Celsius. Hotter than that, and they are at risk of heat stroke.
Signs of overheating are as follows:
- Unusual panting
- Excessive drinking and reduced eating
- General lethargy
If you notice any of those symptoms, immediately bring your rat to a cooler area, like an air-conditioned room or car. This will help lower their internal temperature. Dampen their tail, feet, and ear with cool water, and get your rat to drink water too. If you suspect a heatstroke, go to your vet as soon as possible; your rat’s life may be at risk. During transport, you can put a cool towel in your little buddy’s cage.
But, let’s not be dramatic; you can easily avoid this situation by following a few simple rules.
How can I keep my rats cool?
Luckily for you, it’s not that difficult! There are some easy measures that you can take right now to keep your fuzzy friend cool.
Turn on that sweet AC
If you are lucky enough to have air conditioning, leave it on at 15-20°C (60-68°F or 288-293°K). That will keep their room cool and constant. Try maintaining a stable temperature, as too much inconsistent heat can make them sick.
If you don’t have AC, use a fan
If, like me, you don’t have AC, you can use a fan to maintain good air circulation. Don’t aim your fan directly at your rat’s cage, though, as heavy wind gusts can cause respiratory issues. Try keeping your blinds and curtains closed to block out the sun, which will help keep your room cooler. You can leave your windows open at night to cool down your room and let the trapped heat out.
Delicious Frozen Treats
Two birds with one stone! Put their favorite treats into an ice tray and freeze them. Later on, they can lick the ice, thus keeping them cool and occupied! But remember, ice melts and will leave a wet puddle, so give it to them on a safe surface.
Frozen Water Bottle Or Glass Jar
Fill a plastic water bottle, wrap it in a thin cloth, and place it around your rat’s cage. This will give them a spot to cool down quickly if they want. You can switch between 2 bottles, so you always have one around. Rats love to chew though, so keep an eye on them, or put your bottle behind the cage wire. If you want to use a glass jar, don’t close the lid and only fill the jar ¾ full, as your jar could shatter when the water freezes and expands.
Swimming with rats
If it’s really hot, you can fill a container with cool water and let them take a quick skinny-dip if they feel the need. Some rats aren’t fond of water, so don’t force them. Instead, you can wet their tails and paws, which will help keep them cool. Make sure to always supervise them, and once pool time is over, dry them gently with a soft towel so that they don’t get sick.
It’s fishing for peas time!
Another option is to let them go pea fishing. Fill a shallow tray with cool water and dump in peas or their favorite treats. Your rats will have fun trying to catch the peas, and this will encourage them to go in the water if they want to. You can use a clean paint roller tray so that they can experience different levels of difficulty!
To escape the heat, your furry buddies may enjoy lying on a cold surface. Stick a clean tile or brick in the fridge and give it to them after it’s been chilled. It will last an hour or so! You can leave bricks in their cage all year; put one under their water bottle, and each time they go for a drink, it will trim their nails.
Another solution is to use a cooling pet mat. It’s usually made for dogs and cats, but you can absolutely use it for your fancy rats. It will provide a longer cooling effect, and you don’t need to put it in your freezer! These come in various sizes, and due to the large surface area, they are perfect during play time! You can put toys on them, so your furry friend can play and be kept cool!
Don’t sweat it
Ultimately, having rats is fun! Just be smart; don’t put your little friend in a hot car or under direct sunlight, and be a little more careful than usual. Have fun with them, and come up with new games to keep them cool! If you have your own special ways for keeping your furry friends cool in the summer heat, post them in the comments!