Follow the links below to find more information on the topic. You can click your interest or just scroll down to go through all topics.

The following page has also been re-organized for the first time adopter. If you would like a step by step guide to preparing yourself and your home for pet rats, please follow this link:
FOR THE FIRST TIME ADOPTER



MORE THAN ONE OR YOU KEEP NONE

RATS MUST BE KEPT IN PAIRS OR GROUPS OF 2 OR MORE.

bla eyed siamese dumbo rats - born and raised at Rat Emporium Toronto - Toronto rat breeder - adopt pet rats

 

Without another little furry friend the vast majority of rats (it would be rare to find a rat that would like to be kept alone) will become very lonely and can become very sick from axiety and depression.

Human friends and attention can BY NO MEANS replace the attention and friendship of another rat. A common comparison to explain would be to imagine a human suddenly re-homed into a family of dogs. Though they may at first be happy, after a long time of not seeing any more people they would likely become very lonely and want human company yet again.

In addition, taking care of two rats will be no more work than taking care of one, I can assure you! They will play with each other, keep each other clean so they do not need to be bathed often, and will organize their cage together. They will be more friendly towards people and more outgoing, more happy and adventurous!


Rats vs. other pets

FRIENDLY, SOCIAL, TRAINABLE, CUDDLY, PLAYFUL PETS.

silvermane dumbo rat and black and white dumbo rat - born and raised at Rat Emporium Toronto - adopt pet rats - rat breeder

Rats, in contrast to other rodents, are extremely friendly and social.

They are very interactive and are closer to cats or dogs in attitude than mice or hamsters.

They show a lot of affection and are easily trained!

They love to ride on shoulders, cuddle and give kisses.

They are larger than mice or hamsters and need much more space for activity.

Those are just a few differences that came to mind! More will be explained in other parts of the FAQ. I often describe rats as small puppies. They are playful and excitable and responsible enough to free range. They require exercise to tire them out and then they’ll crawl into your lap for nap time.

 


Will my rat like me less if it has a friend to love instead?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!

 These two girls, Axel and Beans, always curl up in my lap together. They are the best of friends and always make sure to keep me company and give me lots of love.

These two girls, Axel and Beans, always curl up in my lap together. They are the best of friends and always make sure to keep me company and give me lots of love.

Your rat will be more friendly and outgoing towards you if it has another rattie friend, a rattie friend will not stop the bonding process at all but instead will help it along and double the fun.

Rats all need rat companions to keep them happy, confident, clean and healthy!

Unless neutered or spayed, rats must be kept with their own sex in any situation or they will breed. Even siblings will mate so be sure that you keep all males or all females or be prepared to have them professionally neutered/spayed before putting them together!


Do litter mates/siblings get along better than rats that are not siblings?

RAT RELATIONSHIPS AND BONDS CAN BE JUST AS STRONG WITH RATS THAT AREN'T THEIR SIBLINGS AS WITH RATS THAT ARE.

If the rats you are adopting are not siblings and have not been introduced to each other previously, take the steps listed below for introductions. All rats from the Rat Emporium should not have trouble with any introductions unless stated previously. If you are adopting rats from separate litters they will be introduced before they come home with you to be sure that they get along perfectly before they leave.

 

 

In this video you can see 12 of my girls, only 2 of them sisters, all exploring my room!


Differences between males and females

THERE ARE NO PERSONALITY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MALES AND FEMALES.

black eyed marten dumbo velveteen rat - Born and raised at Rat Emporium Toronto - adopt pet rats - rat breeder

A video of both boys and girls from my rattery!

In my observations the differences are as follows:
- Males grow to be much larger than females. 
- Males develop "male parts" (obviously)
That is all. Size difference.
- Both males and females mark their territory. Whether this is more or less often depends on the rat.
- Both males and females are equally as friendly and both genders give kisses!

On the right you can see Daze, my BE marten dumbo velveteen girl. She is the laziest rat I have ever had in my rattery! 
 

 

 

The most common assumption that I see online is that females are more excited and friendly and males are more reserved and cuddly. In my rattery and in most ratteries this is not true. The friendliness and cuddliness of a rat will depend on their genetic background. Different lines will have different personalities. 


Dumbo rats vs standard rats

Common myth: dumbo rats are friendlier than standard rats.

This myth has no truth to it.There are NO differences between dumbo rats, standard rats, rex rats, siamese rats, black rats, dwarf rats, etc. Dumbo ears, rex fur, or colour of the rat have nothing to do with their personalities, temperaments or health. This being said, there ARE often differences between a breeder's different lines. One line may be more cuddly, one line may be more playful. If you are looking for a rat that will be prone to a certain temperament, ask the breeder which line/pairing/rat has those qualities that you are looking for. 

 My standard eared rat Crisp! His ears are smaller and placed higher on his head.

My standard eared rat Crisp! His ears are smaller and placed higher on his head.

 My dumbo eared rat Truffle! His ears are wider and lower on his head.

My dumbo eared rat Truffle! His ears are wider and lower on his head.

These two boys are pictured because, despite their differences in appearance, they actually are both very alike in personality. Both boys are adventurous at playtime but very cuddly when picked up and pet. 


Rats as cuddly pets / Lap-rats

EVERY RAT CAN BE A LAP RAT

Like any other pet sometimes they need to get out all their energy before settling down on your lap. If you compare them to a dog, a dog may jump around and be excitable until you take them for a walk, but after they go for a walk they may calm down and cuddle up. This is the same for rats! A rat may be excitable and energetic at first, but after having some time to run around in your room, on the couch, etc. and after having some playtime with you they will calm down and cuddle up. Be patient!
Things you can do to entertain your rats and get all their energy out:

Use jewellery as a toy for them to chase.

Blue Dumbo Rat

Find a video of Beans chasing jewellery here!

Buy a cat climber for them to jump all over.

Screen Shot 2017-01-03 at 8.11.26 PM.png

Find a video of the rats playing on the climber here!

Let them run around in your room.

Felix, my male dwarf black dumbo rat, born and raised at Rat Emporium Toronto - adopt pet rats Toronto

Find a video of rats hanging out in my room here!

With exercise and entertainment, your rats will tire out and be ready for cuddles in no time.


Adopting older rats vs. adopting younger rats

When choosing your first rat, age is a huge factor and I would like to put down pros and cons of adopting older rats vs. adopting younger rats.

 Older silvermane dumbo rat

Older silvermane dumbo rat

OLDER RATS:

Pros:
- Your breeder will already be able to tell you a bit about their personality which is more developed at this time.
- They will likely be more calm and less reckless when out for playtime.
- They will be better with children (no test nibbles, no fast movements, size is better for kids)
- Older rats that you will find available at the Rat Emporium were the rats that I selected for breeders because they have good health history and the best temperament of their litter. These are the “best of the best” so to speak.

Cons:
- These rats will be older.

 Younger silvermane rat

Younger silvermane rat

 

 

YOUNGER RATS:

Pros:
- CUUUUUTE
- Lots of time to bond with your baby and more time to spend with them as they grow.
- Bouncier, more playful (usually) and very curious. - You will see their personalities grow and develop.

Cons:
- Their personalities are not fully formed when they are babies. I will not be able to tell you 100% what kind of personality they have as their personalities are still developing and changing with age.
- They are very excitable and more skittish. They go through their “terrible twos” at around 2 months when they are a bit more jumpy and unpredictable. This is not to say they will not be friendly, they will still kiss and cuddle and explore and be lovable!! They are just more high energy.

 

 

If you are looking for cuddly pet rats, older rats may be the pet for you in contrast to younger rats. If you are looking for playful, excitable pets, younger rats may be more suited to you.


Nail Clipping

Your rats will keep their nails at a length that they prefer by nibbling on them. However, even though the length is great for them, sometimes their nails can be agitating for their caregivers. In the case that your skin is agitated by your ratties' nails I would first recommend wearing a sweater or a long sleeved shirt. Secondly I would recommend purchasing lava ledges from a pet store. These can help file your rats' nails when they walk over them. If they are still agitating you I would recommend visiting a vet to have their nails clipped as this is the safest manner. Rats are wiggly little buggers and it is easy to make a mistake while clipping their nails. If you must clip them at home please exercise utmost caution and weigh the pros and cons. Have a friend help you out to help keep your rattie still while their nails are being clipped. Be patient and extremely careful! Small pet nail clippers can be found at the majority of pet stores.

mink marten dumbo rat - rat nails - rat feet


Introducing New Rats

For a more detailed step by step guide to introductions, please click here.

Hooray! You have a new pet rat, but you also have one at home! After being sure that they’re the same gender, also be sure that you have enough space for them. If your rat at home is significantly larger or older, you’re going to have to test the waters instead of introducing them and keeping them in the same cage right away. Some rats are very open to new friends and roommates while occasionally some are very territorial and aggressive. More often, it’s the males that are slightly more territorial. A territorial rat will generally try to “mark his territory" more often than the average rat. As the rat you already have has recognized his or her cage as its “home”, they may become protective of the area. To minimize conflict, you’ll want to first introduce the rats outside of the cage. Keeping a hand on your original pet will help it to calm down a little bit. New rats will not always get along right away and may need to establish a hierarchy to live under. This means the rats will need to wrestle it out, and determine who the “alpha” will be. The winning rat generally will establish its victory by digging its nose into the other rats belly or neck. The wrestling may go on for over a day and you may hear a few squeaks but that is all normal. Stop them only if blood is drawn, in which case you may need to reconsider giving your more aggressive rat new friends at that time. If you are alarmed by the amount that they are wrestling, keep them in separate cages for a while and take them out to introduce them to each other until they are calm.Once your rats are fairly comfortable with each other, your next step to moving them in together is going to be cleaning out the cage. Cleaning the cage eliminates any odours that define the cage as “territory” of one of the rats and leaves it as a blank canvas for them to live in together. Ensuring that there is always enough food and water available to your rats is going to be crucial as extreme starvation or dehydration can cause them to fight, become more aggressive or even cause cannibalism. Baby rats are very easy to introduce and you should have no problem introducing two young rats. Older rats, especially males or females who have already had a litter, are more territorial and one should be wary and present when introducing them. If you are adopting a new female rat from a pet store or any other placed where they may have been with males past 4 weeks it is crucial to make sure that the new female is not pregnant. Pregnant females are sometimes particularly agressive and will often viciously attack other female rats. Pregnant rats will have a wider belly and gain weight on their sides in addition to underneath. If you are unsure if your new rat is pregnant or not, quarantine her for 2-3 weeks before introducing the new rat to your existent rattie family to make sure that she is not.
Question your breeder about territorial tendencies in their rats. 

 


Basic Rat Training & Tricks

Rats can very easily be trained to recognize their names and different sounds. To teach your rat tricks, begin with picking a distinct clicking noise. Each time you give your rat a treat, make this clicking noise so they relate the sound with the food. After a bit of work, your rat will respond to the clicking noise the way a cat or dog will react to shaking a treat bag.

LITTER TRAINING

Fortunately for you, rats are among the easiest pets to litter train. All you’ll need is a small animal litter pan and a different type of bedding/litter than you already have in your rats home. Your rats will generally choose one particular corner of their abode to “do their business”. Simply place your litter box filled with a litter/bedding in this corner. Now change the main bedding or fleece (or other rat safe fabric that won't catch their claws) in the cage, and take some of the feces from the previous dirty bedding and place it into your new litter box. It may take a while, but your smart little rat will quickly recognize this as his new "bathroom". Rats will also learn to “hold it” while you take them out to play.The main problem I have with some rats and litter training is some ratties like to throw the litter bedding all over the place. My solution to this is to either cover the litterbox with another fleece (or other rat safe fabric that won't catch their claws) and hold it in place with binder clips or to simply leave the litterbox empty. Using the same method as before your rats will still learn to use the litterbox, if they will cooperate however it will be less smelly if they will leave a litter/bedding material in the litterbox. For my rats that have an empty litterbox they still use it very well, I just change it more often to maintain cleanliness.

TO NAME TRAIN

Call your rat’s name. If they respond, give them a treat and make the clicking noise. Be sure to change the clicking noises for each rat that you own to avoid confusion.

TO TRAIN YOUR RAT TO JUMP INTO YOUR HAND

Hold your hand with a treat in your palm increasingly higher off the floor. Give them a separate command that indicates that you want them to jump up. When they retrieve the treat, make the clicking noise. Start at a relatively low height to prevent injury. These are basic tricks your rats can learn, and the two methods can be used (distinct words, clicking noises, and treats in the proper location and time) for almost every trick such as returning to their habitat on their own and walking on their two back legs. For treats, use anything other than their ordinary food that you do not often gift to them. Different rats will prefer different treats. Examples include various fruits and nuts, seeds, and possibly yogurt treats (though some rats could be allergic so use caution).

TEACHING YOUR RAT NOT TO NIBBLE ON YOUR FINGERS

If you find that your baby gets curious about eating your fingers or toes, simply close its mouth very very lightly and squeak loudly so that it knows that it’s hurt you. Your pet rat loves you and absolutely does not want to cause you pain, the squeak will immediately tell the rat that it has hurt you and he will quickly learn not to do it again.


What to feed your rats

Keep your rats on a lab block diet to begin with! In Toronto the best and most popular lab block foods available are Oxbow (baby and adult rat), Mazuri and Harlan Teklad. These should be available to your rats at all times and have the proper nutrient balance that your rats need. Seed diets are not healthy for rats and seeds should be saved to be used as treats for your rats. Feed your rats a pinch of your every meal unless it contains the ingredients listed below in the food section! Adding veggies and fruits to their diets daily can be extremely beneficial. Broccoli, red grapes, peas, carrots, peppers and other vegetables (many lists found online) are great for preventing illness and cancer.

Mazuri Rat Food

MAZURI RAT FOOD - LAB BLOCK

Mazuri lab blocks have a fantastic balance of ingredients and are a great staple diet for your rats. These lab blocks can, and should, be kept in the cage at all times so rats can eat when they desire. Mazuri blocks are most often sold in bulk online, but can also be purchased from the Rat Emporium for $20/5lbs.

Oxbow Rat Food

OXBOW RAT FOOD- LAB BLOCK

Oxbow lab blocks are the store bought equivalent to Mazuri lab blocks. They are a great staple diet for your rats and can, and should, be kept in the cage at all times so rats can eat when they desire. Oxbow blocks can be found in almost every pet store and cost 25.82$/5lbs.

FRUITS AND VEGGIES

Vegetables, fruits and other foods from your table should be fed to your rats daily to keep them healthy! Giving your rat an enriched diet can really improve their health and lifespan. A list of foods that are safe and unsafe for rats can be seen here


How often should I feed my rat? / Why does my rat hide their food?

Keep pellet food available for your rats at all times. They may take their food out of the dish and hide it or just eat it from the dish, but refill the dish each time you find it empty unless you see that they have a big store of food hidden and available. Rats with regulate their own diet and choose their own eating hours and will not overeat. If they are becoming obese this is not because they are overeating, but because there is too much fat in their diet which can be managed by looking into different food types. You may also feed your rat out of your own fridge and parts of the meals you eat yourself, save for the foods mentioned that they should not eat. Your rat may hide their food because rats like to organize their own things! They are just putting their food where they want it. This cannot be trained out, just let your little babies put their food where they wish!


Habitat Requirements

- Have a cage size minimum of 2 cubic feet per rat.- Use fleece bedding (or other rat safe fabric that won't catch their claws), paper bedding or aspen bedding, other bedding may cause respiratory infections. For a litter box, rodent litter is available at almost all pet stores. 
- No scents in the room, including scented candles, air fresheners, scented bedding or litter etc.
- It is recommended to clean the cage every week or more often if possible to keep them in a sanitary environment. A dirty cage can cause bad odour, a dirty coat and tail, and illness.
- Small animal chew toys including wooden structures, and antler medallions to strengthen teeth and keep them healthy.
- No barred floors unless covered in another stable material, because stepping on the bars causes “Bumble Foot” which causes them extreme pain and discomfort
- A rat friend to cuddle, sleep and play with!
- Have fresh water and food available at all times for the rats to snack on. Rats are most likely to cause conflict among themselves if dehydrated or hungry. They will regulate their food intake on their own and likely will not over eat. Rat obesity can be avoided by regular playtime outside of the cage.
- No hamster wheels or balls inside or out! Rats are one of the largest rodents you can have as a pet, and a majority of the exercise apparatuses available in pet stores are too small and can cause spinal injuries. Wheels with bars can catch their tails and cause further injury! If you are looking for a wheel, a flat spinner or plastic 12" wheel with no holes are your best options!
- Try to avoid any sort of extreme temperature changes in the room that your rats are kept in to reduce chance of illness.

To clean your cages:

Use hot water and white vinegar. White vinegar is a fantastic disinfectant and will leave your cages smell free. Put a bit of white vinegar in your laundry load if you are using fleece (or other rat safe fabric that won't catch their claws)to help remove any scent from your fabric as well. 

There are a ton of "recommended" cleaners at pet stores, as well as wipes not only for your cage but also for your pet. These cage cleansers are not nearly as effective as water and vinegar and will leave a scent after you clean, and those that are recommended for being used on your pet are unsafe for rats. 

If you are using dish soap and water, eventually a rattie smell will build up and that in combination with the smell of dish soap isn't the most pleasant! Overall vinegar and water works best!

Bedding comparisons

    Area, environment and availability all influence what type of bedding is best. 

Rat safe fabric - my first choice.
- Make sure you use a material that cannot catch any rattie toes such as fleece.
-  Can be used in bar cages
-  Daily spot cleaning and scoops are easy
-  Ammonia buildup is faster so fabric must be changed more often
-  Vinegar added to a laundry load helps to better clean fabric
-  No dust, no mites upon purchase
-  Occasionally rats can be allergic to detergents so sometimes detergents must be changed to accommodate (I have never experienced this myself)
-  Easy litter box training
-  More cost effective as fabric can be re-used multiple times (This is true in comparison to store bought bedding. Bulk bedding may be cheaper or similarly cost effective ultimately when
bought in bulk.)
-  Pretty!! :D
-  Does not have an original smell

Aspen - my second choice.
-  Can be used in bin cages. Can be used in barred cages if additions are purchased. I personally find aspen more messy as rats can have “bedding parties”.
-  Daily spot cleaning can be done, more material must be removed in spot cleans.
- Ammonia build up takes longer. When doing a full clean, unused spots of aspen can be recycled.
-  Dust is present though minimal however when opening a bag check that dust is not excessive. Mites occasionally arrive in bags of aspen so be sure to check for mites when opening a
bag. I would recommend freezing every bag purchased before use.
-  Cost effective when bought in bulk.
-  Smells nice though I do know some can be allergic to the smell. Does not smell too strongly.

 

With further experience, carefresh has been taken off of the list. carefresh and paper beddings continue to cause respiratory irritation, which ceases upon removal of the bedding.

- This conclusion has been made after many people have messaged me addressing this.

If you are looking to use a bedding unlisted here, please message to confirm that your bedding is suitable.
Pine :  I do not recommend pine as a bedding as I have found pine bedding in Toronto is not properly kiln dried. If your pine bedding has a pine scent to it, it is unsafe for rats. All pine beddings in Toronto have this scent and have therefor been deemed unsafe. Please take the route of caution and use other bedding for your rats.


My Favourite Cages for Rats in Toronto

#1 - DOUBLE CRITTER NATION/ALL LIVING THINGS MULTI-LEVEL SMALL ANIMAL CAGE (available on amazon and in pet stores - $$$)

double critter nation rat cage

This is my personal favourite.
Pros:
- Easy to clean. 30 minute clean time estimate with fabric.
- Easy to hang hammocks/cage accessories over all levels.
- Levels work well with fabric- large binder clips fit over levels.
- Tons of space!!! A DCN can fit up to 8 ladies and 6 boys. Lots of space to climb around.
Cons:
- Does not work well with bedding other than fabric. Pans are shallow and bedding falls through the bars. Deeper pans can be ordered online.
-Bars must be deep cleaned. A spray bottle with vinegar and water, steel wool, a cloth, a toothbrush and a toothpick are your best tools for doing an in-between-the-bars deep clean.

SINGLE CRITTER NATION/SINGLE LEVEL ALL LIVING THINGS MULTI-LEVEL SMALL ANIMAL CAGE :

Pros and cons are the same as the double critter nation cage but of course the space is halved. All the same perks, half the space. Great for 4 females, 2-3 males.)

#2 - Custom cages made by true north rattery. ($100-$300 depending on order)

good rat cage

Pros:
-  Absolutely beautiful cages. The most beautiful cages I have ever seen in my life.
- Great amount of space. With customization, these cages will be able to fit as many rats as you desire as you can have a cage built to any size.
- Can be built to fit any space in the house.
- Easy to clean with facrib bedding. 
- Good for hanging hammocks
- Bar spacing suitable for rats of all ages.
Cons:
- Some designs would not work well with aspen or paper bedding, but this is customizable so you can always ask for a cage with elevated sides.
- I personally find mesh harder to clean than straight bars. 
- I personally prefer having removable levels, these levels are fixed and do not have removable trays.

Please visit True North Rattery's Sale Page to see available cages and for instructions on how to order a custom cage.

 

#3 - for adult rats only - WARE INDOOR 4 LEVEL HUTCH SMALL ANIMAL CAGE (found on amazon and in pet stores - $$$) 

rat cage

Pros:
- Great amount of space. Can home up to 6 girls or 4 boys. Lots of space to climb around.
- Works well with bedding bottom and fabric on shelves.
- Pretty good for hanging hammocks.
Cons:
- DOES NOT WORK FOR BABY RATS. Bar spacing is large.
- A bit more steps to the cleaning process. Will take around 30 mins to clean fully.
- Levels are a bit more difficult to put fabric on. Would suggest attaching fabric with safety pins. Fabric cannot go on bottom pan.
- Bottom level is easier to chew apart. Be sure to keep lots of distractions on the bottom level.

#4- ALL LIVING THINGS RAT STARTER KIT (available on amazon and in pet stores)

Pros:
- Great amount of space for 2-3 rats.
- Easy to hang hammocks and baskets.
- Easy to clean- 15-20 minutes clean time.
Cons:
- Plastic bottom is easier to chew apart.
- Cannot secure fabric to bottom pan, but works well for other types of bedding.
- Bars get messy faster, would recommend doing a bar cleaning (extra 10 mins of work) every week.

 

There are a few other cages that I have found recently that are appropriate for rats, but I do not have experience with these cages nor have I heard any reviews for them from rat owners, so please purchase with caution. Here is one example below, I am going to make a separate page for more cage reviews and options. The new page will be up soon and a link will be posted here.

Pawhut Fir Wood Hamster Cage Mouse Rats Mice Small Animals Exercise Play House with Slide Wooden Coop Portable (available on amazon)

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 8.11.34 PM.png

Overall Dimensions:
45.3"L×23.6"W×22.8"H;
Platform Size: 44.4"L×9.8"W;
Slide Size: 2.7"W×11.0"L;
Tray Size: 44.3"L×23.2"W

I would assume that this cage would be best with aspen bedding in the bottom tray and fabric on the shelves. I do not know if the shelves are removable, but if they are not it may be a bit harder to clean. Wood is often also a little bit more difficult to disinfect, but the cage looks beautiful. If anyone has experience with this cage please message me so I can update it's profile!

 

If you are unsure if a cage is appropriate for rats, the following is a list of things to watch out for:

- Flooring must be solid. Barred floors are unhealthy for rattie paws and can lead to bumble foot which is painful for your rat.
-Space requirements. Rats generally require 4 cubic feet of space per pair of rats (2 cubic feet per rat) and in every case, the bigger the better. Cages under 4 cubic feet are inappropriate for rats.
- Walls should be barred. Tanks are not appropriate living spaces for rats unless used solely for quarantine or a very short adjustment period. Hamster cages, guinea pig cages or rabbit cages are not suitable living quarters for full grown rats.


Introducing Rats to Cats (and other pets)

IT IS NOT RECOMMENDED TO INTRODUCE YOUR RATS TO OTHER PETS

It is the best idea to never introduce the two, instinctually rats are prey to cats and introducing them can be very dangerous; cats have the instinct to attack the rats and rats have an instinct to claw at the cats whenever they are close. Though I would never recommend introducing the two and strongly discourage it, I am sure some will introduce them anyways so here are my tips on the situation. There are exceptions in which rats will get along with cats or other animals, but even with these exceptions there are tons of rules. Firstly, NEVER EVER leave the cat and the rat together alone or out of your sight. When you are introducing them, hold them both back from each other when they are sniffing each other at a safe distance. Things to look for at this time: 1. tails moving quickly/darting2. fur standing on end3. any paw swipes at each other4. sideways jumping or over-excited attitudeIf, and only if there are none of these signs, and with your hands on or close to the two animals, allow them to do a more thorough inspection of each other. If any of the signs pop up separate them immediately. If either of them are having a negative reaction or seem afraid (retreating quickly, darting eyes, using the washroom excessively, any other nervous reaction) do not leave them together any longer and hope for it to get better, separate the two immediately!If all goes well and they seem comfortable with each other, you can let the two hang out but still never leave them alone and always be in arms reach of the two. Even if they have gotten along in the past, they can suddenly change and attack each other. Even being in the same room as each other can cause a ton of stress and, rats being very sensitive and aware creatures, can cause a lot of illness in your rattie. When rats are stressed they often stop eating and drinking water and can start loosing fur and developing other stress-related illnesses (all illnesses) and that would not be worth a cute picture! One of my cats pays absolutely no attention to the rats and the majority of my rats are not affected by my cats being in the rat room and are generally very curious. I have let this cat meet one of my most confident rats before, but they did not interact they simply ignored each other!I have other rats that will become terrified around cats so I keep them at a level where they cannot see each other if the cats are in the rat room, and of course the cats are never allowed in the rat room if I am not present.So if, in the end, you find it worth it to introduce the two, start with seeing them interact if the cat is around your rats cage. Watch for all signs of agitation, and never force them to be together if anyone is scared, angry or hungry! If you are looking to introduce your rat to other pets, make sure you watch them in a similar manner and be very careful.


My rat is making noises, are they communicating with me?

NO. NEVER. EVER. NO.

Rats will not make any chirping or squeaking noises to communicate unless they are in distress. They may squeak while wrestling with friends which tells their friend that they are unhappy and would like their friend to stop, and this is normal unless it is happening excessively or they are being injured (blood drawn) in which case you should separate the two and introduce them again with caution.Another reason your rat may squeak is out of fear. My rats will never be afraid of people, but if you have a new rat from another location that squeaks when you pick them up they may be feeling in pain or be afraid of leaving their safe place. If they are afraid, coax them out with treats to get them accustomed to the area and start your socialization process with soft petting and a quiet area instead of just jumping to picking them up and playing. Other reasons for unexplained squeaking are health related. If your rat has an RI they may make squeaking/sneezing sounds in which you should start a treatment as soon as possible if it gets worse. Ratties can also get the hiccups, these should go away in a matter of minutes and is nothing to worry about.


How do I know if my rat likes me?

Crisp, my cinnamon top eared rat, born and raised at the Rat Emporium Toronto - adopt pet rats - rat breeder

Your rattie will show you that they love you in many different ways depending on their personality. First there are the basics: kissing and bruxing/boggling. If your rat is licking you they are showing you affection by grooming you.

If your rattie is bruxing and boggling around you they are comfortable and happy! 

 

 

 

 

 

Bruxing is when ratties rub their incisors together to make a grinding noise, boggling occurs when rats are bruxing so much that they move their eyes quickly in and out (which looks hilarious by the way) and both are signs of content and happiness. These can also be signs of fright when accompanied by shaking, but the former is most likely. Some ratties will be bruxing and boggling all the time, some will only do this occasionally and when they are extremely comfortable. Some ratties will kiss constantly, some will only give kisses when they find it necessary. Ratties will also show affectionate behaviour even if the first 3 signs aren't present. They will "popcorn", jumping into the air from happiness, run away and run back to you in an excited manner when they are pet and some will snuggle.


Where/how do I pet my rat?

The vast majority of rats like to be pet most behind their ears. Rubbing behind their ears is lovely! Some also like to be pet gently between the ears or with your full palm down their back. Some ratties don't like to be pet at all and some like to be pet more than others so take your time getting to know your good friend and finding their "sweet spots" where they like to be pet.


How do I know when my rat is upset? / When my rat is territorial

When your rat is upset they will squeak, stand their fur on end, hop sideways, bite or make aggressive noises when touched. If your rat is aggressive towards other rats, puffs their fur up around other rats or rubs their sides on the floor or anywhere else, these are all signs of being territorial.


Common rat terms

Bruxing- when a rattie grinds their teeth together to show happiness or anxiousness.
Boggling- when a rattie is bruxing intensely and their eyes vibrate in and out.
Popcorning- when a rattie jumps straight into the air from excitement.
Heart rat- a rattie that you have a special connection with.

 Popcorning

Popcorning

 Boggling (watch her eyes closely!) A better video of boggling can be seen  here .

Boggling (watch her eyes closely!)
A better video of boggling can be seen here.


Why is my rat chewing on the cage bars?

If your rat is not out and about often enough for some free range time or does not have enough toys in their cage they may start chewing on the cage bars as a sign of boredom. In the incident that you find your rattie chewing on the bars try to let them roam around for longer each day and add a few toys into their cage.


Giving your rats baths

YOUR RATS DO NOT NEED BATHS UNLESS THEY ARE INCAPABLE OF CLEANING THEMSELVES.

This can happen with age or injury. If your rat is young and healthy they will not need a bath as they can clean their whole bodies and the places they cannot clean, their friends will clean for them. Rats also have natural oils on their skin that should not be washed off if it can be helped! Before you try giving your rat a full bath, introduce them to water so they are not afraid. To introduce your rat to water in a friendly way, fill a shallow dish with lukewarm water and put it in the room where your rats are comfortable. They will likely explore the water. To tempt them to jump in, possibly put their favourite toys or some of their favourite snacks in or nearby the water. Once they are comfortable in this level of water, increase the depth and size of the dish gradually. Always make sure they have places to stand on and rest, and also a ladder to climb in and out of the water on their own. Once they are comfortable with shallow or deep water, you may bathe them with animal shampoo. Make sure they are thoroughly rinsed off and have a cozy towel ready to dry off afterwards. If your rat will not step in the water but you must bathe them (no option, must bathe) put a shallow level of lukewarm water in a bathtub or a tank. Place your rats in and clean them as fast as humanly possible. You may need a friend to help you as they can be super jumpy and squirmy when taking a bath that they do not want. Your rats can swim, but you should never EVER make them swim or put them in water that they cannot easily stand in with all four feet without having their faces submerged. If your rat does not want to swim in deep water, they should never be forced to.

 
 


Playing with your rat

Rats love to play! Even the laziest of ratties will have their little games that they like to play for fun. Take some time reading their body language when doing certain activities and you will find out strange little games that your ratties love.A few weird games that my ratties enjoy:

Couch run- Duncan loves to play couch run. This "game" is simple. I sit on one side of the couch with him in my lap. He pretends he isnt planning anything and then bolts to the other side of the couch and waits for me to bring him back to the beginning.

Chase- rats love to chase around shiny objects (necklaces, bracelets, etc) and even your hand. Smoosh- when you pet your rats face in a smoosh manner they will often run away real fast, popcorn and come back for more smooshing. This also applies to lightly scratching their back.

Beanbag jump - I put a beanbag chair on the floor near the couch. The rats will jump onto the beanbag and then wait for me to bring them back onto the couch.

Frantic Kiss Game - I kiss their faces. frantically. They popcorn around :')


Examples of rat toys

Toilet paper tubes- easy, cheap and the rats love them. They will carry and drag them around the cage, roll them around and chew on them.

Kleenex boxes- they will chew on them and drag them around or make sleeping quarters out of them! Hanging chew toys- rats will pounce on hanging chew toys and, obviously, chew them. They will find lots of entertainment from hanging chew toys and love to bat them back and forth.

Rope toys- rope toys allow your ratties to climb and give an extra special platform for them to jump around on.

Stuffed animals- they will drag them around and generally have a good time with tiny stuffed animals, just be sure to remove the "stuffed" part if they manage to pull the fluff out.

Huts- great homes and great chew toys if made of wood.


Rats as Classroom Pets

As friendly as rats are to children I would not recommend rats as a classroom pets because of their susceptibility to mites, lice, RIs and ringworm. This is not to say that a classroom would not be free of these transmittable illnesses but it is more likely that they will be transferred to rats in a classroom situation with many young people around them. Secondly, rats do need a consistent temperature and humidity to keep their respiratory systems healthy. They would probably have to be brought home overnight if the school doesn’t have consistent heating.If you are considering rats as classroom pets please be ready to maintain a higher level of caution.


NEVER CUT or otherwise ALTER YOUR RAT'S WHISKERS!

This is extremely damaging to your rat in many, many ways. They use their whiskers over 7 times per second to send important messages to their brain. they use them for vision, balance, navigation, defense, and literally to survive. Cutting or altering your rat's whiskers in any way will literally re-wire your rats' brain."Rats use their whiskers to navigate in their world, orient themselves, and balance. Whiskers help the rat find and discriminate food, court a mate, determine whether he can fit through an opening or not. At short distances rats rely more on their whiskers than on vision to perceive depth (Schiffaman 1970). Whiskers can detect wind and slight breezes too, which helps rats orient themselves underground. Whiskers are used when swimming, especially in turbulent water. Whiskers help the rat feel when its nose is above the surface. Without whiskers, the rat will drown (Ahl 1986, Biay 1993, Bugbee 1972, Carvell 1990, Guic-Robles 1989, Gustafson 1977, Vincent 1912).

silver agouti dumbo rat, born at the Rat Emporium Toronto - adopt pet rats Toronto - rat breeder

Whiskers are used socially, too. During nose-offs and boxing with other rats, the defending rat attempts to keep whisker-to-whisker contact with the aggressive rat. Whiskers interfere with an attack on the head. As long as whisker-to-whisker contact is maintained, the dominant rat can't get around the whiskers to deliver a bite. However, if a rat's whisker pads are anesthetized, that rat boxes less and freezes more, and is more likely to be bitten (Blanchard et al. 1977).A rats without whiskers may be more impaired than a rat who is blind!"


Cleaning/Trimming/Dying your rats fur

Your rats do not need haircuts fortunately! Rats do not need baths either and will keep themselves and each other as clean as they should be. The exception would be a rat that cannot clean certain areas due to age or a disability that may need to be aided every once in a while with a bath. If your rat is getting excessively dirty on their fur, tails or feet it is likely that their living conditions must be changed. Your rats fur will never need to be trimmed and should not be trimmed as this could be very uncomfortable for your rat. Rats also have essential oils on their fur that should not be washed or trimmed away. If you are looking to dye your rats fur I would recommend against it. Rats will groom at their fur constantly and you wouldn't want to put anything on their fur that they cannot ingest.


Taking your rats home

Be sure to bring a carrier with a little bit of food in it for when you take your rats home from anywhere! Please do not let your rats free in your car while you are driving as they may interfere with your concentration. 
When your rats arrive in your home, feel free to take them out and cuddle and play with them right away if they show confidence and start exploring the cage. Any rats adopted from the Rat Emporium should be ready to come out of the cage and spend time with you the second they arrive in their new home. 
When rats arrive in a new environment you will occasionally observe some light sneezing as they adjust to the dust levels and scents of their new environment. If these sneezes do occur, they should be light and unaccompanied by any symptoms of an illness. These sneezes should disappear within a couple weeks.


Where should I adopt a rat/why should I adopt from Rat Emporium TO?

It is recommended to buy a rat from a breeder as breeders pay close attention to their rats personalities, behavioural traits and health and actively consider these aspects for future pairings. Professional breeders also house their rats in more humane conditions and are most often more educated in the proper care of rats. In contrast, pet stores and reptile stores' rats often come from large breeding farms where health and temperament isn't tracked and rats are paired in bulk.This brings about a greater risk of health issues and a shorter life span. They can be fantastic pets as well and can be very well tempered and some may even be in excellent health, just choose your new friend with care and of course do a thorough inspection before you take them home.

Rat Emporium Toronto - rat cages - rat breeder Toronto - rat room - pet rats

 

I am home with the rats all day and spend every day socializing the little ones, cleaning their environments and answering e-mails and questions in record time. My rats are all living in the best conditions possible and very snuggled ( ;) ) so I can assure you that they will be happy, healthy and friendly when they leave to their new homes.

A breeder also is ready to supply you with up to date information on rat care, and is ready to answer any of your questions. In contrast, most stores offer faulty information and are not available to "chat rats".

A breeder will appreciate all information you provide on your new friends as anything you tell a breeder is put into mind for their future pairings, whereas stores do not collect information from adopters for future pairings.

If you are looking to take in and re-home a rat that is not from a breeder, be sure to look into the reason the original owners are re-homing the rat, how the rat reacts to you when it is first handled, check the gender, and make sure that your new rat is not pregnant (if you don’t want many more little critters of course).

If you cannot maintain or afford housing more than one rat, please wait to adopt. 

Common rat illnesses

Please note that yearly examinations or shots from the vet are not required for rats. please visit the vet if symptoms of any of the following illnesses appear.

If you are worried that your rat may be ill, perform the following checks:
1. Feel all over their body, neck and head for any lumps or bumps
2. Press lightly on their tummy all over to see if there are any areas causing them irritation (they will likely squeak if one area is making them uncomfortable)
3. Rat phone! Hold their belly up to your ear and give a listen. Make sure there isn't any rattling, gurgling, raspiness, squeaking, any sound at all. 
4. Check behind the ears, around the neck and under their chin for any scrapes or cuts or other signs of mites or lice
5. Check that their eyes, ears and nose are clear, and that there isn't any urine stain under them. Make sure she isn't overly dirty from urine or feces, that she is still cleaning herself. If your rat is elderly, they may need assistance with cleaning.
6. Make sure they are still using the washroom and drinking water and eating food. To make sure they are still drinking water, put an elastic band around your water bottle at the level it is currently sitting at, then make sure the water goes down.

 

The most common rat illnessses and their symptoms are as follows:
(Symptoms and treatment from experience, the rat guide and the rat fan club)

Lower/Upper respiratory illness

(http://ratguide.com/health/bacteria/mycoplasma_mycoplasmosis.php)
How to prevent Respiratory illnesses

Unfortunately it is impossible at this time to completely free rats from mycoplasma pulmonis which is what leads to respiratory illness. However a few ways to prevent a respiratory flareup are as follows:
- Keep surroundings clean.
- Keep surroundings dust and scent free.
- Keep temperature and humidity steady.

Symptoms:

- Porphyrin (rust colored) stains about nose and/or eyes.
- Wheezing
- Small coughs
- Congestion
- Excessive sneezing
- Increase in rapid breathing
- Labored breathing (use of abdominal muscles to breathe)
- Gasping.
- Hunched posturing
- Ruffled or bristled fur, fur loss
- Lethargy
- Poor or loss of appetite.
- Panic type movement related to inability to get enough oxygen into lungs.
- Changes in behavior due to illness (e.g. nipping, biting, avoidance)
- Feet and tail tip cyanosis (as oxygen in blood decreases) may be a late sign.
- Rattling sounds in the chest
- Presence of head tilt if otitis media/interna (ear infection) is present.
- Open mouth breathing

checking your rat for an ri

1. Check your rat's ears, eyes and nose to make sure that they are clean - no porphyrin, leaking or puffiness present.
2. Rat phone! Hold your rat's stomach up to your ear. Check that you don't hear any clicking, squeaking, wheezing, any sound at all.

Treatment for a light respiratory infection

For light respiratory, make sure that nothing in the environment is causing the irritation:
- Remove any sources of dust. (dusty bedding, dusty shelves, fans blowing dust around, etc.)
     - If you are using carefresh bedding, this is often a cause. Switch to aspen or fabric.
- Remove any source of scent. (smoking, insense, febreeze, air fresheners, heavy perfumes, perfumed soaps used in cleaning, etc.)
- Check that temperature and humidity in the room are proper. (temperature between 18 and 23 degrees, humidity at 40%-60%)
     - Temp and humidity gauges can be found for under $2.
- Run a hot shower in your bathroom to make the room humid. Bring your affected rat/rats into the bathroom with raised humidity for 30 minutes twice a day for 3-7 days. Feed your rats a piece of dark chocolate the size of their front paw every other day for 1 week.

your rat is likely to need a vet trip if:

1. They have three or more of the symptoms listed above.
2. There is clicking, squeaking, wheezing, any sound in their chest when you listen to them.
3. If your rat is open mouth breathing
4. If your rat is displaying one or more of the symptoms listed above and is unusually lethargic and antisocial.

Medical treatment:

- Tetracycline Can be used for light sneezing or light poryphorin. Light antibiotic, found at pet stores. Can be put in water or mixed in baby food. 1 package in 1/2 jar of baby food fed in 1/4 tsp per day or full package in large water bottle.
- Enrofloxacin (Baytril) Can be used for all symptoms. Will be prescribed by the vet. 15 mg/kg BID, PO (oral) for 10-30 days
- Doxycycline Can be used for all symptoms. Will be prescribed by the vet. 5 mg/kg BID PO (oral) for 10-30 days

These are the most common treatments used for respiratory illnesses. If needed your vet may prescribe two of the medications to be used at the same time. If your rat is demonstrating two or more of the symptoms listed above, please visit the vet as soon as possible.

Porphyrin

(http://ratguide.com/health/eyes/porphyrin_secretions_red_tears.php)

A pink substance excreted from your rats nose or eyes - not to be mistaken for blood.

How to prevent porphyrin

- Keep surroundings clean.
- Keep surroundings dust and scent free.
- Keep surroundings stress free.
- Keep temperature and humidity steady.

Can be caused by the following:

- Poor nutrition
- Deprivation of water
- Pain
- Illness (e.g., respiratory disease bacterial or viral)
- Environmental stressors (e.g., aggressive cage-mates, handling, over-crowded cages)
- Environment and airborne irritants (e.g., aromatic bedding, scented detergent in washed bedding, smoking by owners, candles fragrances)
- Blocked tear duct
- Eye infection or other conditions affecting the eye (including injury)

Treatment:

- Ensure healthy environment
- Ensure the intake of a healthy diet and fresh water daily.
- Perform weekly health checks.
- Contact veterinarian at the earliest signs of additional illness.
- Follow treatment regimen as prescribed by veterinarian for any suspected illness or injury if other illness and injury is present.
- Provide any additional supportive care specific to illness or injury determined.
- Keep eyes and nose clean of secretions.

Mites, lice and other skin issues

(http://www.ratfanclub.org/skin.html)

How to prevent skin issues

- Keep surroundings clean.
- Wash hands between handling other animals and your rats.
- Have everyone in contact with the rats wash their hands.

Symptoms

- The appearance of small red scabs on your rats
- these scabs may look like small scratch marks. They are from your rat itching. These will usually be seen on their neck, haunches and face but can appear all over.
- Bald patches
- Constant itching and scratching
- Small brown dots
- Scabs on ears or tail

Treatment

- Revolution (selamectin) - this treatment should be used over all treatments. Use Ivermectin for mites/lice only if Revolution is absolutely unavailable. 
Cat revolution - comes in packs of 3 or 6. blue packaging. 1 drop behind the head for rats under 500g, 2 drops behind the head for rats over 500g. In most cases, only must be applied once. For lasting cases, it must be applied a second time after 3-4 weeks.

Inner Ear Infection

(http://ratguide.com/health/auricle_ear/otitis_media_otitis_interna_labyrinthitis.php)

How to prevent ear infections

- Keep surroundings clean.
- Keep surroundings dust and scent free.
- Keep temperature and humidity steady.

Symptoms

- Head tilted or rotated to side.
- Rubbing head against floor of cage.
- Scratching at ear.
- Poor balance, and circling.
- Foul or sweet smelling drainage from ear in more advanced infections.
- Facial nerve paralysis, blinking of eye, or enophthalmos (recession of eye) on the side affected.

Treatment

- Enroflaxin (Baytril)
- Amoxicillin
- Doxycycline

Bumblefoot

(http://ratguide.com/health/integumentary_skin/ulcerative_pododermatitis.php)

How to prevent bumblefoot

- Keep surroundings clean.
- Make sure cages have solid flooring: no barred floors.
- Keep cage clean, free of excessive urine or feces.
- Clean barred walls of the cage frequently.

Symptoms

- Open sore or ulceration on the sole of one or both hind feet
- Raised, reddened tissue on the sole of one or both hind feet
- Intermittent bleeding
- Presence of pus if abscessed.

Treatment

- Clean with antiseptic solution
- Use topical antibiotic ointment
- Use an oral antibiotic

External injury

Any injury that your rat may have on their skin or tail.

How to prevent injury

- Make sure surroundings are safe and there are no objects to fall on your rats.

Symptoms

- Rat has a wound.

Treatment

- Medicate for pain relief. Also use an antibiotic to prevent infection.

- In the case of a small wound: keep the wound clean and the surroundings clean.

- In the case of tail degloving: the rat will trim the tail on their own and it will heal up. Keep separate from cagemates until healing process is finished and clean the cage daily.

Absesses and cysts

(http://www.ratfanclub.org/abscess.html)

Symptoms:

- Small puss filled bumps or lumps found on your rat's skin.
- Please refer to the above link to see more on absesses and cysts.

Tumours

(http://www.ratfanclub.org/tumors.html)

Symptoms:

- A firm, swiftly growing lump found under your rat’s skin. - Can be moved separately from your rats skin.

Treatment

- There are no home remedies for tumours. Your rat will have to have surgery performed by a vet.

How to prevent tumours:

- Feed your rats a healthy, low fat diet to prevent tumours. Feed them regular fruits and vegetables and not too many high fat treats.

- It is commonly said that spaying and neutering is beneficial to your rats to prevent tumours, however I would not recommend spaying or neutering your rats for this reason. A spay and neuter will not protect your rats from any kind of tumour and is an invasive surgery that can be very dangerous to your rat's health especially if your rat is young or very small. You will be much better off preventing tumours by adopting from a tumour free line and feeding your rats vegetables than if you spay or neuter your rats, and you are at much less risk of complications by avoiding surgery.

Things to have on hand as your first aid kit

- Antiseptic (for cleaning wounds) Found at most drug stores
- Cat revolution (for mites and lice) Found online - if you are using this for the first time, please visit a vet for instructions and to purchase this to know how to properly apply.
- Clotrimazole (antifungal cream for ringworm or other fungus) Found at most drug stores
- Dark chocolate (for respiratory illness) - this is to be used ONLY in the case of respiratory illness and ONLY in very very small amounts. Give them a small piece (half the size of your pinky nail at most) every other day if they are having respiratory difficulties, but otherwise this should not be given regularly. 
- A temperature and humidity gauge.

Hopefully you will not need to use any of these supplies but having them on hand for emergencies is a good idea.

A list of other illnesses that you could encounter can be found at the Rat Guide, linked above.

If you feel your rat needs a vet trip, please feel free to describe the issue to me beforehand. Unfortunately some of our Toronto vets have not been well educated in rat care and coming into the appointment prepared is a good idea unless you have seen the vet previously. This is not to say that I have more knowledge than a vet and the vet is still the place to go to find treatment for your rat, but I will likely be able to give a few recommendations towards treatment and to bring in to your appointment.

Summary:

A healthy rat has clean ears and eyes, a full coat of fur (unless double rex or hairless obviously) and is free of scabs, cuts and bumps, aka. skin is clear.. All rats are born with a certain level of mycoplasma and are very prone to respiratory diseases. This means occasional sneezing is to be expected but if you notice it frequently, you may need to consult a vet for antibiotics. Other signs of sickness include hair loss (especially on the face), lack of activity, loss of appetite, any oozing from eyes or ears and any signs of unusual aggression.

In the event of a mild or serious case of an RI (respiratory infection) which will become obvious through frequent sneezing, wheezing, porphyrin around the eyes or blood around the nose, clicking in the chest, loss of appetite and thirst and acting lethargic you can help your rat recover with fresh air, proper room temperature, and if they are existent in the room remove any irritants (air fresheners/candles/perfume/etc), and make sure to give them lots of love. The respiratory infections can only spread to other rats and some mice, not humans nor other house pets. Other signs of respiratory illness include a wet nose, a runny nose, or other eye discharge. A “home remedy” that can be safely used to help control respiratory infections until you can bring the rattie to the vet is Tetracycline powder; two packets in a jar of baby food mixed in fed to your baby once a day for 5 days. I am not prescribing this as a solution for a rats respiratory health issues, it has been a recommendation for help with minor respiratory illness. If your rat is very sick please contact a vet. If a male rat is very territorial or you would like to home a male and female rat together without having a litter, rats can be spade or neutered professionally by your veterinarian.

If you find any lumps or bumps on your rattie please contact a vetrinarian. There are no "home remedies" to help reduce any lumps or bumps on your rattie and they must be seen by a vet as soon as possible. The same goes for finding anything resembling a flea or a tick which could have been transferred to them by their surroundings.

If your rattie is losing fur with no other signs of illness they are likely to be overgrooming. Overgrooming can be caused by illness, stress or depression. The most common cause for stress and depression in rats is not having a rattie friend, not having room to run around in their home, being overcrowded or frequently not having food and water in the cage. Ratties also could be sensitive to other pets you own and feel threatened in which case one should keep the cage out of a room where other pets are located. If overgrooming becomes a habit with your rattie please go over the conditions they are living in and make sure that they are appropriate and suited to keep your rat as happy as possible.


Spaying and Neutering Rats

The decision to spay or neuter your rats is an important one. Please note that rats are not required to be spayed or neutered, this is an option that you can decide to follow through with after adoption. 

Reasons you may want to spay or neuter your rat:

- To house males and females together - If you have decided to adopt both males and females, in order to prevent unexpected litters you must spay or neuter your rat so they do not have the ability to reproduce.
- To reduce the risk of tumours - spaying your female rat reduces the risk of mammary tumours. "One study (Hotchkis, 1995) found that in unspayed rats used in the study, 49% developed benign mammary tumors, 8.2% developed mammary carcinomas and 66% developed pituitary tumors. In the spayed rats used in this study, 4% developed mammary tumors, none developed mammary carcinomas and 4% developed pituitary tumors." [Source]. Neutering your male rat does the same.
- To decrease aggression in male rats - It has been observed that neutered male rats, if hormonally aggressive, improve drastically after being neutered.
To reduce marking - neutering also is shown to decrease marking in male rats.

Reasons you may want to avoid the procedure:

- It is an invasive surgery - in general, invasive surgeries that are elective should be avoided in all species. Due to the nature of the surgery it is best done in females between 3-6 months, and males at around 6 months of age. Spaying or neutering when the rat is older or younger could pose a risk to their health.
Anesthetic - An experienced vet should know what dose your rat should be given, however there is a risk of complications with anesthetic in rats. Discuss this with your vet before agreeing to have your rat put under.
Cost - A neuter or spay in Toronto (currently in 2017) costs around $350. 

My personal opinion on the procedures:

In my own opinion, I would not recommend that every adopter have this surgery performed on their rats. If one can instead keep males and females separate, adopt from tumour free lines and adopt from lines that are free of aggression, this invasive surgery should not be performed. 
If your rats are of an unknown background it is possible that this surgery could be beneficial to your rats, but please put a lot of thought into it before having it performed! As always, make sure you are going to a vet that has experience providing rats with this surgery, and ask them about their success rate to make sure that your rats will come out safe and happy.

Foods to Avoid

Before you feed your rat any treats beyond their staple diet, check to see if that food is acceptable for them to eat.

Never feed your rat:

- cheese (as much as you want to, rats are generally lactose intolerant!)
- green bananas- oranges (can cause kidney cancer in male rats)
- green potato skins and potato eyes (contains a toxin called solanine)
- raw onions (may cause anemia or an upset stomach)
- raw artichokes (slows protein digestion)
- raw sweet potatoes (reduces thiamin. cooked is fine)
- raw dry beans( (clumps red blood sells. cooked and canned are fine)
- raw peanuts (roasted are ok in small amounts)
- rhubarb (stops calcium processes)
- blue cheese (could contain mould poisonous to rats)
- wild insects (may carry parasites)Use extreme caution (and not recommended)
- carbonated drinks (rats cannot burp. this can make them sick very quickly.)
- peanut butter (sticky so it may clog their throat. Can be fed to them, but I would recommend against it.)
- chocolate (can cause heart failure) (dark chocolate only to be fed in cases of respiratory distress in small amounts)
- general greasy foods (if its not good for you its likely not good for your rat)
- dried corn

What wood is safe for my rats?

Safe Woods (and Wood-like Substances) for Rats

Before you read through this section to see which woods are safe for rats, apple wood is by far the best wood in my personal experience for toys and structures. Ratties love apple wood. It is sweet, they love to play with apple wood toys and chew on the wood, and it is totally safe. 
For bedding, in my opinion aspen is the best wood. It has the least amount of scent, is safe, and is cheap. 
Though there are many safe woods listed below, these are the two that I would recommend using over all.

  • apple
  • arbutus
  • ash
  • bamboo cane
  • blackberrry
  • blackcurrant
  • cholla
  • coconut shell
  • cottonwood
  • crabapple
  • dogwood
  • grapevine
  • hawthorn
  • hazelnut
  • kiwi
  • linden
  • manzanita
  • mulberry
  • pear
  • pecan
  • pine - kiln-dried white with no smell only is the only pine acceptable. If the pine has any scent, it is not safe.
  • poplar
  • quince
  • rose hip
  • sycamore
 

Toxic Woods for Rats

  • abale/esia
  • alder
  • almond (can produce cyanide)
  • apricot
  • aspen - to clarify, this is fine as a kiln dried bedding. It is not preferable as a chew toy.
  • balsam fir
  • beech
  • birch
  • black locust
  • blackwood
  • bog wood
  • boxwood
  • buddleia
  • cashew
  • cedar - DO NOT USE AS BEDDING.
  • cherry
  • citrus (all citrus woods including lemon, orange, etc.)
  • cocobolo
  • cypress/bald cypress
  • dahoma
  • ebony
  • elang/mukulungu
  • elder/elderberry
  • elm
  • opepe/kussia
  • paduak
  • pau ferro
  • peach
  • peroba rosa
  • pine (fresh pine, pine with any scent, and pinecones are toxic) - DO NOT USE AS BEDDING.
  • plum
  • plywood
  • wenge
  • willow
  • yew
  • yunnan
  • zebrawood
  • eucalyptus
  • fig/cape fig
  • fir
  • goncalo alves
  • greenheart
  • hemlock
  • horse chestnut
  • iroko
  • juniper
  • kapok
  • laurel
  • magnolia
  • mahogany
  • mansonia
  • maple
  • mimosa
  • mopane/mopani
  • myrtle
  • nectarine
  • oak/cork
  • obeche/abachi
  • okuhaba/yungu
  • oleander
  • olive
  • prune
  • purpleheart
  • quebracho
  • redwood
  • rosewood
  • satinwood
  • sassafras
  • sequoia
  • snakewood
  • spruce
  • teak
  • walnut

Taking Care of an Accidental Litter

Avoiding accidental litters:

- Adopt from pet breeders with experience. Female pet store rats are often pregnant.
- NEVER put males and females together, unless neutered or spayed. This includes siblings. 

I hope to help avoid accidental litters by providing my information above, however if a mistake has been made or you adopt a rat that is already pregnant, this post is here to help.

Firstly, I would like to note that you may have many problems with your litter. As you do not know the genetic lineage of the parents of your accidental litter (unless they are from a breeder, in which case the parent and babies should be immediately returned to that breeder), your rats may have illnesses (FTT, megacolon, heavy respiratory illnesses, tumours, etc) and genetically predisposed aggression that you did not expect. No matter whether the parent rat is friendly or not, their history largely affects your babies' health and how they act. When you are rehoming your babies, be sure to mention to those looking to take them home that this was an accidental litter, and their future health and temperament will be unknown.

PSA: Please note that the following information does not have nearly enough information to help you start becoming an informed and reputable breeder. If you are looking into intentionally breeding, feel free to message me with your thoughts and I can direct you to another 12 page section that gives my thoughts and advice on breeding. The steps shown are how to simply care for baby rats, not how to breed healthy, friendly rats and  keep reliable lines.

On to the rest:

Accidental litters can be scary and intimidating, but are unfortunately quite common. 

If you have left a male and female rattie together that are over 5 weeks for more than 1 second, it is likely that your female is pregnant and is going to have babies.

First thing is first, if you adopted your pregnant rat from a breeder please contact that breeder first and foremost. The breeder may wish to take care of the litter for you, in which case that would be your best option.

Signs that your rattie may be pregnant:
- A rounding belly. Rats bellies become very round on each side of their body.
- A large increase in appetite.
- Sudden aggression.
- Nipples becoming more prominent and visible.
- Nest building.

If your litter is born and your mama rattie is having issues with nursing, does not take care of the babies, or passes away, please first contact your local breeders to see if they have a mother that would be able to nurse the babies for you. If not, please click here to see how to take care of baby rats and raise them by hand.

Facts about rattie pregnancy:

- Rats usually give birth between 21 and 26 days after being impregnated.
- You will usually be able to tell your female is pregnant by her belly after 2 weeks of her being pregnant.
- Females may become more territorial and aggressive due to hormonal changes during their pregnancy. This is common with pet store or feeder rats, so if your rats are not from a breeder be prepared to be wary around your girl!
- Rat birth can take 1-24 hours, but is usually complete within a few hours. 
- Rat litters average  around 12-18 pups.

How to prepare when your female is pregnant

1. Find a suitable tank or bin for your female to stay in while she is giving birth and nursing.

 These bins had fleece in the bottom for the picture, but should have aspen bedding.

These bins had fleece in the bottom for the picture, but should have aspen bedding.

  • Your tank or bin should be 10 gallons at least, I still find 10 gallons to be a bit small. I prefer 20-30 gallons. 
  • Use aspen bedding in your tank/bin. 
  • Your tank/bin should have a water bottle either hanging inside, or attached to the mesh outside. 
  • Your tank/bin should have a food dish with a proper lab block available at all times (Oxbow, Mazuri, Harlan Teklad). 
  • If you use a tank, it should be cleaned every other day as air circulation in tanks is poor. If you use a bin, it should be cleaned every 4-5 days.

 

2. Separate your female from her partner. Move your female into her nursing bin/tank. Put your male in with another boy, or rehome your male so he can live with another male so he is not lonely. 

3. Start feeding your female rat a protein heavy diet. Adding Boost/Ensure or raw chicken hearts and gizzards (gross I know, but soooo good for them at this time) really helps them hold their weight, and also helps keep lactation rich for the babies. 

4. Set up two large cages for your babies to be in when they are separated. The cages should be at a minimum of 4ft squared, and have all necessary requirements such as food, water, huts, hammocks, apple wood toys, cardboard toys, etc. Make sure that these cages are both close to the ground, as babies can be clumsy and fast and a fall from a high up cage can be fatal.

During birth

While your female is giving birth, please do not disturb her. Let her be. I know it is tempting to watch, but that can stress her out. 
Things that may happen that will weird you out during birth:
- Your female will arch her spine in contractions and stretch out a lot.
- Your girl will be pulling what looks to be sacks of blood out of her vaginal opening. She will eat the sack around the baby, clean the baby off, and place them somewhere. Do not worry, this is healthy.
- It is a possibility that your girl does eat one of her pups. This is usually because the pup is stillborn. Leave her be. 
- Your girl may appear to ignore the babies for a while. This is fine, moving them around will stress her out more. 
Overall, basically do not interfere with your rattie during the birthing period. If this period lasts more than 24 hours, only blood is being passed and no babies, or your mother rat seems to be ill during birthing, please seek vet attention and do not try to help anything on your own. 

After birth

  • You do not need to rush to clean the cage after birth. I would leave mum and pups alone for a good 24 hours before putting your hand in the bin.
  • You will notice your mama rat is stepping on her babies a lot and they squeak. She is helping their bowels move, this is healthy. 
  • Pups will be nursing constantly. Continue giving your mama rattie additional protein to keep her nice and healthy and happy at this time.
  • Babies can be handled at day 1. I would leave them alone with mum for 24 hours, but feel free to handle and check over the babies on day 2. Check for any bruising or issues with any of the babies, then return them to their mum to keep warm and to continue nursing.
  • At around 2 weeks, your babies' eyes will open! I would handle them daily at this point. As you do not know their temperaments genetically, one takes on the responsibility of bringing out the friendliness in them epigenetically. Take them out to cuddle and play! 
  • At 5 weeks, it is time to separate males and females. By looking underneath their tails, you will be able to tell the difference between a male and female rat. 
  • While nursing and until 3-6 months of age your babies will need a higher protein content than the rest of your rats. If you are using Oxbow, use their baby rat food until they are between 3-6 months then switch to adult rat food. If you are using Mazuri, this food is for all ages but babies before 3 months would appreciate some protein supplementation like a little bit of meat or ensure or boost as mentioned earlier. The same goes for Harlan Teklad. 
 

If you are unsure which of your rats are males and which are females, please contact an experienced breeder, rescue, or store employee to help you out. You must do this correctly to avoid ending up with many more litters.

I have made a page on sexing rats with pictures from my rattery that can be found at this link. You will be able to tell which rats are males and which are females from the hour that they are born. 

 Picture found  here .

Picture found here.

Rehoming your baby rats

Rehoming your baby rats to new homes can be difficult, and can take a while, so don't get discouraged!
Recommendations on what to include when you are posting your rats:
- When posting, to have your ratties adopted faster include some cute photos of them, personality descriptions and your location. 
- Post an adoption fee. I would recommend a fee of at least $15 per rattie so they don't go as feeders.

Some places that you can post your ratties for adoption include:
- Kijiji
- Facebook Group: Bunz Pet Zone (only if this is an accidental or rescue litter, not an intentionally bred litter)
- Facebook Groups for rats in your area. In Toronto, our group is Pet Rats Toronto + GTA.

Please remember to ask lots of questions of your adopters. Questions you may want to ask include:
- What food will you be feeding them?
- How often will the rats get out to play?
- If they get sick, what vet will you go to?
- What cage will they be staying in?
- If there are children in the home, will they be monitored while handling the rats?
These are just a few questions. My questionnaire has over 20, so feel free to take questions from there if you would like!

Give your new little family lots of love, and don't be intimidated! It will be a lot of work raising these babies, a lot of cleaning and a lot of socialization time. 

If you are ever feeling overwhelmed or have absolutely any questions, please feel free to message me and I will get back to you as soon as possible.