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Seeking advice on selection and purchase of a pet rat

Okay rat enthusiasts, what do I need to know beyond the obvious to raise a friendly/healthy pet rat?

Any recommendations or tips on how to purchase a pet rat, what do I look for in selecting a healthy rat? Is it best to start with a baby that you can hand raise? What age can they leave the mother? Are there differences between male/females? Are there variations in breed or color or temperament differences I should be aware of?

What type of habitat is the best for a pet rat? Shavings for bedding? How do rats like to exercise? What is the best diet for a pet rat? What do you provide for the chewing and do they need teeth trimmed?


Asked by spottedpony at 11:10 PM on Mar. 2, 2011 in Pets

Level 25 (25,089 Credits)
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Answers (10)
  • I love rodents... we've had several over the years, mice, gerbils, a rat, and now guinea pigs. My general recommendation: it's better to get a young animal and then handle them very frequently for the first few weeks. Young animals will gain trust a lot faster than older animals will. Most rats in pet stores are probably about six to eight weeks old... you'll definitely see the size difference between a baby and an adult. Colour is probably a matter of preference. Look for a rat with a nice coat (not patchy or flaky and no irritated skin) and clear eyes without any discharge. And look to see that the rat is moving around and not sitting hunched/fluffed up or very lethargic (hunching up and fluffing out the coat is a sign that a rodent is sick.) I always prefer to get female rodents, just because males have a MUCH stronger odor and need a lot more cleaning.

    Answer by Freela at 11:32 PM on Mar. 2, 2011

  • damn i don't know..and i don['t speak to my ex friend rat owner anymore

    Answer by raynebowstarz at 11:22 PM on Mar. 2, 2011

  • You are most welcome! *eyeroll* right back. :OP

    Answer by Anonymous at 11:23 PM on Mar. 2, 2011

  • Gee thanks anon....How helpful *eyeroll*

    Comment by spottedpony (original poster) at 11:16 PM on Mar. 2, 2011

  • Con't. Rats are good climbers... a bigger, two level cage would work well to keep them entertained. Give them a wheel to burn off extra energy. You can get a ball for them to run around in, or just supervise them on the floor for free time (most rats are probably big enough fully grown that they won't squeeze into a spot so tiny you can't get them back!) There's a bunch of bedding out there- I like shredded paper bedding like CareFresh even though it's a lot more expensive because it lasts a lot longer than wood shavings and I'm allergic to the dust of most wood shavings and have a lot fewer allergy attacks with the paper bedding. You can give wood chews to help wear their teeth and their diet will help with that too- rodents with properly alligned teeth and a good diet should not need their teeth clipped.

    Answer by Freela at 11:36 PM on Mar. 2, 2011

  • Con't. again.... That being said, even though they shouldn't need their teeth trimmed there are animals out there with maloccluded teeth that don't wear evenly because they don't meet evenly, so take a peek at the teeth every once in a while to make sure they are even and not overgrown. We just lost a guinea pig over the summer from congenital malocclusion of the teeth... unfortunately for rodents when the teeth don't wear evenly it can cause really serious problems, but that's not the norm.

    My last recommendation: rats are really social animals and in their natural environment they live in colonies. Consider getting two of the same sex instead of one... they really are happier in pairs and will groom one another, sleep cuddled up together, etc. The interaction between social animals is a hoot- I love that about my guinea pigs as well! HTH a bit- sorry to ramble!

    Answer by Freela at 11:41 PM on Mar. 2, 2011

  • I agree with the pp about getting 2 of the same sex. They are really social animals and like to interact. They are a lot of fun and make great pets!

    Answer by MrsMWF at 9:09 AM on Mar. 3, 2011

  • Freela gave good advice. Do not use pine or cedar shavings. The scented oil in the wood is bad for their respiratory system. Use shredded paper, corncob, or Aspen bedding. You can also just used shredded rags instead. Rats can be fed premixed rat food (just be sure not to give too much corn), lab blocks, and/or just about anything people eat...NO chocolate or salty/spicey foods though. Get a same-sex pair. To control odor, change the bedding/litter atleast once or twice a week. Rats are very sweet, clean, friendly animals.

    Answer by CollinBayleeMom at 1:30 PM on Mar. 3, 2011

  • Thanks for all the tips, especially the bedding and allergies!


    Comment by spottedpony (original poster) at 4:03 PM on Mar. 3, 2011

  • Rats are not pets. They are what pets eat.

    Answer by Anonymous at 11:13 PM on Mar. 2, 2011