Friday, March 25, 2011

Introduction to pet rats for new owners

Would this be your first time, or are you planning to have rats as pets? Surely, they will bring you so much joy, and they are never difficult to take care of. There are some things you need to know about them first. You can click on some of the highlighted words for wikipedia definition.


Males are called 'bucks', while the females are called 'does'. Newly born rats are called 'pinkies' or 'pups'.  Pet fancy rats come from the family of Brown Rats (Rattus norvegicus). Sewer rats and rats that roam around the city are also brown rats.

December 31, 2010 New Year's Eve
Brothers Siegmund (left) and Reggie (right)


First of all, you need to keep rats of the same gender together. Do not house males and females together because they multiply very quickly, and this may lead to some problems for you in the future (e.g. competition for housing, food).

Remember that rats are very social creatures, so you need to have at least two. Like us, the love to chitter and chatter. You also need to spare some time everyday to play with them, or just be there with them.

Most rats, when you bring them home for the first time, are inclined to be very shy and prefer to tuck themselves into a dark hidden corner. Please be patient with them. Some of them may even be feisty when handled. 

Don’t corner them or force to handle them if they do not like to. In this case, just leave them alone for a few days, but let them get used to your presence. They will gradually realize that you are a friend, and things will sort out by themselves.

As for their bedding, remember that pine and cedar wood shavings are not recommended because it has aromas (phenols) that cause breathing problems, and eventually shorten their life.

Steel cages with wire floor is inexpensive, but can be very uncomfortable for them, and may cause bumble foot. To remedy this, put some rocks, clay pots or other artifacts where they can rest easy.


Their diet consists mainly of grains and cereals (carbohydrates). It is safe to give grains such as barley, rice, and oats; but some, such as raw legumes (e.g. chick peas, green peas) are strongly discouraged. Most of all, raw or dried corn is strongly prohibited because it has high levels of Mycoplasma (which causes pneumonia in rats) and nitrates, which eventually causes cancer. Click here for more details.

NEVER give citrus fruits (e.g. lime, orange, lemon) to male rats. These foods contain d-limonene, a factor for triggering cancer in male rats.

According to studies, rats that ate less, and at regular intervals, together with regular exercise, were leaner, had more stamina and lived longer compared to rats that were fat or ate a lot. (By eating less, it does not mean that you starve them to death!)

In case your rats have breathing difficulties, you can give them some dark chocolate. I repeat: ‘DARK’ chocolate. Aroma from eucalyptus oil is also an instant relief and expectorant for rats with such problems.


For more details about breeding rats, please read these articles:
"Introduction to Genetics"
"Modifying colors"
"To inbreed, line-breed, or outcross?"

If you’re planning to breed them in the future, remember the golden rule ‘to breed for health and temperament’, not just color. If you suspect that your rats have some health issues, or has a history of health issues from its parents, please do not attempt to breed, and discontinue the line.

Females eventually get worn out from pregnancies. So remember to retire them after three or four pregnancies. The female should be at least four months old to 10 months of age for breeding, and there should be an allowance of at least two months in between consecutive breeding.

Certain genes or characteristics tend to be dominant or recessive. When a recessive trait (such as dumbo ears) is paired with a dominant trait (standard ears), the offspring are born with the dominant trait (standard ear), but carries the recessive (dumbo). This means that if you breed a recessive carrier with another recessive carrier, then this hidden gene becomes expressed in the offspring. 

Rattus Pandanus. January 7, 2011
My roan husky. Two months later, his coat is almost all white.

The female estrous cycle has intervals of five days (they get in heat every five days). During this time, she sends out scent signals which attract males to mount her. When copulation is successful, the female gives birth after 21 days.

Young rats are weaned (they are nursed by their mom) until they reach six weeks old. When this time comes, the sexes should be separated because they become sexually active from this period.

It is possible to determine their sex at the time of birth. Three days later, any marking (e.g. hooded, self, badger) can already be seen as dark patches on their skin. By the second week, some hair begin to grow; around the same time, they begin to see the world for the very first time. By week three, they can already eat solid food, but still depend on their mother for milk.


Don’t listen to negative people. Your rats will never bring you harm nor cause any disease. They are not vicious creatures and their fur is hypo-allergenic. As pets, you need not worry much about them because they are not high maintenance pets, and are basically a hardy species. With plenty of love, proper care and diet ---  your rats should live an average of three to four happy years.
(Not my photo.) Rats are capable of CUTENESS OVERLOAD!
Click here for the original source.

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