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Small pet advice: caring for your rat

Rats might not get the best press but they can make fun pets!

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Giving house room to rats

Forget the fairy tales and scare stories about rats. Domestic varieties make wonderful pets, and are available in a wide range of interesting colours. They love to be sociable, so always try and keep more than one at a time if you can, though choose a pair of the same sex to avoid unwanted baby rats.

Where to keep your pet rat





Rats are much bigger than hamsters or mice, so don’t try and squeeze your rat into a cage designed for smaller animals. Choose one that will let the animal get the exercise it needs – a wire top with a solid floor is the best option – but avoid glass or plastic tanks as they have insufficient ventilation. Shredded paper makes a good bedding material, while a box lined with paper or hay is a great place for your rat to sleep.



Diet advice





A commercial rat mix is the best basis for your pet’s diet, but you can add in other foods occasionally for nutrition and variety including small pieces of vegetable and fruit. Rats have a reputation as scavengers, and they will usually eat household scraps if you provide them, but too much extra food will cause weight problems. Don’t forget the fresh water for drinking – it should be available round the clock.



Time to play





Rats have lots of energy and love to stretch their legs, so make sure they get plenty of time to explore outside their cage. Make your room rat-proof before opening the cage though. You will need to close doors and windows, and block up any gaps in skirting boards or floorboards. Rats will chew electric cables, so make sure they are protected.