For detailed information
on every aspect of rat care.
Please consider purchasing
the AusRFS book
The Pet Rat Care Guide
A comprehensive publication covering everything from history to housing, reproduction, how to sex babies,
diet, health & medical conditions, socialisation & training right though
to end of life issues and grieving.
This book is a valuable resource
for all Australian pet rat owners, and essential reading for those new to rats.
Available for purchase in printed or
PDF format from the AusRFS,
(or free with club membership)
Please see the publications page
under the AusRFS Activities Tab
HOW TO PICK UP A RAT
Always pick up rats gently in both hands. Scoop your fingers behind their front legs then support their back legs with your other hand as you lift them up. Don’t squeeze or hold them tightly, and NEVER PICK UP A RAT BY THE TAIL. Rats feel more secure if you hold them close to your body.
Rats need fresh air and good air circulation. They can be affected by dust, mould, mildew and gas. Insect spray, air fresheners, perfume and deodorants shouldn’t be sprayed in the vicinity of rats. Likewise scented candles and incense sticks, shouldn’t be used near them.
They can also be affected by too much light and loud noise.
Because rats hear in ultrasonics, they are affected by electronic high-frequency devices, such as those used to deter cockroaches, insects or rodents; these should not be used indoors or anywhere near your rats.
The ideal temperature for rats is between 10 and 25 degrees celsius. Rats handle cold much better than heat.
As long as they are inside your home, have a warm place to sleep, and companions to cuddle up to, rats do fairly well in moderate cold. However, rats can get sick from cold and damp. Sick rats and old rats need extra warmth. If it is very cold in your home, provide extra bedding such as polar fleece for them.
Overheating can be fatal, and excessively warm conditions can exacerbate or trigger illnesses. With Australia’s hot summers, it is vital that owners check the weather forecast daily in warmer months, and to prepare for hot days.
If your home has air conditioning then you shouldn’t have a problem. Even so, do keep in mind that electricity blackouts can occur during hot weather and have plans in place to keep your rats cool in the event of electricity failure.
Close curtains and blinds. Blackout blinds and curtains are very effective in helping to keep rooms cool.
Move the cage to a cooler room. Bathrooms are often the coolest room in a house. Air is usually cooler down low, so if you have a small cage perhaps place it the floor of a tiled area.
Fans can really help. Position the fan so it is fairly close to the cage, but make sure the rats have a place to move to if they feel too cold or if the blowing disturbs them. If using an electric fan be mindful of safety: make sure the rats can’t reach the cord, or the blades of the fan.
Battery operated “cage fans” can be purchased – these clip on the outside of the cage. Check the grill in front of the fan – you might need to attach some fine mesh to the front to make sure rats can’t reach the fan blades.
A bowl of cool water in the cage so they can dip their tails and feet in.
Wet Towels draped over the cage can really bring the temperature inside the cage down quite dramatically. Draping a thin damp towel in front of a fan, creates instant air conditioning. Remember the towel will dry out quickly so it will need rewetting regularly.
Frozen Water Bottles can help cool a cage. Fill plastic bottles with water and freeze. Don’t completely fill the bottle, as water expands as it freezes.
It is very important that cages are kept clean, as dirty cages can badly affect your rats’ health.
Spot clean once or twice a day – pick up any uneaten food that has been left lying around, any stray pellets of litter that might have been kicked out of the litter tray and any toilet mishaps. Wash ‘wet food’ dishes daily, and clean water bottles and litter trays regularly.
The time between full cage cleans varies a lot. Some people clean their cages every day, other people who have very clean rats only need to do this once a week. If the rats are litter trained, cleaning is much easier.
LITTER TRAY AND TOILET TRAINING
Most rats can be trained to use a litter tray. Start early and be vigilant. It’s well worth the effort!
It’s essential that what you put in the litter tray is different from what you use in the rest of the cage – so the rat learns to associate the litter only with toileting.
Rats are more likely to toilet on the lower level of their cage, but if you have a multi-level cage then it is best to put litter trays on each level (in the same corner). Once you have established which corner their litter tray is to go in and the rats are using it then keep it in same place, even if you change cages.
Types of Litter
Some types of litter can cause serious health problems and even death in rats so please check if the product is suitable for rats before using it. Clay, crystal, cedar and some pine type litters should never be used. Recycled paper cat litter is the best choice, but even then some brands have been known to cause problems, due to fungal spores in the product from not being dried out properly during the manufacturing process.
Different products come onto the market all the time but we can confidently recommend is Breeders Choice recycled paper pellet litter. It is kiln dried and has little to no dust, and has been used by many rat owners for a very long time, without any issues.