Rats sometimes get a bad reputation as gutter dwelling, house invading rodents, but the truth is, they make great pets for those who can set aside their bad rep. Rats require housing similar to other small pets, such as hamsters and guinea pigs, in order to be happy and healthy. Follow these guidelines for setting up rat housing:
You can purchase a rat cage online or at a local pet store. The cage should be approximately 12’’ x 24’’ or larger with a solid base and wire top. Rats are climbers, so cages that allow them to climb the sides or that have balconies or ramps will suit a rat the best. Cages with wire bottoms should be avoided, as wire flooring can lead to foot and leg injuries for rats. Surfaces that are easy to clean, such as plastic, are recommended for any shelving or ramps.
The cage should be placed in a low traffic area of your home or apartment since rats are nocturnal and will be sleeping when activity is occurring during the day or evening. Your rat cage should also not be placed in a drafty area, or an area that is in direct sunlight. Placing the cage against a wall or out of the way of activity will keep your rat peaceful and happy.
Rats need absorbent bedding and litter that can be changed out often. Aspen shaving, paper, tissues, paper towels or pelleted litter work the bed. Avoid cedar and pine shavings, which can be harmful to rats. The key is making sure that whatever bedding and litter you use is not dusty and is comfortable for the rat. Rats tend to “nest” in their cage, so loose bedding and litter will ensure that your rat can happily nest and sleep. Soiled bedding and litter should be cleaned and changed out daily to prevent illness.
If the bedding that you provide is not sufficient for rat nesting, provide a nesting box for your rat. A small box in one corner of the cage will be enough for your rat to next in. You can either use a box that you have around the house, such as a small tissue box, or a store-bought box. Other options include a piece of PVC pipe that the rat can lay in or a tin can (such as a coffee can), turned on its side. Replace the nesting box if it becomes soiled with urine.
Provide toys to keep your rat happy inside of their cage. Anything climbable, such as ladders and platforms, makes a great addition to a rat cage. Rope and wood toys are best for rats, as plastic toys will often get chewed up too quickly. Household items such as toilet paper tubes, crumbled paper and paper lunch bags make great, inexpensive play toys for rats. Change out toys regularly to keep your rat challenged. Rats will play with nearly anything you put in their cages, so be sure to have plenty of toys available. One sturdy feeding bowl that cannot easily be knocked over and one water bottle with sipper will be sufficient for feeding.