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How to care for rats

Feeding

  • The dietary requirements of rats are similar to those of mice, but because of their larger body size, rats consume more food. They do well on pelleted food as their staple diet, and this food is also good for their teeth.
  • Feed them seeds and some raw vegetables, such as carrots, swedes, and apples, as treats. However, if the rats are not used to these foods, they may develop a mild diarrhoea that usually doesn't last long.
  • Store their dry food in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Buy only three months' supply at a time to ensure good nutritional value.
  • Change their drinking water daily. A rat will drink 25–50 millilitres of water a day.

Handling

  • Do not lift a rat by its tail. Pick up your rat by cupping your hands around it to make a cradle for it to sit in or gently placing a hand around its chest and lifting it onto your other hand. Stroke the rat gently. Rats will bite when they are handled roughly, frightened, or hurt.
  • Daily handling helps to keep rats tame and provides an opportunity to check on their health.
  • Always supervise children and students when they are handling rats.
  • Wash your hands after handling rats.

Health

  • Do a health check each day. Look for normal activity. Is the rat eating and grooming itself? Check that its fur appears normal and that it has no scabs or bald spots, that its eyes, ears, and nose are clear of discharges, and that its faeces are normal. Know what is usual for your rat.
  • Changes in temperature and an increase in the level of ammonia because of poor hygiene in the cage may cause rats to develop respiratory disease. Stress may also contribute to this.
  • Gastrointestinal problems can be caused by unclean food containers, contaminated food, or eating unfamiliar foods.
  • Rats may be affected by viral, bacterial, and parasitic conditions. If there are any signs of illness, or if you have questions, consult a veterinarian.

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