Housing

šŸ Main cage

The cage should have adequate floorspace for the rats to move about in. The minimum should be 80 x 50 cm. Rats are fossorial and not arboreal, so it is important they have enough space to run, dig and forage as well as climb. It also needs to have a deep base, to keep the substrate in!

Examples of suitable cages (max number of rats):

  • Ferplast Furet Plus (3)
  • Savic Freddy 2 Max (5)
  • Coco Large (5)
  • Mamble 100 (5)
  • Single Critter Nation (5)
  • Savic Zeno 3 Empire (10)
  • Double Critter Nation (10)
  • Liberta Explorer (11)
  • Aventura (11)
  • Petplanet Rat & Ferret (11)
  • Cosypet RC03 (11)
  • Savic Royal Suite 95 (11)
  • Little Zoo Venturer (14)
  • Savic Royal Suite XL (18)

šŸ©¹Hospital Cage

It is important to have a hospital cage, in case rats need to be separated due to injury or illness. They are also useful when introducing rats. Hamster cages make suitable options, as they are low to discourage climbing and movement. They can be picked up cheaply second hand online.

šŸ„Carrier

A carrier is needed to transport rats to the vets, to put them in during cleaning out or used during intros. Small animal carriers or cat carriers (providing the bar spacing is small!) can be used.


šŸŒ²Substrate/litter/bedding

Rats require substrate at the bottom of their cage to dig and forage in, and to soak up urine (even litter-trained rats leave urine trails whilst scent marking!). Often the big bales sold for horses are suitable for rats and much cheaper than the smaller packs aimed for rodents.

šŸŒ³Suitable substrate

  • Kiln-dried wood shavings (Bedmax, Littlemax, Pureflake, Thoroughbred, Snowflake supreme)
  • Cardboard (Walmsley Squares, Finacard, Greenmile, Econest)
  • Hemp (Auboise)
  • Bioactive soil (Coco coir, topsoil, clean-up crew)

Litter is what is put in the litter trays. It needs to be different from the rest of the substrates so the rats realise it is their toilet.

šŸš½Suitable litter

  • Any of the substrates listed above
  • Paper pellets (breeder celect, back2nature, papelit pellets)

Bedding is what goes in the baskets and beds for them to nest in.

šŸ§»Suitable bedding

  • Kitchen roll
  • Toilet roll
  • Dust extracted hay
  • Fleece strips
  • Shredded paper/newspaper
  • Teabag bedding

šŸ’­Enrichment

Rats are intelligent animals and so it is important for them to be kept busy and active. There are 9 key enrinchment points you want to give your rats:

  • Climbing
  • Jumping
  • Balancing
  • Running
  • Foraging
  • Digging
  • Gnawing
  • Problem solving
  • Nesting and burrowing

šŸŖœClimbing, jumping, balancing

These can easily be achieved within the cage. Offering ropes, branches, perches, scarf holders, bamboo garden edging etc within the cage can keep rats active and their muscles fit. Make sure in some areas rats have to stretch or jump to reach another place, so they are not easily strolling from one ledge to another. This is especially important later in life to help slow down the progress of diseases like hind leg degeneration.

šŸƒRunning

An active layout using the enrichment above encourages running. Time out of the cage to run in a safe and secure area is another option. Wheels are also liked by many rats. The ones sold commercially in pet shops are often too small. The minimum size for rats is 12 inches, but larger does may need 14 inches and bucks 16 inches. Tic Tac Wheels and Speedyhog Wheels make suitable sizes. You may also be able to find hamster wheels at 12 inches, however they are often flimsy and noisy with a weighty rat running full speed!

šŸ„œForaging and digging

Rats are fossorial animals (this means they live in burrows in the wild) and opportunistic omnivoress (eat what they can, when they can!) so this is a very important form of enrichment. This can be achieved by providing them with a deep layer of substrate and scatter feeding their food. A dig box with coco coir, shredded paper, plastic balls etc can also provide good digging opportunities with a deeper box.

šŸ¦·Gnawing

Contrary to popular belief, rats do not need to chew in order to keep their teeth filed down. They do this naturally by bruxing (rubbing their teeth together) but many rats like to chew anyway. Nuts in shells, branches/sticks (applewood or willow are firm faves of my rats), cardboard boxes, toilet paper rolls and lava ledges are good options for letting them gnaw. Some rats prefer certain objects over others, so it’s always good to use a variety. Avoid any of the objects which are compacted wood pulp/sawdust held together/glued with syrup (glycerin). Usually rats spit out any wood they have gnawed but these types of chews are sweet so encourage the rats to swallow, and can cause blockages.

šŸ§©Problem solving

Rats are intelligent little animals and if their brains are not kept busy they are likely to invent their own fun (escaping the cage…!). Parrot forage toys (wheels, balls, etc) are a permemnant solution, where their mix and treats can be put in them to keep them busy at mealtime. A cheap solution is to stuff their mix/treats in a toilet roll tube or small cardboard boxes with some paper or toilet roll. Fresh veg can be put on specially designed skewers for rats/parrots. Food can also be put into fat ball feeders designed for wild birds. A simple hardboiled egg with the shell still on is another excellent way to keep their minds at work.

šŸŖ¹Nesting and burrowing

This is an easy enrichment goal to meet - provide your rats with different nesting materials such as tissues, toilet paper, kitchen roll, newspaper, ripped up cardboard, brown paper, teabag bedding, fleece stripes. Some rats are more interesting in nesting than others, but it is good to provide them with the opportunity. Both male and female rats will nest, and it’s not necessarily the sign of a pregnant rat. They just like to be cosy!


šŸžOutside

Rats can go outside if being held by their owner securely (on a shoulder, in a pocket) or in a cage. It is important to remember that rats cannot be vaccinated like cats, dogs and rabbits and so they could pick up diseases from wild rodents if they are allowed to run about on the ground. Wild rodents are prolific wherever humans live so it can be hard to be sure if the area isn’t contaminated. Plus, wide open spaces can be scary for rats and not enriching. There is also the danger of birds of prey (depending on where you live!). If you want your rats to experience the outdoors but are worried about the risks, suitable branches can be put in the cage, herbs and grass can be grown, or a digbox of coco soil for them to play in.