How to make your rats feel at home

Rats are extremely inquisitive and love nothing more than exploring and learning about their surroundings. Provide your rats with a suitable size enclosure with plenty of fun things to do to keep them fit and healthy.

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Creating the right environment for your rats

When you’re choosing a location for your rat cage, make sure it’s:

  • away from windows and draughts
  • away from direct/constant sunlight, although the room will need a natural daylight source
  • safe from other pets such as cats and dogs
  • safe from young, unsupervised children
  • away for constant loud noise such as the TV or music system
  • within a family location to ensure plenty of socialising

The ideal cage design for a pair or trio of rats

When choosing a cage for two or three rats, remember these minimum sizes:

  • Depth: 80cm
  • Width: 50cm
  • Height: 80cm

The ideal cage design for a small group of up to 10 rats

If you’re planning on having a group of up to 10 rats, remember these minimum sizes:

  • Depth: 93cm
  • Width: 63cm
  • Height: 123cm without stand

Free range time

Once your rats have bonded with you and settled into a routine, you can start to allow them free range time in a rat-safe room. For example a spare bedroom with small amounts of safe furniture and activities like agility items for them to explore.

This is also a great opportunity for you to socialise with and train them. Make sure your room is free from escape possibilities, all electrical wires and plugs are protected, and remove all house plants, aerosols and air fresheners.

Keep your rats happy and occupied

Rats are extremely sociable creatures. They need the company of other rats to remain happy and content. They enjoy playing rough-and-tumble games and exploring together. In more tranquil moments, they will cuddle up together. By far the most important thing you can give your rat is a suitable rat friend or two.

Rats are also scavengers – they love to forage for food and tasty treats. When feeding your rats, mix it up by scattering their daily allowance around the cage and hiding treats in toys or interesting items.

Rats love to explore and to investigate their surroundings. They are very busy little creatures, so make sure you provide them with toys and activities to keep them fit, healthy and happy.

Your rats will enjoy:

  • Pipes and tunnels for running through
  • Climbing frames like old wine racks and metal CD towers
  • Hammocks. Rats love sleeping in them, they encourage them to carry out social grooming sessions with their cage mates and feel relaxed around you. Hammocks can be purchased or homemade from old jumpers, towels and sheets
  • Ropes. These can be made by plaiting material together, or you can purchase a ready-made one.
  • Sputniks – various-sized, plastic hides that can be hung from the ceiling of the cage
  • Extra-large, solid exercise rat wheels such as a 12” Silent Spinner
  • Pea fishing – a nice activity for hot summer days. Add a shallow dish of cool water to their cage, and float some green peas in for the rats to fish out
  • Cardboard boxes, all shapes and sizes. Cut a few holes in them for added exploring fun. Old jumpers, socks and soft hats are always welcomed as bedding for your rats
  • Litter trays are ideal if you would like to litter train your rats. Use one to three corner trays or small cat litter trays placed around the cage and on different levels.
  • Dig trays. If your rats have a shallow cage base, why not give them a storage box filled with shredded paper for them to dig through and forage for food!

Choosing the right rat bedding

The wrong bedding for your rats can have a very negative effect on their health. Wood shavings or sawdust can be extremely harmful to your rats’ skin and airway, and can give you an allergic reaction too!

Bedding materials that are safe for your rat to snuggle in:

  • Small-cut, shredded paper. Easy to use, and best of all, it’s free! Use shredded paper to line the floor
  • Finacard. A shredded card material, good for the base of the cage
  • Cardboard squares around 1 cm square, ideal for the base of the cage
  • White, soft tissue paper bedding is suitable for rats bedding. Please avoid the cotton wool type, as this can be dangerous to your rat
  • Fleece or carpet can be used on the base of cages and on the shelves to protect your rats’ feet from the mesh bars. They’ll need replacing often, so you’ll need a regular supply
  • Fleece or towels can be used in their sleeping areas or as hammocks
  • Non-fragranced paper pellets, such as ‘back to nature,’ can be used to line their litter trays.

How to clean out your rats

Keeping your mouse cage clean is key to preventing serious health conditions such as respiratory problems and bumble foot – a very painful foot infection.

Clean your rats’ litter trays or toilet areas daily, wash down any soiled areas with pet disinfectant and wipe dry with kitchen roll. Carry out a full clean of the entire enclosure once a week, ensuring you also clean all toys and activities with pet-friendly disinfectant. Wash hammocks and anything else fabric in a washing machine with non- bio detergent at 60°C to kill as much of the bacteria as possible.

Take the opportunity to add a few new toys in the cage for interest, like a new dig tray or box for your rats to explore.