Rattie Rascals Rattery
Pet Rats
Port Orchard, WA
Est. 1998
(360) 876-0236 day - (360) 874-9085 evening
Rattie@boardmanweb.com
Owned and operated by
LeAnn & Beth Boardman

Keeping and Caring of Rats by Rattie Rascals
This is our viewpoint of keeping rats for pets or breeders.
To us all our rats are pets/family first and treated as such.

Housing:
We prefer wire for ventilation- 1" x 1/2" for sides, 1/2" x 1/2" for levels and have a solid floor.  Cages should be a minimum of 24" long x 14" wide x 12" high for 2 adult females.  A 15 gal. or better aquarium is also sufficient (for 2 adult rats).  Housing areas should be kept at 68 - 75 degrees.

Identifying rats:
ID for most pet owners is by markings and color. It is possible when handling identical rats to use a series of dots made by a permanent marker.  This will NOT be permanent and will need to be repeated.

Environmental enrichment (toys etc):
Ropes, balls, climbing areas, hammocks, running wheels, food hidden in objects that can be found.  Many toys can be homemade.

Bedding materials (litter):
Do not use cedar or pine. These aromatic woods will release phenols into the air when they come in contact with urine possibly causing lung damage or irritation. There are pine products that have been kiln dried to release the phenols, this is ok to use.
It is acceptable to use: aspen, paper litters – CareFresh, Pets Preference, Yesterday's News, Good Mews and other paper pellet cat litters, wood stove pellets that have not been treated work fine.  Hay or straw can be used but may carry mites, alfalfa pellets-do not hold up well to urine.

Cleaning Cages and equipment:
Depends on the size of cage and amount of animals. For uncrowned conditions, cages should be cleaned weekly.  This can consist of weekly vacuuming or removing used bedding/litter and replacing.  At least once a month the cages should be washed.  We generally pressure wash everything than spray with a disinfectant.  Cleaning of food and water holders should be done weekly. Care should be made to remove algae or scum build up from water bottles.  If a buildup continues, the bottles should be replaced.

Sick animals:
We feel it is beneficial for sick animals to be kept with their existing colony if at all possible. Treatment can be done daily on the individual or if the others have been exposed to a contagious disease, the colony/cagemates can be treated.

Isolation / Quarantine (QT):
Isolation of new rats is necessary to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. A minimum quarantine would be 2 weeks with 3 or more being preferred to protect against sendi, sialodacryoadenitis (SDA), or pneumonia infections. Because these diseases are air-borne, the quarantine should be done in a separate building than the colony.  Other viruses such as KRV may need a longer QT time.  QT for shows should be at least 3 weeks.

Food, how much, how often: 
A good quality lab grade food is sufficient supplemented with fresh vegetables. Usually 2-3 cubes per day or left free choice.  
We use a high quality block daily supplemented with a mix of cereal grains.  The grain mix was formulated by us to be 14% protein and 4% fat.  The blocks we use are 20+% protein.  We recommend overall protein for breeding does and young rats be be 18-23%; Crude fat 4-6%.  For mid-age boys 15-18% protein and 4% fat.
It is also important that rats receive vegetables.  Frozen vegetables can be used (defrosted).  Freeze dried veggies can also be added to a grain mix.  We use fruit as an occasional treat only to keep sugar out of our rats diets.

Treats:
Special treats given on occasion can include dog biscuits, pizza crust, low fat/sugar left overs (spaghetti is a fav here), Nyla-bones for dogs in carrot flavor and Greenies.

Water:
Water should be available at all times. A water bottle is the best method for providing clean water.

Grooming and grooming equipment:
Rats self groom. It is possible to bathe the rat if necessary for infirmed, or for show purposes. Grooming tools can include kitten shampoo, nail clippers, toothbrush for fur and a soft rag. 

Exercise and frequency:
For rats in a small enclosure, time out of the cage in a play or exercise is necessary. An area set aside for free-range is sufficient as long as it is safe with no outlets.  Boxes with holes cut out are fun and allow spaces for hiding and resting.
Larger cages can contain ladders to different levels, climbing toys and exercise wheels. If wheels are used they should be of smooth material not wire to prevent injuries to the tail or legs.

Handling and restraint:
Handling should be done daily. Rats enjoy being talked too, stroked, and in some cases “rough-housing” with. Many enjoy a game of tag with hands.
For most purposes restraint can be done by hand but at times using a towel and wrapping it around the rat may be necessary.

Emotional care:
Rats being social creatures should be kept with others for their emotional well-being. Both bucks and does do well with the like sex.  Introductions are most easily accomplished when done at an early age but it is possible to introduce rats when mature.  

Health care and Disease Control:
When purchasing or acquiring a new rat-
check teeth, limbs, feet, ears, eyes, feel by palpating the belly and neck areas. Run a hand down the tail. Look and feel for bumps, kinks, cloudy eyes, mites or other parasites, and straight teeth.  If you have rats already at home, make sure you quarantine any new rats before making introductions.

Parasite control:
Both internal and external parasites can usually be controlled with the following products:
 Ivermectin, either orally or by injectable. Repeat after 10 days.  Our favorite method is using a horse paste wormer taking a small amount (about the size of an uncooked grain of rice) on the end of a toothpick and offering it to the rat.  Most of our rats will eat this themselves, if they do not, it is placed inside their gum.  We only use ivermectin when we feel there is a need.  If we plan to breed the rat, we wait until the buck has bred or the doe has kittens at least two weeks old.
Advantage for dogs or cats also works to control lice and mites on rats.  Depending on the size of the rat you can place 0.1 - 0.25 cc on the rats shoulders.  The size of the tube does not matter as the concentration is the same for cat & dog regardless of tube size.
 Revolution for dogs.  This is an ivermectin based product called selamectin it comes in liquid form and is also placed on the rats shoulders in approximately the same amount as the Advantage.

Recognizing Estrus:  
Females come into estrus (heat) every 4-5 days. Watch for mounting by her or others. A doe in heat will stand in a stretched out manner and may wiggle her ears. They can also be jumpy and dart around the cage. For visually checking, pick up the doe and examine her vulva. Rub a finger over the vulva, if it flares and appears pinker then she is in heat.

Pregnancy Prevention:
Prevention of pregnancy in rats is done either by spaying the doe, neutering the buck or keeping them in separate cages.

Care of Nails:
Using a human nail clipper, pull the front leg forward, or back leg back and trim the tips off.

Care for young and old animals:
Young rats should be weaned at 4-5 weeks and then separated by sex by 5-6 weeks. They can then be introduced to existing colonies.  If selling the babies it is best to watch them several days before placing them.  We prefer to place them after 5 weeks.

Old/infirmed  rats are best left with their colony.  If they must be removed to protect them from falls it's best to remove them with a buddy from the same colony. An infirmed older rat may need a single level dwelling to protect them from falls.  These older and infirmed rats still need to be held and loved.  They may also need extra cleaning to their cage and body.

Record Keeping:
Basic information should include name of rat, breeder, pedigree information if available.
Breeding records: dam & sire; number of offspring; sex of offspring and number of each; color, markings, hair & ear type; health or problems if any; deaths in any.
Genetic records: phenotypes and genotypes of each so as to determine the possible results from breeding combinations.

Health records:
Record name of animal sick, date, med’s given, duration
of sickness.

Daily observation:
Daily-visually check of all while feeding or playing with. Look for signs of sickness such as rough coat, dull eyes, hunched look, sitting back and not coming forward. At least weekly, physically handle the rats to feel for unusual bumps, kinks, scabs (which can mean mites) cloudy eyes, etc.

Transportation of animal’s to/from home, airport etc:
Traveling short distances can be done with a small plastic cage with lid.  Make sure litter is covering the floor. For longer trips, using a wire cage is good. It’s best not to give water as it may spill/drip while traveling by moving vehicle instead offer apples, grapes or other high moisture foods.  DO NOT leave a pet unattended in a hot vehicle!!!
For airplane travel, contact the carrier for their method.

Hotels/motels with rats:
Our advise:  You can ask if the hotels accept pets, if they do, you'll probably be charged a $10+ surcharge.
I like to find motels that have parking in front of the rooms.  This way I can back in and unload my rat cage quickly into the room.  No questions asked, we leave the next day.  I will pay a fee if I need to stay more than one day but I make sure they only charge me for one cage regardless of the amount of rats inside.  In a hotel (indoor access) you will need to verify that they accept pets as you'll be carrying the cages through the hallways.
I've traveled to Wisconsin with rats and to California with rats.  Both times with no reservations.  We stopped at night and found lodging with no problems.  Twice I walked out as they would not accept a single fee but found lodging just down the road. 

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