How to Take Care of a Pet Rat? 50+ FAQ’s

My Male Rat is Chewing himself really Bad
  • Are table scraps okay to feed my rat?

Rats love human food. But stay away from things that are too fatty or salty, and junk food is worse for rats than it is for you. Table scraps should only be given to your rat as a treat, not as a regular diet.

  • Should I put a wheel in my rats cage?

Yes, but make sure that it isn’t a hamster wheel, because they’re too small for rats. Also, it’s important that it’s not made out of mesh because the feet and tail can get caught.

The best wheel for a rat is called the Wodent Wheel. Search for it on the Internet

  • What causes my rats sneezing?

Sneezing is generally a sign of a respiratory infection, like Mycoplasma. For more information, see the “Problems” section of Fat Rat Central.

  • What is the best rat book?

As many can tell from this site, I don’t trust anyone’s advice if it conflicts with Debbie Ducommun, creater of the Rat Fan Club. She’s written two books which I think are absolute necessities for anyone who cares abou their rats.

They’re called “Rats! A fun and care book” and “the Rat Health Care Booklet.” The “Rats! a Fun and Care Book” can be ordered from (the only unionized book store on the Internet) by clicking here, or both can be ordered from the Rat Fan Club.

  • What do I do if a mom dies before weaning her litter?

There are several options. First, you can sell babies for snake food if you are not willing to stay up long hours and hand-feeding babies or there is no foster mother available.

Or, if you have the time and patience, you can try to hand feed them. If you’re interested in this approach, see the “raising an orphan rat” page in the “reproduction” section of the site.

Your best bet is to foster the babies onto another mother rat. Mother rats are pretty good about accepting strange babies.

If mixed well with their own, they can’t even tell them apart if they all smell the same. If you have no foster mother available, call around to ratteries and see if they do.

  • Why do my rats pee on me all the time?

Your rats are actually marking you as their territory! Male rats tend to do this more than females, and if it really bothers you, you can have him neutered.

  • My rat bites me! She’s not breaking the skin, but how do I get her to stop?

Like licking, this is a way for rats to show their affection. However, while I appreciate the gesture, I find it annoying. In order to stop a rat from nipping, squeak like a rat to show her you’re not a fan.

  • My rat appears to have the hiccups. What is this?

Actually, that’s exactly what it is! Hiccuping in rats is just as normal as it is in humans.

  • My rat is really skittish and doesn’t want to play. How do I get him to be a good friend?

Rats that aren’t used to their surroundings often feel frightened. The best way to comfort them is to get them to trust you. See the “Trust Training” section of “Interacting with Rats.”

  • How do I tell the difference between a male and a female?

As a 7-year-old I remember my father and his associate, both gynecologists, sitting at our kitchen table trying to figure out whether my first rat was a male or a female. After quite a bit of discussion, they decided it was a male.

A week later, SHE gave birth to a litter of six. I find this especially amusing because adult rats are VERY easy to tell apart. Males have very prominent testicles, whereas females (obviously, Dad) do not.

Younger rats, however, are a bit more difficult. The best way to understand is to take a look at some pictures. The photo to the right, from the University of Iowa, provides a great photo. More good ones at Rat Palace or Baby Rat Growth.

  • Are there any Rat Clubs in my area?

Most likely, yes! My favorites are the Rat Fan Club and the RMCA. And here’s a list of all the current rat clubs.

  • There is a lump on my rat!! What is it?

Most likely, it’s a tumor an abscess, both of which are common. Mammary tumors are extremely common in females.

I recommend seeing a vet figure out what is what. They’re very easy to remove, and relatively cheap as well. I have had them removed for $25.

  • Can I spay/neuter my rat? Should I? How much does it cost?

Sure! There are plenty of benefits to spaying a female and neutering a male. First, it renders one of them sterile, which allows them to live together peacefully without producing offspring.

Also, spaying drastically reduces the incidence of mammary and pituitary tumors in females, in addition, to completely eliminating the chance of cancer or infection of the ovaries, uterus, and cervix.

Neutering a male can decrease urine-marking behavior, decrease the amount of oil and scent produced by the skin, and decreases the chance of kidney degeneration and prostate disease.

It also completely eliminates the chance of cancer or other diseases of the testes.

Neutering is also extremely helpful if you’re trying to get two aggressive males to live together, as it definitely makes them less territorial. Prices range depending on your area, so contact your local vet.

  • My rat stinks. I’ve even tried a bath, and nothing helps. How do I stop his horrible odor?

Neutering males will definitely help with this, as it decreases the oils and scent released by the skin, generally the cause of a foul odor. Clean the cage!

  • Can rats swim?

Yes, rats can swim, although most don’t like it.

  • My rat’s nails are sharp and hurt. How do I clip them or file them?

I’ve never heard of someone attempting to file a rat’s nails (sounds extremely difficult–rats tend to squirm).

The best thing to do is to clip the nails. Sometimes it’s easier to have two people (one to hold the rat and one to use the clippers), but you can do it yourself, too.

Wrap the mat in a towel, leaving his or her head out and the foot that you are trying to trim. All other limbs should be wrapped carefully in the towel.

On each nail, clip the end off very carefully, making sure not to clip the pink part, which is where the nail is connected to the skin.

If you cut this part, your rat will bleed–so be careful!

  • How long do rats live?

Unfortunately, usually only 2-3 years. But I’ve heard of rats living up to 7 years!

  • Is there any way to make my rat live any longer?

Neutering and spaying have recently been proven to help rats live longer. In one study, spaying females made them live up to a year longer! Neutering a male eliminates or decreases many incidences of cancer and infection that otherwise might end life early.

Also, chromium picolinate is a somewhat new compound of chromium that is easily absorbed by the body. It has been shown to extend the lives of rats by up to one year.

It can be found at your local health food store and can be mixed in a special recipe and given to your rats.

It is best if you get it in the capsules, but the tablets work fine although you have to crush them before making the balls, which is obnoxious and takes a lot of time. To dose, your rat, multiply his weight in pounds by 189.

For example, the dosage for a rat that weighs .75 pounds is 142 mcg.

Now that you have found the rat’s dosage per day, multiply that by 40 to find his dosage for 40 days. Here’s the recipe:

  • Nonfat Cream Cheese Balls
  • 1 tablespoon Philly FREE cream cheese
  • chromium picolinate for 40 days
  • 1 teaspoon peanut butter
  • Mix all these together. If too stiff, add more cheese. If too soft, add some flour. Form on wax paper a rectangle and cut into 40 small squares. Roll each into a ball and coat with flour.
  • Freeze half and keep the remaining balls in the fridge. Give the rat a ball each evening. (If the balls are pink, this is okay, because chromium picolinate is often pink.)
  • How can I train my rat to use a litter box?

Unfortunately, rats are a BIT more difficult to potty train than cats. In fact, I would venture to say that not all rats CAN be potty trained. The first thing to do is introduce them to a litter pan in their cage.

Clean out your cage of all existing litter. You can either leave the bottom of their cage bare or lay down some towels.

Then place a litter pan in the corner of their cage-there are special litter pans sold specifically for corners, which are advertised for ferrets. Rats tend to like to use the restroom in a corner so they can back in.

Then fill the pan with litter, some fresh and some soiled, so they get the idea. If they have accidents in the cage, clean it up and move the feces to the pan.

Rats are pretty intelligent and eventually should catch on. If you’ve got a multi-level cage, it’s best to have a tray on each level, because you don’t want to make it too hard!

  • Where can I find a rat breeder in my area?

For a list of rat breeders by continent, state province, and area, click here.

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