Which breed of domestic rat to choose?
For several years, there has been a real craze for so-called “exotic” pets.
These include reptiles, rabbits and rodents, including the pet rat.
While some find them repulsive, many consider them the ideal pet.
Indeed, their size, intelligence and cleanliness make them a pleasant animal to live with.
In addition, rats are social animals that can be easily tamed, making them attractive to those who like to handle their pets.
Rats are intelligent animals and can be taught to perform simple tasks. Rats are playful and enjoy interacting with humans. They make good pets for people who are able to handle and care for them. Rats are social animals, so they will form bonds with other rats and with humans.
Humans have used rats as work animals around the world for many years. In some countries, it is common to use trained brown or black rats to search through piles of debris for survivors after a natural disaster, such as an earthquake.
Discover with us this charming little animal, that is the rat!
Here are some practical tips on how to choose your pet rat.
The different breeds of domestic rat
There are many types of domestic rats around the world.
Rats have a body temperature that is usually between 36 and 37.5°C.
Let’s take a look at the different species of domestic rats.
The domesticated brown rat, also called the Norway rat, is one of the most common and widespread rats. Its original range includes Eastern Europe and Western Siberia. Domesticated brown rats are often found in homes, stores, restaurants and other places where food is readily available. They live near humans because they prefer starchy foods such as seedsBrown rats eat fruit, garbage and some crops. Brown rats are known to burrow in the ground or at the base of trees, but they prefer to live near people where they can find food. They also like to nest in small areas protected from the weather.
The black rat is native to Asia and parts of Eastern Europe, but has been introduced worldwide. This rat is also known as the roof rat because it often lives in high places like roofs and attics. Black rats are excellent climbers and jumpers, and can run along wires and cables. They eat a variety of foods, but prefer to eat fruits, vegetables and grains. They also like to nest in small enclosed spaces.
The domesticated white rat is the most common pet rat. It is native to Southeast Asia, but has been bred and distributed throughout the world. White rats are smaller than brown or black rats, and have a shorter tail. They are also less aggressive than other breeds of rats. White rats eat a variety of foods, but prefer to eat fruits, vegetables and grains. They also like to nest in small enclosed spaces.
The domesticated albino rat is the same breed as the white rat, but its fur is devoid of pigment. Albinos are not completely white; their fur varies from a very light tan or yellow to a creamy off-white. Like other rats, albinos eat a variety of foods, but prefer to eat fruits, vegetables and grains. They also like to nest in small enclosed spaces.
Domestic or fancy rat
Also known as the common rat, because it has not undergone any form of genetic mutation.
This breed is recognizable by its ears, which are just behind its eyes, on top of its head.
Its body is broad, thin and rounded and its whiskers are smooth and straight.
The house rat usually has a white, black or dark brown coat and a very long and thin tail.
Manx rats are easy to spot because they are born without a tail or with a very small tail.
They are considerably smaller than house rats and, in comparison, have shorter, rounder bodies.
As its name suggests, this breed of rat is completely bald.
However, they may have a thin layer of fur-like down over their entire body.
They have short, wavy whiskers.
The Dumbo rat was named after the cartoon character Dumbo the Elephant because of its large ears.
Unlike the domestic rat, the Dumbo rat’s ears are lower and its body is much stockier.
Its fur is very short and fine and can be found in a variety of colors.
The Rex is one of the largest domestic rats. It has a lot of hair all over its body, except for the abdomen.
However, there is another variety called the Double Rex which is practically bald.
Its whiskers are short and curly.
The needs of the domestic rat
The domestic rat is a very popular pet, but many owners are unaware of the needs of these creatures.
This article mentions what rats need to survive, thrive and be happy in their homes.
It should also be noted that this is not an exhaustive list of everything rats need, but simply some things that have been deemed important for them to have.
Rats need the following items:
An adequately sized cage (this will be discussed later) – They need a place to sleep, eat and play.
A rat will not be happy if it is forced to spend all its time in a tiny space with no opportunity to move around or exercise.
They also need plenty of toys to keep them occupied.
If left to their own devices with nothing to do, rats can become depressed and even hostile towards humans.
As mentioned earlier, rats are social animals that need interaction.
It is therefore essential that they be able to live with another rat of the same sex (to avoid unwanted litters), and that they be able to play with their humans on a regular basis, outside their cage.
Very intelligent, he will be bored to death if he does not have access to toys, tunnels, bars to climb, etc.
Because rats are nocturnal, they will appreciate having a small nest away from the light during the day.
And because it is a rodent above all, the rat needs to gnaw and will appreciate being offered toys specifically designed for this purpose.
Like all living creatures, they need fresh water and good quality food, as well as hygiene care, including regular nail trimming, about once a month.
How to feed a domestic rat?
When it comes to the diet of pet rats, you will find many different opinions among many rat breeders.
Mainly because there are no strict or even standardized guidelines on this subject.
This has led to a wealth of information on the internet and in books.
I’ve read a few myself (like this one), but I didn’t like them much; they seemed too complicated.
Some seem so rigid that you’ll feel like you’re feeding an exotic animal, not a regular pet rat.
So I decided to do some research on my own.
After all, feeding healthy rats is not rocket science.
All the information is available right here on this blog, so I suggest you take a look at it before asking me to give you personalized advice.
Most of the information presented here comes from my own experience with our pet rats.
Some of the information is gathered from other experienced rat owners or breeders, while some is based on scientific research articles.
Everything is written in a simple way so that it is easy for any pet owner to understand.
Why feed your rat a healthy diet?
When you adopt a rat, it is already 6 weeks old and has spent the first two weeks with its mother.
The mother not only cares for her young by giving them milk, she also teaches them what foods are safe for them to eat.
The rat’s diet in the wild consists of a variety of seeds, fruits, vegetables and insects.
A rat’s diet should be based on these same principles.
A good diet for your pet rat will help it stay healthy and happy.
Rats that are well fed are generally more active and playful.
They also have softer fur and brighter eyes, and their bodies and tails are better proportioned.
A well-fed rat is also less likely to develop diseases, especially during heat (for females) or breeding season (for males).
When a rat is fed healthy food rather than junk food, it can live up to 4 years while a rat fed unhealthy food will only live two years.
What should I feed my pet rat?
There are many different opinions on this subject, but the general consensus is that a rat’s diet should consist of a variety of fresh foods.
The best way to ensure that your rat is getting all the nutrients it needs is to provide a variety of different foods.
A rat’s diet should include:
- fresh fruits and vegetables (apple, banana, carrot, celery, green beans, lettuce, peas, raspberry, strawberry)
- seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
- nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews)
- pellets (rat food)
Fresh fruits and vegetables should make up the majority of your rat’s diet. They should be fresh, not frozen, and should be cut into small pieces to make them easier to eat.
Seeds and nuts can also be part of your rat’s diet, but they should only be given in limited amounts.
Sugar-free seeds are best.
Always choose fresh nuts.
Avoid roasted or salted nuts, as they contain too much salt and fat.
Rat food is an important part of your pet’s diet, but it should not replace healthy fruits and vegetables.
Our pet rats usually receive their food in the form of lab blocks which is a type of extruded pellet.
These blocks are nutritionally complete and balanced, but should only constitute about 30% of your rat’s diet.
The remaining 70% should be fresh fruits and vegetables.
As I mentioned earlier, water is also an important part of a rat’s diet. A rat must have access to clean, fresh water at all times.
How should I feed my rat?
The best way to feed your rat is to give it a variety of different foods in small amounts.
This will ensure that your pet gets all the nutrients it needs.
Here are some tips on how to feed your rat:
- Offer one food, wait until your rat has finished eating before giving another.
- Don’t leave too many different foods in your rat’s cage at the same time.
- Remove excess food after a few minutes to avoid spoilage or contamination
- all food you offer should be fresh and properly prepared, with no moldy parts
Can I feed my rat chocolate or candy?
Chocolate and candy should never be fed to a rat.
They may look delicious, but they contain large amounts of sugar and fat, which can make your pet obese.
Sugar-free products, such as chewing gum and sugar-free candy, are also not healthy for rats because they always contain artificial sweeteners.
Rats should only eat foods that are naturally sweet, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Life expectancy and health problems of the domestic rat
One disadvantage with the domestic rat is its longevity (about 3 years).
Unfortunately, domestic rats do not have a long life expectancy, being only 2 or 3 years.
The most common health problems in rats are respiratory diseases and cancerous tumors.
How to choose a cage for your pet rat?
A large wire mesh cage is best, especially one with horizontal bars that allow the rat to climb.
A tall cage with ramps and platforms is ideal to allow room for several rats.
Large aquariums are not recommended as they do not allow for proper ventilation and must be cleaned more often.
Avoid cages with wire mesh bottoms, as this can cause problems with your rat’s paws.
Example : Pinky rodent cage
Training a house rat
Known for their keen intelligence, rats are very easy to train.
The best way to teach a rat anything is through positive reinforcement.
They are greedy and will love to learn how to do things that will be rewarded with a treat.
The Internet is full of video tips on how to train your rat, whether it’s potty training or fun stuff.
Where to adopt and how to choose a pet rat?
Many pet stores sell young pet rats.
However, make sure that they come from an ethical and welfare-friendly farm.
Better yet, adopt your pet rat from a shelter!
Just like cats and dogs, they are regularly abandoned by families who can’t/won’t take care of them anymore.
Whenever possible, choose a young rat that has been used to being physically handled and that shows interest in the human lifestyle.
Rat or mouse?
Not sure whether to get a house rat or a mouse?
Other than their respective sizes, there are not many lifestyle differences between rats and mice.
In fact, both are social and intelligent animals, suffer from the same diseases including tumors and respiratory problems and have much the same basic needs.
However, the mouse can be more docile than the rat, but this always depends on the temperament of each individual.