My girlfriend and I recently picked up our two little pet ratties, and they’ve been a joy to have. However, it took a lot of looking around to find out what was actually good for them and what isn’t. I’m going to share with you the conclusions I came to about housing the critters based upon reading a couple of the books in the pet store, a couple of websites and several Yahoo! Answers about this topic. We’ll cover topics like size of the cage, type of acceptable bedding, and food and watering situation. You should know enough after reading this article to not have to do the same level of research that I did a couple weeks ago in preparation of getting my little companions.
I believe the preferred term is “habitat”, but let’s be honest, it’s a cage. It’s purpose is to keep them from getting into trouble in the rest of the house when you’re not playing with them. Never house a rat in a cage designed for gerbils, hamsters, mice or other small creatures. If you house a rat in a guinea pig cage, make sure you include enough stuff for them to climb on. Either way, the rats cage needs to be at least larger than a ten gallon aquarium. If you want to save some money, like we did, just get a ten gallon aquarium, and an aquarium topper. Either way, the rats’ cage needs plenty of ventilation.
This is one of those subjects that are incredibly important, and which I messed up on with my last small rodent (a guinea pig). Never use cedar or pine in your rats’ cage. Ever. You can use all sorts of commercial bedding, and aspen wood shavings, but never cedar or pine. The reason for this is that cedar and pine both have chemicals within them that are toxic to the little guys.
Food And Water
You can use any small sturdy dish for the food, and if you use wood, again, no cedar or pine. It is preferred to use a one of the small stone dishes that they sell at pet store, but you can use the plastic ones if you like. For water, it is a bit less lenient. Don’t use a bowl for water. Rats will spill it. (Honestly, they spill the food sometimes too, but that’s easy to clean up) Use a pet water bottle that the rats can drink from when they need to. These usually attach to the outside of the cage by sticking the feeder tube through the mesh, and attaching a metal hook to the outside of the water bottle.
If you’ll notice, I have always referred to rats in plural. That’s because they’re very social creatures, and you will need to have at least two rats. They need constant company, and if you’re not going to give them attention twenty four hours a day, you’ll need to provide them with a rat companion. Just remember to keep cage size, bedding type, and water and food in mind when housing your new rat friends. Also, make sure that they have some toys to play with, and something relatively hard to chew on. It keeps their teeth down at the appropriate sizes.