Last Updated: October 9, 2018

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True North Rattery

Everything You Need To Know

More than one or you keep none

 

RATS MUST BE KEPT IN PAIRS OR GROUPS OF 2 OR MORE

 

Without another little furry friend the vast majority of rats (it would be rare to find a rat that would like to be kept alone) will become very lonely and can become very sick from anxiety and depression.

Human friends and attention can BY NO MEANS replace the attention and friendship of another rat. A common comparison to explain would be to imagine a human suddenly re-homed into a family of dogs. Though they may at first be happy, after a long time of not seeing any more people they would likely become very lonely and want human company yet again.

 

In addition, taking care of two rats will be no more work than taking care of one, I can assure you! They will play with each other, keep each other clean so they do not need to be bathed often, and will organise their cage together. They will be more friendly towards people and more outgoing, more happy and adventurous!

 

Rats vs. other pets

 

FRIENDLY, SOCIAL, TRAINABLE, CUDDLY, PLAYFUL PETS

Rats, in contrast to other rodents, are extremely friendly and social.

They are very interactive and are closer to cats or dogs in attitude than mice or hamsters.

They show a lot of affection and are easily trained!

They love to ride on shoulders, cuddle and give kisses.

They are larger than mice or hamsters and need much more space for activity.

 

 

Will my rat like me less if it has a friend to love instead?

 

ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Your rat will be more friendly and outgoing towards you if it has another rat friend, a rat friend will not stop the bonding process at all but instead will help it along and double the fun.

Rats all need rat companions to keep them happy, confident, clean and healthy!

Unless neutered or spayed, rats must be kept with their own sex in any situation or they will breed. Even siblings will mate so be sure that you keep all males or all females or be prepared to have them professionally neutered/spayed before putting them together!

 

Do litter mates/siblings get along better than rats that are not siblings?

 

RELATIONSHIPS CAN BE JUST AS STRONG WITH RATS THAT AREN'T THEIR SIBLINGS

If the rats you are adopting are not siblings and have not been introduced to each other previously, take the steps listed below for introductions. All rats from us should not have trouble with any introductions. If you are adopting rats from separate litters they will be introduced before they come home with you to be sure that they get along perfectly before they leave.

Differences between males and females

 

THERE ARE NO PERSONALITY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MALES AND FEMALES

 

In my observations the differences are as follows:
- Males grow to be much larger than females.
- Males develop "male parts".


That is all. Size difference.
- Both males and females mark their territory. Whether this is more or less often depends on the rat.
- Both males and females are equally as friendly and both genders give kisses!

The most common assumption that I see online is that females are more excited and friendly and males are more reserved and cuddly. In my rattery, and in most ratteries, this is not true. The friendliness, laziness, or excitability of a rat will depend on their genetic background. Different lines will have different personalities. 

 

Dumbo rats vs standard rats

COMMON MYTH! DUMBO RATS ARE FRIENDLIER THAN STANDARD RATS

This myth has no truth to it. There are NO differences between dumbo rats, standard rats, rex rats, siamese rats, black rats, dwarf rats, etc. Dumbo ears, rex fur, or colour of the rat have nothing to do with their personalities, temperaments or health. This being said, there ARE often differences between a breeder's different lines. One line may be more cuddly, one line may be more playful.

 

If you are looking for a rat that will be prone to a certain temperament, ask the breeder which line/pairing/rat has those qualities that you are looking for. 

 

Rats as cuddly pets / Lap-rats

 

EVERY RAT CAN BE A LAP RAT

Like any other pet sometimes they need to get out all their energy before settling down on your lap. If you compare them to a dog, a dog may jump around and be excitable until you take them for a walk, but after they go for a walk they may calm down and cuddle up. This is the same for rats! A rat may be excitable and energetic at first, but after having some time to run around in your room, on the couch, etc. and after having some playtime with you they will calm down and cuddle up. Be patient!


Things you can do to entertain your rats and get all their energy out:

Use jewellery as a toy for them to chase.

Buy a cat climber for them to jump all over.

Let them run around in your room.

With exercise and entertainment, your rats will tire out and be ready for cuddles in no time.

 

Adopting older rats vs. adopting younger rats

 

AGE IS A HUGE FACTOR! HERE AT THE PROS AND CONS...

OLDER RATS

 

Pros:
- Your breeder will already be able to tell you a bit about their personality which is more developed at this time.
- They will likely be more calm and less reckless when out for playtime.
- They will be better with children (no test nibbles, no fast movements, size is better for kids)
- Older rats that you will find available at the Rat Emporium were the rats that I selected for breeders because they have good health history and the best temperament of their litter. These are the “best of the best” so to speak.

 

Cons:
- These rats will be older.

Younger silvermane rat

 

 

YOUNGER RATS

 

Pros:
- CUUUUUTE
- Lots of time to bond with your baby and more time to spend with them as they grow.
- Bouncier, more playful (usually) and very curious. - You will see their personalities grow and develop.

 

Cons:
- Their personalities are not fully formed when they are babies. I will not be able to tell you 100% what kind of personality they have as their personalities are still developing and changing with age.
- They are very excitable and more skittish. They go through their “terrible twos” at around 2 months when they are a bit more jumpy and unpredictable. This is not to say they will not be friendly, they will still kiss and cuddle and explore and be lovable!! They are just more high energy.

 

 

If you are looking for cuddly pet rats, older rats may be the pet for you in contrast to younger rats. If you are looking for playful, excitable pets, younger rats may be more suited to you.

 

Introducing New Rats

 

SOME RATS WELCOME NEW ROOMMATES BUT OTHERS ARE TERRITORIAL OR AGGRESSIVE

If your rat at home is significantly larger or older, you’re going to have to test the waters instead of introducing them and keeping them in the same cage right away. More often, it’s the males that are slightly more territorial. A territorial rat will generally try to “mark his territory" more often than the average rat. As the rat you already have has recognized his or her cage as its “home”, they may become protective of the area.

 

To minimize conflict, you’ll want to first introduce the rats outside of the cage. Keeping a hand on your original pet will help it to calm down a little bit. New rats will not always get along right away and may need to establish a hierarchy to live under. This means the rats will need to wrestle it out, and determine who the “alpha” will be. The winning rat generally will establish its victory by digging its nose into the other rats belly or neck. The wrestling may go on for over a day and you may hear a few squeaks but that is all normal.

 

Stop them only if blood is drawn, in which case you may need to reconsider giving your more aggressive rat new friends at that time.

 

If you are alarmed by the amount that they are wrestling, keep them in separate cages for a while and don't take them out to introduce them to each other until they are calm.

 

Once your rats are fairly comfortable with each other, your next step to moving them in together is going to be cleaning out the cage. Cleaning the cage eliminates any odours that define the cage as “territory” of one of the rats and leaves it as a blank canvas for them to live in together. Ensuring that there is always enough food and water available to your rats is going to be crucial as extreme starvation or dehydration can cause them to fight, become more aggressive or even cause cannibalism.

 

Baby rats are very easy to introduce and you should have no problem introducing two young rats.

 

Older rats, especially males or females who have already had a litter, are more territorial and one should be wary and present when introducing them.

 

If you are adopting a new rat quarantine them for 1-2 weeks before introducing the new rat to your preexisting rat family to make sure that they are not sick in any way.

 

 

Basic Rat Training & Tricks

 

RATS ARE VERY INTELLIGENT AND LOVE TO LEARN NEW TRICKS

To teach your rat tricks, begin with picking a distinct clicking noise. Each time you give your rat a treat, make this clicking noise so they relate the sound with the food. After a bit of work, your rat will respond to the clicking noise the way a cat or dog will react to shaking a treat bag.

LITTER TRAINING

Fortunately for you, rats are among the easiest pets to litter train. All you need is a small animal litter pan and a different type of bedding/litter than you already have in your rat's home. Your rats will generally choose one particular corner of their abode to “do their business”. Simply place your litter box filled with a litter/bedding in this corner. Now change the main bedding or fleece in the cage, and take some of the feces from the previous dirty bedding and place it into your new litter box. It may take a while, but your smart little rat will quickly recognize this as his new "bathroom". Rats will also learn to “hold it” while you take them out to play.The main problem I have with some rats and litter training is some rats like to throw the litter bedding all over the place. My solution to this is to either cover the litter-box with another fleece and hold it in place with binder clips or to simply leave the litter-box empty. Using the same method as before your rats will still learn to use the litter box, if they will cooperate however it will be less smelly if they will leave a litter/bedding material in the litter-box. For my rats that have an empty litter-box they still use it very well, I just change it more often to maintain cleanliness.

RESPOND TO NAME

Call your rat’s name. If they respond, give them a treat and make the clicking noise. Be sure to change the clicking noises for each rat that you own to avoid confusion.

JUMP INTO YOUR HAND

Hold your hand with a treat in your palm increasingly higher off the floor. Give them a separate command that indicates that you want them to jump up. When they retrieve the treat, make the clicking noise. Start at a relatively low height to prevent injury. These are basic tricks your rats can learn, and the two methods can be used (distinct words, clicking noises, and treats in the proper location and time) for almost every trick such as returning to their habitat on their own and walking on their two back legs. For treats, use anything other than their ordinary food that you do not often gift to them. Different rats will prefer different treats. Examples include various fruits and nuts, seeds, and possibly yogurt treats (though some rats could be allergic so use caution).

TEACHING YOUR RAT NOT TO NIBBLE ON YOUR FINGERS

If you find that your baby gets curious about eating your fingers or toes, simply close its mouth very very lightly and squeak loudly so that it knows that it’s hurt you. Your pet rat loves you and absolutely does not want to cause you pain, the squeak will immediately tell the rat that it has hurt you and he will quickly learn not to do it again.

 

What to feed your rats

 

KEEP YOUR RATS ON A LAB BLOCK DIET

 

We recommend feeding Mazuri or Oxbow rat blocks. These should be available to your rats at all times and have the proper nutrient balance that your rats need. Seed diets are not healthy for rats and seeds should be saved to be used as treats for your rats. Feed your rats a pinch of your meal unless it contains the ingredients listed below in the food section! Adding veggies and fruits to their diets daily can be extremely beneficial.

MAZURI RAT FOOD - LAB BLOCK

Mazuri lab blocks have a fantastic balance of ingredients and are a great staple diet for your rats. These lab blocks can, and should, be kept in the cage at all times so rats can eat when they desire. Mazuri blocks can be purchased from True North Rattery for $20/5lbs.

OXBOW RAT FOOD- LAB BLOCK

Oxbow lab blocks are the store bought equivalent to Mazuri lab blocks. They are a great staple diet for your rats and can, and should, be kept in the cage at all times so rats can eat when they desire. Oxbow blocks can be purchased from True North Rattery for $20/5lbs.

FRUITS AND VEGGIES

Vegetables, fruits and other foods from your table should be fed to your rats daily to keep them healthy! Giving your rat an enriched diet can really improve their health and lifespan. A list of foods that are safe and unsafe for rats can be viewed below.

 

How often should I feed my rat?

 

KEEP LAB BLOCKS AVAILABLE FOR YOUR RATS AT ALL TIMES​

 

They may take their food out of the dish and hide it or just eat it from the dish, but refill the dish each time you find it empty unless you see that they have a big store of food hidden and available. Rats with regulate their own diet and choose their own eating hours and will not overeat. If they are becoming obese this is not because they are overeating, but because there is too much fat in their diet which can be managed by looking into different food types. You may also feed your rat out of your own fridge and parts of the meals you eat yourself, save for the foods mentioned that they should not eat. Your rat may hide their food because rats like to organise their own things! They are just putting their food where they want it. This cannot be trained out, just let your little babies put their food where they wish!

 

Habitat Requirements

RATS ARE VERY EASY TO HOUSE

- Have a cage size minimum of 2 cubic feet per rat.

- Use cotton and fleece bedding, other bedding may cause respiratory infections.

- For a litter box we recommend using Yesterday's News Paper-Based Non-Clumping Unscented Cat Litter. You can purchase this from True North Rattery for $5/5lbs.
- No scents in the room, including scented candles, air fresheners, scented bedding or litter etc.
- It is recommended to clean the cage every week or more often if possible to keep them in a sanitary environment. A dirty cage can cause bad odour, a dirty coat and tail, and illness.
- Small animal chew toys including wooden structures, antler medallions, or a bit of hay bedding, to strengthen teeth and keep them healthy.
- No barred floors unless covered in another stable material, because stepping on the bars causes “Bumble Foot” which causes them extreme pain and discomfort.
- A rat friend to cuddle, sleep and play with!
- Have fresh water and food available at all times for the rats to snack on. Rats are most likely to cause conflict among themselves if dehydrated or hungry. They will regulate their food intake on their own and likely will not over eat. Rat obesity can be avoided by regular playtime outside of the cage.
- Try to avoid any sort of extreme temperature changes in the room that your rats are kept in to reduce chance of illness.

How do I know if my rat likes me?

 

YOUR RATS WILL SHOW YOU THEIR LOVE IN MANY DIFFERENT WAYS

 

First there are the basics: kissing and bruxing/boggling.

If your rat is licking you they are showing you affection by grooming you.

Bruxing is when rats rub their incisors together to make a grinding noise, boggling occurs when rats are bruxing so much that they move their eyes quickly in and out (which looks hilarious by the way) and both are signs of contentment and happiness. These can also be signs of fright when accompanied by shaking, but the former is most likely. Some rats will be bruxing and boggling all the time, some will only do this occasionally and when they are extremely comfortable.

Some rats will kiss constantly, some will only give kisses when they find it necessary.

They will "popcorn", jumping into the air from happiness, run away and run back to you in an excited manner when you pat them and some will snuggle.

 

How do I know if my rat is upset?

 

IT IS VERY OBVIOUS WHEN A RAT IS ANGRY

When your rat is upset they will squeak, stand their fur on end, hop sideways, bite or make aggressive noises when touched. If your rat is aggressive towards other rats, puffs their fur up around other rats or rubs their sides on the floor or anywhere else, these are all signs of being territorial.

 

Why is my rat chewing on the cage bars?

 

THEY NEED MORE PLAY TIME!

If your rat is not out and about often enough for some free range time or does not have enough toys in their cage they may start chewing on the cage bars as a sign of boredom. In the incident that you find your rat chewing on the bars try to let them roam around for longer each day and add a few toys into their cage.

Nail Clipping

 

RATS NIBBLE THEIR NAILS THEMSELVES

 

Even though their preferred length is great for them, sometimes their nails can be agitating for their caregivers. In the case that your skin is agitated by your rat's nails I would first recommend wearing a sweater or a long sleeved shirt. Secondly, I would recommend purchasing lava ledges from a pet store. These can help file your rats' nails when they walk over them.

Giving your rats baths

 

YOUR RATS DO NOT NEED BATHS 

If your rat is young and healthy they will not need a bath as they can clean their whole bodies and the places they cannot clean, their friends will clean for them. Rats also have natural oils on their skin that should not be washed off if it can be helped!

 

Playing with your rat

 

RATS LOVE TO PLAY!

Even the laziest of rats will have their little games that they like to play for fun. Take some time reading their body language when doing certain activities and you will find out strange little games that your rats love.

Couch run- This "game" is simple. I sit on one side of the couch with him in my lap. He pretends he isn't planning anything and then bolts to the other side of the couch and waits for me to bring him back to the beginning.

Chase- Rats love to chase around shiny objects (necklaces, bracelets, etc) and even your hand.

Smoosh- when you pet your rats face in a smoosh manner they will often run away real fast, popcorn and come back for more smooshing. This also applies to lightly scratching their back.

Beanbag jump - I put a beanbag chair on the floor near the couch. The rats will jump onto the beanbag and then wait for me to bring them back onto the couch.

Frantic Kiss Game - I kiss their faces. frantically. They popcorn around.

 

Examples of rat toys

Toilet paper tubes- easy, cheap and the rats love them. They will carry and drag them around the cage, roll them around and chew on them.

Kleenex boxes- they will chew on them and drag them around or make sleeping quarters out of them!

 

Hanging chew toys- rats will pounce on hanging chew toys and, obviously, chew them. They will find lots of entertainment from hanging chew toys and love to bat them back and forth.

Rope toys- rope toys allow your rats to climb and give an extra special platform for them to jump around on.

Stuffed animals- they will drag them around and generally have a good time with tiny stuffed animals, just be sure to remove the "stuffed" part if they manage to pull the fluff out.

Huts- great homes and great chew toys if made of wood.

Common rat illnesses

 

IF YOUR RAT IS ILL TAKE THEM TO A VET

 

Lower/Upper respiratory illness
 

Unfortunately it is impossible at this time to completely free rats from mycoplasma pulmonis which is what leads to respiratory illness. 

Prevention:
- Keep surroundings clean.
- Keep surroundings dust and scent free.
- Keep temperature and humidity steady.

Symptoms:

- Porphyrin (rust colored) stains about nose and/or eyes
- Wheezing
- Small coughs
- Congestion
- Excessive sneezing
- Increase in rapid breathing
- Labored breathing (use of abdominal muscles to breathe)
- Gasping
- Hunched posturing
- Ruffled or bristled fur, fur loss
- Lethargy
- Poor or loss of appetite
- Panic type movement related to inability to get enough oxygen into lungs
- Changes in behavior due to illness (e.g. nipping, biting, avoidance)
- Feet and tail tip cyanosis (as oxygen in blood decreases) may be a late sign
- Rattling sounds in the chest
- Presence of head tilt if otitis media/interna (ear infection) is present
- Open mouth breathing

 

Porphyrin​

 

A pink substance excreted from the eyes or nose that looks similar to dried blood.

Prevention:

- Keep surroundings clean.
- Keep surroundings dust and scent free.
- Keep surroundings stress free.
- Keep temperature and humidity steady.

Causes:

- Poor nutrition
- Deprivation of water
- Pain
- Illness (e.g., respiratory disease bacterial or viral)
- Environmental stressors (e.g., aggressive cage-mates, handling, over-crowded cages)
- Environment and airborne irritants (e.g., aromatic bedding, scented detergent in washed bedding, smoking by owners, candles, and fragrances)
- Blocked tear duct
- Eye infection or other conditions affecting the eye (including injury)

 

Mites, Lice and Fleas

 

Prevention:

- Keep surroundings clean.
- Wash hands between handling other animals and your rats.
- Have everyone in contact with the rats wash their hands.

 

Symptoms:

- The appearance of small red scabs on your rats
- These scabs may look like small scratch marks. They are from your rat itching. These will usually be seen on their neck, haunches and face but can appear all over.
- Bald patches
- Constant itching and scratching
- Small brown dots
- Scabs on ears or tail

 

Inner Ear Infection

 

Prevention:

- Keep surroundings clean.
- Keep surroundings dust and scent free.
- Keep temperature and humidity steady.

 

Symptoms:

- Head tilted or rotated to side.
- Rubbing head against floor of cage.
- Scratching at ear.

- Poor balance, and circling.

- Foul or sweet smelling drainage from ear in more advanced infections.

- Facial nerve paralysis, blinking of eye, or enophthalmos (recession of eye) on the side affected.

 

Bumblefoot

 

Prevention:

- Keep surroundings clean.
- Make sure cages have solid flooring: no barred floors.
- Keep cage clean, free of excessive urine or feces.
- Clean barred walls of the cage frequently.

 

Symptoms:

- Open sore or ulceration on the sole of one or both hind feet
- Raised, reddened tissue on the sole of one or both hind feet
- Intermittent bleeding
- Presence of pus if abscessed.

External Injury

Any injury that your rat may have on their skin.

 

Prevention:

- Make sure surroundings are safe and there are no objects to fall on your rats.

 

Symptoms:

- Rat has a wound.

 

Abscesses and Cysts

 

Symptoms:

- Small pus filled bumps or lumps found on your rat's skin.

 

Tumours

 

Prevention:

- Feed your rats a healthy, low fat diet to prevent tumours. Feed them regular fruits and vegetables and not too many high fat treats.

- It is commonly said that spaying and neutering is beneficial to your rats to prevent tumours, however I would not recommend spaying or neutering your rats for this reason. A spay and neuter will not protect your rats from any kind of tumour and is an invasive surgery that can be very dangerous to your rat's health especially if your rat is young or very small. You will be much better off preventing tumours by adopting from a tumour free line and feeding your rats vegetables than if you spay or neuter your rats, and you are at much less risk of complications by avoiding surgery.

Symptoms:

- A firm, swiftly growing lump found under your rat’s skin.

- Can be moved separately from your rat's skin.

Foods to Avoid

 

BEFORE YOU FEED YOUR RAT ANY TREATS BEYOND THEIR STAPLE DIET, CHECK TO SEE IF THAT FOOD IS ACCEPTABLE FOR THEM TO EAT.

NEVER FEED YOUR RAT:

- cheese (as much as you want to, rats are generally lactose intolerant!)
- green bananas- oranges (can cause kidney cancer in male rats)
- green potato skins and potato eyes (contains a toxin called solanine)
- raw onions (may cause anemia or an upset stomach)
- raw artichokes (slows protein digestion)
- raw sweet potatoes (reduces thiamin. cooked is fine)
- raw dry beans (clumps red blood cells. cooked and canned are fine)
- raw peanuts (roasted are ok in small amounts)
- rhubarb (stops calcium processes)
- blue cheese (could contain mould poisonous to rats)
- wild insects (may carry parasites)Use extreme caution (and not recommended)
- carbonated drinks (rats cannot burp. this can make them sick very quickly.)
- peanut butter (sticky so it may clog their throat. Can be fed to them, but I would recommend against it.)
- chocolate (can cause heart failure) (dark chocolate only to be fed in cases of respiratory distress in small amounts)
- general greasy foods (if its not good for you its likely not good for your rat)
- dried corn

What wood is safe for my rats?

 

SAFE WOODS (AND WOOD-LIKE SUBSTANCES) FOR RATS

  • apple

  • arbutus

  • ash

  • bamboo cane

  • blackberrry

  • blackcurrant

  • cholla

  • coconut shell

  • cottonwood

  • crabapple

  • dogwood

  • grapevine

  • hawthorn

  • hazelnut

  • kiwi

  • linden

  • manzanita

  • mulberry

  • pear

  • pecan

  • pine - kiln-dried white only

  • poplar

  • quince

  • rose hip

  • sycamore