Rats make great pets. This is because of several factors; they are highly intelligent, great fun and they are easy to look after. Rats are so intelligent that it is possible for them to be shown around a maze only once and then subsequently find their way through on their own next time. This is one of several reasons that they are used for lab testing.
Their intelligence makes them great fun. You can train a rat to push a small car along and to run up your arm onto your shoulder when you open the cage door. You will need to tame them and handle them from an early age if you are expecting them to do this. If they are not tamed early on it might become impossible when they are older.
Rats will eat almost anything, enjoying all the same things that we do. This is one of the reasons that they hang about in residential areas, rummaging through bins and eating scraps we have left out. If you have a pet rat make sure you feed them a good food from a reputable pet store as this will contain all of the nutrients they need to be healthy.
Their little houses can become a bit whiffy so it is worth investing in a good odour absorbing bedding material. This will stop your house from smelling of rat poo and wee. It is worth removing the droppings daily and replacing wet bedding as soon as possible. The cage should be fully cleaned out once a week.
An adult rat will eat 20g of dry food a day, you can supplement this with fruit and vegetables. Rats are highly intelligent, make sure they have a few fun things to play with in their cage. They enjoy running in and out of tubes and toilet rolls, boxes to hide in and anything brightly coloured they can play with and push around the cage. You could buy a plastic ball for them to run around in. These are great fun as the rat can run freely around the house, going where it likes but it can't escape due to the ball. To get them in it you can twist it and the two halves separate so can put them inside.
Rats are surprisingly hygienic; you can train them to use a toilet bowl in the corner of your cage by picking up their poos and putting them in it. They like to keep their droppings and urine in one place so hopefully they will then start to go in the same location, making it easier for you to clean up.
Make sure you put them in a warm place, not too near a radiator or a draught. They are good at regulating their own temperature but it is kind to keep them comfortable. Get them a special water bottle with a ball valve they can press to let the water flow. These are hygienic and safe. Keep it topped up with clean water at all times.
Dr Toby Bateson for Hammer Technologies.