Fancy rats guide

Buying & equipment

Rats are active and intelligent animals, and things are never boring when they are around. However, rats themselves also need to be entertained: they need the company of their own kind, a spacious home and a constant variety of new opportunities to play and climb.

Checklist for initial equipment

  • A sufficiently large pet cage
  • A sturdy, washable feeding bowl
  • Hayrack for daily hay requirements
  • Water bottle with fresh water or VITA Fit® Aqua drink
  • Sleeping box for sleeping and resting
  • Untreated branches, rope and small ladders for climbing 
  • For play and to keep your rat occupied: cardboard tubes, wooden see-saw, swing, etc.
  • Rodent stone to provide vital minerals, e.g. VITA Fit® mineral stone for rodents
  • Bedding materials, such as waste fabric or hay from the  Vita Verde® range 
  • Soft, absorbent litter e.g. Comfort classic made from woodchips or Farmer´s straw litter made from pelleted straw
  • Main food, such as Vitakraft VITA® Special or Menu Vital
  • Vitakraft Kräcker® sticks to keep your pet busy and wear down its teeth

Tips for buying fancy rats

Rats can be found in many pet shops or bought directly from breeders. Animal rescue centres also usually have rats looking for a new home. Breeders often offer young rats with a number of different colour patterns. When buying a rat, make sure that it is at least 4–6 weeks old.

Signs of a healthy rat:

  • Lively behaviour and an inquisitive attitude
  • Clear, shiny eyes
  • A clean coat 
  • A clean behind

The right spot for your rat cage

Your rat cage is best placed in a quiet, well lit area. Since they cannot tolerate high temperatures, you should not place the cage in direct sunlight. Rats can easily catch colds, so you should also ensure that the cage is not placed in a draughty location.

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Caring for your pet

To be happy, rats need the company of their own kind and you should therefore keep them at least in pairs. This could be two animals of the same sex or an opposite-sex pair, although in the latter case it is best to have the male neutered to prevent unwanted offspring. When introducing two unfamiliar rats to each other, proceed carefully and keep a close eye on them during the initial stages.

Grooming and health

Rats are clean animals and will give themselves a good grooming several times a day. They do not usually require any human assistance with this. In summer, however, many rats enjoy taking a refreshing bath: to do this, fill a shallow bowl with lukewarm water. Be sure to keep a close eye on your rats while they enjoy splashing about! Afterwards, dry each animal carefully and keep it away from draughts to prevent it from catching a cold.

Claws and teeth

As with all rodents, rats have teeth that continue to grow throughout their lives. To wear these down, they need something extra hard to gnaw on, such as Kräcker® sticks from Vitakraft

If your rats' claws get too long, they will need to be clipped by a vet. To prevent this from happening, it is best to place a stone or rough tile in the rats' cage that they can use to wear down their claws.

Your rats' cage

 

Equipment for your rats' cage

Since rats love to run and climb about, their cage needs to be sufficiently large. They particularly like cages with different levels connected by ladders and untreated ropes or branches. You should also change the toys and climbing equipment around from time to time to give your rats something new and exciting to do.

The right spot for your rats' cage 

A quiet corner of the room that is free of draughts and out of direct sunlight provides the ideal location for your rats' cage. Avoid areas with large fluctuations in temperature. 

Cleaning your rats' cage

Rats like to their home to be clean and tidy. It is therefore best to rinse out the food bowl and water bottle on a daily basis using clean water. Twice each week, rinse out the bottom of the cage using hot water and replace the litter. This also provides an opportunity to check the bedding material in the sleeping box and replace it if required. Clean the bars of the cage, toys, branches and other equipment as needed. Never use strong household detergents! 

Coming out to play

Rats love surprises. Even when they come out to play in the house, they thrive on variety. They are intelligent animals and like to be challenged. For example, you could hide tasty treats in a sandpit for your rat to seek out. Or you could build a proper adventure playground with ladders, tubes, rope ladders and mini hammocks.

Diet

The perfect diet

The basic diet of domesticated fancy rats primarily comprises cereals, seeds, nuts and vegetables, although they also require some animal protein. However, rats also have taste for the finer things in life and love the occasional treat as a snack.

Rats are omnivores – although this doesn't mean that you can simply feed them on scraps! Like any other pet, in order to remain healthy, they require a varied diet that is tailored to their particular requirements and contains everything they need to keep them going throughout the day: crunchy cereals, tasty fruit, high-quality proteins, minerals & vitamins. In addition to healthy food, rats also need fresh drinking water each day and something to gnaw on to prevent their teeth from becoming too long. 

Food types

Main food:
A main food such as Vitakraft's tried-and-tested Menu Vital will meet your rats' basic nutritional requirements

Roughage: 
Roughage is high in fibre. Since fibre requires a great deal of chewing, it also cares for teeth and keeps your pet occupied. Roughage foods include for example Vita Verde® Alpine meadow hay, Vita Verde® Nature plus hay mixes with peppermint or natural snacks like Vita Verde® Nature Mix

Kräcker®: 
These tasty nibble sticks have a number of different functions. Rats have to work to get food just like in the wild, which keeps them busy and is good for preventing boredom. Nibbling on the hard Kräcker® sticks also wears down the constantly growing teeth and helps keep them healthy. 

Treats:
Snacks are primarily a form of reward, although they also help to tame your pet and create a bond

Nutritional supplements:
Pet food supplements, such as VITA Fit® Vitamin C drops oder VITA Fit® Mineral stone meet the specific nutritional needs that can arise during certain stages of life, e.g. during periods of growth, after illness or during pregnancy. They may also be beneficial for particularly active animals.

Feeding tips:

  • Feed at fixed times, preferably in the morning and evening
  • Offer a variety of foods
  • Provide greens in a separate bowl
  • Provide fresh drinking water or Nager-Trank every day
  • To wear down their teeth, which grow constantly, rats need something to gnaw on, such as Kräcker® sticks
  • Remove the remains of fresh food and wilted greens on a daily basis
  • Sweets and food scraps can result in illness

Behaviour & familiarisation

Rats all have individual personalities. Although they may act reserved at times, they also have a keen sense of curiosity. With a little patience and attention from their owners, these intelligent animals usually become very tame and trusting. Once a close relationship has been established, rats enjoy being stroked and love clambering about on their owners.

Familiarisation

When they first arrive in a new home, rats need to be left in peace to being with. You can being to establish contact once they no longer act startled and have started to explore their surroundings.

Behaviour with other rats

Rats are excellent learners and are highly affectionate. As group animals with a highly developed sense of social awareness, rats enjoy grooming each other and like to cuddle up close when going to sleep. Combined with their high intelligence, this social behaviour is a distinguishing feature that makes rats wonderful domestic pets.

How to tame your rat

All rats are true individuals and tend to respond differently. As a result, there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to getting to know and taming your rat. Many rats are so inquisitive that they will actively approach humans and seek out contact. With others, however, you may need to take the initiative and take a gentle approach. For particularly timid animals, one proven technique is to place an old, previously worn item of clothing (e.g. a sock) in your rats' cage as bedding material so that your new pets can start to get used to your smell.

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