What New Rat Owners Need to Know First

If you’re new to owning a rat there are some important things that you ought to know. So what exactly are these things? Well, I’m going to break it down for you into a few basic categories to get you started the right way.

The Basics:

The absolute basics of rat care include knowing about the animal itself. Fancy Rats are social animals and as such they require a playmate. You should never only have 1 rat, keeping 2 is a minimum and of course as a beginner going for more than 2 could be difficult. So I would recommend getting two rats for first time rat owners.

If you’re going to get rats for the first time it’s better to stick with either getting boys or girls (bucks or does).
Females can get pregnant from as young as 5 weeks old, but not without serious complications. So keeping males and female separated is really a must. If you choose to get a boy and a girl then you should make sure to keep them separated for a while, whether you get the male neutered or the female spayed – keeping them apart for 8 weeks post op is standard.

Cage Requirements:

Now you know you’re going to need at least two rats, you need to think about housing. A rat needs roughly 2.5 cubic feet, so for two rats you’ll need 5 cubic feet of space. Looking for cages on Amazon is a good first step, and you can use a rat cage calculator to see if a certain cage is big enough. You should avoid cages that aren’t ‘real’ cages, such as ones that have plastic walls. If the cage offers any additional flooring then you should make sure that it’s solid and not bar-based.

Nutritional Requirements:

Rats need a lot of nutritional care, with a very specific diet.
While there’s no rule on what you should feed your rats, it’s general good practice to give them lab-grade foods that come in the form of pellets or blocks.
This prevents selective feeding, which can cause a nutritional deficiency.
There are also certain rat foods that your rat should not eat…


This is not a full extensive list, but you can check out the link on the above infographic where you’ll find the ratcentral site that has a lot of useful nutritional guides.

General Care:

There are also some general good practices that you should understand as a rat owner.
For example you should make sure that you’ve already located a good veterinarian practice, this is because rats can get ill very quickly.

In line with that piece of advice, it’s important to note that you should have a small vet fund available.
While rats aren’t as expensive in terms of vet visits as a dog or a cat, there are instances where they can cost up to $100 in a visit. Alternatively you should look for good pet insurance. You should also make sure to follow a good cleaning routine, as rat urine is full of ammonia that can make them very sick if left to build up to a certain level.

You should also bear in mind that you need to spend a lot of time with your rats, the special bond that you create is very important to your rats and they miss you if you don’t get them out to spend time with them even for a few days.

Putting It All Together:

This is a very basic, quick fire guide to rat care for new rat owners, but hopefully it’ll have given you some ideas and an idea of what to research next. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments below.

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