Is it easy to take care of a pet rat? 0 1291

Pet rat

Rats get a bad press when it comes to being a pet. Often thought of as vermin and feared by many, pet rats actually have lovely personalities and are surprisingly low maintenance to keep.

As with all pets you need to look after them properly, so here’s our pet care advice on how to take care of your rat.

Get a pair (of the same sex)

Rats are social creatures and it would be cruel to keep one on its own. However, don’t fall into the trap of buying a male and a female. Rats can breed from five weeks old, their litters can be as big as eight babies, and the female can get pregnant again in 24 hours. That’s a LOT of rats to deal with.

Buying a pair of the same sex will solve this problem and provided they are socialised well together when they are young they should get on well.

Get a decent sized cage

Rats need a large wire cage because they love to climb (and they can gnaw through anything less substantial). The bigger cage you can get the better because rats are really active creatures. Get one with a solid bottom, away from draughts and direct sunlight.

Believe it or not you can train rats to use a litter tray just like a cat so that the rest of their cage is dropping free.

They will need a nest box, something like a cardboard or wooden box with shredded paper or straw in.

Feed them a healthy diet

You can buy food specifically for rats at pet food stores, but rats also like grains and vegetables. They love eating scraps, but give these sparingly as they can easily put on weight which will reduce their lifespan.

Make sure they always have a supply of clean, fresh water.

Keep them entertained

Rats need time out of their cage – at least an hour a day. Make sure the room is rat proof and even tiny holes are sealed up to avoid escape. Rats are sociable creatures, so make sure you spend time handling them, as well as playing with them.

It’s important to keep them entertained – so make or buy toys to put in their cage that will give them something to do.

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3 surprising behaviours of pet rats 0 358

Pet rat behaviour

Rats have been given a bad name by decades of bad press. Far from the dirty, disease-filled pests that are portrayed on our screens, these sociable, clean animals have a few surprising perks to owning them.

These sociable, friendly pets are highly trainable animals who show affection for their owners and have many cute little quirks that make them great companions. They also have a very strange way of showing they’re happy!

With that in mind, here are three surprising behaviours of pet rats.

1. They are incredibly playful animals

This one will be no surprise to those who will have seen the boxing, chasing and excited jumps with their own eyes, but many are unaware that rats spend lots of time playing with each other and their owners. One scientific study actually showed that rats giggle when they are tickled. It’s highly recommended that you fill your pet rat’s cage with lots of enrichment toys and interact with them daily. Many owners report that their pet rats love being chased or to wrestle their hands!

2. They are incredibly social animals and love to show affection

Rats are incredibly social creatures. While of course every animal has its own personality and there are exceptions to the rule, they need to live with at least one other rat and most enjoy lots of daily interaction with their owners. It is not a rare sight to see pet rats snuggled up in the laps, pockets and sleeves of their humans. They will also nibble and lick them, as they would other rats, in a show of affection.

3. They boggle their eyes when they are happy

Surprising when first witnessed, one of the most peculiar aspects of rats is the way they display their contentment. While cats purr and dogs wag their tails, when a rat is very happy or relaxed they will brux and boggle – which is a sort of teeth grinding and very fast bulging of the eyes.

Rats are brilliant pets for all ages and there are many positives that come from owning these friendly, misunderstood animals.

What can degus eat? 0 481

What can degus eat

When they’re living in the wild, degus focus on dietary fibre. It makes up about 60% of their diet, with the other 40% consisting of natural vegetation. But when they’re kept as pets, you’ll need to keep a close eye on what you feed your degu.

Good quality hay

For the most part, your degu’s diet should consist of good quality hay. There are lots of brands that will suffice, but two of particularly good quality are Timothy Hay and Meadow Hay. Keep an eye on the colour: if it’s pink or white, you should throw this hay away as it’s growing mould. If it’s green, it can cause bloating. Occasionally, you can mix some Alfalfa hay in with your regular hay. It’s high in protein, so great in small doses.

You can top up your degu’s bowl with a little bit of guinea pig or degu-specific food, but don’t go overboard. It’s important that your degu doesn’t start ignoring the hay because it’s got a range of health benefits, including the maintenance of a healthy gut and strong teeth. Around 10g of degu food a day should do the trick.

Human food in moderation

The good news is you can feed your degu some of your human food! Give them to your degu in moderation though, as they can cause gas and bloating. On rotation, you can feed them the following foods around once or twice a week:

• Asparagus
• Carrot tops
• Dandelion leaves
• Broccoli
• Cauliflower
• Fresh herbs
• Brussels sprouts
• Celery
• Cabbage
• Courgette
• Green beans
• Beetroot
• Dried herbs
• Pumpkin
• Butternut squash
• Marigold flowers
• Radish

Some sugary foods can be an occasional treat for your degu. In excess, they carry the risk of diabetes, so we’d only recommend doing this once a month.

• Apple
• Cherry tomatoes
• Peas
• Sweet potato
• Carrots
• Cucumber
• Sweetcorn or corn on the cob

When it’s treat time for your degu, give them a tiny amount (one or two) of:

• Sunflower seeds
• Peanuts
• Pumpkin seeds
• Whole nuts

As a general rule, the main thing to avoid giving your degu is fruit not listed here, rabbit food, hamster food or anything with molasses.

Just like us, degus love food – whether it’s good or bad for them. Bookmark this page to make sure you give your degu a balanced diet, and happy feeding!

Learn more about caring for your degu and other pet care advice here: http://www.nichepets.com/category/mammals/degus/