Mooshika.org - A home for rats and other benevolent creatures

 

The most comprehensive sources of information on how to take care of your rats can be found at Rat and Mouse Club of America. But for basic information, you should know the following:

Companionship

If you have a single rat now, please upgrade your cage to a size large enough for two or more, and adopt a rat from an animal rescue (where they are sometimes abandoned by people who become bored with their lonely, single rat that sleeps too much). Rats need to be in same-sex pairs (unless neutered; sometimes neutering is required if you have a particularly aggressive or territorial male). They sleep, groom, and play together, are much happier, and are more sociable with you as a result.

The same is true for female mice and both sexes of gerbils and guinea pigs. However, male mice must remain single once they have been separated from their litter-mate brothers, they cannot be integrated with other males.

Quarantine and integration

They can't be thrust in a cage together immediately; they need to go through a quarantine period so that you are sure they are in good health (breeder, pet store rats, and shelter rats alike). It is generally recommended to quarantine your new rescue rats for several weeks before starting the introduction process, but the information on the internet is generally alarmist. More information about the SDA or Sendai viruses (a concern in certain areas such as Michigan) is available at Rat and Mouse Club of America. SDA and Sendai are a potential threat in Canada - beware!

Rats need a slow introduction period on neutral territory. They should have opportunities to get used to each other's smell by trading items from cages and being able to see each other at a safe distance. Please join a forum and ask for guidance and encouragement, don't go it alone your first time, because it can be scary to see your two pet rats fight! However, so long as blood isn't drawn (they can injure each other, obviously), it is a normal part of the integration process, taking longer for boys than for girls (some girls are successfully integrated within a day, "taking" in about a week).

Cage size and accessories

Food

Seed mix is not enough. They need "lab blocks," a cooked mixture of oatmeal and Red River cereal, soymilk, tofu, scrambled eggs (especially while pregnant or nursing, recovering from surgery, old, and sick), chicken bones, fresh fruits, and vegetables - basically, table scraps and shared snacks!

Health and veterinary care

Other health considerations, such as symptoms of illnesses you must be aware of, can be found at the above websites. The Rat Health Care booklet is also very informative; it costs $10.