NOTE: I recommend reading this well put together page by the ausrfs, it has much useful information:
ALSO If you only want to get 1 pet rat, I recommend you watch this, it is a lovely video explaining why it is important to get at least 2.
I hope you will enjoy it :)
The basics of a good Rat Diet.
Rats in the wild eat a widely varied diet, consisting of various grains, seeds, nuts, insects, occasionally various fruits and vegetables and also they can scavenge meat, such as carrion.
With domestic pet rats, you should try to simulate a varied healthy diet. Variety is key, so is quality.
Basically, your pet rats should have constant access to a stable diet, such as a good quality Lab Block (Oxbow, Harlan-Teklad, Or in Australia, Cummins) and/or a home made grain mix. Constant access to fresh, clean water in a gravity demand type water bottle is absolutley nessecary. Bowls are not a good idea and can be tipped over, and faeces and bedding can be tossed into them.
Rats do not need a high protein or fat diet like cat's and dogs, as they are not obligate carnivores, they are omnivores meaning that they eat a wide variety of both meat and non meat foods. Diets that are high in protein and fat have even been linked to some types of cancer in rats (even in humans too). Table scraps are fine as long as they aren't deep fried, fatty, salty, sugary, or highly processed. Just remember, if it's not healthy for you, it's probably not healthy for your rats. Junk food will shorten your rat's life, and a rat's life is too short already.
Ruby Rattery's Dry Mix Recipe:
I try to purchase organic ingredients wherever possible.
-Tropic-O's (Typically found in the health food isle, they are similar to fruit loops, but contain MUCH less sugar and salt)
-Puffed rice (NOT rice bubbles as they contain too much added sugar and salt)
-Dried goji berries
-Sunflower seeds (Without Shells, to help control mess)
-Cummins rat blocks
-Special K Cereal
Ruby Rattery's Veggie Mix Recipe (Usually given twice a week):
To make up a large portion at a time:
1/2 bag of frozen peas
1/2 bag of frozen corn
2 Can of lentils
2 Cans of bean mix
2 Cans of chickpeas
Small bunch of parsley (chopped)
Make sure to cook the pasta, rice, pumpkin and sweet potato.
Boiling them will be fine, but if you want to get the most from them I recommend you steam the sweet potato and pumpkin as it preserves the vitamins and minerals better.
Mix everything together and serve.
HINT: freeze the leftovers in the freezer, the best thing to use would be those take-away containers, also if you can, stir the mix every so often as it is freezing, this will make it easier to scoop out the required amount instead of having to defrost the whole container.
Ruby Rattery's Ratty Smoothie:
I make up this mix for my ratties every month or so:
1 Punnet strawberries
1 Punnet blueberries
1/2 litre organic Soy, Rice, Oat, or Almond Milk
4 tablespoons FARAX baby food powder
Blend all together in a blender, or use a stick blender in a suitable bowl.
Freeze unused portion, or store in fridge for up to 5 days.
Ruby Rattery's Super Slop
This recipe is brilliant for sick rats, nursing mothers, and babies.
1 tbsp Nutrigel
1 tbsp Rice Malt Syrup
2 heaped tbsp's of Farax
8 tbsp's of Rice, Oat, Soy or Almond Milk (No Dairy, it is bad for rats)
1 tbsp of Ensure
Combine all ingredients in a suitable bowl. Heat in microwave for about 20 seconds or until mixture feels luke warm to the touch. Stir again to avoid hot spots.
Serve to ratties!
Fresh fruits/veg 2 times a week (usually three or four things from the list at one time) when in season.
Snow peas/Sugar snap peas
Rock melon (cantaloupe)
Corn on the cob
I give my ratties some treats every day, that include the following:
Dark Chocolate: Please read important note under caution foods. Best for rats with moderate to severe myco.
Popcorn (plain is best)
Yogies! A favourite amoung many a rattie, they go crazy for them! They can be found in pet stores, they are sold as dog yoghurt drops, human ones are not quite as good as they contain lactose.
Wheatgrass: I grow it in a tub, and give them the tub with the grass in it to play and explore in, they really like the grass to nibble on. They also like hiding in the grass and pouncing on unsuspecting cagemates ;)
Toasted wholemeal bread (sometimes with a little olive oil/ buttered with low fat margerine)
Mung bean sprouts
Farax baby meal
Dandelion leaves (straight from the garden)
Alfalfa sprouts, they really fiddle with them when they eat them :)
Mini Teddy bear biscuits
Any healthy table scraps that are not toxic
Baby Teething Rusks
Remember moderation: Like humans, too much of anything is a bad thing.
FOODS TO AVOID!
Generally, if you would eat a food, you can give it to your rats. Here are some exceptions and notables:
Raw dry beans or peanuts - Contains anti-nutrients that destroy vitamin A and enzymes needed to digest protein and starches, and causes red blood cells to clump.
Raw sweet potato - Contains compounds that form cyanide in the stomach.
Green bananas - Inhibits starch-digesting enzymes.
Green potato skin and eyes - Contain solanine, a toxin.
Wild insects - Can carry internal parasites and diseases.
Blue cheese - Contains toxic mould
Poppy Seeds - Can cause neurological damage, or may cause death!
Licorice - Contains a suspected neurotoxin.
Raw red cabbage and brussel sprouts - Contain anti-nutrients that destroys thiamine.
Raw artichokes - Inhibit protein digestion.
Rhubarb - High levels of oxalates which bind up calcium.
Raw onion - Can lead to anemia and an upset stomach.
Oranges and Orange Juice - Forbidden for male rats only, d-limonene in the skin oil, which gets into the orange juice during squeezing can cause kidney damage and kidney cancer due to a protein that only male rats have in their kidneys. Pieces of the orange fruit are okay if you wash the orange skin oil after peeling it so I have heard, but personally I don't risk it.
Carbonated drinks - Rats can't burp
Dried corn - It can have high levels of fungal contaminates which can lead to liver cancer, fresh corn is fine.
Chocolate - It contains stimulants that can lead to heart failure or neurological poisoning in high quantities. A bit of chocolate is okay and can actually temporarily alleviate respiratory distress.
Avocados - These are high in fat and are a good treat to feed rats that are in need of "beefing up" (make sure the fruit is ripe). However, the pit, rind, skin and leaves of avocados are toxic. The part of the fruit in contact with the pit has a higher concentration of toxins.
Dairy - Not good for them at all, full of hormones, antibiotics, pus, and of course lactose which is bad for rats. Avoid where possible.
Important articles on rat care:
Informative articles on rat care by The Dapper Rat: Click HERE to go The Dapper Rat's articles on rattie care such as claw clipping, bathing, litter training, free ranging etc. I highly recommend visiting that site.
There is a multitude of cages out there for your rats, but there are a few factors which determine the right cage for you and your animals. How much are you willing to spend? How many rats do you want to keep? What type of cage would you prefer? (i.e wire based, wood based, etc.) Are you keeping your cage inside or outside? How much space is there to put the cage?
Well the first and most popular type of cage amoung pet rat owners would probably be the Pet One *brand* typical black/white 3 story wire cage with a pull out tray you can find at 99% of pet stores, roughly 60cm high. It is suitable for up to 2 fully grown rats. Good for a first time ratty owner who has a pair of rats. They should get a decent amount of out of cage time though.
*Thank you to Meeky242 on AusRat forum for letting me use this photo*
Another type of cage is a grotto style cage, many people have made these for there rats and with good cause, they can be completley customized, made to suit any decore and space, and are relatively moderately priced, they are good if you have more than 2 rats, they are typically easy to clean and easy to reach in to rearrange the furnishings, the only downside is if they are not laminated properly they can hold smell from urine, and they can be chewed on or even through by some determined rats.
ALL COPYRIGHT GOES TO THE DAPPER RAT For the above photo.
Another type of rattie habitat and one that I recommend for hard core rataholics (such as myself) is a very particular type of cage and is only available from one place, it is like a royal castle for rats, it is called a Ferret Kingdom cage, it is only available through eBay. Just type in Ferret Kingdom on eBay, you shall find it.
You can also adapt some types of bird cages to suit rats, such as this one, modified by adding shelves
*Thank you to Thornz from AusRat forum for this photo*
With any cage, if the shelves are wire, I would recommend covering at least a section of them with lino, fleece or newspaper so they do not harm ratties feet. Also any bar spacing that is wider than half an inch, most baby rats can escape out of.
Bedding is material used for your cage to keep the cage floor free of droppings, to contain odours, and to keep your rat warm and comfortable. There are quite a few types of bedding out there, but I have very few that I use and recommend. Good beddings are ones that will not irritate ratty lungs, are easy to replace, long lasting, smell pleasant, and not too expensive. Good bedding types are such as follows: For the bottom of the cage/tray, newspaper, breeders choice cat litter, dust extracted and kiln dried wood shavings (currently trialing these as a bedding for my rats). For the rats to use as nesting material and for inside of sleeping boxes etc. old towels/material scraps (polar fleece is one of the best choices as it does not fray), shredded paper, or tissues.
First of all, the best toy a rat can have is another rat. Rats are extremely social creatures and need at least 1 other same sex rat for company. In the wild rats live in extremely large social groups, often consisting of 50-100 or more rats in one colony. Males can be kept in groups or pairs despite common misconceptions, although occasionally particular males will have a high level of testosterone and thus be alpha aggressive towards other males, neutering the male generally solves the problem.
You may think that you can be your rats best friend, but no matter how much time you dedicate and spend with your 1 lone rat, it can never replace the company of another rat. Especially when you are not home, a lone rat will get bored and lonely and even depressed, and may even resort to self harm to keep entertained. Also despite another common myth, rats will not play or be affectionate towards there human owners less if they have another rat for company, they will be happier, thus being MORE affectionate and loving towards there human owners.
There are many toys available for rats in various places such as online, local pet stores, and even common house hold objects can be used in a fun manner for rats entertainment. Common things that can be found around the house that are of great entertainment to rats are: toilet paper tubes, crumpled up paper, empty garden pots, empty tissue boxes. Basically anything that can be climbed, hidden in, shredded, tossed around, etc. Are great for rats. PVC piping commonly found at bunnings is also a great addition to any cage.
Some bird toys are safe for rats, like non toxic wooden chews, rope rings, and plastic chains. Avoid anything made of latex or rubber as these pose choking hazards.
Hammocks are loved and appreciated by most ratties. They can be made or bought. It is often cheaper to make them though. Ratties love sleeping, hiding, and stashing food in them. Old clothes that you no longer have use for can be recycled and used as bedding and hammocks for your ratties. Second hand pillow cases from op shops also make brilliant hammocks.
Check out the "About my rattery" Page, to see what sort of toys I use in my cages.