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Rat Care Basics

April 1 2023

World Rat Day is April 4th! Although definitely not for everyone, domestic rats can be quite affectionate, charming, charismatic and lovable. A Champaign, IL veterinarian discusses some rat care basics below.


First and foremost, you’ll need a good cage. The minimum recommended size is 2.5 feet per rat, but the bigger the better. Rats are climbers, so choose something that offers some height. The cage should also have a solid floor and good ventilation. For substrate, you can use fleece, shredded paper, artificial turf, tissues, paper towels, or newspaper. You’ll also need to add a hide and plenty of chew toys.

Purchasing Your Rat

It’s important to get your rat from a reputable breeder. Make sure to choose a healthy one! One thing to look for is ragged, raspy, or labored breathing: these can be issues of respiratory infections. Other good signs include soft, clean fur; clear, bright eyes; and a curious nature.


Like any other pet, rats need stimulation. You can make the cage more fun by adding things like tree branches, ladders, ropes, and springs. Rats also enjoy mazes. You can buy some, but you can also make them out of PVC pipe. Your pet will also enjoy time out of the cage, which gives you a chance to spend quality time together. Just keep in mind that these guys do chew a lot, and can be messy roommates. Keep them in a petproofed area. This should be away from other pets, and preferably in a spot that’s easy to clean. 


You’ll need to make friends with your new pet. Once your furry buddy is used to you, he may enjoy climbing on your shoulder or sitting on your shirt or arm. Always be very gentle when handling your rat. Take care not to squeeze the little guy! Treats can go a long way here. Some good options are shelled nuts, corn cob, squash, and, of course, cheese treats. Ask your vet for specific advice. 


Rats are quite sociable. You should never keep just one, as it will be quite lonely. It’s best to keep same-sex rats together. However, if you do have a mixed group, you’ll need to have the males neutered. Otherwise, you’ll end up with many more pets than you bargained for!

Do you have questions about rat care? Contact us, your Champaign, IL pet clinic, anytime! 

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