Tips on caring for your pet rat

Whether you’ve had a pet rat before, or you’re a first-time parent, here are some tips you need to know about food, enclosure size, exercise and more.  


In every pet supply store and feed store you should be able to find high-quality pelleted rat food. These are nutritionally balanced and should always be available to your rat.   

Your rat should have access to water 24/7. The best way to do this is with a water-bottle drinking tube attached to the side of their enclosure.  

You can also offer bite-sized bits of fresh fruit and vegetables daily, such as peas, broccoli, carrots, apples, and bananas.  

Remember the movie Ratatouille? Well, it’s true that rats love human food. You can give occasional bits of table food like cooked pasta or pizza crust. Make sure to limit these treats so you don’t have an overweight rat!  Avoid snacks like chocolate, corn, candy, caffeinated beverages, cheese and sticky foods such as peanut butter. 

Creating a healthy environment  

Rats are very sociable and should be kept in same-sex pairs at a minimum.  

Provide a solid-bottom, powder-coated wire enclosure for your rat. The absolute minimum size for a single rat is a 2’ X 2’ X 2’ enclosure. Pairs require more space to remain as comfortable and healthy as possible. The best location for the enclosure is inside, away from drafts, direct sunlight, and extreme temperatures.  

The enclosure should be lined with bedding, but do not use cedar or pine chips as they contain oils that are dangerous to rats. Many rats like to make nests, so provide them with shredded paper towels or napkins to do this. Your rats will also appreciate a cave for sleeping and resting, which could be a small flowerpot or box.  

Behaviour and handling  

Rats are friendly animals, but they still need time to get used to you and being handled. You may start this process by feeding small treats by hand. Once they’re comfortable with that, you can pick them up with one hand supporting them from underneath,  and the other on their back.  

Once your rat is socialized you can start giving them time outside the enclosure to play. Playtime is essential and will keep your smart, active friends mentally stimulated and physically fit. They do need to be continually supervised, however, because rats like to chew.  

Exercise & toys  

Rats are very active animals! To keep your rat happy and healthy, try providing PVC tubes, ladders or tree branches to climb, as well as swings and ropes. If you get an exercise wheel for your rat, make sure they have a solid surface without rungs, so their tail won’t get caught when running.  

Rats’ teeth grow continuously, so you will need to provide appropriate chew toys to help wear down their teeth.  

Daily care  

To clean your rat’s enclosure, remove the soiled bedding, droppings and stale/uneaten food daily. Your rat’s water bottle should also be cleaned and refilled every day. Once a week, replace dirty bedding and scrub down the rest of the cage with warm, soapy water.  

Signs of illness  

Some common signs of illness to watch for include sneezing, lethargy, weight loss, dull eyes, open wounds, diarrhea and difficulty breathing. Contact a veterinarian if you have any concerns for the health of your rat.  

Why rats make great companions  

Rats can be great friends because they are loyal and affectionate. They are highly intelligent animals and very playful. They can also be taught to follow cues such as responding to their name, or even learn fun tricks!   

If you’re interested in adopting, visit to see our animals available for adoption.  

For more animal care tips, visit our blog. 

If this information was helpful, please help us continue to educate about pet health and well-being by making a donation. 


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