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Owning a Pet Rat

Rats can make great pets for many families. They are small and require minimal care and space, and they love interacting with their humans. Our vets at Eastham share some useful information about owning a pet rat and how to properly care for them.

Owning Rats as Pets

Rats are very smart and can be incredibly entertaining, making them a great choice as a new pet.

These creatures are naturally curious and enjoy forming bonds with their owners. Despite their smaller size, they are very playful and can provide entertainment for their owners.

In addition, owning a pet rat is relatively affordable, as rat cages, food, and supplies are not very expensive. Their shorter lifespan also means that they do not require a long-term commitment like some other pets.

A pet rat is suitable for a family on a budget, who may have limited space but still desire the bond and affection that comes with pet ownership.

Health Benefits of Having a Rat as a Pet

While rats have a reputation for being a pest, they are very affectionate, love to play, and can learn tricks! Owning a pet rat can instill a sense of routine and responsibility that can positively impact individuals struggling with depression or anxiety. 

Pet rats make great companions and can improve one's immune system, reduce allergies in children, lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and the risk of stroke. They also provide comfort and therapeutic benefits, making them a perfect fit for those with chronic illnesses. 

In addition, caring for a pet rat can teach children about animal care and responsibility, promoting empathy and respect. Overall, owning a pet rat can be a fulfilling experience that offers physical and emotional benefits for both children and adults alike.

Rats as Pets: Facts

Rodents have front teeth called incisors that continue to grow throughout their lives. The upper incisors are shorter than the lower ones.

Rats often experience overgrown incisors, but this can be avoided by giving them opportunities to gnaw, such as chewing toys and wood.

If necessary, veterinarians can file down or grind overgrown incisors, usually under anesthesia. Rats are opportunistic eaters and can become obese if not fed properly.

They are also susceptible to chronic respiratory infections and mammary tumors. Although male and female rats tend to get along well, they can mate early, before the age of two months.

How to Choose a Rat as Your New Pet

Just like other, larger furry friends, you can purchase rats as pets from breeders or pet stores, or even adopt one. If your new rat is quite young then it will be referred to as a pup.

To ensure that a rat is healthy, check that their eyes and nose are clear of any discharge, and watch out for sneezing, which could indicate a respiratory infection.

Healthy rats tend to be active and curious, while sick rats may appear thin or sit quietly in corners. If you notice moisture around a rat's anus, it could be a sign of diarrhea, and their skin and hair coat should be free of parasites.

Examining a rat's mouth for issues like broken or overgrown incisors, discolored gums, and sores is a good idea. Check with the seller or shelter about any return policy or guarantee and the requirements.

How long do rats live as pets?

One thing to keep in mind is that rats have a relatively short life, especially when compared to other pets such as dogs and cats. On average, pet rats can live for around 2-3 years, although some may live up to 4-5 years with proper care.

However, there are some instances of rats living longer than 5 years, with the oldest recorded pet rat living up to 7 years.

Factors such as genetics, diet, exercise, and overall health can play a significant role in the lifespan of a pet rat. Rats that receive proper nutrition, exercise, and veterinary care may live longer and healthier lives.

Veterinary Care for Pet Rats

You should bring your new rat friend to your vet for a checkup right away! Usually recommended within the first 48 hours after purchase. The shelter or seller may have this as a requirement, and not having it could void any guarantees. During the examination, the vet will weigh your rat and give advice on what to feed them, how to house them, and what toys to provide. They will also examine a stool sample to check for parasites.

Annual physical examinations and fecal tests are necessary to check for parasites, and neutering can be discussed with the veterinarian. Rats should be examined at least once a year and twice a year as they age. Vaccination is unnecessary for rats.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you've recently brought home a new rat you will need to schedule their first exam. Contact us today at Eastham Veterinary Hospital. We look forward to seeing you and your rat soon.

New Patients Welcome

Eastham Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Eastham companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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