CARING FOR YOUR RAT
· Rats like to gnaw, so a cage made of wire with a plastic bottom, or an aquarium with a mesh roof is recommended.
· Ventilation is very important as the build-up of ammonia from the rat's urine can lead to the development of respiratory disease.
· Cages should be cleaned frequently and all uneaten food and faeces removed daily.
· A form of absorbent bedding and nesting material such as shredded newspaper should be provided.
· A shelter for hiding and sleeping is necessary — this can be achieved by the use of a plastic house from a pet store or a piece of plastic drain pipe (both are easy to clean).
· Rats are intelligent animals and will enjoy supervised out of cage play as well as a variety of toys such as tunnels, boxes and ladders.
· A balanced diet is important for your rat. A commercial rodent diet should be made available occasionally. Seed diets are commonly offered to rats but these contain high fat and low calcium and should only be offered as a treat.
· Ideally, each day your rat should be supplied with a balanced selection of fresh vegetables and fruit such as peas, beans, corn, carrots, broccoli, apple, grapes, etc.
· Other foods you can serve in small amounts 1-2 times a week include pasta, rice, toast, eggs, chicken and other meats.
· To prevent diarrhoea a gradual introduction of new foods is recommended rather than a sudden change.
· Fresh water should be available at all times.
· Book a 6 monthly check-up to detect general health problems.
· Respiratory disease, generally caused by bacterial or viral infection, is one of the most common problems in rats.
· "Red tears" are produced as a non-specific response to stress such as pain and/or illness and these dry around the eyes and nose. The underlying cause should be investigated by your veterinarian as they often indicate a chronic underlying disease.
· Mammary tumours are common in rats.
· Many rats enjoy a bath but supervise them at all times and ensure they are dryed thoroughly afterwards. Frequent bathing may strip the skin of essential oils and cause skin problems.
· Other skin problems such as mite infestation may also occur.
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