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Rats make for one of the most rewarding small pets to own, as they are highly intelligent, interesting little animals that often bond strongly with their owners, and make for excellent companions that are rather more low maintenance than cats or dogs.
Whether you are considering getting a pet rat for yourself or your child or already keep one or more of these lovely little rodents, this article will cover some fun and interesting facts about pet rats that you might not already know! Read on to learn more.
Rats’ teeth grow throughout their lives; they do not stop once they reach a certain length! Feeding your rat the right foods to keep their teeth at a comfortable length is important, as is giving them toys that they can use to wear their teeth down. But did you know that rats grind their teeth too? Grinding the teeth is usually a sign of contentment and relaxation, much like cats and purring. But rats may also grind their teeth when they are upset or stressed to try to sooth themselves, which is again similar behaviour to cats and purring!
Rats don’t have particularly good eyesight, and this is particularly true of rats with pink or red eyes. Rats find it easier to distinguish moving objects, and will sometimes sway when checking out their surroundings in an attempt to help their vision to pick out shapes from the background.
Male rats are usually slightly larger than females, and have slightly harsher fur. Females tend to be more active and busy than males, and males are more likely to relax and sit in your lap while you stroke them!
It is literally impossible for a rat to vomit, because they have a particularly strong wall between the stomach and the oesophagus. However, rats can, on occasion, regurgitate their food, when partially digested food flows back up the oesophagus.
Baby rats will pursue each other around the cage, wrestling and play fighting. This behaviour starts at around two to three weeks of age, and peaks when the rats are around a month old. After this time, the rats will slowly stop playing in this way as they become more mature.
If you’re in the market for a pet rat, your first port of call is likely to be the pet shop or online classified adverts. But you can actually adopt a homeless pet rat from a rehoming shelter or charity, much as you can with a cat or a dog. Potential rat owners are not always aware of this, so it is definitely worth checking out charities and adoption ads before you make a purchase.
It is a good idea to keep your rat’s enclosure in a room of the home with a minimum of electrical devices such as kitchen equipment, TV’s or other objects, as rats are very sensitive to the electromagnetic fields that such equipment gives off. These can upset your rat, and cause them to become unhappy and agitated.
Wood shavings for bedding should not be made of wood such as pine or cedar, as these give off a product called phenols, which are toxic to rats. If you want to avoid the potential of causing kidney, liver and respiratory problems in your pets, stick to hard wood shavings that are recommended as safe for rats, or use another medium entirely such as paper.
Rats are highly attuned to picking up negative emotions from their handlers, such as stress, tension or fear. This means that your rat may feel insecure or upset if you handle them when you are in a bad mood, so stick to picking them up when you’re feeling good!
Rats are highly social animals that form complex social groups with other rats, and that will tend to be lonely and bored if housed alone. It is wise to keep at least two rats together, with same-sex pairings unless you are planning for babies! Two male rats may fight if introduced when adult, but if raised together as friends from a young age, are much more likely to get along.
Your rat should be used to people and well socialised in order to build up a trust and relationship with you, and assuming that this is achieved, they usually very much like getting attention! Rats tend to have certain favourite spots to be scratched and petted, including their ears, sides of the head and along the spine. The base of the tail can be sensitive in some rats, so avoid this spot! Once your rat knows you well and trusts you, they may even like you to stroke their tummy!
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