Looking after your rat


Congratulations on acquiring your new rat

There are around 30 varieties of ‘fancy’ rat in a range of coat types, colours and markings. These domesticated rats are descendants from the common, wild brown rat.

Well-kept rats live on average for two to three years. They are clean, lively, intelligent and inquisitive social creatures that like to live in groups with other rats and bond well with humans. To prevent unwanted breeding, rats should be kept in single sex pairs or small groups. Ideally, the group should consist of litter mates as they get on the best.HandlingRats are easily tamed with quiet gentle handling and they rarely bite unless scared. Children should only handle them under close adult supervision.

Let your rats get accustomed to your hand first of all. Let them investigate and step onto your hand. Once your rats are happy, you can gently scoop them up with both hands. Approach them from the front, not from above, and do not approach them in their sleeping compartment. Hold your rats firmly but not too tightly. Always take care to avoid any potential falls, as even a small drop can cause serious injury. Rats should never be picked up by their tails.

If your rat bites you and is holding on to your finger, be brave and gently lower the rat on to a flat surface where it will let go. Do not try to pull it off (it will bite harder) and do not flick it off (it will be seriously hurt).


Rats need a spacious, multi-level metal cage or a glass or plastic tank. Cages should have a deep plastic base rather than a wire base which could damage feet. Tanks need a wire mesh lid with small holes for ventilation. Remember that rats have very strong incisor teeth and can chew their way through wood. Rats need lots of space and the more that you can provide for them the better.

The cage or tank should be placed in a well-ventilated warm room away from draughts and direct sunlight or heat. Keep your rats away from constant noise (e.g. the hum of a fridge freezer) or loud noise (e.g. TVs or music systems).

Use your imagination to make the cage or tank more interesting for your rats. It should look like a cross between a crèche and an assault course! Rats like to climb, so it is a good idea to provide different levels with shelves. Untreated apple wood branches and natural ropes are great for climbing and gnawing. Cardboard tubes and egg boxes can be used for hiding, climbing and gnawing.

Activity wheels should be solid and wide. Wheels with spokes can trap limbs and cause injury. The wheel should be big enough that your rat’s back doesn’t bend.


Small Furries Health Information

Find out more

To assist owners in understanding more about a health conditions that are specific to small furies we have put together a range of information sheets to talk you through some of the more common health concerns seen and treated by our General Practice Vets.