My rats are kept in Liberta Explorer cages, as seen below, which are in a designated rat room. I take out the middle floor of the cage to allow more space for climbing. Rats are very agile creatures and need as much space as possible. They also enjoy being in a room which is frequently used so they get a lot of interaction. I barely ever go past the cage without talking to them and I have made their room nice and cosy so I like to spend time in there with them.
I use a mixture of BedMax shavings and hay/barley straw as substrate. I find this combination good for the rats to forage and dig in, as well as being cost effective. Bedmax bedding can be found at most equine suppliers, and the straw/hay at pet shops as well. I use Carefresh in the litter tray as it helps to keep down smells. The litter trays are cleaned about every other day, whereas the substrate lasts about 7-10 days depending on the number of rats.
I have lots of ropes, perches baskets and hammocks in the cage. I like to make the layouts quite challenging to keep the rats fit and make them think about how to get from place to place. I change the layout, and take hammocks and ropes out to wash between every 7-10 days.
Exercise and handling
I try and give my rats about an hour out of the cage at least 5 days a week. This gives them a chance to run around and I can give them activities that would not be possible inside the cage, such as pea fishing.
The rats are also handled individually every day. This gives me a chance to check them over for any injuries or health issues. When a doe has kittens they are handled from day one (if the doe is willing) – starting with very short periods of time, and extending as they get older. This makes for rats that are very comfortable being handled and confident when out of the cage.
My rats are fed on a mixture of horse pasture mix, rabbit food, straight grains and seeds, and human cereals. This allows me to tailor my mix depending on the age and health of the rats. They also get fresh vegetables most days, and the occasional cooked meal such as rice or chicken. They are scatter fed their dry mix, meaning that it is mixed into the substrate on the base of the cage as well as being placed in various other places. This makes the rats search for their food and also prevents one rat hogging everything. Rats love food, so it is important that they are not only fed a mix that is healthy, but also one which is varied so they don’t get bored.
Fresh water should be available at all times, preferably from more than one source. I have multiple bottles at different points on the cage so that they still have water if one stops working. Heavy bowls, or coup cups, filled with water are also usually a hit as rats love to wash using them. These need to be changed daily though as everything from the cage will end up in the bowl!
All my rats are seen at Christopher Carter’s Vet Surgery on Winchester Road, Southampton when necessary.