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A suitable environment for rats

Environment logo © RSPCA publications and brand 2010

 

Ensure your rats have a suitable place to live

 

Rat in a shelter © Fotolia

Rats need:

  • Choice and control over their environment. Give freely accessible options and a predictable home-cage environment. If rats can’t control/predict events in their environment, they can become stressed.
     
  • A suitable home-cage. Rats are active needing space to run/stretch up on their hind legs/climb/explore. They’re highly curious/inquisitive, and strongly motivated to explore. They can easily squeeze through gaps in their cage, especially young rats. Cages with wire floors can cause foot injuries Home Cage (PDF 241KB).
     
  • Suitable shelters/hiding places. Rats have an excellent sense of touch, preferring to hug walls rather than enter open spaces where they cannot hide. Shelters (PDF 176KB).
     
  • Suitable bedding material. Rats spend lots of time sleeping and like to hide and sleep in dark/safe shelters. Rats often have preferred resting sites. Bedding material (PDF 176KB).
     
  • Suitable nesting material. Rats like making their own nests and spend lots of time playing with nesting material. Don't give them nesting materials that separate into thin strands, e.g. cotton wool or similar 'fluffy' bedding products. They pose a serious risk to their health and welfare, due to the possibility of entanglement or ingestion. Nesting material (PDF 248KB).
     
  • Their cage kept away from strong artificial smells (e.g. air fresheners/smoke). Rats have a very good sense of smell.
     
  • Continuity. Avoid moving their cage unless absolutely necessary, as this can be stressful.
     
  • A clean cage. Don’t allow urine/faeces to build up as this can cause health problems. Rats are clean animals, preferring to keep toilet areas separate from sleeping/resting/feeding areas. Cage cleaning (PDF 175KB).
     
  • The area where they’re housed to not be too bright during the day, out of direct sunlight, and dark at night. Rats are naturally most active at night. Rats are very sensitive to light; bright light can cause stress and harm their eyes – particularly albino strains (red-eyed white rats).
     
  • The temperature and humidity of anywhere they’re housed to be appropriate. Housing rats in hot/cold conditions, too damp/too dry, or without ventilation can cause discomfort, increasing the chances of them becoming ill. Home Cage (PDF 241KB).
     
  • Their home-cage kept away from high pitched sounds, ultrasound, long term and unpredictable sudden bursts of noise. Rats can hear sounds of higher pitch than humans (ultrasound), and extreme noise can be stressful. In extreme cases excessive noise could cause them to have a seizure. Home Cage (PDF 241KB).