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Creating a good home for rats

Every rat deserves a good home where they can be healthy and happy. Here are our top tips for creating a great home for your pet rats.

domestic top eared rat in an enriched cage

Rat housing

Your rats will need:

  • A large cage - rats are active and need space to run, stretch up on their hind legs, climb and explore. They're highly curious and inquisitive, and love exploring. Make sure their cage is escape-proof, as they're good at squeezing through gaps in their cage - especially young rats! Avoid cages with wire floors, as these can hurt their feet.
  • Shelters and hiding places - rats have an excellent sense of touch, preferring to hug walls rather than enter open spaces where they can't hide.
  • Bedding material - rats spend lots of time sleeping and like to hide and sleep in safe, dark shelters. They often have preferred resting sites.
  • Nesting material - rats like making their own nests and spend lots of time playing with nesting material. Suitable materials are hay, shredded paper, paper strips and paper tissues.

Don't give rats nesting materials that separate into thin strands, such as cotton wool or similar 'fluffy' bedding products, as they can get tangled in them or and they aren't safe for them to eat.

You should also make sure your rats have choice and control in their environment. If they can't control and predict events in their surroundings, rats can get stressed.

Keeping your rats' home comfortable

Make sure your rats' home (and anywhere else they're left) is always comfortable for them by remembering to make sure you keep it:

  • Away from strong artificial smells such as air fresheners or smoke. Rats have a very good sense of smell.
  • In the same place - don't move their cage unless absolutely necessary, as this can be stressful for them.
  • Clean - don't allow urine and faeces to build up, as this can cause health problems. Rats are clean animals, preferring to keep toilet areas separate from sleeping, resting and feeding areas. Read our advice on cage cleaning.
  • Out of direct sunlight - keep their cage in an area of your home that's not too bright during the day, out of direct sunlight, and dark at night. Rats are naturally most active at night and are very sensitive to light; bright light can cause stress and harm their eyes - particularly albino strains (red-eyed white rats).
  • The right temperature and humidity - housing rats in hot or cold conditions, too damp or too dry, or without ventilation can cause discomfort, increasing the chances of them getting ill. 
  • Quiet - keep their home-cage 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 loud noise can be stressful for them - in extreme cases, excessive noise could even cause them to have a seizure.

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