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A Rat's Tail Peanut - Rat with big whiskers looking at camera

Rat Care Information

This section contains a large amount of information about different aspects about pet rats and caring for them. Scroll down if you would like to go through the whole section. However, if you are looking for a specific piece of information, click one of the boxes below to jump to a point.


 Rats As Pets 




 Vet Care 

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 First Days 




 Rat Behaviour 

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Pet Transport

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Rats As Pets

Rats As Pets

So, you are looking at adopting some pet rats as companions. Well, you have made the right choice! Rats are very intelligent animals, who love to interact with people unlike some other pocket pets. Their favourite activities include snuggling, playing and getting attention. Rats can form very emotional bonds with their owners, as well as their cage mates. 

Rats also tend to be cleaner than other pets. They groom themselves and their cage mates, and can be even taught how to use a litter box! Rats don't need to be bathed or clipped. Rats don't need to be walked, they don't bark or howl all night. They don't shed all over your house, need vaccinations, or have to be boarded if you go away over night. Think about the best qualities of every other pet, put them into a small, warm package, and that's what a rat is.

However, rats aren't pets for everyone. While they are not expensive to purchase, rats are not disposable pets. They do still require love, time, attention and upkeep. If your rats fall ill, they will need medical attention just like every other pet. We highly suggest doing some research on these different aspects, and having a look at whether having pet rats will suit your lifestyle.

These are some things you should consider before adopting pet rats:

  • Your Lifestyle: Pet rats require daily attention, and their cage will need to be cleaned thoroughly at least once a week. Do you have the time to give them the care you need? Also if you travel a lot for extended periods of time, would you be able to take your pet with you, or have a sitter look after them?

  • Your Home: Do you have the appropriate space around your house for a good-sized rat cage? Rats do a lot better when they aren't living in really cramped cages, or inappropriate homes such as aquariums. These cages should also be kept indoors, away from drafts and in an area where it doesn't get too hot or cold. The cage should also be away from stressful noise and predators. If you have other pets, you will want to choice to keep them completely separated - mixed species usually does not go well. You also need to think about whether you are allowed to have pets where you live - you do not want the pet to go homeless if your landlord does not want you to have pet rats, or flatmates misallow pets.

  • Your Kids: If you have a young child, you want to make sure that you can keep your rats in a way that keeps both your child and rats safe. Little fingers, often smelling like food, sticking through cage bars can cause even the friendliest of rats to bite. On the other side, many rats have been hurt and killed by young children who were left unsupervised with the family pet rats. 

  • Your Finance: Although rats may be cheaper to purchase than other pets, it is important to remember that pet rats, if ill, will still need to visit the vet. This may be costly, even to put down rats. Rats also need appropriate food, substrate and enrichment items. Just because they are cheaper than other pets does not mean that they deserve anything less than the best care possible.

There are also some rat social considerations to think about - Rats should always be housed together, ideally same sexed pairs. This way they can provide companionship for one another, as we cannot entertain and keep them company all day long. Two rats are easier to take care of rather than just one, which is why we always adopt out pairs. You can house more than two of the same gender rats together if you have a big enough cage. If you do end up with one of each gender, one or both of the rats will need to be spayed or neutered so that they can be housed together - Accidentally litters can be expensive and stressful.


First Days

First days

Bringing a new pet home can be very exciting, however it is important to remember that your new friends need some time to adjust to their new environment without getting overwhelmed.

When coming to pick up your rats, please be sure to bring an appropriate carrier to put them in. You will receive a snuggle sack, in which the rats can sleep during their journey. We also recommend cutting up some cucumber to put in your carrier - Rats will most likely not eat or drink, but if they do, cucumbers are a good mix of food and hydration. As tempting as it is, do not take them out of the carrier in the car on the way home, as trying to chase rats around the car while driving is not sage.

When you get home, you should put your rats into their new cage that is in a quiet room, and allow for them to explore and get comfortable for a couple hours. (If you have other rats, it is important to not put your new ones into their cage straight away. Please read down below on the Introductions paragraph on how to introduce your new rats to your current ones.) They may explore all over quickly, or may chose to stay settled in one area of the cage and explore the rest slowly. Make sure they have access to food and water - You can put in a small amount of their old mix that they are used to (which will be supplied in your adoption pack).

After they have settled into their new home, now you can start to get to know them. You can put your hands in the cage, let them sniff, nibble and lick you. Remember tonot make any sudden movements, or go to grab them. Talk to them calmly and softly, and reward them with some treats for interacting with you.

When your new rats have gotten used to you, you can start to allow them to have some supervised out-of-cage playtime in a safe place. Areas such as beds, couches and desks are good areas to let them explore as they will less likely be able to get lost.




It is very important to remember that when you are adding new rats to your current mischief, you need to introduce them in a way that will allow them to become snuggle buddies instead of fight club opponents. Imagine introducing new rats into your current mischief the way you would have a new roommate - You wouldn't like it if someone was thrown into your room and started to use your things with no proper introduction or permission. Therefore, have a read of these following steps, and do remember that these things can indeed take time - every rat's personality is different.

The most important thing is to PLEASE AVOID THE CARRIER METHOD. While heavily used overseas, this method is highly dangerous and stressful to rats. Injuries can happen quickly before you manage to open up the carrier to seperate/

STEP ONE: Put the new rats and old rats cages side by side. It should be close enough to smell each other, but not close enough that someone can get bitten through the bars. They should be interested, but not super aggressive.

STEP TWO: Once step one is complete, you should switch the rats into each other's cages. This will allow them to get s good sniff of their future friend(s).

STEP THREE: Now it's time for the rats to meet properly! You want to allow all your rats to meet in a neutral area that is outside of their cages. You want to watch out for any signs of aggression, particularly if they are from the dominant rat. A good place to do this is in the bathtub, however, if you do not have one, you could always let them meet on the floor. Make sure that there is nowhere they can get lost or stuck first. It's a good idea to have a towel handy just in case you need to break up a fight, as an aggressive rat might bite you without thinking about what it's doing, so be careful. Hopefully, these rats will be interested in making new friends rather than causing fights. The new rat(s) may squeak when approached by the others, and the others may try to roll the new rat(s) onto their backs. If the new one starts looking terrified, it's time to put everyone back in their cages, let them look at each other through the bars, and try again the next day. If after 30 minutes the rats are comfortable with each other, then you can move onto the next step.

STEP FOUR: Now is the time for the rats to hang out and play a little more! What you need to do is take all your rats to hang out in an area where they usually play outside of the cage. You need to keep an eye out for your dominant rat and if they are showing signs of aggression - these may include an arched back, raised fur, 'crab walking', or chattering. Put your rats on your knee or on your shoulders to get them close to each other and show the others that you like and accept the new rat. If they can go 30 minutes without a problem, then they are ready for the next step.

STEP FIVE: Give your cage a really good clean and rearrange things a bit so that it feels like a new cage, and not your original rats' territory. Next, put all the rats in the clean cage and watch closely. You'll probably see the new rat being flipped over and pinned quite a bit, as well as being held down and licked. You may hear squeaks as they sort out a new pecking order - Do not panic. If you see the new rat constantly being chased around the cage, or you think the fights are getting too rough, move the new rat back to a separate cage and redo step four. Most new rats will chose a 'safe' place in the cage and hang out there for a day or so while they get used to their new environment and cage mates. Just make sure they have easy access to food and water from their chosen spot, and avoid feeding anything too delicious for a few days to lessen the risk of food-related arguments. 

Just remember, each rat is different, and things can either go by really quickly, or they could happen slowly. Watch the body language of your rats, make sure they are comfortable, and you soon should have a bigger happy mischief!




Rats need a safe enclosure when you aren't around. Enclosures need to be chew-proof, and safe from other animals that may try to break into it. Enclosures made from non-toxic materials. At the very least, rats need 45 cubic cm of space each. If you are unsure how many rats your cage can fit, you can always use this cage calculator as a guideline - Just take into consideration that this does not take levels and enrichment into account. Bigger is always better as it allows for more roaming space for your rats, and it also allows them to have their own personal space. 

Requirements for suitable cages include:

  • Correct bar spacing: 12mm is best for babies. Long term, bar spacing should be no larger than 1.5cm so that none of your rats can escape. Larger males may be okay with a spacing of up to 2cm, but babies and females will easily be able to fit through. The most important thing to remember is that if their head can fit through the bars, their body can and will follow. 

  • Ventilation: Rats require a good amount of ventilation as their respiratory systems are very sensitive. Barred cages are a must - glass aquariums are an absolute no-go and can be very dangerous for your rats. 

  • Ease of cleaning: Coated or galvanized bars are the easiest to clean. You want to avoid wood cages as they soak up urine, and you will never be able to get rid of the smell.

  • Access: Bigger doors are better, but not a requirement. Everything that needs to go in the cage needs to fit through the door. 

It's important to remember that rats will spend most of their life in this cage, and therefore it needs to be kept clean to prevent long term health issues. Cages should be cleaned about once a week with spot cleaning every day or two. Spot cleaning entails sweeping up any stray poops, and any other mess such as leftover fresh food. Fabrics (such as fleece) also needs to be cleaned regularly to avoid any ammonia buildup. When completing a full clean substrate (such as aspen and kiln-dried pine shavings) such be all thrown away and all items (including the cage) should be wiped down. We used this cage cleaning spray, however you can use a spray bottle filled with 50/50 water and vinegar, or mild dish soap and water. You want to avoid using cleaning solutions that have heavy fragrances as the smell can irritate their respiratory systems. We use a small amount of washing powder and vinegar, but you can soak and wash without these - Yet again be sure not to use something with too strong of a scent. 


If you have a cage that doesn't appear above and fits the criteria in the first profile, you can check that the cage is the correct size by using the calculator below.



If you would like some cage inspiration, you can have a look at a joint album over the years below.


Having a good substrate is a really important part of a good cage. It's important to remember that your rats will most likely be in the cage most of the time, and therefore it's important to keep the ammonia down for their health. A correct substrate is also going to allow for ample natural enrichment as well. You can have a mixture of substrate, litter and bedding, but it's important to know which is which. You can read about that in this article.

Substrate is what is going to cover most of the levels of your cage, and there is a couple of different option based on what your budget is. These include: aspen, kiln-dried pine, hemp and bioactive soil.

  • Aspen Shavings:

Although there is a myth that wood shavings are in general bad for rats, aspen shavings are a great and safe option for your 

  • Kiln-Dried Pine:

Although there is a myth that pine and wood bedding in general is bad for rats, pine shavings that have been kiln dried are perfectly safe for rats. Pine is a 

If you plan to use loose bedding instead of lining with fleece, please to sure to have bedding that is safe for rats. Your best options include aspen shavings, kiln-dried pine, or hemp. Avoid clay or crystal-based kitty litter. Carefresh is a no go as it does nothing for ammonia control, and all paper bedding is similar.



Feeding your rat a varied and balanced diet is one of the most important things to ensure they have a healthy lifestyle. There are many options available on the market, however not all of the ones marketed towards rats are suitable for rats. 

Rats are omnivores, and generally need their diet to be about 75- 80% carbohydrates, 12 - 20 % protein and around 4 - 6% of fat. Therefore, heavy seed based mixes such as Tui and Topflite and not appropriate - It would be like feeding your rats McDonalds every day!

There are a couple of options available in New Zealand. We have developed our own rat pellet alongside the Registered Rat Breeders of New Zealand. They are our Specialized Rat Food Pellets, and are available on our website. We also have our Premium Rat Mix, as well as our Foraging Mix - Which are mixes based on the famous Shuamite diet which is available overseas. These mixes are great if you want to add variety and enrichment to your rat's diet. We personally feed our mischief the premium mix daily.


Your basic pellets available from pet stores include: Science Selective, Vetafarm Rodent Origins and Burgess. The New Zealand Rat Rescue also has their own pellets available.

Make sure you supplement your rat's diet with fresh fruit and vegetables regularly. Especially popular among rats are peas, carrot, fresh corn, avocado, (high in fat, so only in moderation), cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, cooked sweet potatoes, grapes, blueberries, banana. A little bit of cooked chicken, chicken bones (rats gnaw rather than chew so bones are perfectly safe), pasta, rice, couscous, and any healthy leftovers can also be fed to your rats for extra variety - rats LOVE variety. Olive or flaxseed oil on wheat bread a couple of times a week also keeps the rat's fur in good condition, and they enjoy it. The oil is especially helpful in reducing the amount of buck grease intact males produce.

Treats are also good in moderation! We have some healthy treats available in our store for your mischief to enjoy (Pumpkin Pies are a fan favourite!)

Rats should also have constant access to fresh water, for which you can either use a bottle on the side of the cage, or a bowl (which will be need to be changed out more regularly as they can get messy with it.)

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