What to expect when your expecting...Rats! Take home care
What should you expect when you arrive home? What is expected of you?
Rats are natural prey animals, as such their first interactions in a new home might be fearful. Even a well socialized rat needs some time to adjust to the new noises and smells around them. This is normal, don't be too worried, your new friend(s) will come around! One of the biggest mistakes we find with new rat owners is how they respond to this instinctual fear. Many new owners think they should leave the rat be for a few days to adjust. We highly recommend that you do not do this! Play with your new rat immediately, interact with them, get them used to you, not the cage. Here's a few tricks/tips to help you bond with your new companion(s). Pockets or bonding pouches are wonderful tools, tote them around with you as you go about your day. You can place your hand in and let them interact with you, give treats, ect. A similar method would be to use a small carrier. A safe room is another wonderful tool, many individuals use a bathroom for easy clean up in case of accidents. Sit down on the floor and let the rats explore with you as the 'jungle gym'. Talk to them, getting them used to you and the sound of your voice is important. Rats are very intelligent and will even learn what words mean if repeated often enough, such as their name.
My rat is sneezing, is he/she sick??
It is very common for rats to have a bit of the sneezes for a while after they come into a new home. Their sense of smell is so very much stronger than ours, and they will be encountering a lot of different smells, change of bedding, food, ect. This is not to say that your new rat is not sick or might not get sick, although as a breeder I do not adopt out rats that are knowingly ill, however this does not prevent them form becoming ill after purchase. All domesticated rats have a bacteria living in their lungs known as mycoplasma, while healthy and happy this bacteria is kept under control by the rat's natural immune system. Rats with a suppressed immune system may have life long problems with mycoplasam, you also may notice this more frequently as the rat ages. In times of stress or sickness a rats natural immunity is lowered and this bacteria reacts and can cause a 'flare', when this happens it is commonly referred to as a 'myco flare'. Myco flares are not necessarily something to be immediately worried about, but they can also be a rat owners first warning of possible illness, and are definitely something to watch for. Signs of a flare are: constant sneezing, labored breathing, weight-loss, and porphyrin discharge. (Porphyrin is a red-tinged liquid often confused for blood, the secretions will be around the eyes and nose) So long as none of these symptoms are in excess the flare will likely clean up on it's own, however if you experience prolonged symptoms or a significant amount of any symptoms, we recommend a vet visit to acquire antibiotics. To ensure continued health your rat should be kept in a warm, temperature controlled room around 65 - 80 degrees Fahrenheit away from windows/doors that may cause drafts and have food and water available at all times.
FEEDING:Windy Hill Rattery feeds Kent lab blocks, but it can be hard to find (I have my local feedstore order it) We used to feed and recommend Mazuri lab blocks, its easier to get. Oxbow is a good brand too. We also feed a wide variety of treats, veggies, and fruits as an added supplement. They tend to get a little bit of our dinner every night.
BEDDING/Cages:We use paper based bedding in the trays (Sunseed fresh world). Aspen is also good to use. Pine and Cedar are both toxic to rats, so avoid them. The bigger the cage the better! Rats love to have room. We highly recommend Critter nations! So easy to clean and lots of room.
Main post Edited and revised by Omaha Blue Rattery and Little Paws Rattery