April 13, 2021
How to Make Your Rat Happy with a Clean and Enriching Environment
by Dianne Cook
Though some people still view rats in an unfair light, more and more people are realizing what wonderful companions these special little animals can truly make. Because rats are so intelligent and agile, however, it is important they are provided with a clean, enriching environment that will not only keep them physically fit but mentally sharp.
Home Sweet Home
From the size of your furry family members’ enclosure to the bedding and enrichment items contained within, there are many things to consider when setting up and maintaining a rat-friendly environment.
It is important to provide rats with as large of an enclosure as possible. Rats are athletic, agile, and active creatures, and need plenty of room to run and jump. A high-quality, well-constructed wire enclosure with multiple levels is a must. The wire sides will not only make climbing easier for your little friends but will ensure proper airflow and ventilation, helping to prevent your kiddos from overheating.
Despite their active nature, rats have a propensity for obesity and developing obesity-related health concerns (cancer, heart disease, etc), making it especially important for rats to have plenty of closely supervised time outside of their enclosure to run around each day.
Oxbow’s brand new Multi-Level Habitat is ideal for rats and will be hitting shelves soon. Check it all the great features here!
Comfort Meets Practicality
As with other small mammals, there are numerous bedding options for rats, each providing different benefits and challenges. Using a thin layer (approx. 1 inch) of a non-toxic, pelleted litter as an absorbent base, topped by a nice thick layer (approx. 2 - 3 inches) of paper bedding is a great bedding combination that works well for most rats. The pelleted bedding will not only provide traction but will absorb smells and wick away moisture, keeping the paper bedding dryer longer. The thick top layer will provide an additional moisture-wicking layer as well as a soft, enriching surface for digging and nesting.
Keep it Clean and Tidy
Though it likely goes without saying, keeping your rats’ living space clean is essential to their overall health and wellbeing. A clean, sanitary habitat will not only prevent excessive “pet smells” in the home, but it will also help minimize the risk of your fur babies suffering from a respiratory illness or other medical concerns that can result from a life in an unhygienic environment.
Habitats should be spot cleaned daily and deep cleaned at least once a week. Using a pet care checklist is a great way to establish a consistent enclosure cleaning routine.
Rat parents are quick to point out how smart, inquisitive, interactive, and trainable these docile little rodents truly are. To provide them with the well-rounded care they deserve, it is essential to address their mental and social needs as thoughtfully as all other aspects of their day-to-day care.
Social Butterflies Rats
Rats are incredibly social creatures and should be housed in pairs or small groups whenever possible. Though same-sex siblings are generally the easiest for first-time rat parents to raise, many times rats from different litters and various ages can be safely introduced.
The following article provides greater insight into rats’ important social needs, outlines ideal pairings, and provides tips and tricks for introductions and bonding: Does My Rat Need a Friend?.
Supporting Mental Acuity
It has long been known that proper nutrition is essential for our furry companions’ physical well-being, but even the most well-meaning pet parent can sometimes overlook their little ones’ mental health. As with other small mammals, life within the same enclosure day after day can quickly grow boring for rats.
To limit boredom and the associated stress, it is essential that rats have access to a safe, rat-proof area outside of their enclosure to run, play, explore, and interact with their favorite humans. Providing a plethora of species-appropriate enrichment items both in and out of your rats’ enclosure is also necessary to ensure your little ones’ have a way to exercise their minds as well as their bodies.
Though not an exhaustive list, the items below are just a few of Oxbow’s Enriched Life products that rats find especially enticing:
- Cozy Cave – These reversible fleece pockets provide a safe, cozy getaway for pets to rest and relax. They feature a bamboo ring and are completely machine washable.
- Woven Hideout – These bottomless hides are made from woven polyester rope, are machine washable, and make a comforting way to relax and get away from stressful situations.
- Barrel Roll – Made from all-natural, species-appropriate materials, these innovatively designed chews add visual and tactile enrichment to daily routines
- Apple Rounds – Crafted from two of rats’ favorite materials, apple sticks, and corrugated cardboard, these small chews are easily manipulated and are designed to roll, providing both physical and mental enrichment.
- Treasure Barrel – A perfect way to encourage foraging, Treasure Barrels are hollow on the inside and hook to the side of the habitat, making them a wonderful place to hide your rats’ favorite treats or healthy, species-appropriate supplemental foods.
- Forage Pot – These durable items are made from untreated wood and clay, and can be filled with pellets, treats, or even other enrichment items to support your rats’ natural playing, foraging, and chewing instincts.
- Flip and Roll – Made from high-quality, never-printed corrugate, these fun toys can be chewed on, flung, and rolled to provide countless hours of fun and engagement.