Please check here for any answers to questions before emailing Cavyrescue. You may find we have answered it already!
Are rats sensitive to spray polish (to clean the furniture in the room the rats will be housed) because they have susceptible respiratory systems?
Yes, rats are susceptible to all sorts of smells and scents, including smoke, cooking smells, perfume, polish etc. Their lungs can be irritated which can excarebate or cause respiratory problems.
Can rats be infected with salmonella that can be passed on to humans?
I really have no idea about this, but a) I’d imagine that if a rat got salmonella, it would probably die and I’d be hard pressed to think what you’d feed them for them to get
b) the only time you may catch something from a rat (and they don’t carry lots of diseases despite their bad press) is if you ingest their poo, get bitten, or let them lick inside your mouth
Is a Buck or Doe best for me (I am a 19 year old student) as I have been told that Bucks can be aggressive and may need to be castrated and they leave scent trials, Does are quicker and more curious, so I cannot decide for the best.
The only aggressive rats I’ve ever had have been aggressive due to being abused in the past; not handled; or being the odd head case (a bit like humans!). Their sex doesn’t make a difference. Does are smaller and more lively and not always up for a good cuddle. Bucks are bigger and as they get older, start to be less lively and a bit lazy and cuddly.
Sure the boys are a tad smellier and do like to scent you as a sign of ownership, but not all of them. I have 10 boys here and only two are regular scenters. I get them out, they sit on my shoudlers, They pee. No problem!
Please get a same sex pair as otherwise a singular rat does get lonely no matter how much attention you give them.
Is a cage at least 60x30x30cm large enough for a pair of rats and what is the best floor covering/bedding?
The cage is too small. Pets At Home do a good rat starter cage – it’s called Ferplast Mary and is about £70. It is the minimum size of cage you should consider for a pair of rats ( 80cm x 50cm x 37.5cm ) . We tend to use the Mary size cages for elderly single rats or sick rats. You should never house more than two rats in a cage this size, and, again, this is the bare minimum size.
The bigger the cage, the better for rats – an ideal cage will have more height so that rats can climb and so that ou can put ropes, hammocks etc in.it.A ferplast Jenny cage (size: 80cm x 50cm x 79.5cm ) fits the bill and will house up to six rats comfortably and is great for young rats. (Though you will need to put hammocks across the cage to add extra ‘shelving’ as they can get excitable and fall off the shelves provided and this will add a safety net for them!).
The base of the cage should be plastic – not wire or mesh otherwise they can get ulcerated feet which never really heal up – and with wire bars about 15mm apart, to prevent a rat from squeezing through. .
As to litter to cover the base of the cage – please never use sawdust. Dusty products can cause respiratory problems and – before we got into rescuing and were simply pet owners one of our pets died as a result of being on dusty shavings.We recommend you use EcoPetBed which you can buy online from www.earthlyenterprises.co.uk . It is around £20 a bale (unless you have storage and buy in bulk, which will make it cheaper) but that should last you 30 – 40 cleaning outs so is stll great value. Or try Carefresh Pet Bedding, from Supreme; Biocatolet wood based cat litter, all from pet shops.
Are rats uncomfortable with noise such as TV, music etc?
They don’t like lots of noise – it can scare them. If you are out, then leaving the radio on low is fine. But lots of people; screeching children and noise can stress them out.
And finally, I live in South Wales and was wondering if there are any good rat breeders in and around this area, I have found nothing on the Internet near me.
I don’t know of any rat breeders in your area – have you contacted the national fancy rat society? They may be able to help. Or, how about a pair of rescue rats – there are sadly literally hundreds of thousands needing homes – try www.ratrehome.co.uk or contact us.
For more ratty advice, look at www.ratplanet.co.uk; use our guides or contact us
What do you feed your rats?
Currently, we feed our rats on a mixture of dried rat food (we use Xtravital by Beaphar which has added Echinacea) , together with an ‘organic’ mix of our own. This consists of porridge oats, dried split peas and beans, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, popcorn (natural, unsalted), dried apricots, a few raisins.
We also ‘chuck in’ pasta (great for their teeth), plain breadsticks, bran flakes, banana chips and the odd digestive.
Brown bread – fresh or toasted, is also part of their diet. They also enjoy tomatoes – simply put a whole cherry tomato in their cage and watch them play with it (like a football), then devour it. It is also has good medicinal properties too.
Boiled eggs, in their shell, slightly cracked so they get the ‘smell’, go down a treat too!
Dog biscuits, in small quantities, are excellent for their health – too many though can cause skin allergies.
Every other day, we also give them a SMALL amount of fresh food – anything goes except the lettuce, onions or citrus fruits (eg limes, oranges). They love cabbage, carrots etc. Cucumber is a big favourite!
We NEVER feed bones in case they splinter, but give them the odd bit of cooked chicken or ham (off the bone).
Arsenic is present in small quantities in all fruit stones and pips – eg apples, plums, peaches. Humans remain unaffected if they do eat the stones. For ratties, however, it can be dangerous. ALWAYS remove the pips or stones before feeding fruit to your rat.
Excessive amounts of chocolate is also toxic to ratties. Stick the ratty and hamster treats you can buy in pet shops such as choc or yoghurt drops.
The golden rule when feeding your rattie is – no excessive salt, sugar or protein.
If you have a sick or scrawny rat, a supplementary product called “Ferretvite” which comes in a tube at a price of around £4 is really good as builds them up.
My rat has an upset stomach – what should I do?
Don’t overfeed the fresh stuff, or they will get the runs. If they do get an upset stomach, empty their food dish and put them on toasted (brown if possible) bread ONLY with lots of fresh water for a few days. If it doesn’t clear up – see your vet!!
What should I use to line my rats’ cage with?
Never use dusty products – ie woodshavings or sawdust. Dusty products can cause severe respiratory problems. And never use scented products, especially pine. Pine wood is poisonous to rats.
Good products are:
- Carefresh Pet Bedding made by Supreme and available in most pet shops (around £4 a bag)
- Biocatolet paper based cat litter (around £4 from supermarkets)
- Ecopetbed carboard bedding
- Finacard cardboard bedding
You will need a house within the cage for your rat to snuggle up in. Fill this with nestling material such as the white stuff you can buy from pet shops.
My rats has sore, itchy skin. What is wrong?
Itchy, sore skin can be caused by:
- Mites or lice
- Allergy (normally too much protein in their food, such as yoghurt drops, dog biscuits, even too much dried rat food). We have rehomed loads of rats recently who have developed skin allergies – due to loving owners understandably spoiling them.
- Claws too long
If your rattie experiences skin problems, no matter what you think the cause may be, please take them to the vet!
My rat nips me when I wake them up – why?
How would you like to be shaken from a deep slumber. Don’t do it!!
Is smoking (cigarettes or otherwise!) in the vicinity of my animal dangerous to them?
Yes! If you must smoke, try to do it in a different room to your pet. Small animals are very susceptible to vapours such as smoke, cooking smells, paint. Their environment should be free from dust, draughts and vapours!
What is respiratory disease?
This could on for pages and pages, but basically, every rat has a bacteria in their system that could turn into the all-too-common respiratory disease due to old age, stress or any other number of reasons.
If your rat experiences any of the following, get them to the vet – in most cases it can be treated and/or controlled:
- Excessive sneezing
- Red staining around the eyes/nose
- A ‘watery’ or ‘rattly’ sound
If your rat has any of these symptoms, the sooner you get it treated, the better. Left untreated it can cause severe problems eventually leading to premature death.
What should I do when a rat dies leaving a single cage mate?
I was hoping you may be able to help me. I had to have one of my female rats put to sleep this morning – the vet suspected a tumour or lesion in the brain. I still have concerns that it could have in fact been an inner ear infection, but as she’s 2 years old, the vet felt it would be best to put her down now and she had lost weight and was struggling to balance. The problem is that I am now left with one female – Mildred.
She’s also two years old and having taken these two rats on as badly handled youngsters, she’s the one who’s never really came round to enjoying handling (the other rat was fabulous and occasionally came out on school visits etc). Mildred will occasionally nip when she’s worried and finds handling quite stressful.
She is currently housed in a large indoor cage next to my dwarf rabbit who has also recently become friendless (got her from the RSPCA a few years ago as a companion for my elderly rescue lop who has now also passed on from cancer). The rat and the rabbit seem to find each other quite interesting but obviously can not share a cage. Am I best to now keep the rat on her own with the rabbit for company or would it be possible to introduce new rats at this stage?
I was thinking of getting some young males in the future that would be socialised and able to accompany me on some school trips to show how great rats are. If I got males, I could potentially have them neutered. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, as I want Mildred to have a contented life, however long that may be.
A. I think it would be best to get two new friends for Mildred. I had a similar girl here – Rosie – who lost her sister at aged four months old (she died of a tumour). Rosie was always a bit of a biter and not that handable. She was introduced to two young female dumbos – who were extremely laid back – and now she is a friendly, really nice natured lady. It has made a real difference to her.
As we run a rescue, we don’t tend to neuter males very often (the cost to neuter each male that came through the doors is too prohibitive!) so have always paired up same sex (whole) rats in cases like this. However, I cannot imagine that introducing two neutered boys will be a lot different to introducing two young girls. That being said, the time delay between neutering and introductions could be four weeks, so I think Mildred would appreciate the company now!
Two youngsters would be best – then if Mildred doesn’t want to play, they have each other to turn to. I’d also say be prepared for the highly unlikely event that they may not get on -and so you’d have two rat cages!
Also, Mildred will need lots of extra love and attention. Try and vary her routine so that she has something else to think about. (eg get her out to play when you normally wouldn’t, get new toys etc so that she doesn’t sink into depression. Gradually remove her cagemate’s smell over a period of a week or so.
If you think of how you would treat a human who had lost his best friend, then you get the idea (eg you’d take them out for the day, change their lifestyle slightly to help them forget for a while)
As she will be upset, Mildred will also be more susceptible to respiratory problems so see if your vet will give you some baytril – give her 0.3ml of 2.5% oral baytril twice a day for 10 days. Syringe it into a small piece of bread, cheese, farleys rusk, jam or similar. (Anything to mask the taste – also keeping the baytril refrigerated helps take the bitter taste away a little).
Once you have got two new friends for Mildred, read our article here for tips on successful intros:
I do hope this has helped – so sorry again for your loss.
What to do if my rat gets a lump?
While we never profess to be vets, we would say that lumps/tumours are very common, sadly, in ratties. However, they can often be successfully removed and your rat can go on to live a long life.
Like all ratty illnesses, the sooner they are treated, the better.
In males, lumps are less common. However, they can normally be removed sucessfully and will never normally reoccur. Sadly, in females, lumps are sadly common and they can spring up out of nowhere. You have two options that you can discuss with your vet:
- have the lump removed by a vet who is experienced at lump removals and if you rat is strong enough, get her spayed at the same time. However, this does not mean she will not get more lumps sadly but the spaying should help.
Or, try a non-surgical option:
- The first medicine you can try is an eighth to a quarter of tamoxifen 10mg daily. (This is a drug used on woman who have had breast cancer). You have to wear gloves so that you don’t absorb it into the skin and rats hate the taste but it can be masked by honey, jam, swiss roll etc!) I’ve had rats where lumps have disappeared and then where nothing has happened so it is hit and miss. See here for more info on tamoxifen: http://www.ratfanclub.org/tamox.html. This is to be used on female rats only – in males it can cause prostrate cancer
- Shark cartilage – while this is not as widely used as tamoxifen in treating rats, it has had many positive reports. You can buy 650mg capsules from Holland and Barrett (cost about £16.00) Break one capsule into four doses and administer one dose twice a day for big lumps, once a day for smaller.
- Anti-lump mix – see here: Anti Lump Mix for Rats
As with all medications, you need to be aware of the any side effects and you should also make you vet aware too:
You should note that with tamoxifen, the rat can be more suspectible to bruising/bleeding easily due to the way the drug works, so any operations should only be carried out at least two weeks after you have stopped using the drug.
If you try this after a lump removal to try to prevent further growth of tumours, wait at least a week after surgery before starting, as it works by preventing growth of new blood vessels.
We have two ratties Franz, a black & white hooded and Ferdie a gray dumbo… Ferdie has always been sneezy, but is managed on and off with Baytril and Carefresh etc. Franz has never really shown any symptons till last week rattling breathing and slowly but surely becoming more apathetic, he is usually a feisty rat and very to the fore…. We got him to the vet he has had a Baytril injection and they are both on Baytril through their water… The vet would not advise if he was near to death or would get better, which does not help us… He is back at home now still quiet, I am keeping a very close eye on him. Is there anything else that you would advise at this point that we can do, and assumably all the different treatments that you have on your site are all given by a vet?
So sorry about your two boys.To be honest, Baytril in the water will not do the job as well – you cannot be sure that the boys are getting the right amount and, also, because it tastes so bitter, they may drink less of their water, making them dehyrated and worsening the problem.
Please see our guide here: http://www.cavyrescue.co.uk/rat-respiratory-guide/
You really do need to get back to your vet – if you print out this and the page I’ve just directed you to and show them to your vet, they should be able to give you the medication. Unfortunately the vet is the only one who has access to these medications.
If your vet has any doubts, then he or she can call either one of my vets to check it over with them (Please do not call the vet yourself – it is best that your vet calls him). Please email email@example.com for their details)
I would suggest the marbocyl and ronanxan combination mentioned in the guide as this is a more aggressive form of treatment and we have lots of success with it, helping the disease remain under control. Depending on bad the chaps are I would add Prednisolone (which is part of the steroid family that can be used to treat inflammatory conditions) in 1mg tablet form.
This can help ease the symptoms, using approximately half of one tablet twice a day for 10 days with the aim of reducing the dose gradually over several weeks to half a tablet every other day. NB You must never stop the preds just like that as it can be fatal, a rat must always be weaned off them.
Franz could well pick up on this medication – I took in Blue Boy in June last year and he was at death’s door with respiratory problems. He is still with us using the combination of drugs above – the preds are a very important part.
Also, keep the air in the room moist so their lungs don’t dry out – a bowl of water near a radiator is great.
Re: losing a cage mate, Ferdie will need lots of extra love and attention. Try and vary his routine so that he has something else to think about. (eg get him out to play when you normally wouldn’t, get him new toys etc so that he doesn’t sink into depression. Gradually remove Franz’s smell over a period of a week or so. If you think of how you would treat a human who had lost his best friend, then you get the idea (eg you;d take them out for the day, change their lifestyte slightly to help them forget for a while)
As he will be upset, Ferdie will also be more susceptible to respiratory problems so give him 0.3ml of 2.5% oral baytril twice a day for 10 days. Syringe it into a small piece of bread, cheese, farleys rusk, jam or similar. (Anything to mask the taste – also keeping the baytril refrigerated helps take the bitter taste away a little).
I have 2 male rats named pinky and brownie, they are dumbos. Unfortunately pinky has become very ill with respiratory problems. He has had an injection of steroids from the vet and is on baytril 2.5% The baytril doesn’t seem to be working but worse still he as stopped eating and drinking which as made him very weak, and we can’t even get him to take the baytril.
Both myself and my girlfriend are really concerned and wondered if you had any tips on how to get him eating and drinking. We have tried putting the baytril directly into his mouth with a syringe but I presume due to the bitter taste he quickly learnt that the syringe is something to run from.
Is there a way to hold him still enough to get the syringe up to him and to get him to open his mouth up. We are going to consult our vet as to the use of some of the other treatments suggested on your site which is very helpful.
Many thanks, John
John, I am so so sorry to hear about Pinky.
Food wise, you need to give him something easy and appealing to eat. Baby food is always a winner as is shredded chicken breast etc. Farleys rusk broken up with hot water poured on top and complan or build up powered drinks are great once cooled.
Sick ratties tend to like licking food off your finger so try that.
If baytril has been in his water bottle, get a fresh bottle to encourage him to drink. Bottled water is also great if you can manage it as tap water carries elements which are slightly toxic to rats.
Baytril is bitter but if you refrigerate it, it lessens the taste.
Ask your vet if you can swap to other medications which don’t taste as bad. We use this combination which are tablets (marbocyl is a tablet form of baytril but a bit more aggressive)
- half a marbocyl 5mg once a day
- an eighth of ronanxan 20 twice a day
- •plus prednisolone (1mg tablets), typically half a tablet twice a day
These can be easily mixed in to foods once you can tempt Pinky to eat.
Ideas for tempting food in which you can crush drugs
Try not to stress Pinky out. It will make him feel worse. Keep him warm and away from draughts. If he lives with Brownie, keep them together. Separating them can stress them out.
This is also a very useful site: http://ratguide.com/health/
I do hope this has helped. Please do get back to me if you need any further help.
VET’S BILLS CAN BE EXPENSIVE. IF YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO PAY VET’S BILLS, THEN PLEASE DO NOT CONSIDER HAVING A PET.