All rats deserve to be happy. Loving your rats and learning to understand their needs will help you identify the things you must do to prevent your rats feeling worried, upset, frightened and stressed. By doing these things, you will be providing your rats freedom from fear and distress.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act says that your animal has five groups of welfare needs. These are five groups of things that animals need to be healthy and happy. These five welfare needs are called the Five Freedoms.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) need to provide these five groups of things for their animals. One of these Five Freedoms is: Freedom from Fear and Distress. In this section you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your rats receive the love, understanding and companionship they need to be free from fear and distress.
Rats are extremely intelligent, friendly and social animals that make great pets, but they're not for everyone.
Before adopting a rat, examine your lifestyle. Are you able to interact with your rat every day? While they're enclosure pets, rats need stimulation and require at least an hour outside of their enclosure every day. You'll also need to regularly clean your rats’ enclosure.
Also keep in mind that although rats are cheap to purchase and relatively cheap to feed, they will most likely require veterinary care in their lifetime. If you cannot afford or you're not prepared to pay for medical expenses, please reconsider getting a rat. Just because a rat is inexpensive to purchase, that doesn't mean they don't deserve the best care possible.
Never keep rats on their own.
Rats are very social animals and can get depressed if alone. Even with lots of human contact, rats need to live with other rats. Rats kept with other rats are just as friendly with people.
Rats can develop abnormal behaviours if left without company and nothing to do for long periods.
Rats need other rat company at night when they’re most active and when humans are asleep. They are able to use their sense of smell to recognise other rats, finding out about where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing.
Rats are social animals and require the companionship of other rats. Even if you are able to have your rat out of the enclosure several hours a day, there will still be time when it is alone and in need of company.
Your rat will want another rat to groom, play and snuggle with. Remember, in the wild rats live in groups. It's their nature to have company and domestic rats aren't any different.
Rats should be housed together from a young age and ideally be siblings. Always try to introduce enclosure-mates to one another soon after weaning (three weeks of age), as this will result in less fighting.
Keep rats in all male or all female groups. Whenever possible, avoid adding or removing individuals from a familiar group as this will disrupt their social groupings and can lead to aggression.
Never house unneutered males and females as they would most likely have pups (baby rats) and finding good homes for rats is very hard.
Two rats, three and even four rats aren't any more difficult to take care of than one, and it's very entertaining to watch them play and interact. Having more than one rat also won't mean they'll bond with you any less. Since they're happy, they will most likely bond with you even more.
‘Scritching’ is the collective term for petting, rubbing, massaging, scratching, cuddling, grooming, tickling and otherwise showing your rat just how much you care about him or her.
Some rats will happily relax for hours during scritching sessions and often end up falling asleep peacefully in your lap. Don't be upset if your rat isn’t really interested in scritching sessions, in particular females and young rats – they are constantly on the go, having things to do, places to see, stuff to chew, etc., but they'll still enjoy a quick scritch in between their wee missions!
Here are some scritching techniques:
Remember that all rats are individuals and what one likes, another may not. You need to try each of these techniques (and any others you can think of) on your rats to find which ones they like the best.