How to Bathe Your Pet Rat Without Stress

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Peri has worked in pet retail for over ten years. She has owned betta fish, dogs, fancy mice, fancy rats, geckos, hamsters, and more.

Do Rats Need Baths?

You may have noticed that your rat cleans itself dozens of times throughout the day, sometimes right after you’ve been handling it! But don't take it personally. Rats are very good at keeping themselves clean and definitely don't need much help in this department but every once in awhile, if they get especially dirty or smelly, it is fine to give them a little bath.

When my rats got older and cleaning themselves got more difficult, I washed them more often. While rats are naturally very clean animals, sometimes they don’t keep up with their routine or simply need a little help along the way. If your rat is older, for example, it may spend less time cleaning itself and more time resting. Furthermore, rats that live alone don’t have a companion to help groom them. If you have multiple rats living together, they may scent-mark each other as a show of dominance. No one likes a smelly pet.

Some rats love swimming and bathing, but for some, a bath can be a stressful experience. Bathing can be stressful for the both of you, especially the first time. Here, you will learn tips and tricks for stress-free bathing, including how to introduce your rat to water over time and the dos and don'ts of the process.

Getting Your Pet Rat Used to Water First

When giving your pet rat a bath, simply throwing them into the bathtub or dumping water on them isn’t going to work. Rats are like cats—they don’t naturally like water (although every rat is different). Bathing your rat will go over much more smoothly if you first introduce your rat to water slowly and gradually. To do this, follow the steps below.

  1. Fill a small container with warm water and put it on a safe surface like the counter or in the bathtub.
  2. Cup some water in your hand and slowly trickle it onto your rat’s fur.
  3. Rub it in gently. You can use a soft sponge if you want. Remember that your purpose at this point is not to clean your rat but to introduce them to water and normalize the bathing experience. Don't overdo it at first and stop if you see any signs of stress.
  4. Afterward, wipe your rat down with a towel until it is completely dry.
  5. Repeat this procedure for a few days or a week, however long it takes until your rat becomes used to the water and the bathing process.

This process will get your rat used to the idea of water and less afraid of a future bath. Next time, you can try letting your rat wade in water in the sink or bathtub. Adding balls, rocks, treats, or other toys that float can make the experience more fun.

Caution: Avoid getting water in your rat's ears and never submerge your rat’s head under water; a rat’s immune system is rather sensitive and they are prone to respiratory infections. Getting water in your rat’s ears can result in illness and an unexpected trip to the vet.

Bathing Your Pet Rat With Shampoo

After your rat is accustomed to the water, you can graduate to adding shampoo to the routine. Many specialty pet stores sell small animal bathing items such as shampoo and fragrance sprays. However, kitten shampoo has also been recommended for rats due to its sensitive formula.

Whatever your reason for shampooing your pet rat, the process should be slow and gentle. Rushing a bath can stress out your rat more than necessary. When bathing your rat with shampoo, try following the steps below:

  1. Have warm bathwater (in a shallow tub, bowl, or sink), a dry towel and your shampoo ready. Make sure the water is shallow enough for the rat to touch the bottom without having to swim.
  2. Gently lower your rat into the water or pour some water lightly over its fur (avoiding ears!).
  3. Apply and lather the shampoo softly into your rat’s fur, avoiding the head and eyes.
  4. Rinse your rat’s fur until the shampoo is completely rinsed away.
  5. Towel dry until the fur is as dry as possible, even if your rat is being squirmy.

Giving your rat a treat during the process could help preoccupy it and lessen stress. This could be especially helpful while towel drying, as your rat may decide to hide inside the towel and munch, giving you the opportunity to get the fur dry. Running the towel in the dryer beforehand can make the end of the bath more comforting. Your rat needs to be one hundred percent dry before going back into its cage to avoid catching a chill.

How Often Should You Bathe a Rat?

Usually you won't need to bathe a rat, since most do a good job of grooming themselves. On occasion, if a rat gets into a really big mess or starts to get a little stinky, you might consider giving it a bath, but this should be a rare occasion (and no more than once a month). When you bathe a rat, their fur loses its natural oils that protect the rat from the environment.

Bathing Your Pet Rat With Waterless Shampoo

If your rat is particularly squirmy and unruly when it comes to water, using waterless shampoo might be a better option. Waterless shampoo is a foam spray that cleans your rat’s fur without the need for water. Small animal waterless shampoos can be found in most specialty pet stores. If your rat despises water, this method is a useful shortcut. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Have a dry towel and your waterless shampoo ready.
  2. Gently spray your rat with the waterless shampoo, avoiding the head and ears. The waterless shampoo should never be sprayed onto your rat’s face.
  3. Lather the shampoo into your rat’s fur generously, spraying more if needed. After lathering in the shampoo, you can let it sit in your rat’s fur for a minute before drying it.
  4. Towel dry your rat until the fur is completely dry—there is no rinsing involved with this method. The drying process should be quicker, but shouldn’t be overlooked; remember your rat’s respiratory system.

Again, treats can help distract and calm down your rat during the process. You should find, however, that using waterless shampoo makes bath time less of a hassle for you and your pet rat. Remember not to rush the process; being slow and gentle will help your rat to feel more at ease.

Tips for Bathing a Rat

There are some actions you can take before bathing your rat that can make the experience more stress-free:

  • If your rat's nails are long and sharp, you can clip them before a bath. This will prevent a terrified rat from leaving gashes in your hands and arms. Clipping your rat’s nails is a stressful process and doesn’t have to be done on the same day; try doing it a day before washing your pet rat, or many hours before.
  • It also helps to wear a long-sleeved shirt while bathing your rat to avoid scratches.
  • Be sure that the room where your rat(s) stays is warm and cozy; rats can easily catch a cold, especially if you didn't dry your rat’s fur completely before putting it back in its cage.
  • Letting your rat relax after the bath will help calm it down; give your rat a break before any more playtime.

Do Rats Like to Swim?

Although it's true that some rats do enjoy playing in water, it can also be scary. Some have fun splashing, but others get extremely stressed out. And no matter how much an individual rat might like water play, any rat forced into water will get scared and anxious. For this reason, you should never force a rat to swim. Never push a rat under water and never keep it in water against its will.

On the other hand, if you have a rat that likes water, there's nothing wrong with letting them splash around in the sink as long as you're there to make sure nothing goes wrong.

Dirty Rat Tail: What to Do

Keeping your rat’s tail clean is important. The tail helps the rat regulate its body temperature, so keep it healthy! If not cleaned regularly, dirt and gunk can get stuck and build up. While rats are very clean, they don’t always spend enough time cleaning their tail, which they then drag around the entire cage. A good way to get your rat’s tail clean is to:

  1. dampen a washcloth in warm water,
  2. cover the tail in the washcloth and rub it gently, and
  3. repeat this process for a few minutes every couple of days.

The warm water will help loosen the gunk on your rat’s tail and clean it off little by little. Remember, however, that a rat’s tail is sensitive; be gentle when rubbing or simply let the warm water soak into it on its own. Your rat might even join in on cleaning its tail with you!

No matter the method, be sure to take things one step at a time with your rat. If you start off baths early in your pet rat’s life, bathing will get easier over time. Just remember—baths don’t have to be stressful for you or your rat.

Fun Facts About Rats

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Rats know how to swim.
    • True
    • False
  2. Rat's have a poor sense of balance.
    • True
    • False
  3. Rats are one of the most intelligent pets.
    • True
    • False
  4. A rat's tail helps regulate body temperature.
    • True
    • False
  5. Rat's are unable to vomit.
    • True
    • False

Answer Key

  1. True
  2. False
  3. True
  4. True
  5. True

Questions & Answers

Question: Why is my rat breathing heavily?

Answer: What kind of bedding are you using for your rat? Things like cedar wood shavings can bring on respiratory infection. Use paper bedding instead. Some people also line the cage with fleece, but this has to be frequently washed. Rats can also get sick if it's too cold, or of the cage is in a drafty area. Either way, I would find an exotic vet in your area and bring the rat in. If it has a respiratory infection, it will need antibiotics to treat it. Respiratory illness does not get better on its own.

Question: What food can I give my picky rats?

Answer: Will they not eat rat blocks at all? There are seed diets out there, but they aren't very healthy and can be fattening. I know some people actually make their own rat diets by combining different food items, but I've never done that. Have you tried different brands of foods? It could be they don't like the taste of a particular brand of block.

Question: There is no pet shampoo in our pet shops. Is it OK to bathe my mouse with dish soap or sulphate-free baby shampoo? This mouse has a permanent head tilt from a babyhood ear infection, so he can't clean himself properly.

Answer: Dawn dish soap would be okay, but you'd only need the tiniest amount. I'm unsure about baby shampoo.

Question: Is it OK to give your rat a bath if the water is contaminated/has a chlorine smell?

Answer: Is it your tap water that smells like chlorine? If it is a strong smell and enough to concern you, could you use room temperature bottled water instead? Many pet stores also sell waterless shampoo for small pets that you just spray on and rub in, or grooming wipes for a quick clean.

Question: How do I feed my rat?

Answer: You can keep a full bowl of rat food in its cage. They tend to eat when hungry, or hoard food in a special spot.

Question: How many times should I wash my rats? Should I give them a bath once a week or like every day?

Answer: Rats are very good at keeping themselves clean, and do not need to bathed constantly. If they get especially smelly, every once in a while is fine. When my rats got older and cleaning themselves was more difficult, I washed them more often.

Question: is there any way to re-introduce my rat to water?

Answer: You could try only filling up the bathtub slightly, so there is hardly any water, and increase the amount over time. My rats never enjoyed water, so I don't have the best hands-on advice!

Question: What do I wash my rat with?

Answer: Most pet stores sell small animal shampoo - if your rats have an aversion to water, you can try waterless spray shampoo.

Question: What happens if I have had my rats for over two years and they hate the bath tub? I know I could use the dry shampoo stuff but I don’t know where to find it.

Answer: My rats have always hated getting wet. Do you have any pet stores in your area? Or can you order the dry shampoo online?

Question: Can I use small animal grooming wipes on my rats?

Answer: Yes, small animal grooming wipes are fine for rats. I wouldn't wipe them all the time though, to avoid drying out their skin.

Jessica Peri (author) from United States on August 25, 2020:

@Miapegasi You don't have to wash your rats much at all. If they get accidentally dirty, or have trouble cleaning themselves due to age, baths may become more necessary. Rats are otherwise very good at cleaning themselves. If you'd like to get them used to water, you can draw them a warm water bath without shampoo.

Miapegasi on August 09, 2020:

I have four male rats around 5 weeks old. I'm thinking about giving them their first bath. Should I use shampoo the first time I bathe them or no? How many times should I wash my rats a week?

Jessica Peri (author) from United States on January 10, 2020:

If you had a rat live to 4 years, you've been doing something right! Most rats don't have such a long lifespan. The oldest I ever had was between 2.5 and 3 years old. But you can always message me with more specific questions!

Tinariva on January 04, 2020:

any and alll info. on rats is very much appreciated, my last boy just passed he was going on 4 yrs old so after 2days of filling up crossword grids with cuss words, my b.f bought me a baby Russian blue i just want to be more knowledgeable this tme thnx!

Jessica Peri (author) from United States on September 12, 2019:

@Brooke I've read that they are actually really great swimmers! I never tried to teach mine, though - they always freaked out at the introduction of water.

Brooke on September 05, 2019:

If you fill your tub with luke warm water, just about an inch, and plug the bottom of the tub, the rats will learn to swim! Just bring them in slow, and never put shampoo into the water, because they might swallow it!

Jessica Peri (author) from United States on November 23, 2018:

@Dave That's great! Mine would destroy our sheets, run around all night, and probably sneak onto the floor.

Dave on November 16, 2018:

I still have a rat who just spent the night with me and snuggled into my sheets with me

Jessica Peri (author) from United States on December 21, 2017:

@Emma Rats are so sweet, I'm not surprised to hear you've never been bitten! Thanks for reading.

Emma on December 16, 2017:

Rats are not as much trouble as people hype about. I have an Autistic grandson I'm raising and 5 other grandbabies in and out at different times,ages between 13 and 2 months. I've never been bit. Nor has my grandchildren.I supervise. And all is well.

Jessica Peri (author) from United States on June 07, 2013:

Thank you! I love my rats to pieces. Introducing them to friends and seeing their reactions is always fun.

moonlake from America on June 06, 2013:

Great information. I had a pet rat when I was a kid. Voted up.

What Do You Need For A Pet Rat?

So, let’s take a look at all 22 things that you need for your pet rats.:

A Home For Your Rat – A Rat Cage

Possibly, the most important thing you will ever buy for your rat is its home. We’ve got a whole guide to what to look for when buying a cage and some cost-effective cages elsewhere on the site, so here we’re going to stick to the basics.

  • Spend as much money on a cage as you can but make sure that you’re buying extra floor area with that money – the more room your rats have, the happier they will be
  • You want the bars to be approximately 1/2” apart because if they’re any wider than that – you will spend a lot of time wondering where your rats have gone. If you intend to keep baby rats in the cage, then go with ¼”.
  • Make sure the door locks properly – rats are way smarter than most people realize, and they can learn to open the cage door and run away if the cage door is too easy to open.
  • Don’t use a fish tank for a cage – unless it’s very temporary to try and rescue a lost rat – they don’t have enough ventilation to keep your rat safe and the ammonia in their pee can end up overwhelming them and harming them or killing them in a fish tank
  • Try to avoid cheap plastic in the cage as your rat will happily gnaw its way through that and you will need to buy more
  • Consider spending some extra money on some cool stuff to go inside the cage, the more fun it looks, the more fun it will probably be for your rats

Cages don’t need to be hugely expensive but you really want to ensure that you invest in a solid cage, as a good one will last a long time and give you as much pleasure as it will give your rats because you’ll be able to watch them frolic about and play in it.

A Spare Rat Cage (and potentially an Aquarium too)

Every home that has rats should have more than 1 cage. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to buy another rat cage for every occupied cage that you own. Yes, that’s right you want a 1:1 ratio – 1 cage in use, 1 hanging around waiting to be used.

If you breed rats this stops being a guideline – you will need to separate the mother and babies from the other rats, and you can’t do that without a cage.

Now, you cannot use an aquarium as a long-term residence for a rat. We’ve already pointed out that the ventilation isn’t good enough and it will cause them real harm if you do. However, if you do have a spare aquarium, do hang on to it – if you need to build a little house in the middle of the floor to try and bring a lost rat back to the fold – it’s fine to use an aquarium.

As for the spare cage? Well, you may need it if your rats get sick, if they fight too often or they are injured for any reason.

You remove injured rats so that they don’t accidentally get hurt in play with other rats. You remove sick rats to prevent them from passing on their illness.

As for the overly aggressive rat – they’re a bit of a rarity but if you do get one, you can’t keep them in the same cage as the other rats. They can kill or maim if they’re left alone for long enough.

If you keep dwarf rats, double rex rats or hairless rats then you have chosen rats which produce aggressive members more often than most other breeds. So, keep an eye on them.

A Travel Cage For Your Rat

Yes, you need another cage but this time a completely different design. Sometimes, you have to take your rat elsewhere and if you transport it in its ordinary home that can be fairly problematic (rat cages are too large to easily carry about and you might drop or lose items from it – plus your rat might find the whole experience of a flying house quite terrifying).

So, you need a small animal carrier which is designed to transport your rat. Most of the time, you will probably use this to take the rat to the vet, but you might use it to move it from college to home in vacation time or to move home in too.

There’s quite an impressive selection of carriers out there but the choice you make is nowhere near as important as it is with living quarters. We like to use one that has a window in the side, so that our rats can get a sense of where they are going (rats don’t have great vision – so, they won’t be overawed by this). Just remember never to leave the window in direct sunlight.

Bedding For Your Rat – That Is Safe

A rat’s bedding is also something of a big deal. Rats spend about as much time (or possibly more time) in bed as human beings do and as you might expect – if you wrap up in something all day, it ought to be safe for you to use.

Rats have particularly delicate respiratory systems and you want to ensure that the bedding you choose won’t trigger any kind of injury to this system.

That means no wood-based beddings. These can seriously harm their respiratory system, cause toxic shock or poisoning and are simply to be avoided no matter what they tell you in the pet store.

We like paper/cardboard based beddings but only if they are made of 100% paper and have no added perfume or other potential contaminants. You can also use cloth which is nicely recyclable if you want.

You might also decide to opt for a natural litter, but we’d urge caution with these as choosing the wrong one will harm the rat’s respiratory system.

Never buy anything that has a strong scent or is prone to give off dust. If the material is poisonous to rats when ingested – don’t buy it because you can guarantee that they will eat some of it.

You will know if bedding is a problem because:

  • The rats will start to sneeze all the time
  • They may start to wheeze
  • They will have discharge coming from their nose and their eyes
  • They will cough or choke at random times with no obvious source of discomfort
  • They will start to struggle to breathe

For the complete guide to bedding why not read our article 14 Best Bedding Solutions for Rats.

If you notice these symptoms – clean out the cage and change the material that you are using for bedding.

Alternative Mini-Housing For Rats

OK, this isn’t quite so important, but it is a nice touch. Rats quite like a little space to hideaway in that they can call their own. If you think of their cage as the neighborhood that they live in, then a little house can be very nice.

You can buy plastic igloos, houses, and even edible homes at pet stores or on Amazon. You can also make one from a cardboard box (though it will need replacing regularly). It’s just a nice thig to do and rats will really appreciate it.

Hammocks For Chilling In

Rats are funny things and in the wild they love tunnels and they love climbing trees. What we haven’t seen them do, however, is come up with an alternative to hammocks. Which is odd, because if there’s one household item that rats absolutely love – it’s hammocks.

They love to kick back in a hammock so much that they’ve even been known to move out of their homes to live in hammocks. The good news is that hammocks are very cheap and while they do eventually need replacing, your rat will get a lot of use out of them before you do.

The Materials To Clean The Cage

You should always be ready to clean a rat’s cage at a moment’s notice. We generally remove bedding and litter every day and then do a deep clean about every 7-10 days but you might end up with a sick rat, a dead rat or some other minor disaster at any time and then you’re going to have to spring into action and get cleaning.

You should always have soap and water to hand, we’d hope. But make sure that the soap you use around your rats is as natural as possible and has no scents – you don’t want to hurt their lungs when you clean the cage. Some people prefer white vinegar to soap as it can neutralize the ammonium smell of rat urine.

You also need rubber or plastic gloves. These should, ideally, be disposable to make life easy but if not, they need washing every time you use them.

You should have a face mask for when you do a deep clean, you don’t want to breath in rat poop or bedding material because it can make you sick.

You also need some plastic bags to put things in before you throw them away – that goes for bedding, litter, gloves, mask filters, etc.

If you have to deal with a dead rat – you cannot throw that in the bin, you need to talk to a vet about proper disposal, but you can wrap it in a couple of plastic bags until the.

You might also want to buy some cheap non-toxic bleach to keep on hand because if severe illness breaks out – you may need to completely sterilize the cage.

Food For Your Rat – That Is Designed For Your Rat’s Health

Rats are funny little creatures when it comes to diet. You see because they can eat almost anything, it doesn’t mean that they should eat almost anything. We’ve got a good article here about what rats can and can’t eat in general terms here.

However, the easiest way to feed a rat and keep it healthy and at the right weight is to buy a specially formulated rat food. This will have the low protein, low carb and low fat approach that rats need all from a single source.

Now, if your rat is pregnant you may want to buy a fortified version of the rat’s food until she was weaned in order for her to get the additional nutrients that she will need for the babies.

You can then add treats of a little meat, fruit and vegetables on top. Though “treat” is the operative word – treats shouldn’t make up a large percentage of your rat’s daily consumption.

Good Quality Water Bottles – Avoiding Dehydration

Rats need water and if they go longer than 2 hours without it – they start to become dehydrated which is a fairly dangerous position for a small animal to be in. That means you want to buy a good quality water bottle.

Cheap water bottles tend to disintegrate on first contact with your rat. The rat is a world class chewer and when it gets cheap plastic in its teeth – it bites through it.

Don’t go with a water bowl. It might seem like a good idea but it’s not. The rat will end up walking through it, going to the toilet in it, etc. It’s just not hygienic.

As for drippers? Don’t. They leak. All over the cage. The cage starts to stink to high heaven and your rat will be basically wading in rat sewers. It’s not nice.

Good Quality Food Dishes

Again, the rat’s urge to chew comes into play when it comes to food dishes. Cheap plastic dishes will be lucky to make it through a week or so before you need to go and buy new ones, so it’s best to invest in some decent quality bowls for your rats to eat from.

We like to use ceramic bowls, that’s because they tend to be quite heavy which stops your rats from upending them and sending food all over the place. However, metal or heavy duty plastic may also serve the purpose.

Vitamins and Mineral Supplements For Rats

If you feel that your rats aren’t getting everything that they need from the food stuffs that they eat – then you might want to consider giving them some vitamin and mineral supplements. You can discuss this with your vet before you proceed.

These are very cheap, and they are usually recommended by vets who feel that these supplements can bring about a marked improvement in the animal’s day-to-day health.

A Salt Lick/A Mineral Wheel

These are definitely not compulsory, but you should only need one for the entire lifespan of your rat. By and large rats tend to use these things very, very infrequently and only when their bodies are feeling particularly salt deficient (often in hot weather).

Salt licks are common with other animals such as goats and horses, so your rat won’t be the only pet in the world to occasionally need a bit extra salt in their diet.

Shampoo For When You Need To Bathe Them

You shouldn’t bathe rats on a regular basis – they’re very good at grooming themselves. However, occasionally just like all other pets, rats end up in a bit of a state and one that they won’t be able to groom themselves out of by themselves.

In this case, it’s time for you to give them a bath. Now, if you’ve never bathed a rat before, we’ve got a complete guide on how to do so here on the site. But to cut things short for our “what you need” list – you need a nice gentle, safe, completely non-toxic and unscented shampoo (or in a pinch a dish washing liquid with the same properties will do).

There are some rats (such rexes, hairless, etc.) that need very particular care when being bathed and, in those instances,, you should probably consider using an oatmeal based shampoo which doesn’t irritate their skin.

Antiseptic Creams For When Your Rat Injures Itself

Rats are quite agile and they’re quite prone to both play fighting and fighting. This means that they have a tendency to hurt themselves quite a bit – the most common injuries to rats are, thankfully, very minor and they tend to consist of sores, cuts, scrapes, etc. and nothing more serious.

You should keep a gentle antiseptic agent around for when this happens and be prepared to use it on:

  • Any cuts on the body that are bleeding
  • Any bite wounds (if a bite is very bad – you might need to go to the vet and get it stitched)
  • Any infected scratches or insect bites

You can also treat cuts or tears on the outside of the ear but under no circumstances should you ever put antiseptic, water, or anything else inside a rat’s ear without direct instruction from a vet. A rat’s most valuable sense is its hearing and if you damage it, they may find their lives ruined as a result.

Our recommended brand of antiseptic is Bactine which works very well and is low cost and easy to obtain.

It’s easy to use – simply apply plenty of it to the problem area and then hold the rat for about 5 minutes preventing it from worrying or licking at the wound. After that, rinse the area in warm water, dry, use an ice cube if there is any swelling or if the wound is still bleeding. Then dry again.

Don’t bother trying to bandage up a rat. It will shred a bandage within a couple of minutes of you applying one.

Medical Contacts For Your Rat (A Good Vet)

We hope that your pet rat lives a long, happy life without ever needing to see a vet but we’d strongly recommend that whatever your hopes are – that you have a vet’s telephone number at the ready for emergencies.

It’s always best to track down a vet with real experience of working with rodents. They have some peculiar quirks and a vet who treats rats on a regular basis will know these quirks and be able to work around them.

A List of Local Rat Breeders

If one of your rats passes away, you will need to get another rat (or maybe two) to keep the surviving rat company. As social creatures, rats get very sad if they are left on their own and while they will love having you around – they also need their own kind.

So, make sure that you have some numbers for reputable and ethical breeders in your area if the worst happens. Please try to avoid feeder breeders, not only is what they do kind of cruel – it can also leave the rats quite distressed and harder to socialize when they arrive in your home.

A List of Local Pet Sitters

Sometimes, we plan to go away. Sometimes, it’s thrust upon us. It’s better to be safe than sorry and just have a list of local pet sitters to hand, so that when you know you have to go somewhere – you can arrange care for your rats without any hassle. It keeps stress to a minimum when traveling.

Nursing Bottles (For Dealing With Orphaned Rats)

If you decide to breed or raise rats, then you need to be prepared for the idea that sometimes a mother will die before she can raise her children. So, you need to keep some rat nursing bottles on hand so that you can feed the babies.

Some rat breeders try to keep two rats pregnant at the same time so that one can act as a wet nurse for the other if something goes wrong. However, not all rats are happy to take over nursing another rat’s babies.

Emergency Food For Sick Rats

Sometimes, a rat is so ill that it can’t feed itself and then you’re called upon to feed them. The way to do this is to use a syringe and some high protein, high calorie, high carb liquid food. We like canned baby food for this because it lasts forever until you open it.

A Rat Health Insurance Policy?

Yeah, it sounds ridiculous – right up until the moment that the vet lands you with a hefty bill for your little one’s care. Pet insurance is a real thing and it’s reasonably affordable and an excellent hedge against a huge bill in the future.

This is particularly true if you’re breeding rats and have the possibility of them all getting sick at once. Then the bills can skyrocket.

Treats Because Rats Love Treats

Every rat owner soon leans that it’s important to have a near endless supply of treats to persuade, cajole and bribe their rats with. Diced veggies, fruits and meat are all good for this and there is a nice list of things that rats should and shouldn’t eat here on our site.

Patience, Care and Love

Finally, rats are pets, the same as any other pet and it would be remiss of us to fail to point out how important it is for you to give your pets your love, your care and your patience. It is these things that help you to form the bonds with your rats that will give you and those around you joy and happiness for the lifetime of your animals.

The Basics Of Bonding With Your Rat

Once your rat’s ready – you can start working on building that relationship. Let’s see how you begin:

Wait 1-2 Days After The Rat Arrives

We know, we’ve already said this but it’s so important that we want to stress it again – you want the rat to take a day or two to get used to its home before you try to start interacting with it.

As you begin, don’t throw yourself into the cage and try a full on introduction, start with a little trust exercise, place your hand softly in the cage in full view of your rat and extend it towards the rat but not so far that it feels threatened.

If at any time, the rat starts to puff up or cower, move away and come back and try again later.

However, if you do this right, it will eventually come over to sniff your fingers and it may even let you give it a little stroke.

You should always wash your hands prior to interacting with your rat so that you don’t have any food odors or other odors that might cause distress on you.

You should also wash your hands after playing with your rat for the purposes of good hygiene and to keep any health risks to a minimum.

Use Treats To Make Introductions

Assuming that you passed the initial sniff test (and if you didn’t you should work on this before moving on) then the next step is to try and get your rat keen to see you.

Fortunately, this isn’t the hardest job in the world because rats absolutely love food and if you offer it some food – it will come and chow down happily.

So, get some fresh fruit or veg and cut it up into rat-sized treats or buy special “rat treats” from the pet store and then take a piece and hold it in the palm of your hand.

Put your hand into the cage and just wait for your rat to come over and see what’s what, they will eventually take the treat.

You should do this daily to ensure a strong bond with your rat. Feeding your rat creates a reinforcement cycle that says, “interact with me and life is good”.

However, if the rat doesn’t, yet, have the courage to take the treat – don’t try and make them take it, just come back again later or tomorrow and try again. It will happen eventually rats can’t ignore their stomachs forever.

A Treat Every Time

In fact, offering a treat is so important that we’d say for the first few weeks of keeping a rat that it’s important to offer them a little treat every time you open the cage.

However, we’d keep the treats in a little container and give them a gentle but audible shake so that your rat can hear it before you do. This will help the rat form another association between you, the shake and the treat.

It will help the rat anticipate your visit with excitement because “Hey! Treats!”

You probably don’t want this to go on forever, but it is a good way of really reinforcing the bond in the early part of the rat’s time with you.

Hand Sniffing Is Helpful

There’s a lot of repetition when it comes to training rats and so, there will be a bit of repetition here too. Hand sniffing is a really good way to strengthen the bond with your rat.

This is, just as when you started, when you offer an empty hand to the rat and just let it sniff at it. This is quite important because if your hand only turns up bearing food – well, then your rat might think your hand is food and start chewing on it.

So, as much as treats help the bond, you want them to get used to your scent and realize that you’re a part of their life rather than just the hand of the food dispenser in the sky.

Gentle Petting Is Good

It’s not unusual for rats to resist being petted in the first instance and that’s because they don’t get petted in the wild. So, they’re not pre-programmed to understand what it means.

So, umm… you kind of need to force the issue but without stressing your rat out. So, the idea is simple, every now and again you should pet the rat and then give it a treat for putting up with you.

You should start petting with just a single stroke prior to offering treats and after a week or so of this you can gradually up the ante.

You may find that your rat resists a little during this part of training, that’s OK and expected, keep going – he/she will get used to it.

However, if the rat starts screaming and crying. Back off and come back another time for this.

Despite the forceful nature of this training – rats come to love being petted and you’ll find that if you do it often enough, they start to seek it out.

Let Them Sit In Your Cupped Hand

Once your rat has started to come around to the idea of your presence it’s time to help them get used to being in your hands.

Cup your rat in your palm while keeping your hands very close to the bottom of the cage (maybe an inch or two above it). This allows the rat to get down if it feels it’s had enough.

You shouldn’t start this until your rat seems to be comfortable with your presence and takes food/treats from your hand.

Start with just a minute or two of this and try to work up to about 5 minutes. This way they get happier about being handled.

5-20 Minutes A Day Of Exposure

Once they hit that 5 minute barrier. It’s time to pick them up out of the cage and see if they can handle that. Start with 5 minutes and gradually work your way up to 20 minutes.

This way, your rat is going to get used to the idea of being out of its home in your protective company.

You should give your rat gentle words of praise and encouragement at this phase. You can also give them a treat every now and again during the “ride”.

The Sweatshirt Ride

You will need a sweatshirt for this but if you have one with a front pouch, once your rat is happy to be carried for 20 minutes at a time – you can pop it into the pouch (do it while you’re sitting down, just in case your rat falls out).

They like the warmth of the pocket, the darkness of it and the fact that it smells of you and they may be happy to stay in there for even longer than they sit in your hands. This means your rat can keep you company while you sit on the couch and watch TV, for example.

When To Say “No”

You must never, ever punish a rat physically for bad behavior. That’s because your rat is tiny, and you are huge (comparatively speaking). Even the gentlest of remonstrations could badly hurt or injure your rat.

However, that doesn’t mean that your rat shouldn’t learn when it’s being naughty. You just have to do it the right way.

If your rat bites you or misbehaves you can clap your hands together and then give it a quick “No!” in a stern tone (but not in a raised voice). The objective is to let them know that this isn’t OK, and they shouldn’t do it in future. They will learn.

Keep In Touch

Rats are very smart, but they don’t always have the longest of memories. When you want to effectively build up some rapport in the early days of owning a rat – you should visit it regularly throughout the day.

Stop for a little chat – talk to the rat in a low, pleasant voice and then maybe let it sniff your hand. You might even give it a quick pet.

One word of caution here: it’s important to make sure your rat is awake before you touch it. If you surprise awaken your rat – expect a bite for your trouble and don’t scold the rat when it does bite, this one’s on you.

Consider Clicker Training

If a rat is very shy and you’re having real problems to get it to interact with you. You might try clicker training. That is when you use a clicker to create a positive reinforcement when paired with treats (or toys).

When the rat does something good, click the clicker and then give it a treat. This is best done as soon as the desired behavior manifests itself.

Clickers are available from Amazon or in a pet store. There are some decent videos on YouTube that demonstrate this technique including this one:

First make sure your bathroom is warm. Bathing in a cold, drafty bathroom will make anybody ill.
Make a nice bath for your ratties. 1 or 2 inches of lukewarm water is more than enough. Put some bath toys, berries or whatever in the pail and put it on the ground in the shower or empty bathtub.
Chances are they won't be impressed by it, but some rats do like to swim.
Whatever you do, don't stick your rat is the pail. Just let them walk around the bathroom or empty tub, feed them the peas or berries and let them explore the pail on their own time. This way the rats are calm, not trying to run or scratch to escape. As long as they're concerned, it's just play time.

Sit next to them on the ground or on a little chair. Dip the cotton pad, washcloth, sponge or whatever in the bathwater and just calmly sponge-bathe your ratties. They won't fight you and will just start grooming their self. You don't have to hold them or anything. Just let them walk around and sponge them until they're soaked.
They might want to come keep warm next to you or on your lap, it's all good, as long as nobody is distressed or afraid, it's all just part of a nice fun bath. Heck, they might even start swimming on their own!

How Long Can a Pet Rat Go Without Food or Water?

How Long Can a Pet Rat Go Without Food or Water

Rats are very resilient and cunning creatures- they can sniff out food or water easily while living in cities or the wild. However, if you have a pet rat, you need to provide consistent access to food and water, just like you would any other pet.

So, how long can a pet rat go without food or water? Rats can survive without any food for roughly four days and can live for up to a month without direct water intake if their food contains a high water content. However, they shouldn’t go more than a day without water, as they become dehydrated.

This article also details how much food and water is necessary for a pet rat, what you can safely feed them, foods to avoid, and other needs your pet rat has outside of food and water.

Watch the video: BATHING RATS u0026 TRIMMING NAILS?! . KristenLeannimal

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