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"Hi First of all I'd like to say that it's good to see another site with information about rats. I've been a rat owner for many years, and I think they make fantastic pets. I would, however like to point out some information. Almost all rats will show signs of Mycoplasma Pulmonis or "myco" (pneumonia). (More on this later). They are also very prone to tumours, which are usually benign and easily removed by a vet. I'd add a note that it's important to have a contact vet before buying rats, as there will almost certainly be reason to go at some point in the rat's life. This can get expensive, their vet bills are not cheap. I've seen a rat with a benign tumour three inches across that the rat was dragging behind him because the owner didn't want to pay to take him to a vet. Secondly "when buying a rat"... also "listen for any sign of wheezing". Any sign of the rat squeaking that is not a distinct "eep" is myco (pneumonia) and needs to be treated by a vet IMMEDIATELY to avoid lung scarring which can later lead to other health issues. Also it's important to always buy more than one rat as rats are social creatures and need company. Females are livelier than males and will be more "fun". Males are quiet and will be more "cuddly". Environment: A handy guide to calculating cage size is two cubic foot per rat, which means the minimum cage size for two rats would be 4 cubic feet. Rats are very active and need space to move around. Rats can't tolerate as high temperatures as we can, and too hot is more serious than too cold. If a human is feeling "warm" then your rat is probably too hot. If you live in a warm area don't buy rats. Don't keep rats in sunlight, and if it's an unusually warm day make sure they have plenty of water. A good "house" for rats is a hammock. Just tie a piece of old clothing, about 1' x 1' up by the corners and you'll find your rats love sleeping in it, or just lying there observing the world. You can make double layer hammocks too, and the rats will crawl between the layers. For bedding pine shavings should never be used since the phenols in the wood (the nice smell) cause lung damage. Nutrition: You should add something to the cage with calcium, since rats need a lot. Bird calcium stones are good for this. Social behaviour: No, one rat is not ok. You may think you can spend a lot of time with the rat at first, but nobody has as much time for a rat as another rat would, and they need companionship for grooming, playing, etc. Most rat "fights" you will see are actually the rats tickling each other. Rats have the same "tickly tissue" us humans have and they love flipping each other on their backs and tickling. When they do this they "laugh" although the sound is too high pitched for the human ear to hear. Breeding: Putting one male in with several females is a recipe for disaster! Each female could have 15 kittens, which would mean 45 extra rats if three females were in the cage with one male. True, sometimes they might only have, say, 7 kittens, but that's not a risk to be taken. Also before breeding you should know where you are going to rehome the rats. Breeding and giving to a petstore just for the sake of seeing you rats breed is not a good idea, however cute it may seem. Fathers can NOT be left in with mothers, since the mother can (and probably will) get pregnant again the SAME DAY she gives birth, which means she will have a runty second litter as she is still feeding the first litter. Female rats can reach sexual maturity in 5 weeks, which is earlier than the males. If the father is left in the cage you will have all the female kittens pregnant after 5 weeks, as well as the mother. Ailments/ treatments: For any of the ailments I'd recommend going to a vet immediately. Any sign of sluggishness is probably a sign of sickness, watch the rat closely. Any redness around the eyes or nose is porphyrin, which is a sign of stress (like tears in humans). Porphyrin is probably a sign that your rat is sick, and you should see a vet. A common misconception: Any sound at all, apart from a clear "eep" when the rats are playing, or hurt themselves (or someone tries to steal their food, etc) is a respiratory problem. Rats DO NOT "talk" to their owners with small grunting squeaks - this is a respiratory illness and has to be treated as soon as possible with antibiotics. Please feel free to verify anything I've said with a rat club, such as the Rat and Mouse Club of America: www.rmca.org, who have a very informative website. Regards, Johanna"
"Johanna Slotte"

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