General Care Information

Rats

Supply List:

-Water bottle (Filtered water is best. BPA-free plastic bottle or glass)

-Litter pans (If litter training is desired)

-Species appropriate bedding/litter. See recommended options in the "Cage & Bedding Info" section.

-Hammocks (Cotton is recommended - wash every four days)

-Toys (Make sure you have a lot of safe toys)

-Fish Mox (250mg), a cool mist humidifier. Being prepared may save you a vet trip.

-Wheel for exercise (Optional)

-Oxbow food and fresh foods. There are other good brands, but oxbow adult formula is recommended above all other rat food brands. You can find it locally at “Pet Supply Plus” or you can order it online. Because it's for adults, you should provide a little extra protein daily until they reach 6 months old. For two young rats, half an egg daily will work great. You can offer it raw, scrambled, or hard boiled. You also need to provide fresh fruits and veggies every day.

-Draft free room out of direct sun rays

TIP: Avoid rat roaming balls (Hamster balls, but larger). While they may seem like a harmless and fun idea, many agree that they can be dangerous for a rat’s long toes. Rat’s tend not to like them much anyway. You’re much better off looking into a climb-resistant playpen (sold on Amazon) or rat proofing the room for free ranging.

Hamsters

Pet stores love to label Syrian hamsters with cute names to help them sell (such as teddy bear, black bear, panda, etc). Of course, the reality is they are all just Syrians with different traits. Syrians MUST be kept alone. They are solitary animals and will likely fight to the death after a certain age. Even if they don't fight, being together will stress them out and shorten their life span.

If you're thinking about adding a hamster to your home, you'll need:

-A cage.  It's highly recommended to provide as much space as possible for your hamster(s) to help keep them from going bored. Small cages stress hamsters and give them anxiety. Hamsters greatly prefer ample floor space instead of climbing space. The minimum cage size is 450 square inches.

-Chews. Hamsters love to chew on blocks or baked apple/grape wood. This helps keep them mentally stimulated. I sell chews and chew toys. See the "Items for Sale" section.

-Toys.

-Water bottles. Chew proof glass bottles are ideal.

-Food. See the "Food Options" page for recommendations.

-Bedding. See the "Cage & Bedding Info" section.

-Wheels. This is considered a must. Hamsters love wheels! Avoid wire wheels. The minimum wheel size for a Syrian is 9 inches with 10-12 being ideal.

Food Options

Here is a list of yummy fresh foods and commercial foods you can feed. Safe fresh foods are not limited to this list. Providing these foods in organic is ideal, but of course not required. 

Rat's list:

Rats need a commercial diet to provide vitamins and minerals. The best diets are the following in order.

Commercial food:

-Oxbow Regal Adult Rat Formula (what I recommend)
-Harlan Teklad
-Mazuri (very affordable option)
.

Hamster's list

Hamsters have a sensitive system so only offer small amounts of fresh foods at a time. Hams prefer bugs and seeds, but some enjoy fruits, veggies, and nuts. Hamsters need a commercial diet which ideally is a mix of lab block and seed mixes.

Commercial Diet (Seed Mixes):

VitaKraft VitaNature - recommended
VitaKraft VitaSmart - recommended
National Geographic Hamster Entree - recommended
Higgins Sunburst - recommended
Higgins Vita Garden - recommended 

Carefresh Complete Menu
Mr. Johnson's Supreme Hamster & Gerbil
Natural Balance Hamster Muesli by Pets at Home
Scarlett Hamster & Gerbil
Sunseed Sunsations Hamster & Gerbil
Versele Laga Hamster Nature Complete
Versele Laga Mini Hamster Nature Complete

(Lab blocks)
Harlan Teklad 24% protein baby/growth formula - Highly recommended. Here is the ebay seller I source from. Mixing this lab block with a seed mix is an ideal food choice: https://www.ebay.com/usr/ecosandy?_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2754

Kaytee Healthy Support Diet for Rat, Mouse, and Hamster (Forti-Diet Pro-Health)
Living World Green Hamster, Mouse, and Gerbil Food
Martin Little Friends Hamster & Gerbil Food
Mazuri Rat & Mouse
Mr. Johnson’s Advance Hamster and Gerbil Food
Sunseed Critter Cubes
Supreme Science Selective
Versele Laga Hamster Complete

Dewormer

I highly recommend offering your rats or hamster raw de-shelled pumpkin seeds to naturally deworm them. Offering them once a month will ensure parasites don't host your pet(s)! Parasites can come from other pets or their food. You can find the raw pumpkin seeds online or in most health food stores. Some animal feed stores also sell them. You rats and hamsters only need 3-5 seeds to ensure any possible hosts are removed. I use this method to keep hosts out of my critters.

Rat Cages

The cages shown below are acceptable homes for your rats. Below the picture is the name of the cage, the size, and my opinion on it. I have personally owned many of these cages. Your choices for a cage are NOT limited to the following.

double

The critter nation (double unit shown above) 

You can't go wrong with this cage! It is the #1 recommended rat cage by fellow owners and breeders. This cage is large. For the double unit the dimensions are 24" x 36" x 63". The critter nation (CN) features high quality materials and design with full-width double doors that simplify cleaning, feeding, and accessing your rats. This makes cleaning easier! It can fit up to 12 rats in the double unit depending on how the space is used and what sex you have. The single allows for up to 6 rats depending on their size. A tip for this cage is buying the large cement mixing tub at home depot. Inserting it on the bottom unit of the double will act as a large litter pan that can allow bedding to be used. I use the tub in all of my critter nation sections. The best websites to buy it are drsfostersmith.com and Amazon.com.

Pros:

  • High quality design and materials
  • Double doors mean easy access cleaning
  • You can have a lot of rats in this cage which is great if you decide to get more
  • Easy to assemble - You only need a rubber hammer to put it together
  • A home depot cement mixing bin will help with bedding containment
  • Small bar spacing -  no chance of escape at any age if doors are closed properly

Cons:

  • Pricy - It's hard to find the double under $200
  • Takes up a lot of space
  • Litter training might be required due to lack of bedding containment trays
  • To avoid litter training, bedding containment pans/tubs should be purchased
per

Prevue Pet Products Rat & Chinchilla Critter Cage

This cage is a good size and has closely spaced bars. It is pretty sturdy and made rather well. It has a drop tray, wheels, and solid metal shelves. The size is 31 x 20.5 x 40 inches. I personally feel up to four females and up to three males would be comfortable in this cage.

Pros:

  • Not too big but still roomy - Allows a good number of rats
  • Has a drop tray so litter training is not really needed
  • Made pretty well
  • Small bar spacing - escape when door is closed properly is impossible
  • Not too pricy - often on sale for only $88 on chewy.com - regularly $130ish

Cons:

  • It's hard to clean the shelves - Urine and poop tend to cake onto the shelving
  • Hard to assemble
  • Rats pee in the corners and it runs down the legs of the cage onto the floor
tower

The Rat Tower (R-690) - Martin's Cage 

This cage can be ordered off martinscages.com. I used to own the powdered coated version and I would recommend that option over the galvanized version. It has multiple levels and ample space for a Kaytee silent spinner wheel. I would say up to five girls or four boys would be happy in this cage. Dimensions: 24" x 14" x 36"

Pros:

  • Great use of vertical space allowing a good amount of rats for the cage size
  • Escape proof
  • Easy to clean if no fleece is used
  • Easy to use a silent spinner wheel in this cage
  • Plenty of space for toys

Cons:

  • Bars will need to be wiped down regularly to keep them clean
  • Cleaning the pan requires you to take entire cage off pan
  • Cage needs to be hosed down monthly
r-699

The Ruud Cage (R-699) - Martin's cage

This cage can be ordered off martinscages.com. This cage is a good size. It features seven levels including the bottom. I would say up to 8 males or 10 females would live comfortably in this cage based on its design. Dimensions: 30" x 18" x 60"

Pros:

  • Good amount of rats will fit comfortably in this cage
  • You can fit a lot of toys
  • You can fit a Kaytee silent spinner wheel in this cage
  • Escape proof
  • Easy to clean if no fleece is used

Cons:

  • Almost $200 and possibly more for shipping
  • You will need to wipe down the floor bars to keep them clean
  • Cleaning the pan requires you to take entire cage off pan which is a little annoying
  • Cage needs to be hosed down monthly
p-96224-89555K_002

You & Me Rat Manor

This cage is more compact that some other options here. It's dimensions are 16.5'' x 22.5'' x 32''. Great for apartments and homes with limited space, but there are some cons to consider. If space is used carefully it can fit max 2 males or max 3 females.

Pros:

  • Compact cage great for tight apartment living
  • Careful use of space allows for three females
  • Closely spaced bars - perfect for babies
  • Climbing space
  • Inexpensive cage option
  • Easily found in stores
  • Shelves can be removed for cleaning

Cons:

  • Entire cage must be removed from the base for cleaning
  • Base tray is not very deep - bedding easily kicked out of cage limits
  • If your rats toilet on the shelves, urine and feces will fall out of cage limits
ff

The Feisty Ferret Prevue cage (Model CG-29092) -NOT recommended. 

This cage is NOT GOOD FOR BABIES. It features four different levels and it has a drop floor. This cage is smaller than the Critter Nation double and although you may like it, there are a lot of cons to it. What you save in initial cost will not really "pay off" because the bar spacing is too wide for babies so hardwire clothe will need to be wrapped around the cage. In my opinion, the max number of girls would be 8 and the max number of boys would be 7 depending on their size. Dimensions: 31-Inch long, 20-inch wide, 54-inch high including stand. 

Pros:

  • Cheaper than the critter nation. Usually around $160 or less
  • Has a drop tray that allows you to not need litter training
  • You can fit a good number of rats in this cage

Cons:

  • Poorly made - very cheap materials
  • The drop pan is not deep enough for certain beddings
  • The shelves are hard to remove for cleaning
  • Bars spacing is 7/8" - too wide for babies
  • If pushed around too much the welding on the legs may snap
  • Hard to assemble
cage 1

Mcage - 3 Levels Ferret Chinchilla Sugar Glider Rats Animal Cage

The design of this cage maximizes space for your pets. This cage would house up to 6 dwarf rats comfortably. Two smaller standard rats would probably be happy with this set up, but I don't think it would be good for two big standard boys unless you provide a lot of out-of-cage time. You can find this cage for sale on Amazon. Dimensions are 24 x 16 x 24 inches.

Pros:

  • Good sized cage and doesn't take up much room - great for tight apartment living
  • The drop pan is low down so the rats can't disturb the bedding
  • Very good price at only about $50 plus shipping
  • Perfect for dwarf rats
  • Easy to clean
  • Made well
  • Easy to store
  • Very easy to assemble
  • Design means it's very unlikely they will escape

Cons:

  • Can only house two standard females , not ideal for standard males without a lot of pen play time
  • You can fit a fair amount of things in it, but the space fills up quickly
kaytee cage

Kaytee multi level exotics cage

This cage is a good size. It's a good price and allows for climbing, but there are a fair amount of cons to consider. You can find this cage in most pet stores or online. Amazon sells it for about $84 generally. Dimensions: 30.5" L x 18" W x 30" H.

Pros:

  • Good price - about $84 on Amazon
  • Bars are spaced closely together - perfect for babies
  • Can fit 3-4 standard males or 4-6 females or up to 8 dwarf
  • Easy to assemble

Cons:

  • Hard to clean
  • Doors are not very big
  • Not escape proof - bottom made of chewable plastic
  • Shelves and ramps can also be chewed

Hamster Cages

These cages are suitable for Syrian hamsters. A hamster cage MUST be a minimum of 450 square inches of unbroken floor space and will need to have 1/2 inch bar spacing or smaller. I no longer recommend the Lixit Animal Care Savic Hamster Haven Metro cage due to reports of young hamsters escaping.

cage kaytee

Kaytee Bigger Crittertail Super Habitat

This is a suitable cage for a hamster of any age.

Pros:

  • Large spacious cage
  • Attractive color
  • Very deep pan which allows lots of bedding for digging
  • Relatively easy to clean
  • Climbing ramp included

Cons:

  • The plastic could be of better quality
  • Clips are noted to be fragile
  • More money at around $80-$90
  • The only access door is on top which makes handling a little difficult
41zMdWtKT4L._SL500_AC_SS350_

Prevue Pet 528 Universal Small Animal Home

This cage is a great choice and one I highly recommend. Large, well made and expensive, this option has a lot of pros.

Pros:

  • Large cage provides plenty of space
  • Easy to assemble
  • Easy to clean
  • Handles to easy carry
  • Large doors
  • Cheap! Only about $66 on Amazon
  • Climbing ramp included

Cons:

  • With this design, there are chew-able plastic parts
bin cage

Bin Cage 

These crafty cages are hand made using a storage bin! I personally use these cages for my hamsters and opossums. Bin cages can also be used for two dwarf rats. You can make one yourself or you can order one from me! Most people who choose this cage order one pre-made from the breeder because once you buy the materials required, you don't save much money going through the work of making one yourself. See the "Items for Sale" section for pricing on bin cage orders.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • You can make it yourself or order one from me
  • Nice, compact size that can easily fit in any room
  • Escape proof
  • Allows for proper ventaliation
  • Provides ample space for your hamster/dwarf rats
  • Can be used as permanent housing for hamsters/dwarf rats
  • Very easy to clean
  • All bedding types are easily used with bin cages

Cons:

  • Difficult to assemble, requires patience
  • Materials to make your own require wire cutters, expensive wire, a hot knife to cut plastic, binder clips, and time

Bedding & Litters for Rats & Hamsters

Below are some bedding choices and some quick information on them. The choice of bedding is completely up to you. Most of these can be used in litter pans or as general bedding. The order of this list has no significance. I only listed pros and cons on some of these options. Your recommended options are the following:

  • Kiln dried pine
  • Aspen
  • Shredded paper, newspaper, cardboard (best to mix with pine or aspen)
  • Sani Chips
  • Fleece (not recommended)
  • "Yesterday's news" litter
  • Corn cob bedding
ppap

Shredded paper (Micro cut shown)

pppp

Pine shavings

aspen

Aspen

sani

Sani Chips

corn cob

Corn Cob bedding

yyyyy

Yesterday's news litter (for litter pans)

fleece

Fleece fabric

Paper bedding (carefresh or shredded paper/newspaper/cardboard) mixed with Aspen - BEST OPTION! 

Aspen does a good job at controlling ammonia when enough is added to the paper bedding. It has no phenol like kiln dried pine and mixes well with other bedding. Aspen mixed with paper bedding is a great choice. You can also use just Aspen.

Pros:

  • Controls ammonia well
  • All natural
  • Usually low dust
  • Controls odor
  • No worry about small levels of phenol

Cons:

  • Aspen is more money than pine

Shredded paper, Newpaper, and/or cardboard mixed with Kiln Dried Pine 

Good choice for a home on a budget. The best pine brand in my opinion is PetsPick Natural Pine Bedding which can be found at Walmart. You can also source pine from Agway or Shirley Feed Store. Aspen is a better choice compared to pine though.

Pros:

  • Cheap, easy to supply
  • Saves money to mix the pine and paper together
  • Light weight
  • Controls ammonia very well
  • Controls smell well
  • Only needs to be changed once a week depending on number of rats
  • Paper "dilutes" the low levels of phenol in the pine

Cons:

  • Requires you to own a shredder for the paper
  • Pine can have slight levels of phenol left over after kiln drying process
  • Some rats are sensitive to pine
  • Has some dust

Fleece cage lining - NOT RECOMMENDED 

Fleece is generally used to line the cage. Some rat owners use this option to cover the shelves and provide a soft surface. Fleece should not be used by itself; it needs to be used with litter pans and litter training. Fleece has a lot of cons. I have used it for a while in the past and I don't recommend it.

Pros:

  • Makes the cage very pretty - fleece comes in many patterns
  • Provides a soft surface for their feet

Cons:

  • Frequent changes are a must - every single day  or every 2 days if a puppy pad is used underneath
  • Changing the fleece is a lot of work
  • Doesn't neutralize ammonia, urine sits on top of the fabric and evaporates into their lungs
  • Doesn't control smell
  • Requires you to litter train
  • Must be used with a litter for the litter boxes
  • Some rats chew fleece which can be a real pain
  • Without frequent fleece washing, ammonia builds quickly and burns their lungs leading to chronic URIs.

Plain paper beddings (Shredded paper/cardboard/newspaper) - NOT RECOMMENDED 

A major issue to using paper bedding by itself is that it does NOTHING to control ammonia. Ammonia is dangerous and it quickly builds up in the cage without a control. It's important to have an ammonia neutralizer or you may have issues with upper respiratory infections. Ammonia is from their urine and it can permanently harm your rats/hamster's by scaring their lungs.

Pros:

  • Depending on the type of paper bedding you use, it's very absorbent
  • Can make the cage feel fresh and tidy

Cons:

  • Does nothing to control dangerous ammonia
  • Requires very frequent cage cleanings to be safe (every other day)
  • Does nothing to control smell - it controls smell better than fleece, but doesn't have truly effective control