American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the WSSF 2016 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Beginners’ Corner

Fleas On Rats

By Karen Robbins

Juliana Siqueira, Brazil, Facebook
Q Hello there! I am from Brazil and recently decided to get some rats! When I was a child I had hamsters but those guys are different. First we had one male rat which had a very friendly and curious personality. We used to walk him all over the place but a fatality took him away. My husband and I felt that we loved that little one so much that we needed to carry on. We bought a bigger cage, and when we arrived at the shop we saw just two of them sleeping together. Without hesitation we took both of them home. They were very scared. But slowly we started to get closer. The problem is that they are still very shy and scared after 1 month. We spend at least 2 hours a day with them but they keep peeing, pooping, and hiding like the world is ending. I feel sorry for them and ask myself if they are happy. We love them a lot but their behaviour worries us and we really want them to ask us to be with us like the previous one Snack, but the only thing they want is to run back to their house. Any advice on that?


Next question is about fleas. We found some fleas on my cat and his Frontline treatment is due to expire. I saw one flea on Gordo and now I can’t find information about which kind of medication I can use on my cat and if there is any medication for the rats.

I hope you can help us. We want to improve as rat parents!

A One thing I recommend to anyone who buys rats from me is to not give them any houses or hidey places for the first couple weeks so they get used to all the new things quicker. Also, talk to them and give them a treat every time you go by the cage (open the cage door and try giving them a treat with your fingers; if they don’t take it, then leave it for them).

One thing one of our members did for the pet shop rats she had bought over the years that were afraid (like yours), is to have them out on her (had a snuggle scarf for them to be in while with her; you could also use a regular scarf or jacket with a hood) for several hours a day (she went about her daily activities with them on her in the scarf).

Also, have the cage in the active part of the house. When you have them out, don’t stay near the cage so they can see it and just want to go back inside.

Another thing to consider is the size of the cage. How big is the new cage you have now? It may be too big for these two right now and putting them in the smaller cage will be better for a few more weeks (it will require more cleaning but they will get handled even more—most rats are raised in smaller breeding cages and a really big cage is overwhelming for some babies).

Since they were from a pet shop, you don’t know how much/if any socialization they received, the temperament of the parents, their age, etc., which makes your job even harder. In the photo they look like they are only around 6–7 weeks old, so if you have had them a month, they were sold WAY too young. Rats will molt into adult coat at 6–8 weeks of age, which is the age they are ready to go to new homes. Unfortunately, it is all too common to see rats that should still be with mom being sold in pet shops or other places. Rats nurse for 4–5 weeks and need to be with mom for not only the nursing aspect but also for the ratty socialization they need.

Since it looks like they are still babies, their diet also needs to be different—more protein/fat so they grow properly (I give dog kibble in addition to the lab blocks which are 24% protein/4% fat; you can add small amounts of scrambled eggs, nutrition drink supplement (we have Ensure and Boost here), dog/cat kibble, cottage cheese, cooked oatmeal, Total cereal, dog biscuits, nuts, etc., to their normal diet. See these articles for more info:

The peeing and pooping is a fear response. Rats that haven’t been handled much, are very nervous, don’t have the genetics to be tame, or babies that aren’t used to different people will do this. Constant handling will help in most cases. Some articles you can read for more info on getting the rats to not be so afraid:

Treatment for the rats for parasites is usually Ivermectin or Revolution—your vet can give you the proper dose and treatment. If you have fleas on your pets, then treatment of the environment is also necessary. *

February 20, 2019