A half a million households in the U.S. own pet rats or mice, yet because of the revulsion many people have toward wild rats, pet rats are often misunderstood and mistreated. At many pet shops, veterinary hospitals and animal shelters, pet rats "get no respect" and therefore don't get the care they need or deserve.
We formed the Rat Assistance & Teaching Society (R.A.T.S.) to educate people about pet rats and to teach animal care professionals the proper care of rats.
We invite you to join RATS and help us help rats! (Please click the join/donate link above.)
~ Our Mission Statement ~
We believe domestic rats should be respected as pets and treated as humanely as any other pet.
You will find lots of info about the care of rats, lists of rescue groups, vets, and breeders, and much more on the website of our sister organization, The Rat Fan Club.
Here are the main problems:
At most pet shops, rats are not treated as valued pets but as cheap disposable food for reptiles. Many shops keep their rats in crowded, dirty conditions, letting sick rats suffer and die without medical care. Even if rats are kept in better conditions, they rarely have toys to play with in their cages.
Even when rats are sold as pets, many pet shops keep the males and females together, guaranteeing that most of the females will be pregnant when they go to their new homes. These pregnant rats are babies having babies, some of them no more than 6 weeks older than their offspring.
Many pet shops also keep their rodents on pine shavings, which results in damage to their respiratory tract. Softwood shavings such as pine and cedar shavings contain acids that destroy cells in the respiratory tract. These shavings also contain toxic phenols which are absorbed through the lungs and can cause long term damage such as enlarged livers, altered immune response, and loss of fertility and declining litter size.
Many pet shops buy their rats from "rat-mills," companies that mass-produce rats without regard to health, temperament or socialization.
Most veterinarians are ignorant about rats, so therefore do not treat rats. Some veterinarians are even scornful of rats, asking rat owners why they bother bringing a rat in for treatment when they can just go buy another instead. This makes it very difficult for some rat owners to find proper veterinary care for their pets.
There are some veterinarians who do treat rats, and some of these are very knowledgeable and experienced. Other veterinarians mean well, but don't have all the knowledge they need to successfully treat all rat health problems. Unfortunately, not much rat medicine is taught in veterinary schools.
Some animal shelters don't even try to find homes for rats but automatically euthanize them. Other shelters put rats in a dingy back room where they are often neglected and stand little chance of adoption. Some shelters are so ignorant of basic rat care that they feed the rats rabbit food. Some shelters care so little about the welfare of rats that they don't separate the sexes and when females give birth, remove the babies to be fed to snakes. Only a few shelters actively try to promote the adoption of pet rats. Yet, even when rats are put up for adoption they are often kept in small cages without any toys.
The goals of R.A.T.S. are numerous and ambitious. Here are the main goals:
For an update on the progress we have made toward reaching our goals, see the Program Progress page. If you have any ideas to add to these goals, or suggestions for how these goals can be accomplished, please let us know!
- To educate all owners and managers of pet shops that sell rats on the proper care of rats, and to convince them to treat the rats as humanely as other pets. Specifically:
- To educate them on respiratory disease and how to minimize and treat it.
- To convince them to house male and female rats separately to stop baby rats getting pregnant.
- To eliminate the use of toxic pine and cedar shavings for small animal bedding.
- To reduce (and ultimately to eliminate) selling live rodents for reptile food. (This practice is already illegal in England.)
- To encourage stores to buy rats from responsible breeders who socialize their rats instead of mass-produced barely-socialized rats.
To educate all veterinarians who treat pocket pets (or "exotics") on the effective and practical treatments that we have discovered through the collective experience of hundreds of rat owners. To try to reach veterinary students to instill a respect for rats from the start. Specifically, we want to educate veterinarians on:
The most effective treatments for both mycoplasma and secondary respiratory infections.
- The prevalence of congestive heart failure and the most effective treatments.
- The benefits of spaying female rats to prevent mammary and pituitary tumors.
- The best way to neuter male rats.
- Nursing techniques for rats.
- Using tamoxifen to treat cancerous mammary tumors.
- Common rat behaviors mistaken for illnesses.
To educate the managers of animal shelters on the proper care of rats and to support them in their efforts to adopt out homeless rats. Specifically:
- To educate them on proper housing (including toys), bedding and food for rats.
- To suggest policies on taking in and adopting out homeless rats.
- To present ideas for promoting the adoption of pet rats.
Rat Assistance & Teaching Society
857 Lindo Lane
Chico CA 95973