How to Keep Your Pet Rats Cool During Summer
Is It Too Hot for My Pet Rats?
The summer months are approaching, and the days are full of sunshine and warmth. The rising temperatures may feel nice to you, but what about your pet rats? As nocturnal animals, rats haven’t evolved with the ability to endure excessively hot or humid temperatures; pet rats thrive in temperatures between the low sixties and mid seventies. When exposed to greater heat for long periods of time, rats are in danger of heat stress, heat stroke, and even heart attacks. High temperature locations are not suitable for your lovable pet rats.
As a rat owner, you might be unsure if your house is too warm for your pet rats, so how can you tell? There are a variety of symptoms rats display when they are experiencing excess heat and humidity. The most noticeable symptoms include:
eating less food
- hot tail, nose, and ears
If your rats are moving around a lot less or more slowly, this could be a sign that it is too hot for them to handle. Pet rats are fairly active animals—my two girls love to run around the cage hiding food or chasing each other. Think about how you feel when it’s too hot outside; you’d likely be less motivated to mow the lawn, run laps around the block, or even move from your lawn chair. If your rat seems less motivated to move around, this might be a warning sign.
Did You Know?
Did you know that rats use their tails to regulate heat in their bodies? When they are hot, they don't sweat or pant—they direct heat through the blood vessels flowing to their tail, where it is released from the body!
Eating Less and Drinking More
Aside from being less active, overheated rats will eat less food than usual. If you notice the food bowl staying full throughout the day when it is usually being emptied, this is a possibility. It is also likely that your rats will be drinking more water than usual if they are feeling overheated. Keep an eye on the water bottle(s) to monitor how much water they are drinking throughout the day. Always make sure they have enough water at the start of the day!
Hot rats love to lay down, stretched out as far as possible with their feet out behind them to soak up as much cold as they can. Rats sprawling around the cage where they don’t usually sleep is a red flag when it comes to hot temperatures. If there is a cool spot in the cage, like a brick or tile, they might be monopolizing that surface area to try to cool off. Try touching their tail, nose and ears: if they feel warm, they are feeling the heat and need to be cooled down.
How to Keep Your Pet Rats Cool
So how do you keep your pet rats cool for the summer? For most of us, it’s easier than you think. The general rule for rats is that if it feels too hot for you, it’s definitely too hot for them! While the temperature indoors is usually much cooler than it is outdoors, precautions should be taken to be sure that your pet rats are staying cool and comfortable. Try checking the weather often to keep an eye out for upcoming heat waves and high temperatures so you know what to expect. Even if you don’t usually experience very high summer temperatures, it never hurts to be prepared! As a pet rat owner, you should do the following in the summer months:
1. Keep Your Pet Rats Indoors
Rats are strictly indoor pets; keeping pet rats outdoors or in an outdoor structure (such as a hutch or shed) is not advised because rats do not handle the heat well. Unlike dogs or other pets, rats do not sweat or pant to release heat (as mentioned earlier, a panting rat is a bad sign!). Pet rats rely on their tails to release heat, and haven’t evolved to deal with the high temperatures that the summer months can bring. If you are keeping your rats outdoors, you aren’t doing it at your own risk - you are doing it at their risk.
2. Have a Reliable Air Conditioner
To keep your rats’ room cool, an air conditioner is the best option. Most people own at least one air conditioner in their home; be sure that the rat’s cage is in a room where there is a workable air conditioner. Try setting the air conditioner to maintain a certain temperature (like 68 or 70 degrees) so that when you leave the house your rats will continue to stay cool. If you cannot leave it on while you are gone, make sure to have it on hours before you have to leave to cool down the room.
3. Have Plenty of Air Ventilation
Fresh air is key to a healthy, happy rat. Some pet owners feel the need to house their rats in a basement or cellar with no ventilation because their parents or roommates do not want them anywhere else. Lack of fresh air can be detrimental to your rat’s health and contribute even more to heat stroke or stress. A rat without fresh air is more likely to get a respiratory infection, so keep your rat cage in a room with windows; if you don't have an air conditioner, at least use fans to distribute the heat and fresh air. Avoid aiming fans directly at your rat’s cage - this can create a draft and cause respiratory illness.
Did You Know?
Did you know that closing the blinds and curtains during the day can keep your house cooler naturally? That's because they will block out the rays on a sunny day and keep out the heat! Try closing your windows during the day and opening them at night to keep the house full of cool air!
4. Keep a Constant Room Temperature
As you are keeping your rats cool during the summer months, try to keep your room’s temperature more or less stable. Constantly fluctuating temperatures can stress out your rat buddies and contribute to illness. This is why having an air conditioner is especially helpful; setting it to maintain one temperature throughout the summer season can keep the temperature level and your rats happy.
How to Prevent Heat Stroke in Pet Rats
If your pet rats are in immediate danger of being overheated, having a heat stroke or heart attack, there are some actions you can take to cool them down quickly. This could be the result of not having the means to keep your rats cool or losing the ability to do so because of an emergency (power outages, being away from home, etc). If you notice the signs of an overheated rat, act fast to cool your furry friend and potentially save his life! Try these quick and temporary fixes:
1. Freeze Filled Plastic Water Bottles
By freezing bottles full of water and placing them around your rat’s cage, you give your rats a place to cool off quickly. If heat is a problem in your home, try having multiple water bottles in your freezer so you can switch them out whenever the bottles de-freeze. Plastic water bottles are best - they will keep the water from leaking out, and won’t run the risk of breaking in your freezer like glass. If you don’t have water bottles, use a plastic container with a tight seal.
2. Feed Frozen Fruits or Vegetables
If your pet rats are overheated, try feeding them a few frozen treats; freeze rat-safe fruits and vegetables to feed to your rats in a pinch. Some tasty suggestions are strawberries, apples, bananas, cucumbers and carrots. These solutions won’t keep your rats cool, but they will help in the short term. Remember to do your research if you aren’t sure which fruits and vegetables are safe for your pet rats to consume!
3. Fill a Bowl With Ice Cubes
Giving your rats ice cubes to lick provides another way for them to cool down in extremely hot temperatures. Be sure to put the ice cubes in a bowl, as they will melt quickly and can make a large puddle; excess moisture on certain rat bedding can cause mold to develop if left unchecked. Frozen water bottles are a cleaner, more viable solution than ice cubes.
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4. Place Tiles or Bricks in the Cage
Having clean bricks and tiles in your rat’s cage can help them keep cool, too! In warm temperatures, bricks and tiles maintain the cold where plastic and metal cages do not. Having bricks or tiles beneath where your rats sleep will ensure that they are more comfortable. I liked to have bricks in my rats’ cage year round; not only do they help with heat, but they can help trim your rat’s nails if they climb on them often. Bricks and tiles are cheap and easy to acquire at most hardware stores.
5. Dunk Your Rat in Cool Water
Finally, if your rat is facing severe risk of heatstroke, dunking her in some cool water can do the trick in a pinch. Fill your bathroom or kitchen sink with cool water (not ice cold) and submerge your rat up to its neck; rats have sensitive respiratory systems, and dunking its head could contribute to possible infections. While many rats aren’t very tolerant of water, your furry friends will appreciate being cooled off. You could even fill the bathtub with cool water for your rats to wade through for a little while, as long as they are supervised.
Try This Fun Way to Keep Your Rats Cool!
Did you try the frozen pea pool?
Never be afraid to ask friends and family to help with your pet rats when you can’t! Maybe a friend can come over while you are at work to turn on the air conditioner or cool off your rats. A family member might with air conditioning might be able to watch them while you get your own. Sometimes it feels terrible asking for physical or financial help, but it feels even worse to lose a rat for not asking.
In the summer months, remember to have fun, but keep your rat’s health and well being in mind, too. Feel free to leave any other summer ideas in the comment section below!
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Can dehydration kill rats?
Of course it can - rats drink water, just like us. If you're worried about your rats not having enough water while you're out of the house, you can get a larger water bottle for their cage. Or you can get a second water bottle to add to their cage.Helpful 7
Are rats allowed apple seeds?
No, you want to avoid giving them apple seeds. Apples themselves are okay to feed, as long as you remove the seeds before giving the slices to rats. Apple seeds can contain trace amounts of cyanide, which can be deadly to our much smaller furry companions.Helpful 7
My baby rats just chewed through my lamp’s power cord which had wire in it. Will they be fine?
I'm sure they are fine if they already chewed through it and nothing happened. Rats are notorious for chewing through wires, blankets, basically, things that they shouldn't, so maybe keep an eye on them when they are out of the cage!Helpful 5
I got 2 female baby hooded dumbo rats from the same litter about 5 months ago, and I understand that they have to sort out who's going to be the boss. But one of my girls continuously pins the other down with grooming and chases her all the time. She sneaks up behind her too. I hear lots of little squeaks. I know there's no aggression as they are not fluffing up. I check them both regularly and there's no blood, but I don't understand why she won't leave the other one alone?
Dominance displays are common in rat communities. It sounds like you have done everything right. Some rats are more dominant than others - I had girls who would stand up and "box" until the dominant female pinned the other down. It's natural social interaction, don't worry! As long as no one is getting hurt, it is fine.Helpful 3
What if we are outside camping and our pet rat is with us. How do we keep them cool?
I don't know of a reliable way to keep your rat cool in that situation. If possible, I would leave your rat home while on vacation with a pet sitter. Watching a rat is very low maintenance, and family members may be willing to check in on your rat for you while away.Helpful 2