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How to Keep Your Pet Rats Cool During Summer

Dreamhowl has worked in pet retail for over ten years. She has owned betta fish, dogs, fancy mice, fancy rats, geckos, hamsters, and more.

Learn how to identify if your rats are too hot and how to keep them cool and happy in the summer.

Learn how to identify if your rats are too hot and how to keep them cool and happy in the 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.

Gadget has her lazy moments, but she is normally a very hyperactive pet rat!

Gadget has her lazy moments, but she is normally a very hyperactive pet rat!

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:

  • general lethargy
  • slow movements
  • eating less food
  • heavy panting
  • laying outstretched
  • hot tail, nose, and ears

Lethargy

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.

Rat's tails are vital in regulating heat, so be sure to take good care of them!

Rat's tails are vital in regulating heat, so be sure to take good care of them!

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!

Sprawling Out

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:

While your rats may want to hang outside, they are better off as strictly indoor pets.

While your rats may want to hang outside, they are better off as strictly indoor pets.

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.

Our air conditioner can be preset to maintain a specific temperature via "Energy Saver".

Our air conditioner can be preset to maintain a specific temperature via "Energy Saver".

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.

Well ventilated cages like this one are as important as well ventilated rooms!

Well ventilated cages like this one are as important as well ventilated rooms!

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.

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.

A healthy rat is a happy rat, so try to keep your furry friends cool this summer.

A healthy rat is a happy rat, so try to keep your furry friends cool this summer.

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.

Frozen fruits and vegetables make a great cool-off treat for overheated pet rats.

Frozen fruits and vegetables make a great cool-off treat for overheated pet rats.

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!

Ice cubes and frozen water bottles can help a rat cool down on a hot summer day.

Ice cubes and frozen water bottles can help a rat cool down on a hot summer day.

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.

Know the signs of overheated rats (like sprawling out in the cage) and have a solution.

Know the signs of overheated rats (like sprawling out in the cage) and have a solution.

Check Out This Product!

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.

Letting your rats wade in cool water can help them cool down while having fun.

Letting your rats wade in cool water can help them cool down while having fun.

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!

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!

Test Your Knowledge!

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. How do rats naturally release heat?
    • Rats pant through their mouth to release heat.
    • Rats sweat through their skin to release heat.
    • Rats release heat through their blood vessels into their tail.
  2. Which of these is not a sign of overheating?
    • Your rat eating less food
    • Your rat drinking less water
    • Hot ears, nose or tail on your rat
  3. True or false: Rats can be kept outdoors.
    • True
    • False
  4. Why do rats need to live in well ventilated rooms?
    • They are prone to respiratory infections and heat stroke.
    • They need to be kept ice cold at all times.
    • They don't need fresh air to be happy and healthy.
  5. Which of these won't keep your rats cool?
    • Freezing filled plastic water bottles or containers.
    • Feeding them frozen fruits and vegetables.
    • Opening the windows on a hot, humid day.
  6. Why are bricks good to have in your rat's cage?
    • They will remain cold and help your rat cool off.
    • They can help trim your rat's nails naturally.
    • Both 1. and 2.
  7. Why shouldn't you dunk your rat's head under water?
    • Rats will melt if they are fully submerged in water.
    • Rats have sensitive respiratory systems and can get infections.
    • It's fine to dunk your rat's head under water all the time!

Answer Key

  1. Rats release heat through their blood vessels into their tail.
  2. Your rat drinking less water
  3. False
  4. They are prone to respiratory infections and heat stroke.
  5. Opening the windows on a hot, humid day.
  6. Both 1. and 2.
  7. Rats have sensitive respiratory systems and can get infections.

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

Question: Can I keep rats if I live in a very humid and hot place?

Answer: Do you have air conditioning in your home? During the summer, I auto-set the AC to keep our rats from getting too warm. They can suffer from heat stroke if the weather is too hot, so you'd need a way to keep them cool!

Question: Can dehydration kill rats?

Answer: 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.

Question: Are rats allowed apple seeds?

Answer: 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.

Question: My baby rats just chewed through my lamp’s power cord which had wire in it. Will they be fine?

Answer: 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!

Question: 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?

Answer: 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.

Question: I just bought 2 female rats and one is sneezing and it says it's from stress. Is there anything I can do to help?

Answer: Give your new rats some time to adjust to their surroundings. In the meanwhile, maintain a tidy cage (spot clean daily for pet waste), remove any spoiled food or treats, and use bedding that isn't dusty. If the sneezing continues long after your rats adjust, it may be worth a vet visit - they can be prone to respiratory illness.

Question: What if we are outside camping and our pet rat is with us. How do we keep them cool?

Answer: 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.

Question: Are ice blocks safe for rats?

Answer: In the summer, we sometimes put an ice cube in an empty food dish for our rats to lick. They get bored of it pretty quickly (and it melts), but it's safe!

Question: Can I keep my rats in my cellar with fans on?

Answer: I'd make sure it isn't too cold, and I'd also worry about air circulation and how damp it is.

Comments

Jessica Peri (author) from United States on August 03, 2019:

@Sarah Always be careful when traveling with your rat! They can get stressed easily, and can get heat stroke in hotter temperatures.

Sarah on July 31, 2019:

My rat pepper travels with me in hot weather but i keep ice packs and ice with me at all times but when were camping i cant use them for him.

Jessica Peri (author) from United States on July 06, 2019:

@Shannon Thanks for sharing these tips! It's a bad summer this year, I hope you and your ratties stay as cool as possible.

Shannon on July 02, 2019:

Just bought a stupidly expensive air conditioner due to this year’s hot summer weather and the upcoming heat wave. British houses aren’t built with AC and are built to keep heat in so this summer is going to be a nightmare. I’ve got to wait another week before it comes. If anyone’s interested, this is what I do for my rats during hot weather:

- I do frozen pea diving twice a week.

- I’ve added two granite tiles on the floors of their cage. (I have a Savic cage and the floors aren’t very strong so I might have to find a less heavy alternative)

- Changed their cozy thick winter hammocks for thin, light hammocks.

- Adding crushed ice into their water bottles.

- Adding a bowl of water and crushed ice into their cage for a few hours per day (they love to chew and play with the ice but it can make a really big mess).

- Giving them frozen yogurt and frozen fruit every so often.

- Not decorating their cage to be too packed full of toys, hammocks etc so that air can flow easier and keep the air cooler. It also means they’ll have more room to lay flat and chill.

Jessica Peri (author) from United States on April 28, 2018:

Would you be able to open the door and use a fan to blow in cool air? I wouldn't want them to be directly in the path of the breeze, though - rats can be prone to respiratory illness, and drafts could get them sick.

Sylvana on April 22, 2018:

Thank you for the interesting read. I've been thinking of adopting rats, but I'm a student with a small living room and small bedroom - in which the windows can't open at all. My bedroom does have a door that leads outside that I can open once it cools down. My rooms also don't have air conditioning and I can't really afford to get it. So it tends to be like a sauna in here. Would it be a terrible idea to get rats? I don't want to harm them in any way.

Jessica Peri (author) from United States on April 14, 2018:

@Linda They truly are! Rats are so friendly and form long lasting bonds with you. Summers can get fairly hot where I live, so it's good to have backup remedies in case they start to overheat.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 13, 2018:

Thanks for sharing the important information about keeping a rat cool. I've never had a rat as a pet, but I've wanted to for a long time. I think they're lovely animals.

Jessica Peri (author) from United States on January 30, 2018:

@April I'm so glad he's better!

April on January 25, 2018:

He is doing much better actually, thanks for the help I’ll definitely will use your ideas in the feature!

Jessica Peri (author) from United States on January 23, 2018:

@April How is he doing now, better? There is a suggestion at the bottom of the comments that I liked - sewing up a little pouch full of rice, that you could freeze and put in their cage. Fishing for frozen peas in a bowl of water was also something they enjoyed. And the cold tiles should definitely help!

April on January 22, 2018:

This is so helpful! Just a few days ago my rat (Ash) was sitting at the top of his cage, he wouldn’t move as much and he wouldn’t eat as much either. So I started balling my eyes out that he would be dying, as you may know in Australia it it’s super super hot in the summer, so just a few hours ago he was doing it again, so I put a fan near his cage where it could blow on him, and I put one tile where is was sitting and another one in the freezer for the morning before school. Ash is my first ever pet that I’ve owned myself and he’s my baby. So if you could give me more tips I would appreciate that so much!!

Jakkisimmo on May 25, 2017:

I have put frozen sweetcorn and ice cubes in my boys' water bowl. They love it! Problem is I have to be around to fish the ice cubes out of their bed before the ice melts (they like to take them and hide them.

Jessica Peri (author) from United States on November 21, 2014:

@Rio: I have a portable heater in my room, because the pellet stove in the living room doesn't quite reach us back here. This stays on for most of the winter, and has three adjustable levels and can be set to keep the temperature at a certain level. I keep this fairly close to the rat cage, since the room's insulation is okay, and we have a tall ceiling. I also put more bedding in the cage than in the summer for the girls to burrow in. I also have a cheap, thin blanket (literally $3 at Walmart) that I let them play in sometimes, that I may put in their cage for extra insulation. Since your rat doesn't have a cuddle buddy, maybe putting a blanket in the cage for a warm nest would be beneficial?

This is usually enough to keep them warm in the winter, but I have always had my rats in pairs, so they always had each other's body heat. Do you have heat in the room where the rat stays?

Rio on November 21, 2014:

i have one rat, and I was wondering if you have any tips on how to keep your rat warm in the winter?

Jessica Peri (author) from United States on July 15, 2013:

Sorry, I didn't see your comment earlier! That sounds like a great tip - I don't really like leaving a frozen water bottle in the cage if I don't have to. I think your rats will do okay as long as the temperature don't get much higher than 80. I have to go make one of those pillows now!

Emily Buxengaard on July 11, 2013:

Thank you so much for sharing this! I'm adopting two rats in a week and I'm a little concerned that I've seen the temperatures rising into the late 70s/low 80s in the rat room, but I think I can get it down to a cooler temp. Anyway, I thought I might share this idea I found on dapperrat.com.au (which, by the way, is a really fun site I recommend to all rat lovers). You some heavy fabric and sew up a little pillow. But instead of stuffing you can use beans or rice and then freeze it. And then, if it gets too cool in the winter, it can be heated up. I'll definitely be making some of those before the rats arrive!