Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tips to keep your rats cool

Rats are particularly susceptible to heat and humidity and should be kept in conditions below about 25*C.
In hot weather, it's important to keep an eye on your rats for signs of heat stress.  In particular, any of your rats who are overweight or sick as they will be more affected.
Some signs your rat is over-heated:
  • Slowed movement, lethargy
  • Apathy (even for treats)
  • Tail, feet, ears and nose hot to touch
  • Sprawled position, often with feet stretched out behind them (so they can lose heat through the soles of their feet)
  • Mouth gaping open or panting
  • Drooling
  • Lying on their backs, feet in the air, mouth agape and not very responsive (dangerously hot!)
The best option for preventing overheating is to keep your rats in an air conditioned room.  If this is not possible, you need to keep them cool in other ways.
Some ideas for keeping rats cool:
  • Fill a spray can with water and wet the rats down (make sure you don't spray it in their eyes).  Alternatively, wipe them down often with a wet sponge
  • Drape a wet towel over part of their cage and provide a cooling fan or open window with a breeze.
  • Bath them in cool water.
  • Freeze a bottle of water, wrap it in a towel and place it in the cage for an instant cage air conditioner.
  • Provide them with lots of cool water to prevent dehydration.  Keep a spare bottle in the fridge and swap them regularly.
  • Give them a terracotta pot.  These make great sleeping areas in summer as they stay cool.

Fun treats/games to help cool them down:
  • Fruitsicles - Cut up fruit or vegetable pieces and freeze.  Good choices are watermelon, grapes, banana, honeydew, peas, corn, blueberries, etc.   Ice cubes made of of fruit juice, or containing frozen peas are a welcome treat too.
  • Wading pool - Use a heavy shallow food bowl (or a pot plant drip tray), fill with water and toss in a few ice cubes.  The rats will sleep beside it to cool off, dangle their tails in the water, and lick the ice cubes.
  • Ratty painting - Get a glass of cold water and a paint brush.  Dip the paintbrush in the water and paint your ratty's hairless bits, especially tail and feet.  This will help them cool off faster and give them a challenge (to grab the brush off you and rip it to pieces).
  • Icehouse - Place their favourite nest box / loft / hammock in the fridge or freezer until it cools down.
  • Fishing for peas.   

Info from: 
Article Copyright Robyn Arthur, 2002-2006  

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