I'm thinking of getting a pair of rats some time within the next few months and I've got some questions I'd like cleared up by actual rat owners rather than a pet store employee who may or may not have rat experience.
I would much prefer to buy from a breeder, but I haven't been able to find any in my area (eastern Montana) and I've been told that most breeders that will ship probably are not reputable. I'd be willing to travel to surrounding states if anyone knows of any good breeders near me.
I do have a little experience with rats, but its been about seven years since my first rat, Gilligan, died. He was purchased along with another rat (that he never seemed to get along with) by my 7th grade teacher. He came to live at home with me after about five weeks after being in the classroom.
He was an absolute sweetheart, rode around on my shoulder for hours at a time, liked hiding in my hair, and loved playing with me on my bed. He was solid white, pink eyed, and had a pink tail. I never had any behavioral problems with him in the year and a half that I had him before he died, but I've been told that some un-neutered males can become aggressive.
That said, I'd like to ask a few things -
1. What kind of bedding/liners do you prefer to use for your rats? When I had Gill we used shredded newspaper in the classroom (which I HATED) and some kind of shavings when he came home with me. I can't remember specifically what kind.
2. What sex pair would you recommend for a fairly new rat owner? I really enjoyed Gill's squishy, cuddly personality and I've read that most males are like that, while females are more curious and active. I don't know, however, how they interact as pairs. I know I want a same sex pair - no breeding for me!
3. What kind of food do your rats prefer and how often do you feed? I fed Gilligan, as far as I can remember, a grain/seed/nut (no peanuts) mix with a supplement recommended by my Grandpa (a vet).
4. What do you recommend as far as spaying/neutering? Cost is not an issue for me, just health. I've read conflicting advice on this, so any input you've got one way or the other is very welcome.
5. What cage size do you recommend for a rat pair? dimensions or preferred brand name would be very welcome advice.
6. How long lived have your rats been? I've read that the average lifespan is about 2-3 years. I was totally crushed when Gilly died (in his sleep one night) and I feel especially bad about it now that I know they generally live a bit longer.
7. Anything else you think a first time-ish owner like me should know!
Thanks so much - I know this is a very long post, but I want to be totally informed before I pick out my ratties! I've done a lot of research, but I find that real knowledge comes from experience and I'm hoping someone with experience can help me out.