Nile rat originates from the tropical parts of Africa. It is about 11-20cm in lenght with additional 10-15cm long tail, which is slightly shorter than the body -- about the size of a small rat. The tail is covered with short hairs. The head is reasonably narrow with few whiskers at the nose. The ers are small and round.
The back and sides are dark brown in colour, heavily ticked with black and yellowish hairs (strong Agouti). Along the spine there is a black stripe, which isn't visible in all Nile rats.
Nile rats as pets
Nile rats aren't very common pets. They are much more timid than rats & mice, who have been kept as pets for a considerably longer period of time. They aren't always easy to handle, not letting themselves been catched easily. Fortunately they try to avoid your hand, not bite it. When handling Nile rats you should remember that they still have the ability and will to jump (compared to rats and mice) so if they get loose, they are very hard to catch. And I do mean exactly that! Nile rats are not recommended pets for small kids.
Nile rats are active at all times of day. According to reseach they are most active when there is light, with two activity peaks early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
They can be caged like any other small rodent. I have a large terrarium (ex-tortoise terrarium) with cage expension on the top. Food bowl and drinking bottle are similar to those used for other rodents. Our Nile rats love their running wheel. Be sure to use a large enough wheel, that is also safe (similar to those used for rats). Branches of trees are good exersice for their teeth, be sure that the branches aren't poisonous, haven't got pesticide or originate from polluted areas. Nile rats aren't nearly as agile as rats (at least ours aren't) so when you provide ladders to your Nile rats, make sure they're safe. Also, provide them with nest-box. Nile rats are social animals and there haven't been noted aggressivity inside an established community. They can be kept in small communities of animals of the same sex, especially littermates.
Nile rats are pretty clean animals. They don't drink much, but be sure to change their water daily anyway! Our Nile rats' terrarium has a divider in the bottom, one side is used as sleeping quarters, the other has the running wheel + water & food on top of it in the cage extension. The sleeping quarter's beddings (use the same type of bedding material as for rats) are changes once every months, the other side every two weeks. Our Nile rat sisters don't like it if the sleeping quarter's beddings are changed more often! They get very agitated.
Nile rats are mainly vegetarians and they like all kind of seeds, like rodent mixes. Also rat/mouse lab blocks go well. They should be given fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to the seed mix / lab block diet. Nile rats should always have at hand high quality dry hay, which they nibble and use as nesting material.
Currently we don't have Nile rats. Noora died on 30th of November 1997, Niku lived half a year longer. At first Niku seemed to be a bit depressed over the loss of her sister, then she suddenly started to really bloom! It was like: "At last I can have a life of my own and do whatever I want, whenever I want!"
Niku and Noora were sisters, born 4th of April & 7th of May 1995. They originate from a pet shop and can be called rescues. They weren't handled at all when we bought them (Niku was nearly 2 months old, Noora 1 month) and they never got used to handling. They do not bite, but avoid touching. They are however fun to watch at! Nile rats aren't aggressive towards rats, so they could be tamer if housed with very gentle rats.