Summer Safety

Rats are very sensitive to high temperatures and humidity. They can't cool themselves as easily as many other animals and heatstroke is all too often a killer. Rats are most comfortable when the temperature is in the 60's to 70's. When the temperatures reach 80-90 degrees many rats will start to show signs of distress. If the temperature keeps rising, or the signs of distress are ignored, rats can die very quickly from heatstroke.

Here are some ideas to keep your rats cool!

  • If you have air conditioning, turn it on for your ratties when the temperature soars! Remember - if you're uncomfortable the rat probably is too!
  • Keep a thermometer in the room with your rats to make sure it doesn't get too hot.
  • Rats cool themselves primarily through their tails and their feet. Providing a shallow dish (or pie pan) of cold water, with ice if possible, is a great way to help your ratties cool themselves. They will dip their feet and tails (possibly more if your rat is a water lover!) if they start to get uncomfortable.
  • As an offshoot of the first idea, many people will also put peas in the dish - rats love to go pea fishing! Both ways can get very messy so it might be best to do it outside the cage where there's no bedding to soak!
  • Frozen fruit or veggies are great "ice-pops" for rats. You can also freeze juice (I like to mix it with yogurt) into ice cubes for them!
  • Get two extra water bottles. Make sure to keep their "main" water bottle full at all times, but freeze the second and third. Use one of those at a time and rotate the two as they melt. You can also put some crushed ice into their regular water to keep it cooler.
  • Pick up a plain, empty spray bottle (NOT one previously used for chemicals) and keep it filled with cool water. Spray your rats periodically, and if you have a ceiling fan or another gentle fan that'll help even more. Just make sure there's a place they can go to get away from the breeze if they want to, and keep it to a pretty gentle breeze!
  • Keep your empty soda or water bottles, fill them with water and freeze them to put into your rats' cage. These may get chewed up so there's a possibility of a mess - but you never know, they might behave themselves ;)
  • Wet a towel and then throw it in the freezer; once it's frozen solid, give it to them to lay on, or just to keep their surroundings a bit cooler.
  • NEVER leave your rat unattended in a car when it's warm out!

Signs your rat is in distress:

  • Laying sprawled on their sides, often with the soles of their back feet in the air - this is a sign that your rat is not dealing well with the heat!
  • Tail, ears, and feet being hot to the touch
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Drooling
  • Panting
  • Laying on its back, with all four feet in the air, mouth open and unresponsive - this is a major emergency!

To avoid unexpected heat:

  • Move your rats' cage into the basement (if you have one) temporarily. It may not be the best environment long-term, but it's better than the heat!
  • Take your rats on an (air-conditioned) car ride, although this does have risks itself! I've heard of rats being transported, and the car broke down...the rats overheated and died within 30 minutes. So - be careful, and stay close to home!
  • Take your ratties to a friend's (air conditioned) home
  • Be sure to keep your rats' cage away from the windows and direct sunlight!

If your rat is in trouble:

  • Always have a vet lined up for emergencies, and if your rat is in trouble get him/her in there ASAP! Heatstroke can get deadly VERY fast for rats!
  • Try to get your rat to drink something; water is great, if you can add a little sugar or honey (and a pinch of salt) that will also help them rehydrate! Sports drinks are also good. These will help keep them cool and hydrated!
  • If your rat is used to being bathed you can submerge it up to its neck in cool water, but for many rats that would be too stressful if they are already in bad shape. A safe alternative would be to use a cool, wet sponge or towel to wet them with.