When summer is approaching it is important that you are aware of all the implications heatstroke could have for our beloved pet rats and ways in which you can ensure that they are kept cool and safe from heat exposure.
Can a pet rats suffer from heatstroke? Yes, rats as with other small exotic pets are susceptible to heatstroke. Rats are very sensitive to hot conditions, typically they are confined to a small cage so it’s important to consider its location and keep it in a shaded, cool and well-ventilated area.
It can seem overwhelming, the internet is full of information, some of it contradicting, and all you want to know is the best and relevant information and advice… Well don’t worry, we have just what you need.
Our guide will give you all the information on not only how to keep rats cool during summer, but symptoms to keep an eye out for if they are too hot, heatstroke, heatstroke prevention tactics, and some heatstroke remedies should you pet rat fall ill.
What is the ideal temperature for rats?
The optimal and ideal temperature in which to keep your pet rat is between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (or between 18 and 25 degrees Celsius)
What Are The Best Ways To Keep Your Rat Cool During Summer?
When long summer days approach, for us it can be time to lay out in the sun and enjoy the warm days. But as rats are nocturnal creatures, their bodies have not adapted to endure long periods of heat, warmth, and humidity, so it is super important you keep them cool and safe.
Keeping your rats in optimal temperatures is important and if you happen to live in an area where temperatures get rather high then keep your rats cool can be a challenge. However, you will be pleased to know that there are some things you can easily do to prevent your rat from suffering from heat exhaustion.
Bring Your Pet Rats Inside
Pet rats should be kept indoors as they are indoor pets. They do not acclimatize well in extreme weather conditions therefore an indoor regulated climate is much healthier for rats in general.
Have Lots of Water Available
Make sure that your rat’s water supply is constantly kept filled and replaced daily with fresh chilled water. It doesn’t need to be freezing as this can cause other problems, but chilled is perfect for your rats on a hot day.
Have a Reliable Cooling System
Air conditioning is the most reliable way to ensure that your rats are kept cool. They can keep the temperature at a regulated level, even when you’re not home ensuring your rats are safe and you have complete peace of mind.
The main thing to remember with a cooling system is to make sure it is not directly on your rats, that it is set to an optimum average temperature and that if you do need to turn it off, that you have allowed the room where you keep your rats, sufficient time to cool.
Think about air ventilation
Fresh air is super essential for rats. Not only during summer to keep them cool, but all year round to make sure they don’t suffer from respiratory diseases. So even if you are using a good cooling system, having a fan that keeps fresh air circulating is great for your rats. Be mindful though, as with air conditioning systems, that they are not aimed directly at your rat’s cage or living space.
Heat Consistency is Key
As you know the ideal temperature for rats is between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (or between 18 and 25 degrees Celsius) so the best thing for your rats is to keep their living space at that temperature all year round, they will be happier, healthier and more likely to live much longer.
Ice Ice Baby
Placing a shallow dish in your rat’s cage or hutch with some ice cubes will give them the opportunity to lick and also dip their tail in ice-cold water, which can be great on a particularly hot day.
Freeze Your Rat’s Favorite Snacks
Having frozen treats is a great way to not only keep your rats cool, but it can also be a fun activity for them and they may enjoy playing. You can freeze things like:
• Broad Beans
• Stir Fry Vegetables
You can hide the around your rat’s cage or home and let them find them, play with them until they have cooled to an edible temperature.
Frozen Water Bottles
A frozen water bottle is a great way to keep a space inside your rat’s home cool and it’s so easy to do. Simply freeze a bottle of water and place it in the cage. However, we do have a couple of tips, first, we recommend you wrap the bottle in a towel or place on a plate as condensation will make your cage wet.
Also, rats are mischievous and curious animals so be aware at some point they are likely to want to have a nibble on the bottle which would result in a flooded cage, therefore it is probably a good idea to supervise your rats if you place a frozen water bottle in their cage.
Naturally Cool Materials
As we mentioned before some materials and surfaces will stay cool on the hottest of days such as ceramic. So, placing tiles or bricks, in your rat’s cage or even have a tiled area in their home will provide with a consistently natural cool spot to relax and escape the heat.
A Cool Bath
Rats are not generally a fan of water and it can be dangerous to submerge your rat fully in water. However, a cool bath on a hot day could be just what they need and if they are hot they will enjoy it.
So fill your bath or sink with a few inches of cool, not ice-cold, water and let you rat wade, roll, splash, and play. Remember they may not like it, it is effective but if you can see that your rat is distressed then we would recommend you take them out.
Create Some Shade
Having shaded areas in your cage is a good way to create a cool spot, especially if your caged area has a lot of natural light. If you want to keep an eye on the temperature for your own peace of mind, you can buy a thermometer from your local store and keep an eye on your cage temperature.
A Cool Towel
A favorite of ours is to place a flannel or facecloth in the sink, wet with cold water and then place in the freezer for an hour. It will be hard and super cold when you take it out, give it ten minutes until it starts to feel damper and the towel begins to regain its fluffiness and place in the cage. This will give your rat a cool damp place to lay for up to an hour and will make a minimal mess in your cage.
If your rats are exposed to prolonged high-temperature environments they could be at risk of heatstroke as their bodies don’t regulate high temperatures well.
What Is Heatstroke?
Essentially heatstroke is when the body has overheated. This can be due to overexertion or exposure to high temperatures, especially over a long period of time. However in rats, because they are not adaptable in hot climates, they are more sensitive to heatstroke than other pets may be.
What Are The Symptoms That My Rat Is Too Hot?
If you own rats you may not be sure what the symptoms are to look for, that would indicate that your rat is too hot or at risk from heatstroke. But here are a few key indicators that you can easily spot that you should especially look out for during summer or unseasonably hot or humid spells:
• Being lethargic in general
As you know, rats are active animals. They enjoy running around, playing, exploring and more, so if it is warming up and your rats are being uncharacteristically slower and seem uninterested in activities they would usually enjoy; this is a big warning sign to look out for.
Especially if you think about yourself during the summer, the first few days we enjoy the novelty of the heat but as time goes on we start to feel drained, lethargic and normal tasks seem very difficult. It is exactly the same for your pet rat.
• Eating much less but drinking a lot more
You know the feeling when it’s a hot day… food just doesn’t have the same appeal. We start to crave iced glasses of water, popsicles, and fruit. Well, the same can happen for our rats, if it gets too hot, after a few days they will start to experience a loss of appetite and will instead start to drink more water.
We recommend you monitor this, especially their liquid intake. You can mark their water bottle with a whiteboard pen and monitor the amount they are drinking throughout the day to see if this is high in comparison with their average water intake.
• Laying out
It’s a natural response that happens in most animals when they are relaxed, they like to sprawl out on their back with their tummy stretched out. But rats will do this usually in the same spot, so if you see your rat doing the same during odd hours, or in a new place in their cage then this can be a sign they are too hot and they are trying to cool themselves naturally.
If your rat has different surfaces in their living space, you may also see they start choosing to relax on cooler surfaces such as tiles. This is another sign.
• Deep and heavy panting
Rats tend to have fast but regular breathing patterns so if you see the are inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply, in other words panting and being out of breath. This is a big sign that they are finding it difficult to keep cool.
• When touching their legs, ears, nose or tail you can feel they are hot to touch
Rats actually use their tails to regulate the heat in their body. Rats cannot sweat, so when they are hot, blood surges to their tails where blood vessels work to expel excess heat. So a hot tail means your rat is sweating` and is overheating and is perhaps the clearest signal that you need to cool your rats living space.
What Do I Do If My Rat Suffers From Heatstroke?
In the first instance, we would recommend that you use some of our tips such as a cool bath, iced treats, etc to slowly bring down your rat’s core temperature.
However, heatstroke can be very dangerous for rats and if you see that your rat’s health is not improving you should seek further help from your vet. If treated quickly your rat can be expected to make a full recovery. The vet will check your rat’s vitals, give fluids and will give recommendations for aftercare treatment which you should follow.
So, Warmer Days Are Coming… What Should You Do?
As you can see there are lots of ways of how to keep pet rats cool in the summer, and your rat will like some more than others, so keep it fun try different things and enjoy this season with your rat!
In conclusion, rats do not adapt well in hot or humid weather conditions and if they do suffer from overheating and it leads to heatstroke it can cause severe pain and harm to your rat’s vital organs and in reality be life-threatening. But no one knows your rat as you do, so the moment you see a change in the temperature keep a close eye on your rat, you will be the first to notice any changes in their behavior and can react accordingly.
Follow our guide on ways to keep them cool and happy during the summer months and hot spells and your rat will be as cool as a cucumber all summer long!