Posted: December 13, 2011, 8 a.m. EST
Q: I am a first-time rat owner and have two hooded rats that are around 8 months old. I live in North Texas in an apartment, and winter is upon us. I am worried about them getting too cold this winter. My room is either the hottest room (summer) in the apartment or the coldest (winter). Moving them to another room wouldn't be ideal, but I want to make sure they are warm enough. What are ideal temperatures for rats? Do you have any suggestions for keeping them warm? I have made lots of fleece pockets and tunnels for them to sleep in with plenty of towels and tissues and cotton for them to use as bedding (which they love to drag around their cage). Any other suggestions?
A: Rats in the wild regularly face freezing temperatures and are exceptionally good at building cozy places to stay warm, so you don't usually have to worry about them unless your room is regularly below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it's always good to give your rats plenty of materials to build a nice warm nest.
Fleece pockets, hammocks and tunnels are always rat favorites, as are small boxes and igloos filled with soft paper bedding or orchard grass (available in most pet stores). Small pieces of fabric are good for lining nests (2 by 2 inch squares or small, odd-shaped pieces), but avoid long strips of fabric or toweling that produces long threads that your rats can get tangled in.
Try different types of nesting items each time you clean their cage. Rats love the new scents and enjoy the challenge of learning to use something different.
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