Pet rats can definitely die if they are too cold.They can die due to freezing in severe cold, hypothermia in moderately cold temperatures or even illness caused by a drafts in a temperate room. Keeping the ambient temperature warm isn’t enough, because a pet rat needs a clean cage, soft bedding and appropriate nutrition to be healthy and happy. She also needs your attention and gentle handling or a suitable companion animal.
The optimal temperature in which to keep a pet rat is between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, generally within the temperature bounds of a climate-controlled home. Your rat might get chilly at night, so give her soft, warm bedding regardless of where in the house you keep her cage. Make sure the cage is located away from cold drafts or hot sunlight, although she will enjoy a location near a window that allows natural light to enter.
Keep your pet rat warm by adding a layer of wood shavings or shredded newspaper approximately a half-inch thick to the floor of the cage. She will use the bathroom in a section of the wood shavings, which will help to absorb odor. Use an old shoe box or oatmeal box with three sides intact to create a bed. Place it in out of the way in one corner of the cage, and line the bed with a piece of towel or clothing to make it soft and warm for her to snuggle into.
Your rat can die or get ill from respiratory diseases caused by cold and damp. If you don’t clean the animal's cage frequently enough, after a few days the urine may be enough to saturate the wood shavings, resulting in a constantly wet environment. Wetness causes chills, which can lead to your pet's death in short order. Change her food and water regularly to reduce the risk of bacterial infection from unhygienic conditions. A feeder bottle with a sipper tube controls the flow of drinking water and prevents the contamination that occurs with an open water bowl.
Keeping Rats Outdoors
Pet rats are not well-suited to life outdoors, but if it’s impossible to keep your rat inside the house, find an warm, well-ventilated shelter with lots of natural light to place her cage in. An outbuilding or shed will do if you live in a mild climate, as long as it’s kept clean and hygienic. Rats are social creatures, so don’t leave yours alone for long periods of time. Rather introduce another rat of the same gender, or a fixed one of either gender, to keep her company.
Young rat image by Maslov Dmitry from Fotolia.com
Tracey Sandilands has written professionally since 1990, covering business, home ownership and pets. She holds a professional business management qualification, a bachelor's degree in communications and a diploma in public relations and journalism. Sandilands is the former editor of an international property news portal and an experienced dog breeder and trainer.