Fat rats may look soft and cuddly, but they are, in fact, unhealthy and they need a new eating regimen. Overweight rats are prone to numerous health maladies, including diabetes and its resulting complications. While rats have high metabolism, they are notorious for liking junk food, and their diet and exercise habits need your close monitoring.
Take your rats to the vet for thorough physicals before starting them on any type of diet or exercise plan. Your vet will be able to offer suggestions for portion control as well as check your rats for underlying illnesses that could be impacting their weight. Additionally, a vet can let you know if physical problems exist that preclude your rats from stepping up their exercise efforts.
Don’t feed your rats junk food. While it might be cute to see your rats nibbling on bits of cookie, it’s not good for them at all. Rats will pick and choose only the best-tasting high-calorie, high-sugar, high-fat foods if given a choice. Even a commercial rat blend with seeds will be picked over for the tastiest morsels. Instead, feed your rat vet-recommended, portion-controlled quantities of commercial rat pellets supplemented by a tablespoon of fresh greens every day. Always make sure your rats have access to fresh water -- this helps in the fight against obesity as well.
While hamsters, gerbils and mice take to rodent wheels quickly, many rats don’t care for them. While you can give a big wheel a try, your rats are likely to need other types of physical stimulation to get back into healthy condition. Consider a large exercise ball that allows your rats to roam around a safely contained area. Always avoid stairs, and keep an eye when any of your rats is in the ball to make sure they don’t get accidentally kicked or roll themselves into situations they can’t roll out of.
Playing with your rats is a good way to bond and a good way to get them to exercise. Set up a playground for your rats with mazes and rope ladders and tunnels. Put healthy snacks around the playground to encourage them to explore and move around.
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Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.