Pet Rats/Rats in college?
QUESTION: I'm going to college in the fall and I'm getting a pet rat for an emotional support animal (I already have all the legal stuff so permission isn't an issue). I picked up a book about rat care and saw that rats do best in colonies. How likely is it that I'd be allowed to have two rats? And would a college environment be harmful to the rat(s) in any way?
ANSWER: I am sorry I wasn't able to address your question. I had no internet access for several weeks. Before I respond, I'd like to ask if you've already gotten an answer from someone else since you hadn't heard from me.
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QUESTION: I haven't gotten an answer from anyone else.
Ok then I will try to help you. Rats are a wonderful emotional support animal. Many people I know with various emotional problems claim that their rats are what help them get through life, and some say their rats have even saved their life. They're amazing creatures.
You are correct that rats are social and do much better with at least one companion. You absolutely must get more than one, because a college students life is busy and the rats will have each other when you're not available. Make sure however that you have a large enough cage for them to explore, that you have time to clean the cage at least once a week, with minor cleanings,of their bedding in between complete cleanings, that you have time and means to provide a healthy diet, not bagged pet store food, and a variety of fresh fruits and veggies every day. You also must have enough things in their cage to keep things interesting for them and change it around often as rats are very smart and need new things to keep their minds stimulated. You must also make sure that they get at least one hour each day out of their cage with you to play with them. Either on the floor of your room or the bathroom, or on your bed. Their area to explore should be rat safe...no cords or wires that they could chew, no doors that could open unexpectedly and hurt them, or that they could escape through.
If you already have permission for one rat, I imagine two should be fine. After all two don't take up any more space than one.
As far as whether a college environment is appropriate for rats, it all depends. Will you be in a dorm or apartment? Will you be sharing with one roommate? Or two? If the roommate is a fairly quiet and studious person and does not hate rats, then it should be ok. If the person is loud, has a lot of friends over, plays loud music, then probably not a good idea. The room should be kept at a comfortable room temperature all year round, as rats do not fare well in cold or high heat. There must be absolutely no odors in the room as rats have very delicate respiratory systems and can get sick from odors such as candles, incense, air fresheners, cleaning products, hairspray, cigarette smoke, etc. The room can have normal noises such as talking, tv, music at a normal volume, but there shouldn't be loud music or noises because rats are easily stressed, and stress can cause illness.
Finally, although rats are inexpensive to buy or adopt, their medical care can be expensive. Before you get rats, make sure you have a substantial vet fund in place with several hundreds of dollars in it, or have a means to get funding for vet visits and meds from, say family members. One vet visit can run around $60 just for the visit, not including X-rays or medication if needed. Surgery can be expensive. Female rats almost always get mammary tumors after they reach menopause, about 18 months of age. Tumor removal surgery can cost $250 or more including anesthesia. Males and females can suffer similar illnesses, but males don't typically develop mammary tumors. You may want to consider 2 male rats for that reason, and also because males tend to be more mellow and some can make good lap rats or just hang out on your bed while you're studying. Females are very active, and sometimes hyper. They need more space and places to roam than males do. Both males and females can be equally lovable, it all depends on each rats personality.
I hope this is helpful to you in making your decision. If you have any other questions about this or anything else, please ask. Good luck!