Bathing Rats | Clipping Nails | Buck Grease |
Rats do a pretty good job of grooming and cleaning themselves, however occasionally they may need our help.
For the most part, rats don't need to be bathed. They groom and wash themselves all the time and manage to keep themselves clean. Very occasionally there might be a reason to bathe your rat. Sometimes rats get up to no good and might get something horrible and sticky on their fur that you don't want them to ingest. Older and incapacitated rats might need help in that department as well. Always take into acount the health and age of your rat. If your rat is unwell or frail, a full on bath might be too stressful for him. Try cleaning him with a damp cloth or baby wipes instead.
You can bathe your rat in a bathtub or sink. I prefer to use the sink, as I think the rats feel more secure in a smaller space. First make sure you're wearing protective clothing - a shirt with long sleeves and maybe gloves. Believe me, you're arms will thank you! Just be prepared for your rats using your arms as an escape route.
Next, have two fluffy towels ready, and place one folded up on the counter beside the sink. Then run some warm water - rats have a higher body temperature than us, so make the water a little warmer than you think.
Now for the fun part. Grab one rat, and dunk him into the water, but don't submerge his head or ears. Pull out one now very angry and indignant rat, and place him on the towel. Shampoo him using either Johnson's Baby Shampoo, or a kitten or puppy shampoo, making sure you massage it into his fur well.
Place the rat back in the water, and rinse off the shampoo well. Then bundle up the sodden rat in a dry towel and rub him dry. They usually love this part, although they'll still give you dirty looks. Next, and most important, offer lots of treats as a peace offering.
Remember to talk to your rat to soothe and placate him throughout the whole process. He won't believe a word of it, but it'll make you feel less guilty.
Clipping nails generally isn't necessary. The main reason people clip their rat's claws is because they aren't fond of the copius scratches rats inflict on our skin while climbing us. Occasionally it is needed in the case of a rat that has lost use of their hind legs, and their back claws can't wear down naturally. Other times a rat may have skin parasites, and clipping their claws prevents injury to the skin when they scratch excessively.
If you're a little unsure about it, you can try putting a brick or cement slab in the rat's cage. Somewhere they frequent, such as under a water bottle works well. This helps to wear down the claws and keep them short.
Always clip your rat's claws in direct sunlight or under a bright light. Because rats have claws and not nails, they have a vein (the quick) running down the claw. Make sure you only clip the clear part of the nail, avoiding the pink vein. If you do clip the vein by accident, make sure you have cornflour on hand to stem the bleeding. A rat's claw can bleed profusely, and dipping the claw in the cornflour helps stop it.
Baby nail clippers are best for clipping claws. The easiest way to cut a rat's claws is to use two people. One person to hold the rat firmly, the other to grab the paw and clip the claw. Always do one nail at a time. If your rat is a bit of a crybaby, he may scream bloody murder while you do this, so be prepared. If your rat is particularly wriggly, the "rat burrito" method works well. Wrap your rat up in a towel with only the head and the paw in question exposed. Personally I don't like to do this, as rats don't like to be confined and find it extremely stressful.
Some people have had success with the distraction method too. Give your rat a treat, and while he's busy eating, you may have success with clipping some back claws. This may only work for the first claw or two before the rat is on to you, so try and be quick.
Remember to give your rat a break between feet if he needs it, and offer him treats.
Buck grease is an
oily orange skin discharge found in unneutered males. It's testosterone driven, and sometimes there's an over production of it, creating a greasy orange like dandruff on the fur, which is difficult to remove by washing.
A change in diet can help to reduce it.
You'll need to change the diet to include more omega-3 fatty acids. Giving them flaxseed oil or olive oil on wheat bread a couple of times a week is all that's needed. This not only reduces the buck grease, but also improves the condition of their coat, making it softer and shinier.