Unlike humans, rats do not tolerate heat well at all. Although it may seem odd that wild rats thrive in Australia, we must remember that they are not constrained to a small cage and can therefore seek out the coolest place to shelter during the heat of the day.
Rats overheat very quickly and if unable to cool down, overheating is fatal. If your rat is starting to overheat, he will lie stretched out to expose as much of his body as possible and will be sluggish and unresponsive.
He will begin to pant, and then finally drool. This is his body’s last attempt to cool himself down by using the drool for evaporative cooling. If your rat is drooling he is dangerously hot, and won’t be able to cope with the heat for much longer. It is vital that at this stage you find a way to cool him down, or death with follow.
It is becoming quite common, especially in the Southern states, for heat-waves to occur. Make sure that you are always prepared with at least bottled water in the freezer so that you don’t get caught out.
The most effective way to keep your rats cool during hot summer days and nights is air conditioning. However, if you are not able to keep your rats air conditioned, here are some tips to help keep your ratties cool.
Coolest Room of the house
On very hot days, put your rats in the coolest room you have. In many houses this is often the bathroom. The bottom of a shower can provide relief from the heat.
If it is so hot that you are seriously worried for your animals and cannot get them into air conditioning, leave the shower on a very light spray or dribble on cold. Ensure that your ratties can get out of the spray and the wet.
If you rats have to stay outside, make sure they are completely out of the sun and preferably under the house if you have the option.
Find a large tub (we use a kitten sized litter tray), fill with cold water and add a handful or two of ice cubes.
This will give your rattie a cool bath. Your rat will get into the water if he is too hot, in order to cool down.
Find a flat bottomed dish or tub (ceramic is great as it keeps the contents cool), fill with cold water and add a good spattering of frozen peas.
Rats adore peas and will start fishing for the peas and playing in the water, which will help cool them down.
Terracotta tiles & flower pots
This isn’t an option open to everyone, but those of us that have a chest freezer that isn’t full to the brim can use this option. Terracotta stays nice and cool, spray the terracotta with water and put in the freezer.
Rats will enjoy lying on the cool tiles and the air inside a frozen flowerpot will be much cooler than the air outside. Its a good idea to have two sets so that you can freeze one and use one.
Rats don’t usually enjoy being misted with water, but when circumstances require it, misting them with cold water is a good way to keep them cool.
Frozen water bottles
Freeze bottles full of water, wrap them in a tea towel and put them into the cage for the rats to lay against.
Unfortunately as rats do like to chew, they have on occasion chewed through the plastic and caused a small flood. Better a small flood than suffering ratties.
Fan with damp towel
If you have a spare fan, point it at the rat cage and lay a damp cold cloth over half of the cage. The air moving through the damp cloth will produce a cool breeze. Rewet cloth as needed.