There are five recognised species of African Grass Rats found in the wild, ranging from Zambia to the Nile Delta.
Those most commonly seen in captivity are the Nile Rat (Arvicanthis niloticus) this is the most wide spread of all the African Grass Rats. Found from the Arabian Peninsula and the Nile Delta south to Zambia.
They are about 11-20cm in length with an additional 10-15cm long tail, The tail is covered in short hairs. The head is reasonable narrow, the ears small and round. In colour, the back and sides are dark brown, heavily ticked with black buff hairs. Some species show a distinct black strip down the centre of the back.
Although not a common pet being more timid than the fancy rat. They have been kept as pets for a considerable time. They are more of a watchable pet than one to be handled as they can be difficult to catch. Normally they avoid hand contact and may bite if just grabbed, care and calmness is required when handling. They can be tamed to be handled but this does take time and needs to begin almost from birth. They can be jumpy, easily clearing 12 inches a single leap.
They may be house like any other small rodent in either a large cage or a large terrarium. This should be supplied with a deep litter base into which they will enjoy burrowing, Branches should be given as not only will this allow them to climb but they will also enjoy chewing on these. They also enjoy a suitably sized exercise wheel. Nest boxes and or pipes will provide them with places to sleep and hide.
Nile rats are very social and are best retained in same sexed pairs or group. Breeding is not advised as they are very prolific breeders, litters being born after approximately 18 days and may contain up to 11. Babies are born fully furred and are able to move about the cage within a couple of days. They are weaned at 14 days and may live for up to 6 years.
They are fairly clean animals and have hardly any smell. They are mainly vegetarians and should be fed a basic rodent mix supplemented with fresh fruit and vegetables. Dried or live insects such as locusts or mealworms, may be given once or twice a week and will be greatly enjoyed. Nile rats should always have good quality hay both as part of their diet and to use for nesting.
Nile rats can be active at all times of day. Although they do appear to have two activity peaks early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
There is dad and sons and mum and daughters looking for homes. They are great fun to watch as they are so active. The ages range from 3 weeks up to adiult.