How to Maintain a Gambian Pouched Rat as a Pet

How to Maintain a Gambian Pouched Rat as a Pet

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A huge rodent native to Sub-Saharan Africa, the Gambian pouched rat is a large rodent. The importation of Gambian pouched rats is prohibited in the United States. However, several jurisdictions still allow them to be kept as pets if they are purchased from American breeders. These rodents, unlike the domestic rats that many people keep as pets, have cheek pouches similar to hamsters that they use to catch food. And, while these animals are raised for the pet trade in confinement, they aren’t necessarily easy to tame.

Gambian pouched rats, as pets, require a lot of regular handling from a young age to stay tame. They’ll also need a huge enclosure to run around in. Furthermore, because there are no commercial meals manufactured expressly for them, their diet is fairly complicated. Overall, this rodent is a high-maintenance pet that requires a dedicated and experienced owner.

Gambian Pouched Rat Behavior and Temperament

Gambian pouched rats have a variety of personalities, and some are simpler to train than others. Despite your best efforts to interact with them as pets, certain rats will remain wary and possibly violent as adults. However, with consistent treatment, the majority of them grow up loving and gentle. They’re highly intelligent and entertaining creatures. Some of them even enjoy having their bellies rubbed.

Gambian pouched rats go through a nipping stage during play as children and require moderate training to break the behaviour. If it happens again, say a firm “no” or a loud “ouch,” and stop playing. If they don’t like something, they’ll grab you with their mouths—not a bite, just a hold—and try to push you away. Respect their communication method, but say “no” or “ouch” if the grip is uncomfortable. While some prefer to be held and cuddled, others squirm when handled yet remain pleasant in general. Most people build strong ties with those who look after them.

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Because these rats are social creatures, they can be kept in pairs or small groups. Some males, on the other hand, might be violent and territorial. This is especially true around sexual maturity, and given enough time and tolerance, they will usually settle down. Even so, it’s recommended not to put two males together because they’ll almost certainly fight. Two ladies can usually get along swimmingly, especially if they’ve been nurtured together since childhood. Males and females that have been spayed or neutered can also live together. It’s also a good idea to keep these rats away from any other pets in the house, as they could damage one another.

Expect to spend significant time each day socializing, feeding, and cleaning up after your pet. Because these rodents are nocturnal, you’ll have to spend most of your time with them in the evening. Furthermore, some owners are unprepared for Gambian pouch rats destructive activities. They, like other rodents, require chewing. If they are not supervised when outside of their cage, they may cause a lot of damage rapidly by biting your belongings. Fortunately, these pets are mostly quiet, though they do make chirping noises.

Size Specifications

From snout to tail tip, Gambian pouched rats are about 28 to 36 inches long. They also weigh between 2 and 3 pounds on average.


A large, strong enclosure is required for Gambian pouched rats. The cage should, in general, be as big as you can fit and afford. It should be roughly 3 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 2 feet tall at the very least.

Because these rodents can quickly gnaw through wood or plastic, powder-coated metal or stainless steel are the finest cage materials. A multi-level cage with ramps and platforms, such as one for a ferret or chinchilla, is also ideal. Any cages with wire flooring or shelves should be avoided since they can damage their feet.

To the enclosure, add a nest box and a choice of wooden chew toys. Large wooden parrot toys are frequently effective. Dog chew toys can also be beneficial. However, plastic toys are dangerous because they may break and your rodent may consume a piece. A good idea is to use an exercise wheel. The wheel should have a solid metal surface with a diameter of at least 15 inches.

Specific Substrate  Requirements

Add a few inches of aspen wood shavings, dye-free paper, or pulp-based bedding to the bottom of the enclosure. Use cedar or pine instead, as their oils are poisonous to rodents. Also, give your rat some paper towels or tissues (no colours or scents) to use as nesting material.

Also See:  Standard Rat

If your cage doesn’t have a base to keep the bedding in place, a urine shield—a metal or plastic strip that wraps around the exterior of the lower half of the cage—can be added. This also helps to keep waste from escaping the cage, as rodents prefer to use a corner as their potty.

On a weekly basis, carefully clean the cage. All of the bedding should be changed, and the surfaces should be cleaned with gentle soap and water. Throughout the week, spot clean by removing filthy bedding.

What Food and Drink Do Gambian Pouched Rats Consume?

In the wild, Gambian pouched rats eat a variety of plants and animals, including different foliage, insects, and small mammals. They require a diversified diet of commercial rat grain mix, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, insects (such as crickets and mealworms), and cooked lean meats and eggs as pets. Consult your veterinarian about the right amount and variety of food for your animal’s size, age, and activity level.

It’s ideal to serve perishable goods to rats in the evening when they’re awake and hungry, so they can consume them rapidly. Other meals, such as grains and seeds, can be placed in a small bowl inside the enclosure for your mouse to graze on. Remove any food that hasn’t been eaten within 24 hours. Feeding is best done with a small ceramic bowl or a stainless steel bowl that attaches to the enclosure’s side. Your rat will be able to chew through anything made of plastic and flip lightweight dishes.

Also keep in mind that Gambian pouched rats stuff their cheeks with food and store it in a different region of their habitat for later consumption. So keep an eye on the cage for any uneaten food that has gotten lost in the bedding and is about to spoil.

Your rat will require fresh water at all times. To keep the water clean, a water bottle attached to the enclosure’s side is perfect. However, leave a water dish in the enclosure until you’re sure your rat is drinking from the bottle on a regular basis.

Typical Health Issues

Even though Gambian pouched rats are usually strong and hardy animals, they can get a number of common diseases that affect rodents.

  • Respiratory infections: Respiratory illnesses are frequently caused by unsanitary settings. Nasal discharge, wheezing, and open-mouth breathing are some of the symptoms.
  • Digestive problems: In rats, diarrhoea caused by bacterial or parasitic diseases is prevalent.
  • Tumors: Different forms of tumours are more common in older rodents.
  • Overgrown teeth: Rodent teeth are constantly growing and must be worn down through feeding and gnawing. Overgrown teeth can make it hard to eat, so a vet usually has to cut them down.
Also See:  Palm Rat

Your Gambian Pouched Rat’s Training

Litter Training

Gambian pouched rats, like other rodents, prefer to use one location as their bathroom, which is usually a corner of their habitat. Some owners place a litter box there to make cleaning easier. To assist your rat in distinguishing between the litter box and the rest of the cage, use a different type of bedding in the litter box. If your rat begins to use a different spot, relocate the litter box to that location.

The rat should eventually accept the litter box as its bathroom. If it is caught using the litter box, reward it with a favourite treat right away to reinforce the behaviour. A rat may avoid using a dirty litter box if it is cleaned every couple of days.


Exercise is important for Gambian pouched rats because it keeps them mentally stimulated and physically healthy, which helps them avoid health problems like obesity. They should be able to get out of their cage for at least a couple hours each day for supervised playtime and socialisation. To encourage them to move about, provide toys both inside and outside the cage.


Gambian pouched rats groom themselves on a regular basis. They don’t need baths often, but sometimes you may need to help them get rid of debris stuck in their fur by rubbing the area gently with a damp cloth.

Costs of Maintenance

Food and bedding are the two most important ongoing expenses for a Gambian pouched rat. Depending on the types you choose and the size of your cage, you may expect to pay roughly $20 to $50 per month on average. You’ll also have to repair chew toys and other worn objects on a regular basis, which might cost anywhere from $10 to $20. Finally, keep routine veterinary exams and emergency care in mind while planning your budget.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Having a Gambian Pouched Rat as a Pet

Gambian pouched rats are fascinating, intelligent, and entertaining pets. They’re also relatively quiet and don’t take up a lot of room. However, because there are no commercial meals manufactured just for them, their diet might be challenging. To keep them docile, they require a lot of attention.

Also See:  Dumbo Rat

Exotic pets that are similar to the Gambian Pouched Rat

Check out these other pets if you’re looking for something similar:

Otherwise, look into other exotic animals as potential pets.

Adopting or Purchasing a Gambian Pouched Rat

Because there aren’t many breeders selling this species in the United States, you may have to travel a long distance to find one. You can also adopt a Gambian pied rat from several rescue organisations. On average, expect to pay between $200 and $500, though this can vary depending on age and other considerations.


Consult your local exotic veterinarian for a trustworthy breeder or rescue organisation. Before making a decision, it’s preferable to see the animal in person. Inquire about the rat’s origins, health history, and temperament from the seller. Choose a rat that has been handled throughout its life and avoid those that are excessively fearful. Also, ask to look at the seller’s animal cages to make sure they are in good shape.

If you want to keep rats of different sexes together, talk to your vet about spaying and neutering them before bringing them together to minimise accidental breeding.

User Questions

Does a Gambian pouched rat make a good pet for kids?

Children should not keep Gambian pouched rats as pets because they require careful handling and a knowledgeable owner to keep them tame and meet their needs.

Are Gambian pouched rats hard to take care of?

Gambian pouched rats require a lot of attention. Their diet can be difficult to understand, and they can be tough to control.

Also See:  Fancy Rat

Do Gambian puffed rats like to be held?

Even after repeated attempts to tame them, some Gambian pouched rats remain wary of being handled. Others, on the other hand, can become friendly and like to be petted and handled.

Are pouched rats friendly?

Pouched rats who are entirely relaxed and affectionate with their owners might be hostile with strangers, similar to how parrots act with their owners. Even the slightest whiff of another member of your family on you can result in a scathing reprimand from your pouched rat.

What do pouched rats eat?

It eats a variety of foods, including vegetables, insects, crabs, snails, and other animals, although it appears to prefer palm fruits and kernels. It has hamster-like cheek pouches that allow it to gather many kilogrammes of nuts per night for underground storage.


I hope you found this helpful guide. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to use the form below.


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