How Long Do Rats Live?

Last Updated : July 18, 2022
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We all wish our beloved pets could live forever, but unfortunately, we outlive most of our pets. Rats are no exception.

Pet rats, however, tend to have a much shorter lifespan than more common pets like dogs and cats. How long can you expect your pet rat to live? Is there anything you can do to extend their lifespan? In this guide, you’ll learn all about rat lifespan and how to properly care for a pet rat for longevity.

how long do rats live

How Long Do Rats Live as Pets?

Pet rats, also known as fancy rats, fare a bit better without exposure to these risk factors. But even a rat living in a home with a human owner may not live longer than two years.

When it comes to pet rat lifespan, sources vary widely. Some pet stores will tell you your rat lives up to five years with proper care, veterinarians and other experts keep the number limited to two.

When you adopt a pet rat, it’s important to have a realistic idea about its lifespan. Of course, you want your pet to live as long as possible. And with proper care, you can extend your pet rat life expectancy

You shouldn’t expect more than two years with your pet rat, or just slightly more.

How long do rats live in the wild?

Wild rats typically do not live for longer than one year. Several factors contribute to this short lifespan, including Predation, food shortages, and human control.

Wild rats live longer when there is a plentiful food supply and more sanitary conditions.

Pet rats also fare a bit better without exposure to these risk factors but even a rat living in a home with its human owner may not live longer than two years.

Do Female or Male rats live longest?

Female Rats often outlive males. Rat lifespan again is heavily dependent on living conditions and care levels no matter what the sex. The female rat can live between 1 and 2 years in captivity.

How Long do rats live – Why do rats only live two years?

“Why do rats only live two years?” is a question many pet rat owners have. Pet and wild rats’ limited lifespan is due to several factors.

How long do rats live


Genetics can lay a major part in determining how long rats live. A rat’s genetic makeup can predispose it to illness, poor immune system, or other health-related issues that shorten its lifespan.

Activity level

Pet rats with an active habitat are more likely to stay active, which will keep them fit longer.

Weight and dietary habits

Obesity can be a cause of shorter lifespans for pet rats, so overfeeding and lack of exercise can make them die sooner.


Like all pets, rats can fall victim to several diseases that can shorten their lifespan significantly.

Rat Species

Different species can have longer life expectancies, but in general, the condition in which they live is moe of a factor. A Brown rat, for instance, will live up to 1- 2 years depending on conditions. Pet rat lifespan, in general, is greater than that of wild rats.

Can You Extend Your Pet Rat’s Lifespan?

By taking proper care of your rat, you can help it live a healthy, slightly longer life. That doesn’t mean that a good diet will allow your pet rats to live for five years, but proper care can keep your rat from dying prematurely.

By sticking to the following tips, you can help extend the life of your beloved pet rat.

Best Rat Cage

Adopt your rat from a reputable breeder

An ethical, informed rat breeder will give rats a proper diet is the first part of their lives, helping to stave off any early-onset feeding habits or resulting diseases.

Pet stores don’t pay as close attention to rats’ feeding habits or genetic makeup, so adopting a rat from one of these stores increases your chances you’ll have a rat with a shortened life.

It’s important to note that different rat breeds might have a different life expectancy.

Store-bought and “feeder” rats tend to live between one and two years.

These rats are typically brown and are more likely to have health problems, especially the rats bred to feed reptiles.

Fancy rats are bred to be less prone to disease and may live between two and three years.

Let your rats be active

Rats need to climb, forage, dig, and balance to stay fit. Provide your pet rat with an open habitat that promotes these activities. Also, allowing your rat to forage rather than setting food in a bowl for it will help maintain a healthy weight.

How long do rats live

Feed your rat antioxidants

Your rat should have a daily portion of fruits and vegetables that are nutrient-dense. Some good fruits are berries, kiwi, and nectarines. Good vegetables for your rat are carrots, broccoli, dandelion grasses, beetroot, or red bell pepper.

Don’t leave the food bowl out 24/7

Putting out a food bowl and leaving it available for your rat to eat from all of the time can lead to obesity. Feed your rat once a day with the recommended amount (usually about 15 grams of dry food and a tablespoon of fresh fruit and veggies) then take the food bowl away once it’s done eating.

How long do rats live

Start good eating habits early

Growing rats shouldn’t eat to capacity like some other animals. Researchers have noted that rats that overeat before reaching adulthood are much more prone to being overweight or obese than adults. Obesity is linked to several illnesses in rats, including mammary tumors, kidney failure, stroke, ovarian disease, fatty liver, and cancer.

Find a good vet

Proper checkups and healthcare are also essential to longevity. As rats are becoming a more common pet, more veterinarians are available to treat them. Finding an experienced vet who specializes in exotic pets can be tough, however, so always look for local recommendations online first before committing to a new vet.

Keep rats safe from toxins

Harmful toxins can shorten a rat’s average lifespan. Try to keep your pet rat away from cigarette smoke, phenols from untreated pine and cedar (materials often used for bedding), and ammonia from urine that’s broken down. Use safe bedding materials such as paper, card, hemp, or aspen, and change your rat’s litter often to avoid ammonia buildup.

Dumbo Rat

Reduce stress for your rat

Rats, much like people, may not live as long when they’re exposed to stressors daily. Prolonged stress in rats can even lead to depression and PTSD.

Things that might cause a rat substantial stress include moving to a new home, social struggles with other rats, the death of a cage mate, or the loss of a primary human carer.

Rats as Pets

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to extend the life of your pet rat, we hope this blog post has given you some new and useful insights. Remember to always monitor your pet rat for signs of illness and to get a good vet that’s experienced in exotics. You should also get your pet used to being handled from a young age, and make sure you spend time with it every day!

We hope we’ve given you some helpful tips about how to keep your pet healthy and happy. Which of these tips are you planning on trying? If there’s anything we missed, let us know in the comments below.

And, if you have other small pets, such as Gerbils or Hamsters, check out our dedicated guides.

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