When you see the word ‘rat’ written down, it’s unlikely that the first thing that comes to your mind is ‘fluffy, caring pet’, let alone owning rats as pets.
That’s an association that’s usually reserved for the words ‘dog,’ ‘cat,’ ‘rabbit,’ or ‘guinea pig.’
We get it— rats aren’t blessed with the best of reputations…
But today that’s all about to change!
We’ll show you that domesticated rats can be loving pets, and we’ll tear down the common stereotype that they’re just scurrying rodents that infest sewers and dumps! And once you’re convinced, we’ll cover what you need to know to become a great pet rat owner — from housing to health!
Let’s dive straight in!
Table of Contents
Why Is a Pet Rat Awesome?
People don’t expect to fall in love with a rat.
In fact, most people hesitate before they pick a pet rat over other more well-known small animals like rabbits, hamsters, or guinea pigs...
But, well, you know how these stories go:
Human meets pet. Human is uncertain but decides to give it a go anyway! Then they get to know each other, and, before you know it, they’re inseparable!
You’re probably thinking:
Why? What could possibly make a rodent so charming?
Four marvelous traits:
1. They’re Super Clean
Most people are!
Unlike their wild, dumpster-loving rodent cousins, pet rats are incredibly meticulous groomers that hate getting dirty!
If you pay close attention, you’ll notice the following things:
- Rats spend more time grooming themselves than cats.
- They immediately try to clean off anything that gets on their fur.
- They engage in social grooming as often as they can.
- They rarely need to take a bath unless they suffer from a physical difficulty (age or illness) or they’re unneutered males.
All the evidence points to one important conclusion:
There are no health or disease concerns to worry about when you add a rat to your family!
2. They’re Smart and Easy To Train
Rats are easily the smartest and easiest to train rodents around. Some people even compare their ability to learn new tricks to the most intelligent dog breeds!
It makes sense…
Why else would scientists often pick rats for psychological studies that try to understand and predict human behavior?
People have trained rats to:
- Use a litter box
- Play fetch
- Shoot hoops
- Avoid obstacles and solve puzzles
- Search for food in mazes
- Follow orders
All you need is dedication, and delicious food treats to positively reinforce their good habits!
What will you train yours to do?
Oh, by the way, a pet rat can recognize their human owners and respond to their name when called… clever, right?
3. They’re Incredibly Social and Bond Well With Humans
Rats aren’t just smart; they’re also loving, friendly, cuddly, and even empathetic.
Ask rat owners, and they’ll all tell you the same thing:
Rats are social creatures that love spending time at the center of attention. They usually like hanging out on your shoulder or lap, playing with you, and grooming you like an honorary member of the rat pack. And yes, they’re great with children too!
But there’s a minor drawback (or major advantage, depending on how you look at it):
You should never let a rat live on their own… they’ll get way too lonely and depressed! Always find them at least one or two partners of the same-sex (unless you want to open a rattery as rats can be bred from as young as five weeks old )!
It’s also best to keep littermates together, but if that isn’t possible, rats will also do fine together as long as they’ve been introduced at a young age.
There’s a silver lining to owning multiple rats:
Every little rat you adopt will have their own unique personality (just like a cat or a dog), so you’ll enjoy bonding with each one in a unique way!
4. They’re Easy To Care for
Rats are relatively low-maintenance house pets, especially if you compare them to other animals capable of similar levels of intelligence and affection!
They’re happy to spend most of the day in their cage, chilling and hanging out with their little rat buddies.
But don’t completely forget about your pets:
Make sure to dedicate at least an hour of undivided attention to your rats daily — take them out of their cage, let them exercise in a rat-safe room, and handle them as much as you can.
They’ll love all the care, attention, and cuddles!
If you have the chance, we recommend spending even more time with them because pet rats have very short life spans (only around three years).
So make the most of it!
Are you convinced now that rats have the potential to be wonderful pets?
If your answer is ‘YES!’, then keep reading, and you’ll learn how to take excellent care of pet rats!
Let’s start with:
Housing Your Pet Rats
Housing is the single most important care decision you need to make…
Your pets definitely deserve a fabulous place to live and spend most of their time in!
And, when it comes to rat homes, there’s nothing better than a large, tall wired cage with solid floors (to avoid rats injuring their feet on wires)! This type of enclosure gives them enough space to run, climb, and stay active, as well as offering many customization options.
A choice that ticks all the boxes is the Midwest Deluxe Critter Nation — check it out!
Make sure to also get a couple of accessories to make them feel even more at home:
- A relaxing hammock
- A hideaway box — also called an igloo
- An exercise wheel
- A couple of chew toys
- A litter box — pet rats are typically relatively easy to litter train!
Note: If you click a link on this page, then go on to make a purchase, we may receive a commission but at no extra cost to you. Learn more.
Finally, don’t forget to place good-quality paper-based litter in your cage and to keep their enclosure nice and clean. It’s enough if you pick up droppings daily and do a full clean-up weekly!
Feeding Your Pet Rats
Like us humans, rats are omnivores, and they love a varied diet made up of everything they can place their little hands on!
But there’s an issue with this type of diet:
Rats are very prone to becoming obese.
In other words, you have to control what they eat to avoid them from becoming overweight!
The best option is to feed them a diet based primarily on specially formulated rat pellets that are jam-packed with all the essential nutrients. You should supplement these pellets with unlimited drinking water and a little bit of fresh food like vegetables, fruits, and cooked egg, pasta, or meat.
You may also use seeds and nuts as extra special treats (up to twice a week) to reward good habits.
Don’t be surprised if you find that your pet rats gather and organize their food into neat piles — it’s perfectly normal, OCD rat behavior!
With their shelter and food out of the way, you can now focus on:
Playing With Your Pet Rats
Rats love to play and socialize, especially if they’ve been consistently handled since a young age.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s absolutely pivotal you let them out of their cages for a minimum of one hour each and every day…
So make 100% sure you have this amount of free time before you decide to care for pet rats!
But don’t just let them roam free:
Really pay attention to them and spend the entire hour (or five!) bonding with them. Try teaching them tricks, cuddling and handling them, playing games, or exploring new rooms together!
If you have children, you can confidently bond together as a family. Rats make phenomenal pets for people of all sizes and typically do fantastic with kids!
Did you know?
Females are usually more playful and more active than males, making them even more fun to be around!
Last but not least, you need to know the best way for:
Keeping Your Pet Rats Healthy
Taking good care of your rats isn’t optional for rat owners…
They have such short lives that you really owe it to them!
Do three things scrupulously:
Be on the constant lookout for signs that your rats may be developing a common rat illness, like an infectious respiratory disease, breast tumors, or uterine infections (in females).
Common symptoms include:
- A lack of appetite
- Sluggish movements
- Red-colored discharge (not blood) around the nose or eyes
- Noisy, rapid breathing (in the case of respiratory disease)
If you see any of these, take your rats straight to the veterinarian!
Get your rats spayed or neutered when they’re still young!
This will help prevent many hormone-related diseases as well as overaggressive behavior (very important if you have multiple male rats living together).
Take them to a rat-savvy veterinarian at least once every six months for a full check-up — many diseases can be diagnosed and treated if they’re caught early on!
Closing Thoughts on Keeping Rats as Pets
Rats are intelligent, clean, active, loving, low-maintenance, and super easy-to-train…
They may just be the unsung heroes of the small animal world!
You’ll be absolutely stoked with your little companions if you learn to overcome a few downsides:
- You need to adopt more than one pet rat — the more, the merrier!
- Rats may have short lifespans — short, but intense!
- They need to go to the veterinarian frequently — better safe than sorry!
Pretty doable, right?
We think so too!
So here’s to an incredible next couple of years with your pet rats!