Do Pet Rats Need a Heat Lamp?

Do Pet Rats Need a Heat Lamp
Do Pet Rats Need a Heat Lamp

Pet rats are animals that thrive at their best in environments that are not too hot or cold. A temperate atmosphere between roughly 18℃-24℃ (65℉-75℉), is an optimal temperature for the comfort of your pet rat. Since temperatures can fluctuate greatly at different times of the year, a heat lamp may be a device that can help keep your pet rat comfortable. 

So, do pet rats need a heat lamp? Based upon the temperature inside of a rat owner’s home, a heat lamp is a great device to use when trying to keep a rat warm. Rats are warm-blooded animals that prefer mild temperatures to live comfortably. Pet rat owners should use a heat lamp if the temperature in the home drops below 18℃ (65℉).

Temperate temperatures are the key aspect to remember when it comes to pet rat comfort; however, there are other variables to keep in mind about pet rats and warmth. A hairless rat is much more sensitive to cold temperatures than a rat with fur. Additionally, rats can get cold quite quickly for different reasons, so read on to discover the different variations concerning temperatures for rats and how heat lamps can be effective in certain conditions. 


Heat Lamps, Temperature Fluctuations, and Pet Rats: The Basics

There are frequently many popular myths connected to rats, which are almost always based on falsehoods due to the negative reputation of rats throughout the centuries. The notion that rats are cold-blooded animals is one myth that is entirely untrue; rats are warm-blooded mammals who prefer comfortable temperatures. Since it can be hard to control the temperature in a rat’s cage, heat lamps are a device that can help with this problem. 

Temperature fluctuations in pet rats are a very real attribute that can occur for a number of different reasons. Rats respond to frequent interruptions during their daytime sleeping cycle as well as other factors causing undue stress by developing a condition known as emotional hyperthermia, which is frequent body temperature shifts between hot and cold. If the condition causes extreme cold, a heat lamp may be a beneficial product to add to a rat’s cage. 

But the opposite effect of increased warmth in body temperature can also lead to this condition, which is most definitely not going to be helped by a heat lamp. So, where is the middle ground in this scenario? Basing the needs of a heat lamp for your pet rat is best determined by the preexisting temperature within the room. If it’s the dead of winter outside, you may already be running a home heater, which is likely enough warmth for your pet rat as well. 

Even with this common knowledge, it can still be difficult to tell if your pet rat is undergoing stress from being too cold or too hot. If you have more than one rat in a cage, both rats could exhibit the same symptoms, yet socialization in rat communities is commonly understood to help regulate temperature fluctuations–which are a common problem with pet rats. 

In the 1960s, scientific experimentation was conducted for ways to adequately tell if a rat was having temperature fluctuations. It was discovered that taking a rat’s temperature with a small thermometer produced reasonable results that can show if a rat was too cold. Readings can be off a few degrees if the process stresses the rat out, but this is a good way to verify if your pet rat is in need of a heat lamp.

Furthermore, a nutrient-deficient diet can also cause rises and drops in rat body temperature. The first matter to address would be ensuring that your rat is eating a well-balanced diet suited for omnivorous animals. In the meantime, while you are waiting for your rat’s diet to improve, a heat lamp can greatly help in raising cold rat body temperatures due to the deficiency.

How Does a Heat Lamp Work to Keep Pet Rats Warm?

A heat lamp for a rat cage is typically a small-sized lamp that utilizes infrared heat in a light bulb to generate heat into a rat’s cage. Because the heat can become intense very quickly, it is not recommended to leave the heat lamp on for hours on end. Doing such could cause adverse health problems for a pet rat and possibly even skin burns, especially with hairless rats. 

But, due to the above-mentioned temperature fluctuations found in rats, a heat lamp, such as the 100 W 110V Ceramic Infrared Heat Emitter by Aiicioo, offers a great way to give your pet rat a brief amount of heat if they are having difficulty in getting warm. Extra care should be exercised when using a heat lamp for hairless rats.

Do Hairless Rats Need More Heat Than Furry Rats?

Hairless rats experience all of these temperature fluctuations much more intensely due to the absence of fur. A hairless rat can certainly benefit more from a heat lamp than a furred rat, yet the reverse scenario of too much heat is also a cause for concern. Since rats do not respond well to high heat temperatures, you will need to be very careful in running a heat lamp for a hairless rat. 

Skin burns are also much more possible when using a heat lamp on hairless rats. A heat lamp can start to burn the skin the longer the lamp is left on, so make sure to only run the heat lamp for short periods of time for hairless pet rats.

Since the body temperature of rats is so hard to regulate or keep consistent, is there a solution to this problem from outside of the cage?

Will a Room Heater Keep My Pet Rat Warm?

Room heaters, or space heaters, are helpful heating appliances that heat a small space without the need for central heating. If your pet rat is not undergoing any undue stress that may be causing temperature fluctuations, a space heater is likely enough heat in a room to maintain a comfortable temperature for a rat. This would only be needed during the winter months and the absence of a central heating system in the home. 

The Verdict: Heat Lamps Help Keep Rats Warm

Buying a heat lamp for your rat’s cage is a good idea, especially during the winter months. Heat lamps help keep pet rats warm and can respond to internal temperature fluctuations if your pet rat has a sudden drop in body temperature. On the flip side of the equation, a heat lamp does need to be monitored due to heat sensitivity in rats, and the lamp should never be left to shine in the rat’s cage for hours on end. 

Rats need heat much more than other warm-blooded animals due to these extremes that can occur from stress; however, too much heat is never a good thing. Turn a heat lamp on sparingly. 


Heat lamps provide warmth to the sensitive, internal temperature irregularities in pet rats, yet the necessity of a heat lamp is really up to you. Overall, outside and inside temperatures are usually indicators of what your pet rat needs in terms of maintaining a comfortable temperature. Emotional stress and dietary problems can also cause sudden drops in rat temperature; therefore, measures should be taken to ease these potential problems.  

Do not be afraid to give a heat lamp a try in your pet rat’s cage. If a heat lamp doesn’t seem to help, consider monitoring your rat’s body temperature.