Rats are a somewhat unconventional pet that nonetheless have captured the hearts of many. While some people may think of rats as dirty animals that live in alleyways and eat trash, pet rats are very different than wild rats. They are intelligent, playful animals that love companionship and will bond with you for life.
Owning a pet rat is not easy, though. It has complications and you will need to learn how to care for your rat properly. However, it can be very rewarding if you do so.
What do I need to know about owning a pet rat? You’ll need to know the cost of a rat and its accessories, the risks of owning a rat, how to care for a rat properly, how to play with your rat, what to buy for your rat, and more.
Rats as Pets: Pros and Cons
Just like with any animal, there are benefits and drawbacks to owning a rat. Rats can be excellent pets that fit well into your lifestyle, but certain aspects can be challenging or inconvenient if you’re not prepared for them.
On the plus side, rats are highly intelligent and friendly animals that can make playful companions. They will bond with you and want to spend time with you as they get to know you. They also have little to no odor and are very clean pets.
However, rats can be difficult to own because they are nocturnal animals and they have a tendency to chew on everything. They need a lot of space to live and need to be out of their cage and getting attention fairly frequently. Rats also only live 2-3 years, which can be a hard emotional journey.
Can I Adopt Pet Rat or Should I Buy?
Adopting is always preferable to buying because you’re saving the life of an animal that may have been euthanized or lived in a shelter all its life without the love it needs. Look for your local animal shelter or rat rescue first to adopt a rat that fits your needs rather than buying.
If you choose to buy, your first choice should be a breeder rather than a pet store. Rats bought at pet stores can have health issues and trauma related to being kept in a small space with so many other animals; in addition, pet stores frequently sex the rats wrong and potentially sell pregnant females.
Reputable breeders typically have better practices than pet stores, but beware of scam breeders or breeding mills. Check the reputation of your breeder before you buy.
Is it Legal to own a Pet Rat in All States?
It is legal to own a rat in 49 states, with Alaska being the only exception. Despite being considered an “exotic” pet by veterinarians, they also do not require an exotic pet license to own. Even if they’re legal in your state, check your local laws for regulations on rats as pets before getting a rat.
In Alaska, only genuine white Albino rats are allowed as pets, and in Anchorage no rats are allowed. This is in an effort to prevent a rat population from developing in the state, as Alaska is the only state without a wild rat population issue.
Rats as Pets – Cost of Ownership
Owning a rat isn’t free! Even if you get the animal for free from a friend or someone who is giving it up, you’ll still need to spend money on items like a cage, food, toys, and accessories. It’s important to take into account the cost of the rat before you commit to anything, as some costs can take you by surprise.
Surprisingly, owning a rat can cost as much as owning a cat or dog. This may seem strange given that a rat is a much smaller animal, but there are many things to take into account that you don’t need to worry about for cats and dogs.
Cost to Buy a Pet Rat
The cost of a pet rat is actually fairly cheap, unlike other exotic animals. You can expect to spend $10-20 on a single rat or $20-30 on a pair. It’s best to get more than one rat because they are social animals that need companionship and socialization.
Rats from breeders may be more expensive if they are pedigreed or certified in some way. Expect to spend a little more at a breeder than a rescue, although in that case you are paying for privileges such as a good health history or receiving the rat as a baby, which you can’t guarantee at a rescue.
Rats from pet stores may be available for even less than $10, but it’s not worth it to save a few dollars. Pet stores typically can’t guarantee the health or even the sex of the rat at the time of sale, so you may be in for a nasty surprise.
Rat cage accessories and toys can be one of the more expensive ongoing costs for a rat. Rats tend to chew and tear up their toys, not to mention getting them plenty dirty. You’ll probably be replacing your rat’s toys once every few weeks to months and cycling new ones into the cage. Here are some examples of well-rated toys for rats:
- Exotic Nutrition Xpand Tunnel: $10 [link]
- Niteangel Small Animal Activity Toy: $12 [link]
- WINOMO Pet Hammock Hamster Hanging Toy: $11 [link]
- Kaytee Super Play Tunnel Hanging Tube: $6 [link]
Rats can be picky, so expect to buy a few toys that your pet just never plays with, and learn which types of toys it most enjoys.
Rats typically don’t need collars or leashes because they’re so small, but some stores on Etsy sell rat fashion accessories. Just don’t expect to use these for more than a photoshoot without them getting chewed up!
Pet Rat Food Cost
Rat food is fairly cheap compared to food for other animals, coming in at about $5-10 a bag. These bags will last you a month or more depending on how many rats you have, so you’re really only looking at a few dollars a month in food costs.
You also want to factor in treats or supplements, which can go for $5-10 by themselves. Don’t overfeed treats and these should also last you at least a month, with supplements lasting varying times depending on the dosage and number of doses in the container.
You can also feed rats certain types of human food, so if you want to forgo treats and give your rats leftovers, that’s generally okay. As a rule of thumb, don’t feed your rat refined sugars, but most other foods are safe. Always double check before feeding, and don’t overfeed!
Pet Rat Bedding Costs
Bedding is also fairly cheap, as rats don’t require much of it. A 10lb bag will usually run you between $5-10 and will last a month or more. You can get more expensive bedding, but there’s really no reason to do so unless your rat has an allergy.
Keep in mind that rats have sensitive respiratory systems, so get bedding that is low-dust or dust-free. You should also avoid any type of wood chip, as the oils in the wood could cause your rat problems. Paper bedding such as Carefresh is usually your best option.
Some owners forgo bedding at all and simply line their rat cage with fleece or other cloth and then wash the cloth when it gets dirty. This can be a good alternative if you’re worried about cost. The fleece will cost slightly more up front but will typically last longer, although it will eventually get chewed up.
Rat Cage Cost
A rat cage suitable for one rat can cost as little as $35. You should be getting your rat a wire cage with multiple levels for climbing rather than a glass or plastic tank, as the buildup of ammonia from their urine can cause respiratory issues.
Higher quality cages or cages that fit more than one rat can cost between $50-$100 and will come with multiple levels and even wheels for easy movement. It’s important to get these larger cages despite the cost, as rats will need plenty of space to play as well as have quiet alone time away from you or their companions.
Some fancy cages for rats and other rodents can cost as much as $200 and will come with slides, tunnels, and hammocks in addition to the standard platforms. Whether you get these cages is up to you, as for the most part you can make those extra items yourself for a much lower cost and then insert them in a cheaper cage.
Rat Vet Visit Cost
You’ll need to find an exotic pet veterinarian for your rat, so prices may vary depending on your location and the availability of vets. However, in general expect to spend about $35 for a checkup with no complications.
Rats have frequent problems with tumors, so expect to spend anywhere between $50-150 if your rat needs a tumor removed, as these procedures sometimes have issues and your rat may need to stay overnight.
If you plan on spaying or neutering your rat, you’ll pay around $50-100 depending on the vet and the sex of your rat. If there are any issues with the surgery, you may pay more for overnight stays or extra procedures. In general, spaying is more expensive than neutering.
Ongoing Pet Rat Costs
You’ll be spending roughly $10 a month on food and $10 on bedding for your rat, which fortunately isn’t much. If you have a larger cage you may spend slightly more on bedding. Other than that, you’ll mostly need to worry about the time and effort you’ll put into cleaning their cage, which should happen at least once a week.
You’ll also be buying toys relatively frequently, so you can expect to spend another $20 a month on those in order to keep your rat mentally stimulated and happy. You may also be replacing chewed up toys, blankets, or hammocks periodically.
Overall, before vet costs you can expect to spend around $500 a year on a rat, which is about the same you would spend on a dog or cat. Vet costs yearly, which includes just a checkup and not emergencies or tumor removals, should be less than $50 for a rat 1-2 years old. Tumor removal, which may need to happen more than once in a rat’s life, may cost as much as $150 a year. On average, you’ll spend about $2000 over the course of the rat’s lifespan.
Pet Rat Care Sheet Guide
It’s important to know how to care for a rat before you get one. While some things can be figured out by trial and error, such as favorite toys or the best litter or bedding, you’ll need to know what to expect on most things up front.
You’ll need to know how to choose the right rat, where to get one, what its needs are, and what the best environment is to keep your rat happy and healthy. This includes temperature, food, water, toys, cage, and plenty of other factors.
Keeping and Caring for Pet Rats
Caring for a pet rat has many aspects. You’ll need to clean its cage regularly, cycle out toys and accessories to keep it entertained, and replace food and water every day. While this isn’t a huge commitment, it’s important to remember to do these things. If you aren’t able to stay on top of the basic care tasks, a rat probably isn’t for you.
Rats also need lots of attention and interaction, especially if you only have one rat. Rats need to be out of their cage for at least several hours a day, and most of those should be spent playing or cuddling together to fulfill your rat’s social needs. Again, if you think you’re not able to fulfill this need, you may need to consider getting a different animal or waiting for a different time in your life to get a pet.
How To Choose a Pet Rat
There are a few factors you should consider when choosing a pet rat. You’ll first want to consider the age of the rat you’re buying or adopting, and keep in mind that rats live about 2 years. Younger and older rats may have special needs, while rats around the six month to one year mark will be in the prime of their life.
You’ll also want to consider the sex of the rat you get. Rats may have different behavioral patterns depending on their sex, and if you’re getting more than one rat you’ll want to decide whether you want two of the same sex or different sexes. (Just make sure you spay and neuter your rats in this second case, or you might end up with an unexpected litter.)
Other than that, rats have mostly the same needs and temperaments, so it’s just about getting to know and bonding with an individual rat. You may want to spend some time with the rat before you adopt to make sure it will fit in your life. Both rescues and breeders are usually happy to let you spend time with different rats and get to know them before you choose one.
Where to Get a Pet Rat
You have a few options when it comes to getting a pet rat. The main three are adopting from a shelter or rescue, buying from a breeder, or buying from a pet store. You may also get a pet rat from unusual situations such as someone giving up a rat they can’t care for or giving away unexpected babies.
Buying from a pet store isn’t recommended, as the rats at pet stores are often mistreated and may come with health problems they wouldn’t otherwise have. Many pet stores have even stopped selling rats, so it may not be an option in your area.
Breeders may be able to guarantee certain physical variants such as Dumbo rats or Rex rats, so if you’re looking for something specific you may want to look for a breeder. Buying from a breeder is better than a pet store, but the best option is adopting. By adopting an animal instead of buying, you’re saving a life and giving that animal a chance to have a better life. Most shelters and rescues are cheaper than breeders as well.
Pet Rat Breed Overview
The whole species of rat is considered one breed, as the differences between rats are fairly minor and are visual only. For the most part, there are not breeds with drastic differences the way there are with dogs and cats, but there are varieties with different characteristics. These may be different sizes or have different fur patterns.
For example, standard rats are the typical animal you would think of when you picture a rat. They have small ears, a tail, and smooth, short fur. Dumbo rats have larger ears than standard rats, while hairless rats have no hair (as suggested by their name). Rex rats have curly or wavy fur in addition to curly whiskers. There are tailless breeds of rat, but they are not recommended as rats need their tails to properly regulate their temperature.
Rats can also be classified according to their color or pattern, with some examples being Berkshire (white feet and tail), Irish (white triangle on chest), and capped (one color on the head and another on the body). Rats may grow into or out of certain patterns, so their pattern as a baby doesn’t guarantee their pattern as an adult.
What Do Pet Rats Eat?
The best food for your rat is going to be store bought food formulated specifically for rats. Seed mixes can be a good option as well, assuming your rat eats all the types of seeds in the mix (most won’t). One of these two should make up the bulk of your rat’s diet.
You can supplement your rat’s diet with treats such as fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, or very lean meats. Rats can also eat pasta and bread, cooked beans, and yogurt. Rats can eat most foods except potatoes and refined sugars, although you should also avoid drinks other than water.
Don’t feed your rat food made for other animals such as gerbils or hamsters, as their nutritional needs are very different and your rat will not get what it needs from that kind of food. Gerbil and hamster food typically has too many grains and not enough protein for a rat.
Pet Rat Behavior and Temperament
Rats are highly intelligent animals that love company and social interaction. They will gladly spend time with you playing or sitting on your shoulder, and can even be taught tricks. For the most part, rats are sweet animals that won’t have behavioral issues unless they are scared or unhappy.
Rats are nocturnal, which means that you should spend the most time with them during dusk, dawn, and at night. Put your rat’s cage somewhere it won’t be disturbed during the day to keep it happy and healthy. Never force your rat into a new or uncomfortable situation, as this can cause behavioral issues such as peeing and pooping in areas that aren’t the litter box.
Rats can be territorial, so be careful when introducing your rat to new animals, especially new rats. They may become aggressive if threatened by another animal or if their territory is encroached upon. These behaviors are rare and can usually be addressed by removing the other animal and introducing them more slowly on neutral ground.
Are Pet Rats Aggressive?
Rats are typically not aggressive except in certain situations. Under normal circumstances, rats are friendly animals that don’t present issues. However, if they or their territory is threatened, they may become aggressive to defend themselves.
Rats will usually give warning signs before they become aggressive, such as hissing or raising their fur to make themselves appear bigger. If your rat begins to act like this, try backing off or allowing them to leave the situation. This should stop any aggressive behavior. If your rat is reacting like this to a person or animal that lives in your home, you may need to introduce them in a different way or find a neutral space.
Rats may bite without being aggressive. Among themselves, rats may nip to communicate. If your rat is biting, it may be trying to play or get your attention. To discourage biting, try squealing or yelping when your rat bites to let it know that you’re hurt. Chances are your rat doesn’t want to hurt you and will stop biting when it realizes you’re in pain.
How Much Should You Play with Your Pet Rat?
The recommended amount of time to play with your pet rat is one to two hours a day at minimum, but if you can’t manage that amount of time, anything is better than nothing. Give your rats as much time as possible out of the cage and spending time with you. This doesn’t have to be active play time, although rats love that. If you are doing homework or some other quiet activity, your rat will enjoy sitting with you on your lap or shoulder just as much.
Rats that have another rat as a companion may not need as much time to play, but they should still be brought out of their cage as frequently as possible. You don’t need to be playing with your rats the entire time they’re out of the cage as long as you’re cuddling or otherwise giving them attention. Make sure you’re giving attention to all of your rats if you have more than one and that they are all getting enough exercise while out of the cage.
Best Housing for Your Pet Rat
The best place to put your pet rat is in a wire cage with plastic platforms. The wire allows air to circulate, keeping your rat’s respiratory system healthy, and the plastic is easier on their feet than wire floors. The cage should be about two feet by two feet by four feet for two rats.
You should use dust-free or low-dust bedding and cover the bottom of the cage with it, as well as place and fill a litter box with dust-free litter. Don’t use cat litter or clumping litter, as this can be harmful to your rat.
Rats should be kept inside where the temperature can be regulated and they aren’t subject to the wind or other weather. Keeping a rat outside can be bad for its health and will reduce its quality of life.
Recommended Food and Water
The most commonly recommended food for rats is the Oxbow Regal Rat Food, which is formulated specifically for rats and costs about $12 for a 3lb bag. If Oxbow is available, it’s the best choice for your rat. If it’s not available, make sure the food you’re getting is made for rats and not other animals.
You can give your rat any regular water as long as it is clean and drinkable. Don’t give your rat carbonated drinks, especially not ones with artificial sweeteners or caffeine. Regular water is perfectly fine for your rat and in fact is the best option. Don’t add anything to the water and don’t use mineral water or supplemented water. Tap water works fine in most areas.
Pet Rat Life Span
Rats live about 1-3 years depending on their quality of life and whether or not they develop health complications such as tumors. Most rats will live to be around 2 years unless they are exceptionally healthy, with a few living as long as 3 years. It’s very rare for a rat to live longer than this, but still possible.
A rat’s short life span is important to take into account when choosing it as a pet. While for some people, a shorter commitment may be better suited to their lifestyle, others may find it difficult to form a bond with a pet and then have it die after only a few years. You should take this into account and consider whether a longer-lived animal may be better for you.
Common Health Problems
The most common health problem that rats have is tumors. Most rats will develop a tumor at some point in their life, and you will usually need to have it removed to maintain the rat’s quality of life. Tumors are especially common in female rats.
Rats also commonly develop respiratory issues such as infections. Their respiratory systems are very sensitive, so it’s not uncommon for dust from bedding or litter to cause infections. If litter boxes aren’t clean, the ammonia from the urine can also cause respiratory problems in rats.
Older rats may develop spinal issues that keep them from moving properly, which means they may need help in their later years when it comes to walking, climbing, or cleaning themselves. Rats typically develop issues at the back of their spine near their tail.
Pet Rats Allergies
It’s very possible to be allergic to rats, although if you are allergic to cats or dogs this doesn’t mean you’ll be allergic to rats. A rat allergy can occur due to their fur or dandruff just like with dogs and cats, although this is not very common. You may want to spend some time handling rats and being around them before you get one to determine whether you are allergic or not.
More commonly, you may be allergic to rat urine or droppings. These both contain a certain type of protein that many humans are allergic to, so be careful when handling rat litter. Allergic reactions are usually mild, but if you notice any kind of reaction you should wash the area thoroughly. It’s best to use gloves when handling rat waste and litter.
Do Pet Rats Like Toys?
Rats love toys and will play with them all day. They’re smart enough to have preferences regarding what toys they play with and may refuse to play with some toys yet completely wear out others. You’ll need to find out what toys your rat likes through trial and error.
It’s important to rotate toys in and out of your rat’s cage to keep it mentally stimulated. Changing up the toys allows your rat to participate in different activities and keeps it from getting bored. You’ll also need to replace toys over time as your rat wears them out, so be prepared to buy new toys frequently. Some toys can be played with inside the cage, while others can be played with outside.
Rats love toys they can chase or toys that simulate digging and burrowing. This means balls of any kind, tunnels, boxes, and even string can be great for rats. You can provide a digging box for your rat to burrow in by filling a box with dirt, or you can provide ropes for tug-o-war and chewing.
Pet Rat Habitat
Rats should be kept indoors in a cage that is big enough for them to have alone time when needed. It should fit a litter box as well as several toys. Rats need to have a temperature controlled environment that’s between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. Anything above 80 degrees can risk heat stroke and death.
Rats also need adequate airflow and controlled humidity in their environment, so they’re best kept indoors in a room with the door or a window open. It’s important that they’re not disturbed when they sleep, so make sure this room is quiet and that people or other animals won’t enter it.
Pet Rat Nails & Teeth
For the most part, healthy rats will take care of their nails and teeth themselves. Rats grind down their teeth by chewing and eating, and will also grind down their nails by running around. They may even bite their own nails to trim them if they find it necessary. In general, if your rat is healthy and active, you won’t need to trim their nails or clean their teeth.
However, if for some reason you need to trim their nails, either because the rat is unable to or because you’ve gotten injured, do so very gently and carefully. You can use a pair of human nail clippers to clip off the very tip of the nail, avoiding the deep red quick.
Rat teeth should only be trimmed by a vet while the rat is under anesthesia, as it’s a dangerous process that can injure the rat severely if done wrong. However, an exotic animal vet will have the equipment and skills needed to do it easily.
Useful Facts About Rats as Pets
There’s a lot you need to know about rats before you get one as a pet. These are the types of things that most people may not know but that are very important to make sure you’re treating your rat right. Here are some key tips you should know before getting a rat, or even that you can learn after you’ve already gotten one.
Is a Pet Rat a Safe Animal to Have?
Pet rats are perfectly safe animals that typically don’t carry diseases the way that wild rats are known to do. They are usually not aggressive and are small enough that they can’t do much harm if they are play biting or scratching.
Most rat owners find that the biggest risk with their rat is running away or hiding, so the only danger is really to the rat itself. Keep a close eye on your rat and make sure it’s not chewing on anything it shouldn’t chew on and can’t get into any confined spaces.
Best Cage Type for Pet Rats
Rats need a wire cage that is at least two feet by two feet by four feet. It’s important not to get painted bars if you can avoid it, as they may try to chew on the cage and could eat paint by accident. Don’t get a cage with solid glass or plastic walls, as this can cause respiratory issues.
The cage should have vertical levels and platforms for your rat to climb on, as they love to climb and play. The platforms should be plastic or covered in cloth to be easier on your rat’s feet and keep them from slipping through the cracks in a wire platform.
How to Properly Feed Your Pet Rat
You should provide your pet rat with hard pellets or a block to chew on. You can leave them out for your rat to eat when it’s hungry, as rats typically won’t overeat their regular food. Put their food somewhere accessible, but consider putting it on a higher level or somewhere they need to work to get to. This will help mentally stimulate them.
You can feed your rat treats as long as they are natural foods that don’t contain refined sugars or carbonation. Good options are pasta, bread, cooked beans, lean meats like liver, fresh fruits, or fresh vegetables. Don’t feed your rat chocolate, refined sugars, or caffeine.
Pet Rat Housing – Indoor or Outdoor?
It’s best to keep your rats indoors, as the outdoors can be both dangerous and unpredictable. Wild predators may try to get at your rat if it lives outdoors, and it will be unprotected from fluctuations in temperature and weather.
Keeping your rat indoors allows you to control the environment and ensure your rat is as healthy as possible and lives as long as possible. It’s recommended that you not take your rat outdoors or allow it to get used to the outdoors, as that increases the risk that it will try to escape if for example a door is left open.
Exercise Best Practices
Your rat needs about an hour to two hours of exercise and interaction a day. You should do this in keeping with your rat’s schedule, which means around dawn or dusk or at night are the best times to exercise your rat. Use toys such as tunnels and boxes for your rat to run around and climb in.
You can also wrestle with your rat or chase it around, as long as you are being gentle and careful not to harm your rat. Wrestle with one hand only and don’t press too hard, and if you’re chasing then make sure to get on your hands and knees to avoid stepping on your rat. Make sure to let your rat win the race or wrestling match every once in a while, as this is good for their mental health.
Pet Rat Grooming
Pet rats don’t need to be groomed, for the most part. Rats are very clean animals that spend a significant amount of time cleaning themselves. Not only do they clean their own fur, they also keep their teeth and nails trimmed by themselves. You won’t need to do very much if your rat is healthy, and you can just let it take care of itself.
If your rat is overweight or very old, it may have difficulty cleaning itself, in which case you can assist by brushing or dabbing at its fur with a wet cloth or sponge once a day to every two days. You may also need to trim its nails; a pair of human nail clippers will do as long as you are careful of the quick. Other than that, your rat won’t need much grooming.
What Can You Expect the First Month of Owning a Pet Rat?
Your first month with your rat will probably be very different than your time with your rat after it gets used to your household. Rats are animals that need a safe place and do not do well if their routine is interrupted. Your rat may be shy or unfriendly until it gets to know you and the new place it’s living in.
To help your rat adjust, make sure to make it clear that their cage is its safe space. Provide places to hide and burrow, and leave it alone unless it comes to you. Allow it to have a set routine of sleeping and waking, and don’t try to force your rat into any situations such as play or waking up during the daytime.
Should You Bathe Your Pet Rat?
It’s better not to bathe your pet rat, as rats are more than capable of keeping themselves clean and spend a significant amount of time grooming and cleaning themselves. Bathing your rat can lead to dry skin and overproduction of oils, which can actually cause odors to be worse.
If your rat is very old and unable to clean itself, you should still limit your cleaning. Don’t give your rat a full bath, but instead use a cloth or sponge to gently clean up any feces or urine that may be stuck to your rat’s behind. This should be enough to help your rat, and your rat or its companions will help with the rest.
Pet Rats Hygiene
Rats are very clean animals that don’t typically have an odor. They clean themselves every day and keep their fur free of debris or unnecessary oils. However, just like with any animal, you should still wash your hands after handling your rat. Don’t put your rat on surfaces used to eat or prepare food.
Healthy rats don’t need help staying clean and will take care of themselves and any companions they may have. Male rats that have not been neutered may develop a buildup of oils around their scent glands due to hormones, but it’s best to leave these areas alone to prevent drying out the skin and causing overproduction of oils.
Taking your rat to the vet will require a few tools but should generally be easier than taking a dog or cat to the vet. You’ll want to bring a travel cage that has some bedding or litter in it for your rat to use, and possibly a blanket or sock to hold your rat still while your vet does their examination. Don’t use a cardboard travel container, as your rat may chew out of it.
Your rat probably won’t like the vet much, even if just because it’s a new place with unpleasant smells and unfamiliar people. Be as soothing as possible and talk to your rat in a calm tone of voice. Don’t take your rat out of its cage until you’re in the examination room, as you don’t want to risk your rat running away due to fear.
A regular vet checkup should cost under $50, so make sure to get a quote before you choose a vet. Research the exotic animal hospitals in your area before you make any decisions on who you see, and if you don’t like a vet, don’t be afraid to find a new one.
How To Keep Your Pet Rat Healthy
There are a number of ways to keep a rat healthy, and they’re usually the same ways that you would keep yourself healthy. Your rat will be able to take care of itself in some ways, but you should also take care of your rat and make sure it’s getting what it needs.
Feeding your rat the right foods in the right amounts and not letting it have too much junk food will keep your rat from getting overweight. It’s also important to make sure your rat gets enough play and exercise and has enough time outside of its cage.
You should also keep your rat in the right environment, free of unnecessary stress or discomfort. Make sure the temperature and air flow are appropriate and that people or other animals aren’t bothering your rat while it’s trying to sleep or rest.
How Many Rats Should I Get?
While rats benefit greatly from having a companion, you should ultimately make that decision based on your situation and what you can handle. Rats can survive and be happy by themselves as long as you give them enough attention and enough mental stimulation in their cage.
However, if you have the means, your rat will really appreciate having another rat as a companion. This also cuts down on the time that you will need to spend with them playing outside of their cage, as the rats will play together inside. It’s usually recommended that you get two rats of the same sex to avoid breeding.
Getting more than two rats isn’t usually recommended, although if they all get along there’s no harm in it. In the end, you should make the best decision for yourself and your rats, so get as many rats as you know you can take care of and as many as your rats will be happy with.
Pet Rat and Children
Rats can be great pets for children ages 7 and up. They are smart, playful, and loving, and they are usually very docile and accommodating. Children under 7 may have a more difficult time understanding boundaries and how to handle a rat without injuring it, so they should only be around rats under supervision.
However, children around the age of 10 are at a great age to get a rat. They are old enough at that age to understand the responsibility and know how to act around animals. If your child wants to get a rat, make sure they do their research first and know how much attention rats need. Different children will be at different maturity levels, so you’ll make the final decision about whether your children are ready for a rat.
5 Pet Rat Safety Tips
Here are some quick tips to make sure you and your rat stay safe.
- Keep electrical sockets and wires away from your rat. Rats will chew through anything, and this includes powered appliances. Don’t let them near wires if they have a tendency to chew.
- Don’t let your rats go anywhere without supervision. If your rats are out of their cage, don’t let them run around without keeping your eye on them. They’re bound to get up to or into something they shouldn’t.
- Always wash your hands after handling your rat or anything from its cage. As clean as your rat may seem, it’s still an animal and you should take care after handling it. You should especially wash your hands if you’ve just handled litter or food.
- Don’t hold your rat close to your face. Even if the two of you are very close emotionally, this can still startle your rat into biting, which can seriously injure you and potentially spread disease.
- Never lift your rat by the tail. You should always pick your rat up from underneath, supporting its bottom and feet so that it doesn’t get frightened. Picking it up by the tail could seriously injure it.
How Quickly Will you Bond With your Pet Rat?
How quickly you bond with your rat will depend on how much time you spend with it. If you have more than one rat, it may be more difficult for you to break into their social group, and they may need more time to get used to you.
Overall, you will probably spend about a month getting to know your rat before you bond. You should spend this time offering plenty of treats and training your rat to get used to being handled, as these will speed up the rate at which your rat gets to know you.
Can You Train a Rat?
Rats can be trained fairly easily. One of the most important things to train your rat to do is use a litter box, which they will usually learn very quickly if a litter box is placed in their habitat. You can also train a rat to sit on your shoulder or even do tricks.
Training a rat is just like training any other animal. The most important thing to remember is to be consistent. Offer a treat every time your rat does something you want, and repeat the same command in the same tone of voice. Over time, your rat will learn to associate the command with the action as well as with getting rewarded.
Rats enjoy the mental stimulation of training and learning, so it’s a good activity to do with them while they are out of their cage. Spend just a little time training each day so that you aren’t overfeeding treats.
Do Rats Get Along with Other Pets?
Whether or not your rat gets along with your other pets will depend on what pets you have and their personalities. Typically, if you introduce the pets gradually over time and supervise them closely, they can get used to each other. You should always have the first encounter on neutral ground with several people around to control the situation.
Some animals, such as cats or dogs with strong prey drives, shouldn’t be introduced to rats just to be safe. If you have just gotten the dog or cat and don’t know much about it, don’t risk introducing them until you know more. Use your best judgment when deciding whether to introduce your pets.
Can rats eat dog or cat food? No, and you should stop them from doing it if you see them. These foods don’t have the nutritional balance your rat needs and can upset its stomach or cause it to gain weight if it’s eating too much.
Should I spay or neuter my rat? It’s always recommended that you spay or neuter your animals to avoid accidental litters. Rats are no exception and can even become calmer and more friendly after being fixed.
Can I have a rat in an apartment? This will depend on your landlord, but usually, if you explain that your rat is not wild and is kept in a cage, apartments will allow you to keep them. They may require you to pay a pet deposit or pet rent.