9 Pet Rat Care Facts: You Should Know
Pet rats have been around since ancient times, and aficionados domesticated them 5,000 years ago. Today, with proper pet rat care, they are common household pets.
Pet rats are social animals who enjoy spending time with their owners; they love being held and cuddled and even show affection towards their owners.
How much to you know about pet rat care? Keep reading to learn how to care for your pet rat.
Do Rats Make Good House Pets?
The answer is yes, but with certain qualifying circumstances.
However, pet rats don’t always get along well with each other. There are many reasons why pet rats may fight. Rats do best if raised together as a family in pairs or a trio from a young age.
Do pet rats bond with their owners?
Rats need lots of socialization to prevent bad habits. If you want to keep your pet rat happy, ensure you provide them with plenty of attention and exercise; and provide lots of toys and treats.
Pet rats are not typical pets and fall into the exotic pets category. They have been domesticated for many years and with good pet rat care they make exciting pets.
Your rat will be active, especially a male rat, who will provide hours of entertainment with his antics. Females are also good pets, but the males have more daredevil spirit and usually warm up to humans easier. Female rats are sometimes more cautious and can be withdrawn at times.
Are Rats Affectionate Pets?
Developing an affectionate pet takes time. The willingness of pets to allow handling, cuddling, and signs of affection requires trust, which doesn’t generate automatically.
All pets are different, and individual animals’ trust and affection levels will vary.
Like a hamster, guinea pig, bird, or other house pet, if the rat is left alone and ignored, chances are high that it will develop shyness and a general malaise regarding humans.
Looking at it from the rat’s point of view, how could you blame them?
But suppose you socialize the rat consistently, keep it near activity, practice good pet rat care by provinding a clean cage with fresh food and water, and regularly give it proper exercise and out-of-cage-time. In that case, chances are much better the rat is well socialized and develops trust with its caregiver(s), and this approach should provide better results.
What are the Most Common Pet Rat Varieties?
The American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association (AFRM) officially recognizes seven pet rat varieties on its website.
- Standard – hair is short, smooth, and shiny
- Rex – curly hair and whiskers
- Tailless – no tail
- Hairless – absent of any hair
- Satin – lustrous, shiny coat of hair
- Dumbo – large ears (like an elephant, on the sides of the head)
- Bristle Coat – coarse hair, stiff
Unless you plan to show your rat(s) in formal competitions, the variety you choose depends on your availability and personal preferences. Be sure to discuss the traits of particular varieties with your breeder or at the point of purchase/adoption.
The AFRM has an entire page on its website that provides information about the numerous possible combinations.
What Rat Breed is the Friendliest?
Rats are not known by specific breed in the pet circles but rather by variety. And varieties of pet rats generally refer to particular color variations.
Some people feel white rats are friendlier, but some variables make that difficult to judge.
Are there simply more white rats being bred for the pet trade because they are appealing?
A scientific study published in Neuronline confirms that male rats tend to be more outgoing and willing to take risks than female rats, so perhaps that indicates that a male rate would be more favorable toward humans.
Before bringing a pet rat into your home as a house pet, interact with males and females in different colors and ideally raised from different litters and breeders, if possible. You may be able to gauge their friendliness after a short time, but there are no guarantees.
Pet Rat Colors
Different color variants occur naturally, and breeders continue to develop consistent color varieties in their lines. According to the National Fancy Rat Society (NFRS), some standard colors include:
- Pink Eyed White – typical white rat, used in medical research, pink eyes.
- Champagne – vibrant champagne-colored rat, red eyes
- Buff – a beige rat, red eyes
- Platinum – pale grey with hints of blue, with red eyes
- Quicksilver – bright shade of blue-grey, ruby eyes
- Black – solid black, black eyes
Other color variations, mutations, and combinations are possible, but breeders often try to breed for specific colors. The NFRS website contains a document describing the colors and varieties in more detail.
Pet Rat Cost
The price of a pet rat ranges from $5 to $30. Plenty of rats are also available for adoption or from owners who no longer wish to keep them. Since they don’t live long lives, like dogs and cats, rats sometimes do not appear readily available in typical animal shelters.
Some exotic animal shelters and organizations do have pet rats available for adoption.
Pet Rat Life Expectancy
Rats live short lives, typically ranging from 2 – 3 years. Some rats may live a little longer, but that is not typical. This tendency leads some potential owners to shy aware from ownership. In contrast, others acknowledge the short lifespan and enjoy keeping them and giving them the best life possible while they are alive and well.
Pet Rat Care
Pet rats are not for complete beginners, but experience with hamsters, guinea pigs, or gerbils is a great start. Bigger than those pocket-sized pets, rats are very active. They get nervous when exicited and withdrawn when afraid. Taking care of your pet rat is not difficult, if you know how.
What do I need to take care of a pet rat?
Pet rat care that includes exercise and a clean living environment with minimal stressors from loud noises, temperature extremes, and other large pets (like dogs) to agitate your rat(s) will ensure they live a happy life.
Pet Rat Cage
Appropriate cages for housing your rats range from simple and affordable to complex and very expensive.
The inexpensive pet rat cages look similar to a typical bird cage in which a cockatiel might reside. The deluxe models look like metal cages that often house large pet birds such as Macaw, Amazon, or Eclectus parrots.
The critical feature among all the commercial choices includes various levels and platforms so that the rats can climb, explore, and have a place to rest (i.e., chill out or even hide for some respite from the excitement when needed).
The cage needs to be chew-proof and safely constructed, and the bars need proper spacing to prevent the escape of the rat poking its head between the bars and becoming stuck.
An improper cage could risk harm to your pet(s). Check the bar spacing to ensure it’s suitable. An improper cage can impact pet rat care and even injure them.
Pet Rat Toys
Rats enjoy playing with all types of cardboard, such as paper towel tubes, toilet paper tubes, cardboard boxes, tissue boxes, unscented and untreated tissue, and even paper sacks from the grocery store.
Any homemade tunnels or commercially available tunnels specifically for rats work well also.
Most pet stores online and in person have a wide variety of possibilities.
Pet Rat Pro’s and Con’s
Before buying a new pet rat, educate yourself about high-quality pet rat care. While there are many positives to rats as house pets, there are also some negatives.
- Readily available
- Variety of colors and varieties
- Kept as pets for many years
- Active and entertaining to watch
- Veterinary care is readily available
- Inexpensive compared to dogs
- Good pets for owners who understand how to care for them properly
- Rewarding and fun with proper pet rat care
- Usually highly active and even hyperactive
- Sometimes aggressive and bite or scratch if they feel threatened
- Not suitable pets for children or beginning pet owners
- Require patience to train and need to socialize from a young age
- Best suited for homes where there is plenty of room for them to run around
- Pet rats are not safe for cats
- If you own a cat, then consider not getting a pet rat
Rats should not be the first pet. Before bringing a new pet rat into a living environment, ensure that everyone who lives with it agrees. Some people are squeamish abou
t rats, ferrets, gerbils, and hamsters. A home with small children or cats is not a good candidate for a new rat.
- Consider your goals for pet ownership.
- Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of pet rats.
- Pet rat care is easy with research, knowledge, and experience. If you know someone who currently or previously kept rats as pets, they will provide a good starting point for your search.
- Take your new buddy for a veterinarian visit soon after you bring them home.
- Ensure you budget for a proper cage, toys, food, and veterinarian care. Some costs are one-time, while others are ongoing.
- Expenses are less than cats and dogs but will be a part of your monthly budget while you own your rat(s).
Enjoy your new house pet. Concentrate on providing excellent pet rat care, and your rats will appreciate you for it! Rats are underrated and underappreciated, and pet rats are a hidden gem of the house pet world.