Rats can make awesome pets for children and adults. They are curious, intelligent, and social creatures that tend to bond strongly with their owners. Most rats are easy to care for, easy to handle, and come with low maintenance. But even though rats are fascinating animals and masters of survival, they might not be the best pets for everyone. Several factors should be considered, before acquiring a rat as a pet.
As a whole, rats are super intelligent, confident animals. They can make great pets for children, teens, and adults. They are hardy, active, and can become very docile. They do need regular maintenance but can be left unattended for many hours.
In the following, you will find many facts about rats that will help you decide if these cute rodents are the perfect pet for you or not.
Do Rats Make Good Pets?
The short answer is YES, rats make really good pets.
But of course, it is not that easy for everyone. Owning a rat as a pet comes with obligations such as regularly cleaning the cage, daily feeding, and regular interactions with your rat in order to bond with your pet.
Throughout my life, I owned 5 rats. Every one of them had a unique character and I got attached to all of them.
Rats are very intelligent animals and you can teach them tricks such as recognizing their names, hiding under the hood, or climbing up somewhere. They can do amazing things and you can even train them with a clicker.
Rats are very clean pets and can be potty trained. If you offer them a “toilet”-area in the cage, they will learn to only pee and poo in that area. they are omnivores and eat basically everything you offer them. And they are very hardy.
But if a rat experiences bad situations with humans, it can become scared or even aggressive. And since they have very sharp teeth, it is not always easy to handle them if they are not willing to bond with you.
Keep in mind that a rat is a social animal and needs at least a second rat as a companion and also a lot of interaction with you, to be able to get to know you and trust you. But once your rat likes you, this can be the beginning of a wonderful friendship.
Are Rats Good Pets for Beginners?
Rats are easy pets for beginners. They are easy to feed, easy to keep and make great friends. Even in a small apartment, there is usually enough space for a cage. If the cage is very small, you can even let your rat walk through your room every now and then. This will make the bond even stronger because you are able to play with your rat.
As a whole, rats can make great pets for beginners. They are as easy to keep as mice or hamsters. Rats are smart, entertaining, and very hardy. They need fresh water and food at all times, and regular cleaning of the cage.
Beginners should know that rats have sharp teeth and are willing to use them if they feel threatened. Trusting each other takes time and you should not force anything.
If you are planning to get a rat as your very first pet, you should know, that every animal will require some time. Rats don’t need too much attention, but the more you interact with your pets, the better you will bond, and the more fun you will have together.
Your pets should be in a room where you spend a lot of time, just to be involved in your daily actions and to get to know you and your voice.
My first rat and I bonded so well, that I used to take her on walks with me. I would either put her on my shoulder, in a pocket, under my hood or under my jacket and visit friends or go for walks.
This is something that never worked with my mice or hamsters. My rats were always too chill and trustworthy, and I am sure that this kind of bond is possible with every rat, as long as you spend enough time together.
Should I get my Daughter a Rat?
Rats can make great pets for children. Children can learn to take responsibility for animals by fulfilling regular tasks such as feeding and cleaning the cage.
As a whole, it highly depends on the age and character of your daughter if you want to get a pet for her. Every pet comes with some responsibilities such as feeding and cleaning, and your daughter should be willing to fulfill these tasks and know that she is responsible for her pet.
Rats are cute, loyal, and intelligent animals, but also very confident and tend to bite if they feel threatened.
Depending on the age of the child, you might want to care for the rats together. In my opinion, teenagers are able to take care of a rat on their own as long as they have some supervision from parents, while children under the age of 13 should always care for pets together with their parents to avoid any harmful events for the child or the rat.
Owning a pet comes with a lot of responsibility. And since rats are hardy and easy to care for, they can make the perfect first pet for a child.
Rats are social animals and should be kept in groups of at least 2 individuals.
Pros and Cons of Pet Rats
Just like any other pet, there are pros and cons to owning a pet rat.
Here are some facts about rats that can help you to decide wheater these adorable rodents might be the right pet for you.
Pros for Keeping Rats as Pets
In my personal opinion, there are so many pros to owning a rat. They are just lovable, cute, intelligent, and wonderful creatures. I would always recommend getting a young rat directly from the pet store, instead of an older rat from a private person.
You never know what a rat has already experienced in her life, and if that rat is even willing to get to know someone new. But that is my personal advice, and I do know of people who adopted older rats and were very happy with them.
Rats Don’t Need a Lot of Space
Compared to some other popular pets, rats do not need a lot of space. They need an enclosure that is big enough for them to walk and climb around and some space outside of the enclosure like a playpen or a rat-friendly room where they can explore and play.
Two rats should have a cage with at least 40 inches in length and width and 20 inches in height (100 x 100 x 50 cm). The more rats you own, the bigger the enclosure should be.
Once a rat has become more docile, you can leave the door of the cage open and let the rat explore your room. That way your rats will have plenty of space to explore and move around, but always make sure that they sleep in the cage.
As long as they sleep in the cage and do most of their eating in the cage, they will also pee and poo in the cage and not in your room.
If you want to potty-train your rat, you can collect the feces and put them in one corner of the cage. The rats will follow your example and start dropping their feces only in that corner. Make sure to clean that corner regularly. Rats like a clean home.
Rats are Super Intelligent
Rats are probably one of the most intelligent animals I owned. They are definitively smarter than mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, and I would even say dogs.
You can do clicker training with your rats, teach them their names, teach them to bring you stuff, or climb up your leg. They can learn very quickly which makes it super fun to spend time with your rats.
Rats Want to Be Your Friend
Rats are social animals. They are affectionate and care for each other. If one rat has an injury, the other rats will bring her food and help her to navigate through the day.
If you own rats, you will see that they will start to be affectionate by you as well. Many rats are cuddly and like to spend time with their owners.
They want to please you and if your rat escaped from its cage the first place to look is the place that smells the most like you- such as your bed.
Rats are Very Hardy
Rats are extremely hardy. They can feed on basically everything, even on rubber or any kind of dirt, if nothing else is available.
Of course, you should feed your pet dry food in addition to regular fresh food such as fruits and vegetables, to keep your pets healthy. But if you forget to feed your pets one day, they will survive without a problem.
Rats can survive various scenarios such as very cold and hot temperatures, lack of food for several days, falling into water (rats can swim), falling from a piece of furniture or from your hand, and many other things.
The modern house rat that can be acquired in the local pet store might not be as hardy as their wild brothers and sisters due to a lot of breeding in captivity, but they can survive a lot more than many other pets can.
This does not mean, that you should do any experiments with them, it just means, that they will not die that easily even if the conditions are not perfect all the time.
Rats can Become Very Docile
If you keep a rat for several months, you will notice that they will start trusting you and will become very kind and affectionate.
They will start to cuddle with you, sleep right beside you when you lie on the couch, lick food from your hand, and climb all over your body. It is a wonderful experience if a pet becomes attached to you.
Rats Come With Low Maintenance Compared to Other Pets
Rats need food, water, and a clean cage. They are very clean animals that spend many hours every day cleaning themselves.
They don’t like to be smelly. Depending on the number of rats you own, and on the size of the cage you keep them in, you should clean the cage once every one or two weeks. If it starts getting smelly, you are a bit too late, already.
If you potty-trained your rats by placing their feces in one corner, you can regularly clean that edge in the cage and maybe don’t have to clean the rest of the cage that often. But it’s important that your rats feel good in their home.
They need dry food and fresh food, as well as access to water at all times. You can feed your pet any kind of fruit (but no citrus fruits), vegetable, dairy product (yogurt, cheese, cream cheese,…), minced meat, nuts cooked pasta, cooked rice, bread, mealworms, and many other things.
My rats always loved cream cheese, cooked pasta and rice, and nuts of any kind.
You should not feed your rat chocolate or other sweets, nor should they eat seeds of avocado, cherry, or apples due to the hydrocyanic acid inside these seeds.
Rats Usually Don’t Cost Much Money to Keep as Pets
The regular expenses for a rat include their food, the substrate on the floor of the cage, and that’s about it.
Before you acquire the rat, you will have to buy a cage, some kind of housing, a bowl for water and for food, and maybe some things to play with for the rats.
You can be creative in the cage. I always used old newspaper in the cage as bedding, and my rats loved it. They love to explore and when I cleaned the cage I always changed everything in the cage. I used shoeboxes as rat-house and gave them toilet rolls to play with.
Unfortunately, due to many decades of breeding, rats have become very susceptible to cancer. When a rat gets older, you might have to go to the vet, which can become expensive. But other than that, rats are rather low-cost pets.
Rats don’t live too long
If you decide to get a rat, you should know that its lifespan is usually between 2 and 3 years. That means that getting a rat is not a long-term commitment.
Sometimes rats can live longer than 3 years, but in many cases, they die within around 3 years due to cancer.
Cons for Rats Keeping Rats as Pets
Even if rats don’t live too long and don’t come with many strings attached, they still need care and time. I personally love rats but that does not mean that a rat is a perfect pet for everyone.
Rats Don’t Live too Long and it Will Break Your Heart When They Die
Rats usually live around 2 to 3 years. Like any dear pet, it will simply break your heart when they die. You can get extremely attached to these little creatures because of their individual personalities and the many things you can do with them.
Rats Can Bite and That Can Hurt
Rats are rodents with very sharp teeth. When they feel threatened, they will bite to get rid of any potential threat. Some rats with red eyes have trouble seeing and get scared easily by a hand in the cage.
If the rats don’t trust their owner, it can be helpful to simply place the hand in the cage without moving, and wait for the curious rats to come closer and start exploring the hand. Or you can offer them food directly from the hand.
Most rats can become very tame, but some individuals will continue to randomly bite you, no matter how well you know them. This is rather rare if you got the rats as babies, but it can still happen.
A rat can bite as a warning and a rat can bite with force. A warning bite can cut through the skin and cause a bit of bleeding, but a threatened or angry rat can bite very strong and can lead to injuries that need medical attention.
Rats Can Be Smelly
If the cage is not cleaned regularly, rats can become very smelly. Normally rats are very clean animals that spend many hours every day cleaning themselves. They are not happy in a dirty cage.
A cage should be cleaned before it gets smelly.
The more rats you own, the more dirt they will create and the more often you will have to clean.
Rats Need Daily Maintenance and Regular Cleaning
Rats cannot be left on their own for weeks. They need to be fed every day and need regular cleaning approximately once a week.
Rats Can Become Costly
Due to decades of breeding, rats have become very prone to cancer. Only one of my rats has died due to decrepitude. All other rats had to be put to sleep at some point due to cancer. If you decide to get treatment for your rat at the vet, it can quickly become costly.
It’s Easy to Start Owning Rats But it’s Hard to Stop
Rats are social animals and should not be kept alone. If you get two or three rats, it is likely that not all die exactly at the same time. Once you only have one rat, it is recommended to get another rat for companionship. But again- they won’t die at the same time.
If you want to stop having rats, the easiest way would be to give away the remaining rat to someone who already owns one or two rats and is looking for another individual. It will be hard to give away your pet, but the alternative is to either acquire a new rat or to let your rat live and die alone.
Rats are Pretty Good at Escaping
Rats are masters of survival and escape. Sometimes I found my rats somewhere in the room and I have still no idea how they escaped from the cage. Once I used wire around the cage door because the rats somehow figured out how to open the cage, but when I got home, the wire was torn apart and the rats were sleeping in my bed.
If you get a cage for your rats, make sure that it is safe for rodents. A birdcage might not have enough safety measures for the doors and your rats might be able to get out.
Your docile rats will probably stay in your room and not run away, but they can still destroy a lot within a few hours of unattended playing.
They can create holes in furniture, tear clothes apart, and create wonderful little sleeping spaces for themselves, using your socks. You guessed right, this is not a random story, this is something that really happened to me.
Rats Can Reproduce Quickly if You Own a Male and a Female
If you acquire rats, you want to make sure that you only have one sex. You can have two males or two females- but not a male and a female.
The problem is, that you can’t be 100% sure, whether you have a male or a female when they are still very little. If you notice that you own a male and a female, it might already be too late, and they have already mated.
Rats multiply quickly and if they do, you have to be fast in separating males and females so that they don’t continue to reproduce.
Some People are Afraid of Rats
Rats have tails. And some people are just freaking out over the tails. I honestly don’t understand why, but since I am terrified of spiders, I would be the last one to judge someone’s fears.
Owning a rat is apparently something that some people consider weird. But if you consider getting a rat, you might be that kind of person, who does not care too much what other people think.
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂