Rats: The World's Most Underrated Pets

Rats: Misunderstood?

As a lifelong owner of pet rats, it surprises me how many people still see rats as sewer-dwelling, diseased carriers of the bubonic plague. Quite the contrary, rats are clean, social animals that rarely bite. Because they're so incredibly smart, they're easily trained to use use a littler box, do tricks, and even come when you call. The smartest of my personal pet rats aren't even caged. They waltz around with the cat and the dogs, watching TV on the couch, and joining the family for spaghetti dinners served on her own little saucer. Rats are sweet, loving critters with individual personalities.

The more, the merrier!
The more, the merrier!

What Do Rats Like?

In the wild, rats will stay in groups. Often mistakenly called a "pack," a group of rats is called a "mischief." Unlike hamsters or gerbils, they are not content in being alone. They are happiest and behave best when handled (petted, played with, carried) regularly by their owners.

Even regular interaction won't leave your rat totally satisfied, so at least one cage-mate is highly recommended. While you don't want to overcrowd a cage intended for one animal, rats are happy to share the space. They amuse, occupy, and comfort each other when you’re not available or can’t be around.

A group of rats is called a mischief.

What Kind of Homes Do Rats Like?

Rats are naturally curious and playful. Because they enjoy climbing and exploring, a wire cage is best as it allows them to climb around easily. Tubes, tunnels, hammocks, stoops, ladders, and toys are all excellent additions. A water bottle, food dish, and igloo (or home of some kind) are essential. Avoid cedar or pine litters as they cause respiratory disease and can shorten your new friend's life dramatically.

An excellent home for a rat has a lot of things to do and places to climb and hide.
An excellent home for a rat has a lot of things to do and places to climb and hide.
Don't let your rat get bored!
Don't let your rat get bored!

What Do Rats Eat?

Almost anything! Rats are omnivores and therefore eat both meat and vegetables. Adult rats should be given some grains, vegetables, and protein every day for optimum health. Grains could be in the form of wholegrain brown rice, oats, millet, or whole meal bread; rats will eat most fresh vegetables and their protein could be provided in the form of lean scraps of meat, fish, or even dog food. For snacks, you could give them a rodent mix brought from your local pet store, a piece of fruit, or a carrot to gnaw on.

If you cannot provide them with fresh food, they can still have a nutritionally balanced diet with a rat food mix from the pet store. Although these mixes claim to be ‘complete’ and include all the constituents that make up a healthy diet, they will only be ‘complete’ if your rat eats all of the components, which is not very likely— your rat will probably pick out his favorite bits and leave the rest! If this happens, you need to give fresh vegetables such as potatoes, peas, carrots, etc. and snacks of fresh fruit such as apples, grapes, strawberries, and bananas, plus some protein in the form of dog food or cooked meat. Rats will also enjoy your table scraps but be wary if these are fatty or full of sugar.

Things such as sunflower seeds and peanuts should be kept for special treats and not be included in their daily diet.

Rats like to rummage for their food and if you only provide them with complete blocks of rat food, they will become bored and won’t have the opportunity to select their favorites!

It is essential that you provide fresh water on a daily basis. Water must be available to your rat at all times. The easiest way to enable them to drink is by using a drip feed bottle attached securely to the side of the cage. The bottle should be emptied and re-filled every day. You can give water in a bowl, but chances are it will be knocked over or bedding and food will end up in it. If your rat is unwell, he may find it difficult to drink from a drip bottle so then a bowl would be best, you’ll just have to clean up the mess more frequently. It is also nice to put a bowl of water inside the cage occasionally to enable your rat to wash.

Will My Rat Have Babies?

Do not mix males and females in one cage unless your prepared for dozens and dozens of cutie pies! Rats have large litters and can reproduce at incredible rates. The little pink wigglers get fuzzy and cute in no time. In the first weeks after birth, it can be difficult to determine male from female. When separating, look closely, as any oversight can have you running your own pet store!

How Do I Know If My Rat is Male or Female?

Determining gender is very easy after those first few weeks after they're born. See for yourself in the photos below.

This rat is female.
This rat is female.
This rat is male.
This rat is male.

Where Can I Get a Rat?

I personally love rats and only want to raise awareness of these tiny little friends. I buy mine from pet stores that sell them as food, and as I get to know them, it breaks my heart that other great rats were never given such a chance. You can buy a suitable cage, litter, water bottle, food, toys, and accessories plus a couple of rats for around $80.00. If you have a bird cage around already, then you're looking at closer to $25.00. These little guys live an average of three years, but I have had many live five.

It's worth taking a closer look at rats. You may be surprised at what you're missing. I must add a few more photos that are simply too cute to miss.

Rat Kisses
Rat Kisses

Do you think rats make good pets?


  • YES
  • NO
See results without voting

Comments 54 comments

shelly 7 years ago

I have had my 2 female ratties for about 2 months now. I am always looking for ways to make their lives happier, I can't believe how much these little cuties have grown on me. They were actually pets we bought for the kids, but I probably love them more than the kids do. The cats get along really well with them too. Thanks for sharing your photos and thoughts. I got mine from a petstore too that sells them for food, I wish I had room for more.

Kelly Downey profile image

Kelly Downey 7 years ago from Kentucky Author

They do grow fast! I have had rats since I was 14 and as many as 40 at one time, though that was not planned. :) I try to limit myself to 3 or 4 rats per cage depending on the size of each cage. I have found that as long as theyhave a place to "get away" when hogging special treats they are happy. :) Between hammoks, igloos, tent shelters, and play tubes my 3'x3'x2' cage easily accomidates 6. Glad to hear of your two rescues! They are amazing animals. :)

Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

I used to keep rats -- yeah, thanks for reminding me; they were a lot of fun. We used to just let them out to roam the apartment. Cute photos!

Kelly Downey profile image

Kelly Downey 7 years ago from Kentucky Author

Thanks! Maybe now you can get a few more! :)

Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

Oh god I miss my babies so much!!!! Cutest things in the world. Gorgeous! Fantastic info. Thanks!

Paper Moon profile image

Paper Moon 7 years ago from In the clouds

I got my first rat for my birthday, I must have been 9 or 10. They are the most wonderfull little friends. It breaks my heart that they don't live very long. I have had rats most of my life. I even got my wife to fall in love with them.

Kelly Downey profile image

Kelly Downey 7 years ago from Kentucky Author

I have been very lucky there. Experts say they live live about 3 years, but many of mine have reached 5. :) I just lost my 5 year old rat Arrabelle last week. She was amazing. I will be welcoming 4 or 5 more into my home next week. :)

GeneriqueMedia profile image

GeneriqueMedia 7 years ago from Earth

"...hamsters or gerbils, rats are not content in being alone..."

Oh so true! I keep two rats per cage, and I've two cages.

I knew there was a reason I liked you. :)

I wrote a Hub quite recently covering the whole rodentia species as a general whole. Rats are awesome, but people often forget they're the cousins of chipmunks and squirrels and the likes. =)




Don't forget to take your rodent friends for a shoulder walk. They'll be bruxing like there's no tomorrow!

sharrie69 profile image

sharrie69 7 years ago from Trinidad (an island in the Caribbean)

Rats are great. I used to feed the rats that lived in the yard next door to our house when I was a kid. If my father had known that he would have killed me! To him they were just dirty pests. I found them facinating to watch and most would come right up to me. Great photos to go with your hub!

Serenity Kage 7 years ago

I still have no clue why people always tend to think that a rat is an unhealthy creature to have around. Have they ever tried to look up actual information about the animal? I mean come on when I wanted to get a pet and got my pet Sammy from a pet shop I asked a bunch of questions and found out a lot of the myths about them were false. I never was bitten, only lightly nipped, only scratched once because I neglected to see that his back paws had gotten sharper and he was very gentle and pretty smart. Sammy was one of the best pets I ever had when I was a little kid. I still have the scar Sammy left me on the bottom of my right wrist on the top part of my arm away from any veins. I wish people would just see the light and think rats are an awesome pet and not just snake food.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

Another brilliant hub of yours! This just goes to show something I am well aware of that every animal (not just rats) is an amazing creature and that people cannot see this!

Nicole Winter profile image

Nicole Winter 7 years ago from Chicago, IL

I love rats! They're awesome and smart pets, thanks for printing this hub, very well done. I liked the video's. Are the rats in the video being fed a banana yours? That is *a lot* of rats!

Kelly Downey profile image

Kelly Downey 7 years ago from Kentucky Author

Nicile Winter - No the rats in the banana video are not mine. I would LOVE to have a set up like that, but I currently only have 4 rats, all female. Juniper, Fara, Chi-chi, and Fantiasha. The latter 2 my newest. :) I hope this hub gives at least one person a different point of veiw of the big personalities this little guys have. Very loving animals. :)

Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon

Love the hub. I used to have rats, but living around UC Davis I always ended up with a rat that got a tumor or went nuts - really disheartening. My first rats were fantastic, and I even bred my Siamese with a big Hooded male. Got the most beautiful babies with the softest fur and THE sweetest disposition you had to see to believe. The female I kept was almost all black with a white stripe down her belly and silver streaks in her fur. Thelma, (the mother), was pretty intelligent as most rats are, and I left her bird cage door open at night, and when she got older, I would hear the door opening and closing at night, and one morning, she greeted me by walking on my chest to say hello. To think I almost got a hamster.

I absolutely love the idea of rescuing food rats, do you ever have any complications from that? The next time I have rats, I won't use the cedar chips anymore, but set up the cage the way you have them. I love all the stuff attached on the inside so they can climb or hang out. I will stay away from those cages that are supposedly especially designed for rodents since little rat feet have a habit of getting caught in them. I was pretty ignorant then - these miracles of God deserve better!

Kelly Downey profile image

Kelly Downey 7 years ago from Kentucky Author

Alexander mark - Unfortunatly, tumors are pretty common for rats. I have been very lucky to have little exposer to it myself, but my "number 1" baby girl got one, and I spend $300.00 having it removed. That's too much to spend on a $6.00 pet some would say, but not too much to save a dear friend. :)

I never have had any issues with the feeder rats I have recued. In fact the only "unhealthy" rat I have ever purchased was from a well known pet store. She has respitory disease and a skin condition that leaves her covered with tiny scabs. :(

ASPEN litter helps alot with both issues. (preventing and relieving).

Bird cages with hammocks and perches give your rats lots of fun options for playing and excersizing! Its a shame so many stores pass off aquariums as an acceptable housing. I guess its ACCEPTABLE, but far from ideal. :)

Thanks for your comments! :)

Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon

Oof, 300 bucks? If I had that money to spend - I wouldn't hesitate. You'll probably be horrified to know that I ended Thelma's life when she got to old and sick. I did it with a bibi gun and tears in my eyes. It was the most awful thing I did, but it was right to end her suffering - I loved her that much. Later, I had another rat that was beyond help - the crazy one, and a friend who was a vet gave her a shot in the stomach. I think the bibi was more humane, but much more traumatic for me.

But you're right, usually rats get tumors when they are otherwise perfectly healthy. Thanks for the info about your success rate with feeder rats. I'm not sure about aquariums, but it feels sterile and they can't get decent airflow, so I won't do it. Rats need lots of love.

Kelly Downey profile image

Kelly Downey 7 years ago from Kentucky Author

Alexander Mark -  Oh I didn't have the money. lol Bills were very late that month, but it was a small price to in my book. :)  Your right, I'm horrified. I could NEVER do it. I have thought more than once that it would be best to end suffering, but cant bring myself to do it. I fear the first attempt would fail and then I'd have to kill myself. lol  Just cant do it, but understand why you did.

I wont use aquariums either, but if I knew a rat had a choice of an aquarium or to be snake food, I'd say the aquarium would win! :) Not as good as a bird cage, but far better than no life at all.

I understand that snakes have to eat too, but if you look close when you go to select the doomed meal, there definatly are some that are more friendly and sweet. LEAVE THOSE FOR PETS. They run right up to the handler and often go first. So sad.

Lots of critters out there with so much to offer... if this hub means that any one of them gets a home and friend, then I am totally satisfied!

Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon

Well, if I am looking to buy a house right now and one of my first goals is to get a dog, but sooner or later I'll get a rat and I'll let you know how that goes :-)

phoenixarizona profile image

phoenixarizona 7 years ago from Australia

Sorry not a big rat fan myself. I have to say though when I did purchase food rats they are already dead. I don't feed captive snakes live food. However the rats I buy are put to sleep in a humane manner. Whether I like it or not if they are bred to feed another animal they should at least die with a bit of dignity. Nice hub though. Changed my mind slightly ut definitely not a pet for me.

Kelly Downey profile image

Kelly Downey 7 years ago from Kentucky Author

Phoenix - They may primarily be bred as feeders, but there are many breeders that would NEVER sell their babies as food. I do purchase mine from those that sell them as food, saving a few here and there is all I can do. :) When you see rats in a pet store, make a little kissing sound next to the cage, the one that runs to you is the one you should take home.

Chrissie Rossouw 6 years ago

I have 2 rats and they are so loveable and i just love them...

Marie 6 years ago

I love the dumbo rats. Never had much luck with NOT getting bit tho. Anyone wanna shed some light on that as they are adorable and I do love them but how do I keep from being bit! It really does not feel good at all.

Pet Lover 5 years ago

They are cute, but most people still think of them as rats. We need a new name. :)

Raquel James 5 years ago

Hi my name Raquel James and i love rats.Every since i saw the movie Ratatouille,i then fell in love.I love rats and i can't wait to get two of my own.My mom says its ok.So ill be able to get my first rats.One is going to be a boy and the other ones going to be a girl.Iam so excited. I can't wait to get them.Thank you Sincerely Raquel.

Kelly Downey profile image

Kelly Downey 5 years ago from Kentucky Author

Hello all! I have not been on here for awhile and I was sincerely shocked at the volume of comments received! I apologies that I cannot reply to them all individually, but do want to say thank you for those with kind words and to those with...less than kind words, I left your comments as long as no profanity was used. :)

To Marie: Rats biting is often a sign of fear, if they bite they feel threatened generally. I suggest moving their cage to a low-traffic area of the house and giving them a few days to acclimate. :) When you do open the cage door, use the same sound (kissing sound or like to call a cat) to get them to venture to you. If you do reach in the cage, offer the back of your wrist for them to smell. They have nothing to bite, but can check you out. Also wear an old tee shirt or gloves and add them to the cage so they become more familiar and comfortable with your smell. :) A giant hand closing down on them can make them nervous. :)

Best wishes and keep loving these special animals!!

Victoria 5 years ago

im getting a pet rat in about a week, im so exited lol im sure my bf feels replaced haha ive been ranting and raving about it for a few days now "help me pick a name, help me put the home together, look at this rat, ISN'T IT SOOOO CUTe" lol this will be my first rat tho so if anyone has any advice for me please email me. thank you lol ohhh and name ideas too, she is white and black and im getting her as a baby so i need to pick a name... i was thinking a devious name but idk lol

Kelly Downey profile image

Kelly Downey 5 years ago from Kentucky Author

Victoria, definitely get more than one! At least two is best for the rat to be happiest! :) I don't know if we have the same taste, but some of my rats names are: Fantasia, chi-chi, Poe, Margery Stewart Baxter, Arabelle, Gypsy, Vegas, Malachi, Mortimer, Gargimele, Febo, Peanut, Jinx, Bishop, Fisher, Santana, Juniper, Lastat, Hubert Cumberdale, Star....the list goes on and I have 58 at the moment, 40 of which are up for adoption if anyone is interested! ;)

JasonPLittleton profile image

JasonPLittleton 5 years ago

What the cute pets, I love it.

kwade tweeling profile image

kwade tweeling 5 years ago from USA

Great job showing the awesomeness of rats.

Kelly Downey profile image

Kelly Downey 5 years ago from Kentucky Author

Good Jason! I hope you offer a home to a few! :)

Thank you very much kwade! :)

Kat 5 years ago

That's amazing that you say you've had some rats live till 5. How did you do that? I take great care of my pet rats but Cinder didn't even make it to two because he got pnemonia, and Spark currently has pnemonia as well, and it doesn't look good. Weve taken them to vets and such and bought medicine, but it hasn't worked. Have any of your rats ever suffered with pnemonia or some other mycoplasma related sickness and how did they get better if they did? Thank you. :)

Eternal Evolution profile image

Eternal Evolution 5 years ago from kentucky

Great hub! Rats make wonderful pets for the young ad old alike. There's only one thing mentioned in this hub that I disagree with and it isn't even about rats lol. You said unlike hamsters and gerbils rats don't like being along. While hamsters are generally solitary gerbils are best kept in pairs or small groups like rats.

melodyandes profile image

melodyandes 5 years ago

I love rat.

Thingie 4 years ago

This is a brilliant site, I love it!

My husband & I have 5 adult male rats, Smelly, who is the 'granddaddy of them all' & Stinky, Pongy, Badger & Scrat & they are all so gorgeous! We keep the 3 doors of their cage open & they have the run of our flat except the bathroom. Smelly sometimes gets into bed with us! We've had other in the past who have died & it leaves us in tears when that happens!

Kelly Downey profile image

Kelly Downey 4 years ago from Kentucky Author

Thank you all so much! :) I am glad you enjoyed it!

Kat, I have not done anything special to prolong their lives. I just give them fresh water daily, fruits and veggies regularly, square meal and hamster blend Fiesta brand food...just lucky I guess. :)

I have not had much issue with illness either. Of the hundred or so rats I have raised, only about 4 have had tumors (all female) and 2 had respiratory disease, which shortened their life span. It is hard to say what predispositions some rats to illness. I typically get mine from feeder supply stores that intend to sell them as snake food and have no idea of the breeders. Wish I could be of more help.

Rachel 4 years ago

I'm having trouble teaching my rats to drink for a water bottle. any suggestions, as I'm having to clean the cage twice daily as they spill there bowl of water. I hate the thought of them not having access to water

Megan 4 years ago

How Long Do most Rats Live? I have two Rats.... Chico and Chica. Chico is my babyboy but he has lost movement in his legs today! I Cried so much It doesn't seem to hurt him but he just draggs himself, he can push with his back feet IDK What Happened and He's losing weight and not eating.

lori 4 years ago

i love the pics.. i have 2 rats katie and karlee and katies 14 babies (3 weeks old)... rats are wonderful pets.. i love all of mine...

kayleigh 4 years ago

omg these pictures are so cute !!! you are making me want one!!!

Mandee 4 years ago

thank you for all this info (:

My 2nd hammie just died, the first died from cancer :(

So i am thinkin of getting a rat, I've heard that if they are treated REALLY well they can live up to 5 years!

Maybe i'll show my mom this, and she will change her mind about rats...

Vishal 4 years ago

I really luv all animals and i want to keep all of them as pets.i also thought of rats because they are really cute but i have some problems 1)i live in india and i don't think anyone sells rats 2)everyone around me and my parents hate animals and are disgusted by small rodents especially rats and mice.i would like everyone to be like you.anyway nice pics

ratlover 4 years ago

arayti is a good name for a rat "R-A-T" lol

mena 4 years ago

So happy to see that there is such a community of rat lovers! They really are the most beautiful, loving pets and so underrated :) Thanks for this site!

tracey 4 years ago

great info thanks im thinking about getting rats for the first time.

yasia 4 years ago

I love rats^__^ nyaaa

love love love))

Kelly Downey profile image

Kelly Downey 3 years ago from Kentucky Author

Rachael, your comment was months ago, but in case others are having trouble getting their rats to drink from a water bottle I am going to respond. :) Removing the bowl of water and providing a bottle they can reach is all you need to do. If they don't want to drink from it, wash it out and make sure the water is cold, fresh, and does not taste like plastic or soap. They will use it when they are thirsty, even if they prefer the bowl. :)

Megan, I have read that rats live 3 years typically, but I have had MANY live to be 5. :) I am sorry to hear about the loss of leg use. Leg paralysis is not uncommon among rats, but I have never dealt with it personally. I do know that they do adjust to it more often than not and just need food and water on the ground level of the cage. I would consult a vet. They can prescribe steroids which sometimes helps.

Thank you to everyone that said nice things about this Hub! I am very happy to hear that many of you are considering rats as pets! If this Hub saves ONE rat from being food and gives it a loving home I consider it a success! :)

silver1 2 years ago

Rats are the best, if I had my way there life cycle would be more than they are now. I have had a number of them and there is nothing compared to them (other people would disagree {boy are they WRONG} ) My thoughts are they are here and we always are to take care of them.

I had never had children but my rats are my babies.

All for now. Please take care of all of the babies

Alyson W 2 years ago

I already have one male rat I got him when he was around a year old and I've had him for about 3-4 months now. I just have three quick questions. 1. Is there any way I can determine about how many months old he is or a more specific age so I can know when he will turn two. And also I was wondering how and if I can introduce him to another male rat. He had a friend at the pet store and it has been about four months and no one has adopted him yet so I was wondering if I could purchase him and reintroduce him to his buddy. Lastly, my rattie won't eat his pellets or supplement blocks in his combination foods. Even if that is the only food I put in there for him he won't touch it. He is getting kind of chunky and I fear for his health. He will only eat the fatty foods. I sometimes give him whole wheat Cheerios because he loves them and I read that they are good for them but I was wondering how I can get my rat to eat his pellets.

Thank you so much for your time,


Silver1 2 years ago


The ages are hard to tell unless they are small.(Babies)

You can get them together, put them in bathtub and watch them. They will check each other out, some times they will go after each other. The tub acts as neutral zone. The test is when you put them in the house

(Cage ) together , sometimes no problem and sometimes they will go after each other to see who is the boss.

You must keep a eye on them. { I watch my boys all the time just a habit }

The problem with the foot!, it is hard to make them eat what they do not like. Try to give them something that is equal with the vitamins., vegetables, yogurt etc. get a book on the raties, very helpful.

I hope this helps a little [Remember there is all different ideas out there from people. Ask your DVM they are helpful]

Remember take care of the Babies.

KB Wolfe 2 years ago

I just wanted to add that I am a pet owner of Dogs and Ratties and love all animal, but my desire right now is to get all pet stores who sell live rats as feeders to stop..and only sell frozen rats. I know to us rat owners that doesn't sound much better, but in a little way it is, we can't change the fact there will always be bad people out there running there business not up to standards but so many of them our doing it right when painlessly putting rats down for frozen food,they do this with all feeder food mice too so they can stop selling live mice as well. The only animal I am not fond of is snakes, they creep me out. I do understand they have eat I just wish it wasn't rats and mice. I am not liking either way here, but I'd prefer frozen instead of live, let's start asking our pet stores to switch over to frozen, and stop selling live feeder rats and mice, its much more humane and healthier for snakes, ask them to buy from a reputable company, its not costly to buy, easy to resale, overall probably cheaper for them when they add it all up. Thanks for reading.

Silver1 2 years ago

To KB Wolf and all Rattie owners,

I agree with you and the pet stores should stop selling live ratties as feeders. The pet stores just don't care and it should be STOPED! ( I am sure the black market would step in!) I want it to stop it right now! If you or anybody has a idea, please let me know and I am 150% behind the STOPING!

Remember these are our Babies and they need to be taken care of !

( No matter what ! ) just to let everyone know my DVM is behind us.

Nina 2 years ago

Hi, I have a rat...and he Is 3and a half years old...I'm happy he reached a great age,,..great arctic,el..

Silver1 2 years ago


I know you have been taken care of him, keep up the great work.

Remember all parents they are our babies , I know everybody does.

Take care to everyone !

alex 4 months ago

I have a little rat about 9 weeks old i just switched him from water bowl to bottle since his new cage is a little smaller but I'm not sure he is getting the hang of the bottle and the bowl takes up a lot of room i saw him at the bottle but I'm not sure he got enough he drinks a lot I am a first time rat owner so I'm a little worried i wont know how to raise him hes got toys and places to hide, i am also worried hes not getting all the nutrients he needs i get my rat food from pets smart he only eats the seeds and nuts though

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article