I am an avid animal lover and expert in rat husbandry. I love to write about animals.
Keeping Rats as Pet Animals
Pet rats have existed for several hundred years, believe it or not! Having rats as pets may seem like a strange concept to many people, but for those who keep rodents, rats tend to be a preferred caged pet. Pet fancy rats are much less likely to display aggression like other rodent pets and caged pets such as gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs. These are all animals that are commonly kept as pets, and many do not have as docile of a disposition as the domesticated pet rat does.
The domesticated pet rat can be one of the most trustworthy pets that you can own, as long as it has a wonderful lineage and was raised properly. They are also incredibly intelligent and quirky, making them very entertaining for adults and children alike. Journeying into the world of rat ownership is very exciting, and it all begins with your very first fancy rat!
1. With Rats as Pets, There's No Shortage of Personality!
One of the coolest things about rats as pets is the personalities that they have. Each rat is much different than the next, something you probably would not expect of smaller animals. Some rats are more shy and sweet, while others are more mischievous and outgoing. You have varying levels of intelligence and applied learning (while rats are incredibly smart in any case, their intelligence levels can vary from rat to rat), and this further varies their personalities.
As a rat grows up and bonds with its owner, the developing personality will forever set the individual apart from the rest of the mischief—even if the other rats in the mischief are the exact same color and difficult to tell apart through markings!
2. Rats Are Low-Maintenance Pets When Necessary!
If you a current pet owner, you know there are many situations where you may not have much time to spend with your pets. This can have a negative impact on many high-maintenance animals. Thankfully, rats are very hardy pets. They may not like that their attention may die off while you pick up a second job over the holiday season or go away for vacation; however, they will be able to fully entertain themselves with a cagemate and plenty of stimulating toys.
With rats as pets, you can take on more responsibilities on occasion without having to worry about the rats feeling neglected. Just do make sure that it is not a long-term or ongoing issue; they do need our love just as other family members do!
3. They Form Loving, Close Bonds With Other Rats and Humans
Rats are very compassionate, family-oriented animals. They live in close-knit mischiefs, usually spending the day playing and grooming one another. They form very close bonds with one another and their human family members. They crave attention, which makes it important to have at least one cagemate.
While there are space and safety concerns with having too many rats in too small of a cage, rats tend to be happier in larger family groups. I found that many of my rats were happiest in groups of 8—especially the kiddos! There is nothing cuter than watching a play "riot" amongst a group of young kits!
4. Rats Are Very Clean Pets
When you have rats as pets, you will notice that rats tend to be fairly clean animals. Much like other small animals, they like to designate a particular area of their cage as a potty area. Rats do not like to regularly use the potty all over their cage.
However, they will leave urine trails across many of their items. This is a territorial instinct, rather than a need to use the bathroom. When they leave these urine trails, it signals to other rats that this is their home, and it can also indicate whether or not it's an "off limits" area or the home of a potential mate. You can also potty train pet rats to use a litter box!
5. Costs Associated With Rats Are Generally Low
Rats can be fairly cheap as far as basic needs go. Their food is not very expensive, and you can use all sorts of materials to create their homes, toys, and jungle gyms yourself. They are also able to eat many of the foods we eat, such as certain meats, vegetables, grains, and fruits. Therefore, you can feed them a little bit of your own cooking when you have extra available, and you can create a temporary hide-out from last night's dinner box!
6. Rats Can Be Trained
Since rats are so incredibly smart, you are able to train them to do many different things. Rats are able to understand behaviors and reward systems, as well as parts of the human language. They learn their names and can easily learn about what is going on around them and what to expect. They are even capable of learning advanced tricks. In some countries, rats are used to detect land mines, rewire buildings when humans cannot get into tight spaces, and even act as messengers or transporters.
7. Rats Are as Friendly as Can Be
Rats tend to have a much lower risk of becoming aggressive versus other small pets. This is one of the biggest reasons that they are recommended for younger children. They are very unlikely to bite as long as they come from reputable breeders.
The temperament of a well-bred rat usually means you are nearly 100% safe from ever being bitten out of aggression. Even if the rat comes from an inexperienced breeder or pet shop, rats are still excessively docile creatures; they never mean harm, they just want to explore and make friends along the way!
8. Rats Are Typically as Healthy as a Horse
If a rat is cared for properly from birth, it tends to stay very healthy. Rats seem to almost never get sick, and they have an immunity to many illnesses. The only issue is that females tend to be susceptible to mammary cancer.
The chances of this are drastically reduced under these conditions: The female rat has raised at least one litter to maturity, and she has been spayed. If both conditions are met, cancer can be almost avoided. Other than this, a balanced diet, clean cage, and plenty of exercise make for a long-lived, healthy pet.
9. Pet Rats Are Easy to Find
If you are considering rats as pets, you will notice that they are relatively easy to find. You can find professional breeders and ratteries, experienced hobby breeders, and pet shops that usually have rats available for adoption.
10. Rats Have so Much Variety!
Pets rats come in all colors, varieties, coat types, and sizes! There's a type of rat to fit nearly anyone's tastes, and they are all most definitely cute! There are hairless rats, dumbo eared rats, rex coated rats, tailless rats, and more. Some are more rare than others, with one example being tailless rats.
As rats are bred, there are more types and color variations than before. The rats in the images above and below are rather stunning!
Rat Cages Don't Have to Be Expensive—You Could Even Make One!
- How To Get Pet Rat Cages Cheap
Have you been wondering how to get pet rat cages cheap? Here's a few ideas and tips to avoid spending lots of money!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
J. K on August 22, 2020:
i want a rat now
I NEED A RAT! on August 22, 2020:
I need a rat now!
sarah brown on May 13, 2020:
i got a pet rat and named her lulu she is awesome and likes to hid in my jacket sleeves. One thing to consider is that they may bite threw their water bottle things so i would put them on the outside with the metal straw thingy in the cage.
Kait on April 06, 2020:
So I was considering getting a rat. This has been a very helpful. I was thinking, if anyone knows, can they be trained as service animals? Dogs help with all types and I was thinking the can help with stress maybe?
Andrew on October 14, 2019:
I got 2.2 hooded rats from a pet breeder to start a colony for my ball pythons. The mommas are a little bitey but the males are cool. Just got litters a couple weeks ago and the babies just opened their eyes in the last couple days. Sooo cute! Held back a male and all the females to grow my production up (13 snakes to feed and counting) but I enjoy keeping and raising quality rats just as much as the snakes. Non agressive, calm, well fed and cared for rats make safer feeders too, a concern for any snake keeper, as an aggressive rat can badly harm or kill a pet snake.
i want a rat on September 21, 2019:
gimme a rat
Unicorn!!! on May 04, 2019:
I have a pet rat, she is old, i also have a cat.
The cat dosent seem bothered or amused by the rat at all, he just lives a normal life not as a preditor.
My rat is very active and fun.
She is always getting alot of attention by some guests and she is just a lovable type.
Once you own a rat you want stop loving them, even those people that dont like rats.
Thanks alot pet helpful!!
Mari on March 29, 2019:
My mother once had a rat though he lived only a few years.Although they are very small, smart, cute and creative, they live a short life and are hard to understand the rat died
Lilly on August 01, 2018:
I had many pet rats 2 or so years ago. All hooded/ fancy rats. They were gorgeous and sweet. I miss them all to this day.
SammieHolloway on July 26, 2018:
Can someone help me out? I’ve researched about rats since late last year because they seem like a great pet for me. I’ve checked shelters and things because I really didn’t wanna get a rat from petsmart / Petco but they didn’t have em. I couldn’t find any breeders near by. I did happen to go to petsmart and fell in love with (hated so much but I couldn’t help myself ) this one rat. But here’s my problem..There was only ONE rat and I didn’t wanna take it and make it live a lonely life. And I’m nervous to go out and buy another one from somewhere else and it possibly attacking or maybe hurting itself or the other rat. What should I do?
DANIEL on July 05, 2018:
Only thing I disagree with is #8. All -that means every single one - pet rats are infected with mycoplasmosis respiratory disease, usually transmitted at birth. It's chronic and progressive. Some rats fare better than others but alnost all will suffer flare ups which are treated with antibiotics and as they get old the condition becomes more serious with respiratory distress common. 90% of the time your rats will be okay but be prepared to see the vet at short notice. Bills can and do add up.
mango cube on October 25, 2017:
Easy to find?Not in Turkey.You'll need to search for years for inbred and sick ones.
angelrat on October 21, 2017:
soo cute pics i love rats soo much i have three cute rats
Unicorn lover on August 28, 2017:
Screw you Kevin the rat deserved to live luckily for the rat the snake did not eat it but he poor rat must have been terrified .
littlerattiesauntie on August 07, 2017:
The people who can't stand, or understand, having rats as pets have obviously never met one! You have no idea what you're missing!
GalaxyRat on March 17, 2017:
Excellent! Rats are great as pets. ;)
school on November 01, 2016:
rats are good
Linda on July 22, 2016:
Definitely not easy to find in my area the closest breeder is a 6hr drive
Kevin on February 27, 2016:
About two years ago, we bought a white rat from the pet store to feed to our California King Snake. He didn't eat it, so as with the (3) mice, we've had a pet rat. I will be buying a multi-level cage for him tomorrow. As well as proper bedding. Great site, Great tips.
Krzysztof Willman from Parlin, New Jersey on March 27, 2015:
I don't know why some people are so against rats considering domesticated rats are not like New York City sewer rats. They are hardy little rodents and probably make great pets. I wouldn't know first hand though since I've only had hamsters as pets. Interesting Hub.
Tricia on February 04, 2015:
Number #8 is completely wrong. There are other things that can go wrong in the health of a pet rat. Yes,females get mammory tumors,but they can also get upper respiratory infection. All rats are born with mycoplamsa when they come through the mother's birth canal. When the rat is stressed,the cage is not cleaned properly or they are extremely prone to them it will cause a flare and thus creating a respiratory infection which will require two antibotics baytril and doxycycline. If they do not get these antibotics it can create Pneumonia which in case they eventually pass away. Besides that they can also develop PTs,megacolon,eye infections,collapsed uterus,penis plugs (if male) and many more. These all require vet care which can run a lot of money. I am an owner of 2 female rats. Have been an owner for 4 years.
Power Ball Pythons from Mobile, AL on February 24, 2014:
Rats are really awesome. I raise them as feeders for my snakes but there were some that really stood out and got names, thus becoming our pets. The rats get along with our dog although we have to have the cat separated. My favorite rat is the one my husband named "Batman." She is a white rat with a black 'cowl' on her face. She's very acrobatic and I let her go exploring while cleaning her cage. She knows her name and the command "Go home." She will eat raisins out of my hand and is a really great mom too.
jhendor on July 27, 2013:
Rats as pets? You must kidding me?
Jessica Peri from United States on July 27, 2013:
I have two rats and they have very distinct personalities; my older girl loves to love us and lounge about, while my younger girl is hyperactive and amusing. A few years ago I would have never thought of owning rats and here I am now. Nice hub!
angryelf (author) from Tennessee on July 26, 2013:
Hahaha I'm sorry!!! I've never gotten to see a groundhog before, but I don't live in the city; I live in the boondocks ;) Rats are so awesome, they really are. Oh, and in all actuality (if you train the kitties well) rats and cats make THE BEST of friends. I used to let my cats crawl into the cage to hang out with them. Even the little bitty 3 week old hoppers. When I raised the hoppers with the cats, they grew up to think of them as massive rats; the bigger rats take quite a bit longer to come around to the idea. They'll show a bit of terror and aggression, but the aggression dies fast (when they realize the cats aren't trying to hurt them haha). My younger cat would CONSTANTLY wrestle with the rats. The cutest thing in the world is watching them playfight hahaha.
kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on July 25, 2013:
I can respect animals but a rat or a snake is way to much for me to have inside my home. On top of it, I have cats..... can you imagine the nightmares that the poor rat would have to have two cats looking at him all day trying to get him out of the cage... or the poor cats having nightmares because they can't eat the rat?
I definitely think rats are not for me!
At the moment, I am trying to get rid humanly of a groundhog that stays under the extension of my house. A groundhog is like a giant rat! The specialist installed a special cage so the groundhog can get out from under the extension but not get in anymore. I must say that I saw the groundhog several times.... it's very cute....but not there! On top of it, it's eating my lettuce, breaking my echinacea and cutting my tomatoes who are still green from the plant! And believe it or not.... I live in the city!