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Pet Rats: Male or Female?

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Theda has had more than 10 pet rats and loves to write about their quirks, including highlighting the pros and cons of male and female rats.

Male vs. Female Rats

I have to come clean—I love pet rats. Of all the animals I've had in my life, rats are some of the best. If you're already sold on rats as pets, your next step is to decide which gender(s) to get. This can be a tough choice, especially if you're only planning to have one cage.

Unless you're planning to breed rats, you definitely have to keep just one sex in a cage. I've had both males and females, and there are several differences.

Male Rats

I always let my rats run free in my home, and male rats had the disturbing habit of leaving a scent mark "trail" everywhere they went. I didn't quite care for the little droplets of urine, especially as they crawled on me.

Male rats also have a slightly musky odor (though nowhere nearly as strong as ferrets). They also have large testicles right under their tails...they're pretty obvious, which can make for interesting conversations with visitors.

Other than that, male rats are really cool. They're cuddly, relaxed, and kind of lazy. They're bigger than females, which just adds to their cuddle factor, and surprisingly affectionate.

You do have to be careful when housing male rats together. I was lucky enough to have three males that were brothers and raised together, so having them in one cage was no problem. But it's difficult to introduce two adult males. Female rat introductions can be difficult also, but it's a little bit easier.

Female Rats

Female rats are probably my preference. They are smaller and definitely more active than the males, but this makes them, in my book, a bit more interesting. Females are full of personality.

It's also funny when they go into heat every week or so. They get all jumpy and flirtatious, doing little scamper dances. And if you or another rat tickles their lower backs, they arch their backs and wiggle their ears.

Female rats' personalities also make them ideal students. Mine loved to learn new tricks and always wanted to interact with me. The main downside of female rats is their propensity for getting mammary gland tumors. Of the 7 or 8 female rats I had, almost all of them died because of their tumors. It can be extremely costly to have them removed (I did that once), and it's heartbreaking to watch them endure.

The Choice Is Yours

It's hard to say which is better - male or female rats - because they're both different and they're both great. Whichever sex of rat you choose, you'll be sure to have a great time with your new companions.

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.


kyle rae on June 25, 2020:

Is a males buck grease a problem? Does it add to the odor in any way?

I have never owned a rat before so I need to know if i should get a male or female

Nicola on December 23, 2018:

Hi. I’m gonna get male rats soon had fostered a female one but sadly she died of old age and something else but I don’t know what. For male rats is there anything to remove their odor or make them smell less or the question is do they really smell that bad?

Sleepy on December 10, 2017:

So far I've only had males (7 so far) since I don't have space for another cage to have females too and I absolutely love them! Out of the current four boys I have two of them are really cuddly and two are more active (well the other one is still a baby and super cuddly too but when not he is the most active baby I've had so far).

I actually have the two more active ones with me on the couch rn, lots of pee everywhere including the rats themselves :") and the young boy just came at my face and stared at me for a while, he is such a cutie haha These two active boys have become the best of friends, the fact that both are black and white makes it even cuter (old boy is black berk and young one is black rex vari).

Anyhow, rats are definitely one of the favourite pets I've had so far! And I've had pretty good variety of them too so it's not an easy job haha Cats and rats are my loves :")

Beth willis on November 15, 2015:

I am thinking of getting rats but I can not decide wheather to get boys or girls. I want one that you can train tricks to and will be active but I also want one that will be cuddley. I also go to school five days a week. Which gender do you think I should get?

concerned on January 12, 2009:

we recently got a baby rat now about 10 weeks old for our daughter. She asked what was on his belly over the weekend and it was his penis. It stayed out all weekend. I read about paraphimosis and how to help. Well to make a long story short i was able to get it to retract using a sterile water based lube but it keeps popping back out (maybe after he pees). Is this common in males? Is this something that will go away as he matures? Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

Robin Layne from Oregon on July 12, 2008:

Hi! We have enjoyed both male and female rats, but prefer the males because they're less hyper. We have had a few accidents, starting with the pet shop calling a female baby rat a male, so she had babies, and then we had each sex in a different cage. One time one of them got out, and sleepy me, I thought it was one of the males and put it in the males' cage, so we had babies again. It was kind of fun to have babies, but hectic. We had to find homes for them.

I must say, though, that the sweetest rat we ever had was female--that is, until she had babies. Then she would bite because she was afraid we would hurt her babies.

I'm brand new to HubPages. I was going to write my first Hub about pet rats, but now that I see there are already so many, I'm not sure what niche I could find that would be original about them.

Amy on July 12, 2008:

I've only ever had girls, but I like the idea of big, squishy boys. Do they really scent mark ALL the time?

tina on June 01, 2008:

hi i need advice. ive recently bought two rats from apet store. its my first time keeping rats. i asked for two females and about 4 weeks after i brought them home the older one gave birth to ten babies. im not sure whether she became pregnant at the pet shop as they kept male and females in one cage. i cant determine whether i have been given a male and a female. i have now seperated mother and kittens into a different cage because the two adults where fighting. when they fought it seemed that the other one was trying to mount the mother. but when i look at their genitals they look the same. any advice would be gladly received as the other one is now becoming depressed n its own.

Karen on April 10, 2008:


i have 3 boys and 4 girls and if had the chance again i would be torn on what gender. my boys at the moment are very jumpy still, ( 3 months) they get scared at the slightest noise which hopefully they will grow out of. but they are very clingy, they wont leave my side when they run around and if something makes them scared they will run and hide on me, can be very cute!! my little girls are wonderful, very playful and on occasion a bit mishievious, but love both characters!!!!!

MITCH on April 08, 2008:


Yanglicious on February 29, 2008:

I've got 5 female rats and 2 baby male rats right now.

I always loved both genders, both have their pros and cons so I can't make up my mind!

Ended up with 2 more baby male rats =P

I'd be pleased that the males would ve perfect companions for me when I need to chill down and when I am in a crazy mood the girls will be a good companion!

Jackilyn on January 07, 2008:

Good advice! thanx for help'n out. =D

skullie from Liverpool on January 07, 2008:

Lol, at one point where I was crossing over from keeping bucks to does, I had 4 bucks in a cage below a cage of 4 does. Two of them were continously flirting with each other ! Wiggly ears to the extreme. I've never seen two rats in love as much as those two were. Unfortunately I don't see myself responsible enough to breed rats so they never got together :(

Theda K. (author) from Tucson, Arizona on January 06, 2008:

Hi Skullie, thanks for commenting. I agree with both statements. The bucks were my chillin' companions, and the females were my little funsters. It's hard to choose, so I say, if you have room, have a cage of girls and a cage of boys. That's what I did. They certainly enjoyed flirting with each other across the room, too. :)