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Are Rats Good Pets? 7 Reasons Why Rats Make Good Pets

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Rats make great pets. They are intelligent, cuddly, clean, playful, and form special bonds with their owners. They can learn how to use the litter box and various tricks. Fancy rats live on average 2-3 years and are easy to care for.

Rats are generally stigmatized and associated with dirt and disease, yet some people still choose to share their homes with pet rats.

But are they good pets?

Rats live in groups or colonies, being very social animals. For this reason, breeders and vets do not recommend keeping only one rat as a pet, but two or more. 

Pet rats are very loving and intelligent animals that you can train. You can train them and teach them tricks, after they’ve adapted to their living situation. They also need daily interaction with you, the owner, to exercise and develop a strong attachment.

In this article, you will find out if rats are good pets, the pros and cons of owning pet rats, whether they are safe, and much more.

7 Reasons Why Rats Are Good Pets

Rats make great pets. They are affectionate, clean, and can create strong bonds with their owner. They are easy to care for and cheap to keep. Once they have adjusted to their owner, pet rats like to spend time in their company.

Here is why rats[1] make good pets:

  1. They are clean.
  2. They don’t smell.
  3. They are easy to care for.
  4. They are loving and sociable.
  5. They are healthy.
  6. They have personality.
  7. They are intelligent.

1. Rats Are Clean

Rats Are Clean

Rats are clean, despite what people normally think of them. They spend more time on personal hygiene than cats do. 

They do their business in one place in the cage. Rats carefully divide their space into areas for eating, sleeping, urinating/defecating, or playing. If you leave them out of the cage, rats will not defecate or urinate wherever, as other rodents do, unless they have nowhere to go. 

You can also train pet rats to use the litter box if you are patient.

2. Rats Don’t Smell

Rats Don’t Smell

Rats kept as pets do not have a specific smell. Their feces also do not have a strong odor, such as the excrement of other rodents (rabbits, guinea pigs, or mice). 

If you clean their cage regularly, there will be no odor in the room where they live.

3. Rats Are Easy to Care For

Rats Are Easy to Care For

Rats do not need a lot of space, but they need at least two cubic feet of space per rat. 

Avoid terrariums as they are not well ventilated, which can result in illness.

You do not need to buy many special accessories for rats. All they need are some toys, which you can make yourself with everyday items:

  • Paper rolls
  • Scarves hangers
  • Cords
  • Shoe boxes etc.

Pet rats do not make a lot of mess, but they do need bedding. The best bedding is recycled paper, but you can also use shredded napkins or toilet paper.

These rodents are also not picky about food. They can eat almost everything that we can, with some exceptions:

  • Citrus fruits (especially males)
  • Mango
  • Green potato
  • Green bananas
  • Uncooked/dried beans
  • Chocolate

4. Rats Are Loving and Sociable

Rats Are Loving and Sociable

Pet rats return the attention they get tenfold. They are as docile and affectionate as dogs or cats.

They recognize the owner and family members or strangers. And they love spending time with their caretakers. If you have a close relationship with a rat, it will cuddle in your lap or climb on your shoulder to spend time with you.

Pet rats also socialize with other pets if they do not feel threatened. 

Due to their social nature, they take care of each other:

  • They clean each other
  • Sleep together
  • Eat together
  • Play together

Breeders recommend keeping at least one pair of the same sex so they do not multiply.

5. Rats Are Healthy

Rats Are Healthy

Rats are healthy animals. They have a strong immune system and rarely get sick. The only major health problems rats can have are:

  • Mammary tumors (especially in females)
  • Respiratory infections
  • Dental problems

You will usually not spend much with rats on veterinary services, but there can be emergencies that require more money.

Pet rats live around 2-3 years.

Related article: How Much Is a Rat?

6. Rats Have Unique Personalities

Rats Have Unique Personalities

Each rat is different when it comes to personality and behavior. They can be shy and good-natured, energetic and curious, expansive or playful. You can notice these differences if you own several rats.

7. Rats Are Intelligent

Rats Are Intelligent

The intelligence of rats far exceeds that of other pet rodents. Researchers use rats for lab tests involving mazes or complex tasks because of their unmatched intelligence.

This intelligence means that rats are trainable: they come when called, climb stairs, swing, play ball, etc.

They can perceive behaviors and the reward system and recognize the human language.

Pet rats are also not as shy as other pet rodents. Most rodents are frightened when you take them out of the cage.

Pros and Cons of Pet Rats

While it is easy to care for and keep a pet rat because they are intelligent and loving, there are some challenges as well. They chew a lot, which can cause a fire or result in them electrocuting themselves. They also urinate and defecate all over the place if you don’t train them to use the litter box or if the cage is too small.

Owning pet rats can be both a blessing and a curse. 

They are loving, intelligent, and trainable animals, but they can cause damage to your home, bite when scared, and so on.

Pros Of Owning a Pet RatCons Of Owning a Pet Rat
Smart.Chew everything
Loving.Can electrocute themselves or cause a fire if they chew electric cords.[3]
Docile.Bite when scared or if your fingers smell like food.[4]
Bond with their owner.Can be messy and urinate/defecate everywhere.
Easy to care for.Carry various pathogens.
Clean.Not suited for small children.

Keeping Rats as Pets

Pet rats are clean, intelligent, affectionate, healthy, and playful. They are cheap to keep and can take care of themselves. They need to be taken out of their cage for 1-2 hours each day for a healthy life and to build strong bonds with their owner.

Keep Multiple Rats

Keep Multiple Rats

If you are thinking of adopting or buying a pet rat, keep in mind they live in colonies or groups and are sociable animals. 

Pet rats need to have a mate or play partner to avoid the risk of getting stressed or depressed.

Buy the Right Cage and Supplies

You also need to make sure you buy your pet rat a big cage so it can hide and explore when it gets bored.

Don’t forget to buy your pet rat toys, especially those made of wood or other rigid materials. Rats’ teeth grow continuously and need hard objects to chew on. Otherwise, they start chewing their cage or various objects in the house.

Even if they have toys for their teeth, breeders recommend keeping them away from electrical cords. Pet rats are known to chew them, electrocuting themselves or causing fires.

Related: Rat Cage Setup

Rats Need to Exercise

Rats Need to Exercise

Pet rats need at least an hour outside their cage daily to move and explore. Otherwise, they can get bored or sick.

Cleaning

Pet rats barely smell. They are clean animals, and you can teach them to use the litter box. It is recommended to clean their cage 1-2 times a week, especially in the places where they urinate and defecate.

Are Dumbo Rats Good Pets?

Dumbo rats are said to make the greatest pet rats. They are cute, docile, and smart.[2]

They can be easily handled because they do not bite.

After they have formed a special bond with the owner, Dumbo rats will want to take care of them and follow them around the house. They love contact and socializing with the owner.

Are Pet Rats Safe?

Pet rats are safe for humans. They rarely get sick, but they can still carry germs. There are even hairless breeds of pet rats that make great pets for people allergic to pet hair. Pet rats do not make good pets for families with small children as they bite if handled improperly.

Pets are clean animals that rarely get sick. The most common medical condition is mammary tumors, which occurs most often in females.

But, rats can still be carriers of pathogens, such as Streptobacillus moniliformis[5]. For this reason, it is a good idea to buy your pet rat from an authorized breeder.

When it comes to young children, rats are not the right pet for them. Children can scare rats, causing them to bite.

How to Reduce the Risk of Infection from Rats

Do the following to reduce the risk of potential infection from your pet rat:

  • Do not smoke, drink, or eat when handling your pet rat.
  • Keep the cage and accessories clean at all times.
  • Wash your hands immediately after handling your pet.
  • Do not hold pet rats close to your face, and do not kiss them on the mouth.
  • If you have skin lesions, cover them before handling your pet rat.
  • Disinfect the tub/shower thoroughly after cleaning the cage or accessories.
  • Wash the bed linen if the rat has urinated or defecated on it.
  • Keep the cage in a well-ventilated area.
About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.

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