When going through the pet store, you might have noticed all of the small animals for sale. They always have the typical hamsters and guinea pigs. Occasionally you might see something a little more complicated, like a chinchilla. But then you see it. A rat is peeking his large eyes out at you and twitching his whiskers. You might be thinking Ew a rat as a pet?! But upon further inspection, you realize they don’t look so bad after all.
So now you are here with a question. Do rats make good pets? Let’s take a closer look as to why a rat should be your next pet and basic care for them.
Do Rats Make Good Pets?
We will jump right in and tell you, yes, a rat is a fantastic pet. They are great for the first time pet owner and don’t have any complicated requirements. Rats can also be an excellent pet for children older than 7. You can make a rat giddy with excitement just by playing with them. And since they rarely bite, you can relax and calm your fears. But what makes them such great pets? Here are a few pros and cons of rats as pets.
Pros Of Owning A Rat
Despite popular belief, rats are incredibly intelligent. They can learn tricks, know their names, recognize people, and problem solve. Their ability to learn is the reason why scientists use them in experiments. With a few treats, you can train your rat to do almost anything.
Intelligence in most animals also means they are social beings. Rats love to have company. If you are home a lot, you and your rat will have an incredible bond. Your rat will actually love you as much as you love them. And you can tell this is true by the way they light up when they see you.
Are rats good pets? Once you get a snuggle from your rat and maybe a kiss or two, you will agree. The friendship of a rat is like no other. Your rat will love hanging out with you getting cuddles and scratches just like a dog. And if you are wearing a hoodie, you have the perfect hang out spot for any rat. They will cuddle up nice and warm with you for hours.
Since rats are so intelligent, they can also be litter trained. It is reasonably easy to do as well since rats are clean creatures. They instinctually use only one area to go to the bathroom. Once you find their favorite spot, you can place a litter box there with a few droppings, and they will figure it out.
Rats are a fun pet to have in much the same way as dogs and cats. You can watch them in fascination doing their daily routines. You can play games with them like hide-and-seek, fetch, and puzzles. There is no end to what fun you can have with a pet rat.
If you live in a small house or apartment, rats are just for you. Rats are a low maintenance animal because they don’t require long walks or vaccinations. You don’t even have to worry about bathing your rats, although some like to play in the water. As long as they have an hour of playtime outside of the cage a day, they are happy.
Rats are one of the few pets that don’t produce any dander, which makes them hypoallergenic. You could still be allergic to their saliva or urine, but if you have seasonal allergies, a rat is an excellent choice for a small pet.
The average pet rat will cost about $10-$20. And getting everything you need will only cost another $300, but that is a one time purchase. After you have everything you need for your rat, the only other investments you will make are for food and toys. Rat owners can expect to pay about $20 a month in foods and toys.
And last but not least, they are adorable. You will take one look into those big begging eyes and fall in love. Cuteness adds so much to their overall personality. And don’t think for a second that rats don’t know it.
Cons Of Owning A Rat
Just like any animal, there are some points that people aren’t fond of. These are small aspects to some people that can easily be looked past. But for others, they are a deal-breaker. Only you can decide what is too much for you and your family.
Although rats are clean animals, they have a very distinct smell. Males especially mark with small traces of urine all over the cage, and sometimes outside of it. If you leave this urine alone, the odor can get pretty intense. To combat smells, it is best to use litter training along with daily spot cleaning. Even using a high-quality litter will help reduce the smell.
2-3 years is too short of having a beloved pet. Rats have such big personalities and bonds to their families, so losing them is hard. It can also be challenging for children to lose a pet so quickly. The few years are worth it, but also heartbreaking.
If you are home for most of the day, you don’t have to worry about this as much. You can provide enough attention and give lots of love to your social butterfly. But if you work a lot and don’t have a lot of time every day, your rat will need a friend. Are rats good pets if they are in groups? Of course! The more, the merrier when it comes to your mischief. Here is a fun fact; a group of rats is called a mischief. And that is exactly what you get in groups.
Rats need a decent sized cage no matter how much playtime they get. If you are looking for something small, you might want to look somewhere else. For just one rat, we recommend the bare minimum of 2 cubic feet of space. And for each rat you add, you need an additional two cubic feet. So if you plan on getting a few, the cage will need to be large with multiple levels.
Rats tend to get sick very quickly, which is one of the reasons they don’t live long. And when they get sick, a specialty vet can be hard to find. These specialty vets are usually very experienced, but they also cost a lot. So if you get rats as pets, you will want to have an emergency fund saved.
So you still want a pet rat? Good for you! You will not be disappointed. Next, we will talk about a few basic care needs of owning rats. This is just a fundamental overview, and you will want to do more in-depth research on all topics.
As mentioned before, you will want something that is at least two cubic feet per rat. The bar spacing should be escape-proof at least 1/2 inch and lots of levels. Rats love to climb and scurry around, so the larger the cage, the better. And another thing to consider is getting a cage with horizontal bars. Most large cages have verticle bars, which is ok. But if you have horizontal bars, you will see your rats climbing up the sides of the cage to do acrobatics.
After you decide what cage to get, you will want to pick out bedding. Rat bedding needs to be absorbent and odor-reducing. Most rat owners find that pine or aspen shavings work great for both of these. Plus, you can buy shavings in bulk for cheap. Other owners prefer to use a cozy fleece covering for bedding. Fleece is absorbent, but it doesn’t help with the smell. So if you use fleece, it will need to be washed at least once a week. If you can smell any bedding, it is time to change it.
Litter Box And Litter
Choosing a box and litter for potty training is very easy. We recommend using a corner style box for ease. You can also use the bedding you already have as a litter or a pelleted version. Pine pellets are cheap and very absorbent. There is also Critter Litter that works at reducing odors as well, but it can get expensive.
Rats should get high-quality pelleted food daily. The best foods are only pellets with no added nuts or seeds of any kind. Foods that are filled with snacks cause a picky eater and obesity. Your rats also eat almost anything that we eat. In fact, they should get fresh fruits and vegetables every day to round out a healthy diet. But before giving your rat a taste of your food, make sure that it is safe first.
An hour of play outside the cage is needed every day. This time outside will help them stretch and get their muscles moving. In addition to this, they should have an exercise wheel that is at least 12 inches in diameter. Not all rats like the wheel, but most of them do. Wheels give them plenty of exercise in the cage until you come home for playtime. As a side note, exercise balls should never be used. A rat’s toe could easily get caught in the vents, or they will pee on themselves.
We wish rats were a very healthy, long-living pet. But unfortunately, they are very prone to several diseases. Things like
- Respiratory infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Ear infections are all widespread.
Taking your rat to the vet every six months for a wellness check will help catch any problems early.
What Do You Think?
Do rats make good pets for you? Having rats can bring so much joy to any home. Despite anything negative about them, they are worth everything. And if you don’t think that rats are the right pet for you, stick around. We write about every pet imaginable. Our next topic could be the perfect match for you.