Do Rats Make Good Pets?

Rats get a bad rap, but are actually incredible pets! They are smart, curious and very social! However, before you go out and get one to join your family, you should learn a few key fact that will help you decide whether having a rat is the right pet for you.

Sleeping rats
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What do rats eat?

Domesticated rats have pellets or block-type food formulated to be nutritionally complete. These are available in your local pet stores and online. Be sure to choose one low in fat and high in soy protein to make sure your rats have the healthiest option for their diet. It is also a good idea to supplement their diets with specific fresh foods so your rat doesn't get bored with just pellets and blocks. You can feed your rat foods like:

1.) Carrots

2.) Yogurt

3.) Whole grain rice, pastas and breads

4.) Bananas

5.) Apples

6.) Peas

How much space do rats need?

The ideal size cage for up to two rats is a wire cages with 2 square feet of floor space, but the cage must be tall with hammocks and built-up climbing options! Ramps and platforms built up for the rat to climb and play in is ideal to allow your rat the ability to explore, exercise and play. Be sure that the wire cages do not have wire floors because that can cause a condition in rats called bumble foot where the feet become red, swollen and bumpy. The wire grid should be 1/2 x 1/2 inch max.

Friendly pet brown rat in human hand, animals at home
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You should keep your cage somewhere that is relatively quiet during the day, since rats are nocturnal creatures. Make sure that the cage is not in direct sunlight or in a drafty area so that the temperature is kept at a comfortable level for your rodent buddy. If you have other pets, be conscious to keep the rat cage away from your other pets as having a cat or dog hovering near the cage can cause distress to your rats.

For bedding, use Carefresh or aspen wood shavings, as other types of wood shavings like cedar or pine can be harmful to rats. You should also offer nesting supplies for your rats to tear up and make a cozy nesting material out of. Ink free paper, tissues and dye free paper towels are best for this. There should also be a "nest box" available for your rat to make their nest in. This can be a cardboard box, a jar on its side or even a section of PVC pipe with one end covered.

Rats will usually use one section of the cage as their bathroom. This soiled part of the cage should be scooped out daily with more litter added to replace the scooped out portion of litter. The lavatory section should be washed with warm soapy water once a week.

What are rat personalities like?

Rats are very smart, curious, clean, active creatures, but are not instantly snuggly until they know who they are snuggling. They will need time to get to know you before they trust you. Once they do, they are incredibly playful. They can form intense bonds with people and other rats, so it is a good idea to get two rats so they have a playmate.

If you have children, be aware that because rats are small the children might need supervision when handling the rats. Rats can feel scared if not handled with care and may try to defend themselves by biting or scratching. However, when handled gently, rats can be very loving and snuggly.

Young girl holding a rat, close-up
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Can you train a rat?

Absolutely! Rats are incredibly intelligent. To train your rat, you must first establish a trusting relationship with them, by bonding with them. Use positive reinforcement when training them and make sure that the room is free of distractions. Rats have short attention spans so keep your training sessions short, around 10 to 15 minutes. Not all rats learn at the same rate (like people) so sometimes it will take time so be patient. If you are patient you might be able to train your rat to do fun tricks like how to--

1.) Come when they are called

2.) Stand up

3.) Shake hands

4.) Clap

5.) To climb on your shoulder and stay there

How to bond with your rat

Rats take time to get to know someone. Make sure you take time every day in a safe quiet place. Start by placing a spoon of food inside the cage and letting them eat from the spoon. If your rat starts to sniff your arm, try picking them up, making sure to support their full weight and gently holding them. Do not pick them up by their tail, this will scare them. Gently pet and stroke them as you speak softly to them.

If these answers feel like they fit in your lifestyle, it looks like a rat is the perfect pet for you!