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  • Molly Weinfurter

Are Rats Good Pets? 5 Reasons to Consider Pet Rats

When most people think of rats, they think of filthy rodents living in the sewers and sneaking into homes. However, anyone that has had a pet rat knows that the assumptions about rats are false. For new pet parents, rats usually make better pets than popular choices like hamsters and chinchillas. So, are rats good pets for you? Keep reading to find out why many pet owners love them.

Why are Rats Good Pets?

In general, rats are wonderful pets. Yet, everyone has different preferences when it comes to choosing the perfect pet. Below are five benefits to getting a pet rat so you can decide if they sound like a good fit for your lifestyle.

Domestic rat playground

Rats are Friendlier Than Similar Pets

Rats are social creatures. They love to live in groups both in the wild and in captivity, so you’ll need to buy them in pairs. While they need a rat friend to hang out with, they’ll also enjoy their human’s company.

Many rats enjoy cuddling with and being held by their humans. They may also “groom” you by licking your hands and play with you by nibbling on your fingers as if you're part of their rat family. Even though their teeth are sharp, they know how to be gentle with those they care about.

So, if you love pets you can interact with, a rat might be a good fit for you. Many people are drawn to the cuteness of hamsters, but hamsters are the type of pet that shouldn’t be handled often. Hamsters are pets you look at while rats are pets you can play with.

They’re Trainable

Rats are also highly intelligent. They’re likely as smart as dogs, so they can learn tricks just like a dog can. They can learn to respond to their name, stand up on their hind legs, and even jump through hoops. They’re also good problem solvers, so they can run through obstacle courses and figure out puzzle toys.

Studies show that rats have more complex emotions than other small pets. Rats have been observed trading objects with each other and returning to grab objects they forget. They also display empathy toward other rats.

By working on tricks and games with pet rats, rats can quickly form close bonds with their humans.

Group of pet rats

They’re Surprisingly Clean

Rats have a bad reputation of being dirty, but rats are much cleaner than most small mammals, especially as pets. Pet rats have no need to hide from humans in sewers or scavenge for food, so they’re rarely covered in dirt like a wild rat might be.

Rats regularly groom themselves, and they often enjoy being brushed. A rat enclosure only needs to be cleaned about once or twice a week. Since they’re so smart, they can even be litter box trained. Plus, rats poop significantly less than other trainable small pets like guinea pigs and rabbits.

They’re Budget-Friendly

If you have a pet rat, you won’t have to break the bank to give them a good life. You’ll need to initially spend a couple hundred dollars setting up a rat enclosure, but after that, you’ll likely only need to spend $20 to $30 a month to feed the rats. Yet, like with any pet, keep some extra money saved up in case there’s a medical emergency.

They’re Not as Big of a Commitment as Other Pets

Rats have the friendliness and trainability of a dog, but they don’t need constant attention like a dog would. They enjoy spending time with their humans, but they’re also content if you’re away for long periods, as long as they have another rat to spend time with. Plus, rats can sleep over 12 hours a day, so they need some alone time anyway.

Sadly, pet rats usually only live for two to four years. While it isn’t much time, it makes them great for new pet parents, allowing them to care for a pet without having to commit to them for decades.

Rat by pink background

What are the Downsides of Rats as Pets?

Even though there are lots of benefits to rats as pets, no pet is for everyone. As mentioned above, they don’t live long, so the heartbreak of losing a rat typically comes much sooner than losing a cat or dog. Some rats can live much longer than their average lifespan with proper care, but most will live about three years.

Another potential downside is that rats take up more space than people realize. They need a large enclosure, preferably with multiple levels, so they can run around and explore to their heart’s content. The more rats you have, the more space they’ll need. So, if you’re living in a small studio apartment, there may not be enough room for a properly-sized rat enclosure.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do Pet Rats Eat?

In captivity, rats like to eat vegetables, fruits, cooked eggs, grains, and seeds. You can buy rat food mixes from the pet store, but offer them some fresh food too. Rats don’t need hay like guinea pigs do.

How Long Do Pet Rats Live?

Pet rats usually only live two to four years. However, the oldest known rat in captivity lived to be 7 years old! In the wild, rats usually live less than a year.

Are Pet Rats Nocturnal?

Rats are technically nocturnal animals, but they may adapt to different schedules in captivity. The best time to play with them is early in the morning or late at night. You may hear them making sounds in the middle of the night because that’s when they’re most active.

How Many Pet Rats Should I Get?

You should get at least two rats for your enclosure so they’re not lonely. However, getting more than two can prevent one rat from feeling depressed if the other passes away.

Can Pet Rats and Cats Get Along?

No, even with a proper introduction, rats and cats likely won’t get along. If you have cats in your home, never leave them unattended with your rats since cats love to hunt rodents.

Pet rat eating

Consider Pet Rats

Many people are quick to overlook domestic rats as pets, but buying pet rats is a great decision for many. Rats are smart, social, and cleaner than most pets, so they can make great companions for people of all ages and lifestyles. If you’re looking for a small, easy, and friendly pet, consider rats.


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