Are Rats Good Pets? The Truth About Pet Rat Ownership

by Joshua Paulson

Are Rats Good Pets? The Truth About Pet Rat Ownership


At first mention, some might find the idea of having a pet rat strange. But people have been domesticating these lively and intelligent animals since the 18th century. Rats as pets have been progressively capturing the hearts of animal lovers worldwide.

However, many are still asking the question; are rats good pets? Unfortunately, many misconceptions regarding rats still exist because of their portrayal in the media. People often associate them with dirty environments and diseases. However, domesticated and fancy rats make for loving and easy-going pets.

Are rats good pets? You'll learn that in this article and some truths about rat ownership.

Why Rats Make Good Pets

Rats often get a bad rep in the media. To uncover the truth of these small rodents' nature, we must look closely at some of their most prominent characteristics: sociability, intelligence, adaptability, affection, and easy-going nature.

Rats Are Intelligent Creatures

Proven to be highly intelligent, rats have unsurprisingly thrived in large numbers throughout human history. At the Ku Leuven research institute in Belgium, scientists gave both humans and rats cognitive tests in pattern recognition. In the second task, rats were able to outperform the humans. They naturally excel at understanding various concepts and patterns to help them forage for food. There have been many studies, all pointing to high intelligence in rats.

Rats Are Highly Social Animals

Rats really shine in groups because they're highly social animals. Together, rats communicate through high-pitched frequencies that humans can't hear. They form natural hierarchies, recognize the voices of family members, and engage in complex play activities. This alone is an excellent reason to have two rats instead of just one.

Rat behavior makes them highly entertaining pets, suitable for any owner that relishes the chance to play with their animals. To socialize rats, it's best to buy them in pairs. Alternatively, connect with other rat owners and set up playdates when your rats are young. Doing so will make for a happy and healthy rat. They're also a joy to watch!

Rats Are Easy to Care For

Rats are low-maintenance and easy-going animals, making them an excellent choice for even the laziest pet owner. They only eat about 15-20 grams of food daily. As a pet, they're easy to feed and don't require maintenance as much as other, more traditional pets.

At Quality Cage, you can find all the cages, accessories, food, and toys you need to make your pet rat happy. Navigate to our product page to find whatever you need for this low-maintenance pet.

Rats Are Playful and Entertaining

Like many other pets, rats need daily exercise to ensure a long lifespan, a healthy body, and a sharp mind. These little rodents love running, scurrying, climbing, and rolling amongst themselves and around humans. You'll love to watch your pet climb through the multiple levels of its cage, given it has the right accessories.

Two rats cuddling under a knitted blanket

Rats Can Be Trained

When you tell them to imagine an intelligent and trainable pet, most people think of dogs. However, rats can also learn tricks like fetching, rolling over, and sitting. But simple parlor tricks aren't the only things rats can do. Magawa, a Belgian rat, sniffed out and cleared over 141,000 square meters of land covered in landmines in Cambodia. This incredible animal was even awarded a medal for heroism.

Rats Are Affectionate

Because of their highly social nature, rats can form lifelong bonds with other rats and their owners. They recognize friends from foes and appreciate a good scratch behind the ears now and then. For example, Donna, a risk consultant, has multiple pet rats and breeds them in their spare time. She details how happy her rats are to see her, often cuddling up and showing affection.

Rats Have Low Allergenic Potential

Many have trouble selecting the right pet because of their allergies. Some people can't stand cat or dog hair. While not totally hypoallergenic, rats are considerably less likely to stir up allergies than the abovementioned animals. This is because rats are much smaller than the common mammals people usually keep as pets. You also need to keep them in a cage, so they won't shed throughout the home.

Rats Are Versatile and Adaptable

Wild rats are considered opportunistic animals that quickly adapt to different habitats. A wild rat has no issue eating exclusively vegetarian food if that's what's available in its immediate environment. If meat's on the menu, then they'll adapt to that as well. Domesticated rats are similar and can tolerate various food groups and cage setups within your home.

Rats Offer Educational Value for Children

Because of their low maintenance, rats are a good choice for kids that need to learn about responsibility and empathy. When getting a pet rat, children can readily form bonds with them while establishing feeding schedules and play sessions. It also teaches them how to respect the animals' boundaries.

Common Concerns About Pet Rat Ownership

You might have some potential concerns when considering a rat for the ideal pet. These include health issues, time and commitment, and a rat's lifespan.

Health Concerns

Many people regard rats as dirty animals and disease carriers. While this might be true in extreme cases within cities and unclean environments, this is because rats are, for the most part, adaptable. While rats have the potential to carry diseases and infect others, this only happens if they're left in unclean environments.

To mitigate this, thoroughly clean your rat's cage and toys weekly. Keeping your rat's environment clean will prevent potential health issues.

Lifespan and Attachment

As a potential rat owner, you're probably asking how long rats live. Rats have a relatively short lifespan and live two to four years. For many, this could be a concern because of emotional attachment. When saying goodbye to a pet rat, remember that you've enriched its life by giving it the attention and care it deserves. The grieving process is different for everyone, so you'll need to trust your instincts.

Rat with white and brown color

Time and Commitment

For many potential pet owners, rat care time and commitment are prime concerns. However, rats are easy to care for and low maintenance compared to other mammals. Other than feeding them twice a day, they'll need about an hour of daily exercise outside their cages.

The Role of Proper Housing and Accessories in Rat Ownership

When getting a pet rat, you'll need the right rat supplies to give it a happy and healthy life. Proper housing and accessories like rat toys are the first things you should consider.

The Importance of Appropriate Cages

Quality Rat Cage

A comfortable rat cage is the first thing you must consider when buying a new pet rat. Quality Cage's product page has durable and robust cages in various sizes suitable for any small rodent. With ideal bar spacing, the cage can have plenty of levels for your rat to explore and stay active.

The Role of Accessories in Rat Enrichment

Next to caging, you'll also have to consider the multiple accessories rats need to stay healthy and mentally active. With Quality Cage, you can choose from a wide range of toys and accessories, such as wheels, water bottles, and feeders.

Adopting a Rat: What to Expect

You'll want to be prepared once you buy a pet rat. Consider many things, such as the adoption process, preparing your home, and getting along with other pets.

The Adoption Process

To adopt a rat, there are a few general guidelines you should follow:

  1. Research sources. When looking for pet rats, it's best to consider reputable sources. Check with local animal breeders, shelters, and rescue organizations.
  2. Selection. Choose a rat that seems alert, active, and healthy. Young rats will need more socialization and training. Avoid buying rats that show aggressive behavior.
  3. Paperwork and fees. Once you've selected your pet rat, your local shelter or breeder might need to fill out the relevant paperwork.

Preparing Your Home for a Rat

You'll also want to prepare your home for your rat's arrival. A few considerations are necessary to avoid accidents:

  1. Find a cage for your rat. Quality Cage can help you with this step. Your rat will need the right cage and housing. Owners should choose a durable option with multiple levels.
  2. Bedding and toys. Your rat will appreciate nesting, so give it some paper-based bedding materials and toys for mental stimulation and enrichment.
  3. Adjust temperature. Rats are comfortable with temperatures similar to humans – between 65 F (18C) and 75 F (24C) is a good rule of thumb.

Rats and Other Pets

When getting rats acquainted with other pets, a realistic approach is best. Rats, though highly social, interact best with other rats. Cats, dogs, and birds are not the best friend choices for your pet rat. These animals have a strong prey drive, and you can expect aggression between them even with a careful introduction. Birds are especially wary around rats and don't get along in the wild.

The Cost of Owning a Rat

There are certain costs associated with buying a pet rat. It's essential to be financially prepared so that they have all their needs. An estimation of these expenses would be:

  • A cage: $200-$300 (one-time cost)
  • Water Bottle: $8- $20 (one-time cost)
  • Toys: $10- $30 (one-time cost)
  • Rat food: $5-$20 (monthly cost)
  • Medical and vet purposes: $100-$150 (annual cost)
  • The rat itself: $20-$30 (one-time cost)

Final Thoughts: Rats as Companions

Rats have all the characteristics of a lovable pet. They're highly intelligent, social, adaptive, and affectionate creatures. Potential owners can also mitigate potential issues through proper attention and proper care.

If you have your heart set on a pet rat, navigate to Quality Cage. You can find all you need for your new furry friend, including rat food, supplies, accessories, and appropriate cages.


Do pet rats like to be held?

Unlike other small rodents and mammals, many types of pet rats love to be held by their owners. However, doing this from a young age is essential to get them used to the activity.

Do rats recognize their owners?

Yes, rats recognize their owners easily by their voices. They also form lifelong connections and bonds with them.

What are the cons of pet rats?

Rats can sometimes require a lot of money for medical bills. Many are prone to specific medical issues, such as respiratory issues.

How long do rats live as a pet?

This depends on various factors like genetics and lifestyle. Still, fancy rats live an average of two years but can often reach four years of age.


Have Questions About Pet Rat Ownership?

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Author: Joshua Paulson and Quality Cage Team
Josh is the owner and CEO at Quality Cage Crafters since 2015. During his time at Quality Cage Crafters he has been able to learn from tens of thousands of pet owners and pet educators. He blends his ambition for manufacturing and passion for animal care to create solutions for pet owners, breeders, animal rescues, and zoos. He has brought together a team of great animal lovers to create high quality pet care content for the Quality Cage Crafters audience.

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