Owning a Pet Rat: Everything You Need to Know for a Happy Life Together

by Marissa Prizio
Owning a Pet Rat: Everything You Need to Know for a Happy Life Together


Rats may not be the most popular pets, but they are definitely underrated. When given the best care, these clever critters can make truly enthralling companions. If you're looking for the rundown on keeping a happy little rat in your life, this guide's got everything you need.

Understanding Your Pet Rat

Before you can provide the best care for your pet rat, you'll need to understand their unique behaviors, social needs, and characteristics.

Rat Behavior and Communication

Rats have a unique way of communicating with one another. They might grind their teeth together when they are content and happy, making an adorable "bruxing" sound. To accompany this tranquil noise, they often do something called "boggling," which is when their eyes vibrate rapidly. It might look a bit scary, but it's completely benign. Grooming is also a popular behavior in rats. It's more than just keeping clean, as it is also a way of social bonding.

Social Needs of Rats

Most rats are truly social animals and absolutely love living with one another. Being surrounded by their own kind can positively affect their well-being and mental health and be therapeutic for them. But you'll need to introduce new rats together gradually and under the watchful eye of an adult because the last thing you want is harmony to turn into havoc.

Rats often form strong bonds with their cage mates. If left alone or if they lose their mates, they can become downhearted. That's why it's best to house them in pairs or small groups. 

2 Rats in a cage

Domestic Rat vs. Wild Rat

Domestic rats, which many know and love as "fancy rats," have been bred specifically for their gentle nature and beautiful coloring. They make wonderful pets due to their friendly personalities and interest in people. Wild rats, on the other hand, are generally not ideal as companions. They are unpredictable and may carry harmful diseases, and they are also usually untrusting of human contact.

Rat vs. Mouse

Rats and mice may belong to the same family of rodents, but these two species have distinct characteristics. The size difference between an adult rat and an adult mouse is quite significant, with rats often twice as big. Regarding lifespan, rats are superior, living up to three years in captivity; mice usually live for only one or two. Also, rats tend to be more intelligent and social than their smaller counterparts, making them better pets if you care about social interaction.


With good care, domesticated pet rodents can have a surprisingly long lifespan — up to four years. That's much longer than wild rats, who would be lucky to reach a year due to the harsh environment and predators lurking in the shadows. But your pet rat won't get that far without proper care, regular vet visits, and a healthy lifestyle. So give your little critter some love and attention, and both of you'll reap the rewards.

How Smart Are Rats?

Despite their negative public image, rats are remarkable and curious creatures with an intelligence that rivals many other animals. They possess problem-solving skills, can master complex tasks, and are self-aware enough to recognize themselves in a mirror. With training, these fascinating rodents can learn to do tricks, navigate elaborate mazes and often respond to their names. With such cleverness and a natural curiosity for the world around them, rats make engaging and entertaining pets.


Rat in a cage

Types of Pet Rats

Here are some of the most common types of pet rats:

  • The Standard Rat is the domesticated form of its wild ancestor, unhindered by genetic manipulation. This furry fellow has a pair of cute round ears perched atop his head and a long tail, which trails behind him as he scurries around. He's not picky about food — he gobbles up everyday delicacies like grains, fruits, and veggies.
  • Dumbo Rats have the cutest, most distinctive ears, which is how they got their name. They're round and set a little lower on their heads than other rats. Dumbo rats are super gentle and make excellent first-timers pets.
  • The Rex Rat, while having a dramatic name, is an adorable creature with soft, shiny fur, flowing curls, and unparalleled charm. These rats have magnetic, playful personalities that captivate everyone they meet. They're also very gentle and friendly companions, easily winning over even the most reluctant hearts.
  • The hairless rat is an unusual specimen. They have no fur, so they feel the heat and cold more than their furry friends. Despite this, people who have kept them as pets describe them as very friendly and inquisitive. They love to play and explore, just like people.
  • Tailless rats are a rare species of rodent born without a tail. However, tailless rats can still climb and balance perfectly despite this missing appendage. Potential pet owners should know that these rats may have some underlying health issues, so be sure to watch for any warning signs.
  • A Satin Rat is distinguishable by its shiny fur that sparkles in the light. These critters may be small, but they are full of personality. They are social creature, curious, and love to explore their environment. And they're clever and pretty, so there are many opportunities for interactive playtime.
  • The Siamese Rat has a coat pattern that would make any Siamese cat jealous. Their bodies are a light tan accented by richer, darker coloring on their noses, tails, and feet. But looks aren't everything with these rodents. They are just as much fun as they are cute, always bouncing around and sticking their fuzzy noses in anything interesting,

Creating a Suitable Habitat

You'll need to stock up on some rat supplies to create the perfect habitat for your new pet.

What to Know About Rat Cages

If you want your pet rat to feel pampered and safe, they need a spacious, well-designed rat cage. It should be roomy enough that they can explore and move freely yet secure enough that there's no escaping. With multiple levels, ramps, and platforms, your rats will have a blast scrambling up and down for a long time. Quality Cage has rat cages that fit all these criteria while providing comfort and care for furry friends.

Cage Setup and Enrichment

A happy and comfortable home for your pet includes soft bedding, cozy hiding spots they can burrow into, and plenty of exciting toys. Stuff their bed with plush paper or aspen wood shavings that will absorb odors and give them a comfy place to rest. Be sure to provide plenty of hiding places, like boxes and tubes, to create a secure environment and lessen stress. Along with this, they need enriching activities like rope playtime, balls to chase around and chew toys for good teeth health. Of course, regular maintenance of cage cleaning means a pristine home, so clean out the cage every week. Replace soiled materials often for maximum hygiene.

Diet and Nutrition

A quality diet is the first and foremost factor in keeping a healthy and happy rat.

Balanced Rat Diet

A healthy diet for your lovable rat will include commercial rat food, fresh fruits and vegetables, and occasional treats. Commercial rat food is usually in the shape of pellets or blocks and contains a balanced mix of essential nutrients. Adding some fruits and veggies can give them extra vitamins and minerals, but it's best to do so in moderation to stop them from becoming plump.

Rats can occasionally enjoy treats such as yogurt drops or sunflower seeds as a reward or bonding tool. Just make sure that all the foods you offer are safe for rats. Certain types of food, like chocolate and citrus fruits, can do more harm than good.

Feeding Schedule and Tips

Pet rats don't need a complicated feeding schedule. Feed them one or two small meals a day and adjust the portions depending on their age, size, and how active they are. Keeping an eye on their weight may prevent health problems related to obesity. Never forget to provide them with fresh water, which should be changed daily.

Health and Wellness

Your pet rat will benefit from regular vet checkups and some preventative care.

Rat held by a vet with blue surgical gloves

Common Rat Health Issues

Certain health issues seem to affect our rat friends more frequently than others. If they're sneezing, wheezing, and have a runny nose, it's likely a respiratory infection. If they have overgrown mammary tissue, they need a checkup for tumors. And if they do too much scratching, it's probably mites. You want to keep your rat pal feeling their best, so contact a vet or take them to one directly for a checkup when you spot any early signs of trouble.

Preventive Care and Grooming

Maintaining a healthy coat and grooming your pet rat isn't just for good looks; it's necessary for their well-being. Trim their nails every few weeks to keep them well-manicured, brush the fur that keeps getting everywhere, and give them occasional baths — but don't overdo it. Rats naturally want to stay clean; too many baths can dry out their delicate skin.

Bonding and Socialization

Building a strong bond with your pet rat is rewarding and also improves their quality of life.

Building Trust With Your Rat

Fostering a relationship with your furry friend takes time and dedication. Start with some cozy quality time near their hutch, chatting away in a gentle tone. When they start to feel comfortable with you being around, offer up some treats and get into some light petting. With perseverance, your little rat will associate you with pleasant moments and form a lifelong bond of true friendship.

Rat Training, Playtime, and Toys

You can teach your rat some extraordinary tricks. With positive reinforcement, like treats, pats, and praise, they can understand mazes, respond to their names, and even perform cool maneuvers. Plenty of playtime out of their cage is a great way to keep them healthy. A variety of interactive toys and tunnels will keep their clever brains in good shape.

Introducing Your Rat to Other Pets

Take precautions if you're introducing your pet rat to other animals. Not all pets will take kindly to a rodent, and some may view them as food. It's best to monitor their interactions at all times and never leave them without someone watching over them. Start with brief meetings and gradually ramp up their time together as things warm up between them.

The Downsides of Owning a Pet Rat

Though pet rats can be amazing, devoted, and loving companions, rat owners need to know what they're getting into with them. These furry friends don't live as long as some other pets, so you need to prepare for such loss. They may need medical attention occasionally and require plenty of attention and stimulation to keep them from getting into trouble when bored. They may also become quite active at night, so if you're a light sleeper, this could cause issues. All in all, having a rat companion requires some dedication and devotion. But the rewards can be well worth it.

Ensure the Best Pet Rat Care With Quality Cage

Quality Rat Cage

Taking care of a pet rat is a fun challenge, and with the right knowledge, you can make sure your furry friend is happy and healthy. Quality Cage has all the fun stuff to get your pet rat settled into their new home – from spacious cages to nutritious snacks and colorful toys to entertain them. You can create the perfect environment for your furry pal with your love and attention and Quality Cage's products.


Do pet rats make good pets?

Yes, rats can make excellent pets. They are intelligent, social, and can genuinely be affectionate to their owners. But they also need a lot of patience and resources to be their best.

How big can rats get?

Most pet rats are quite small, ranging from 9 to 11 inches long. But depending on the breed of rat, they may be bigger or smaller than this. For example, some types of rats can even reach up to half a foot in length.

How much do rats cost?

How much a pet rat costs depends on where you buy it. But that starting cost is usually small. Most of your expenses will go toward food, bedding, and veterinary care.

How many babies do rats have?

Rats can have litters of anywhere from six to 13 pups. But don't be surprised if they tend to exceed that number, because bigger families aren't impossible. Breeding is best left to the experts since pet overpopulation is a real concern.


Have Questions About having a Pet Rat?

Email us at cages@qualitycage.com

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