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  • Writer's pictureJulie Reisinger, RVT, LATg

Rats Make Great Pets! Part One: Why Choose a Rat?

Did you know that rats can make great pets? Speaking from my own experience, they can be very playful, loving, and are highly trainable! But don’t take just my word for it - I interviewed two pet rat owners, Sarah and Tracy, to bring you the inside scoop on what’s so great about these adorable little critters:

How many pet rats do you have and what are their names?

Sarah: We have two dwarf male rat brothers, named Ninja and Fred.

Tracy: I have 5 rats - 2 "normal" sized female rats, Priscilla and Aries, and 3 female dwarf rats, Trixie, Pixie, and Dixie.

Pixie, Dixie, and Trixie love snuggling up together!

What made you decide to choose a rat as a pet?

S: I grew up with two hamsters at different times, and one was wonderful, and one was very naughty. Being a vet tech, I had always heard rats make wonderful pets because they are very smart, usually docile, and like to be with their humans. I had seen many videos of people making mazes, and fun activities for their pet rats as well. One of my son's good friends has two pet rats, and one day after playing with them, he came home and said he wanted to get some. A friend has a rattery, and so we decided to get some brother babies from her.

T: I really like rats, and when I was offered to adopt some rats that others wouldn't want, I was all for it.

Aries, doing a little bit of modeling

What are some of the things you can do with your rats?

S: Our rats come to the cage when we enter the room they are in, and we let them out to play. They fetch little toys for a treat, and my son builds houses for them to play in out of Legos and Lincoln logs. They are very sweet and love to be held and especially pet behind the ears.

T: I mostly just hold my rats and love on them. I have a large ball that they can run around the living room in. We have added a lot of enrichment in their cages. They love to chew, so they have a lot of things made out of wood.

Did you know that SLV Pet Care also offers services for Pocket Pets and other Exotics?

Fred is a dwarf rat, so he's got the same amount of cuteness in a smaller package!

What are some things about taking care of rats that you’ve learned since having them?

S: Rats' lungs are very sensitive, and by that I mean, you really should change their cage weekly to prevent a buildup of bacteria that could affect their lungs. I myself am allergic to rats, so if possible, you will want to weigh that con if you have allergies as well. They really do love to spend time with their humans, especially if they are by themselves, so if you can interact with them daily, that would be best for their mental health. I think rats are very social and benefit from having a cagemate. If possible, having two rats is better than one.

T: They are not as smelly or messy as other caged animals. My bigger rats’ cage gets cleaned every 2 weeks and my dwarfs I can go 3 weeks.

Note: the frequency of cage cleaning will vary based on the number/size of rats that you have, as well as the size of the cage. Allergy sufferers will want to change the cage at least weekly.

Most rats, like Priscilla, love interacting with their people!

Would you recommend getting a rat to others? Why or why not?

S: Yes, but do your research and decide if a rat (or any pet), is right for you! Do you have time to give them daily? Are you willing to change their cage weekly? Do you know anyone with a pet rat that you could go play with? Does your shelter adopt pet rats out and if so, can you go and play with them to see if you like the idea of a rat? A lot of people that find out we have rats say "how do you deal with the tail", so find out ahead of time if that is something that makes you squeamish.

T: Yes, do your research, as with any animal. Why? They are so friendly and social. Like Sarah said, when we come home, they are at the front of their cages to greet us. When Mike comes home from work, they know they are getting a treat, and are so excited. We actually have ours in our living room. They are very smart and trainable animals, and they are social animals, so you will end up with at least 2 rats. :)

Rats are social animals, which is why Ninja was brought home with his brother Fred

Would you recommend getting a rat as a pet for a child? Why or why not?

S: I think it depends on the child. If your kid can be calm and gentle, then I think a pet rat would be great because I feel they are the best of all rodent species to have as a pet. We got ours when my son was 5, and now he is 7. I do still have to help clean the cage weekly, but he is able to check their food and water daily. Another variable to consider is if you as the parent are willing to clean the cage weekly, as I would say a young child won't have that ability yet.

T: Yes, as long as you are able to explain to them not to squeeze them. I feel my rats are way nicer than any hamster I have ever had. You cannot train a hamster, that I know of anyway. They are very lovable, trainable, and don't mind being carried around. I believe they make a good starter pet to teach responsibility, i.e. to feed, water, and clean up after.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this series, where we talk with the owner of a rattery about finding the perfect pet rat, care of your pet rat, and advice for people considering a rat for their next pet! While you’re here, check out and subscribe to our other blogs on this page



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