Rats make wonderful pets for those who are looking for an intelligent, social, and playful companion. They are easy to care for, highly adaptable, and incredibly affectionate. However, owning a pet rat requires a lot of responsibility and commitment. In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about caring for your pet rats, from housing and feeding to health and behavior.

Understanding Pet Rats

What are Pet Rats?

Pet rats are domesticated rats that have been bred specifically to be kept as pets. They are descended from wild rats, but over time have been selectively bred to be more docile, friendly, and sociable. Pet rats are intelligent animals that can be trained to perform various tricks and behaviors.

Benefits of Owning Pet Rats

Owning pet rats has several benefits. They are very social animals and enjoy the company of their owners. They are also very playful and can provide hours of entertainment. Pet rats are easy to care for and are relatively low maintenance pets. They are also hypoallergenic, making them a great choice for people who suffer from allergies.

Housing Your Pet Rats

Cage Size and Setup

Pet rats require a cage that is large enough for them to move around in comfortably. The minimum recommended size for a pair of rats is 24" x 12" x 24". The cage should be made of wire mesh, as rats like to climb and explore. It should also have a solid bottom to prevent the rats from injuring their feet. The cage should be kept in a quiet, draft-free area of the house.

Bedding and Accessories

The bedding in your rat's cage should be soft, absorbent, and easy to clean. Avoid using pine or cedar shavings, as they can be harmful to your rat's respiratory system. Instead, opt for paper-based bedding or shredded newspaper. Your rat's cage should also be equipped with accessories such as a food dish, water bottle, and toys to keep them entertained.

Feeding Your Pet Rats

Rat-Specific Diets

Pet rats require a specific diet that is high in protein and low in fat. Commercial rat food is available at most pet stores and is a great option for your rats. You can also supplement their diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as cooked meats such as chicken and fish. It's important to avoid feeding your rats sugary or fatty foods, as this can lead to health problems.

Fresh Foods and Treats

Fresh foods and treats can be given to your rats in small quantities. Some good options include apples, bananas, carrots, and green beans. Rats also enjoy a variety of treats such as plain popcorn, yogurt drops, and dried fruits. It's important to avoid feeding your rats chocolate, caffeine, and any food that contains onions or garlic.

Maintaining Your Pet Rats' Health

Regular Checkups and Vaccinations

Regular checkups with a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about rats is important for maintaining your rat's health. Rats should also receive vaccinations for common diseases such as distemper and pneumonia.

Common Health Problems in Rats

Rats can suffer from a variety of health problems, including respiratory infections, tumors, and dental problems. Signs of illness in rats include lethargy, loss of appetite, and breathing difficulties. If you notice any of these signs, it's important to seek veterinary care immediately.

Handling and Bonding with Your Pet Rats

Taming and Socializing Your Rats

It's important to handle your rats frequently to help them become comfortable with you. Start by offering your rats treats and speaking to them in a calm, gentle voice. Once your rats are comfortable with being handled, you can begin to introduce them to new people and environments.

Playing with Your Rats

Playing with your rats is a great way to bond with them and provide them with exercise and stimulation. Some good options include playing with toys, teaching them tricks, and allowing them to explore a safe, supervised area outside of their cage.

Training Your Pet Rats

Basic Commands and Tricks

Rats are highly trainable and can learn a variety of tricks and commands. Some good options include teaching your rats to come when called, climb through hoops, and fetch small objects.

Positive Reinforcement Techniques

Positive reinforcement is an effective training technique for rats. This involves rewarding your rats with treats and praise when they exhibit good behavior. Avoid using punishment, as this can be harmful to your rat's mental health.

Dealing with Behavioral Issues

Aggression and Biting

Aggression and biting can be a common problem in pet rats. This is often a sign of fear or anxiety. It's important to work with your rats to help them overcome their fears and develop positive associations with handling.

Separation Anxiety

Rats can suffer from separation anxiety if they are left alone for long periods of time. To help prevent this, make sure your rats have plenty of toys and stimulation in their cage, and consider getting a companion rat if you only have one.


Caring for pet rats requires a lot of responsibility and commitment, but it's also incredibly rewarding. By following the tips in this article, you can provide your rats with a safe, comfortable, and happy life.


Do rats make good pets for children?
Rats can make great pets for children, but it's important to supervise interactions and teach children how to handle rats safely.

Can rats be litter trained?
Yes, rats can be litter trained with patience and consistency.

How often should I clean my rat's cage?
Rat cages should be cleaned at least once a week, and more frequently if necessary.

How long do pet rats live?
Pet rats typically live for 2-3 years, but some have been known to live up to 4 years.

Can rats get along with other pets, such as cats or dogs?
It's not recommended to have rats and cats or dogs living together, as it can be dangerous for the rats. If you have other pets, it's important to keep them separate from your rats.

What should I do if my rat gets sick?
If you notice any signs of illness in your rat, it's important to seek veterinary care immediately. Rats can deteriorate quickly, so prompt treatment is essential.