So your thinking about getting a pet rat? Fantastic. Rodents actually do make for a wonderful pet to the right family. Though not everyone should own a pet rat, below, we will discuss the pros and cons of owning a rat as a household pet as well as if they are safe to keep in your home.

For starters, there are several situations where rats do not make an ideal family pet. For instance, if you have young children, typically five years of age or younger, if you are pregnant or if you plan to become pregnant, if you are of advanced age, or if you have a weakened immune system for any reason it is not recommended that you keep a rodent as a pet. This is because rodents can and do carry diseases, and this group of individuals is more susceptible to catching whatever the rodent is carrying. (1)

For most of the population, though, rats do make excellent pets. You may think rodents are dirty, mischievous, mean, etc. This is simply not true. Rats are actually, on the whole, clean, friendly pets to own if you take proper care of them and their habitat. Rats are actually quite social creatures and enjoy interacting with their owners, and they more intelligent than most people think. This is not a pet that you can simply leave, sit in their cage, and only interact with them from time to time.

Ignoring a rat is detrimental to their health and well-being.(1) They also enjoy being in groups, so if you are considering getting a rat, make sure you get at least two, so they have a playmate. You probably also didn’t know that you can teach your pet rat to do tricks, and they enjoy performing for people. They can be taught to come when they are called, and they can also be taught to jump and sit and even fetch things. They also enjoy being outside, just make sure that if you do take them outdoors that they have a secure and fenced in location to play in.(3)

There are several “don’ts” when it comes to keeping a rat as a pet in your home. First and foremost, never keep their cage in the kitchen or anywhere you prepare food as they can and do shed bacteria to the surfaces around their enclosure. You must also always wash your hands before and after you handle your pet rat for the same reasons mentioned above. Just as you must never eat or drink while playing with your pet rat. (2)

You must also remember never to kiss, hug, or try to nuzzle your pet rat.(2) These types of creatures do not respond the same way a dog or a cat would in the same situation. They will bite, and besides the fact that a bite will be painful, they can also spread germs, and the bite can become infected. Another tip to keeping you and your family safe is to, if possible clean and disinfect your rat’s cage outdoors to minimize the spread of bacteria.

You will also need to make sure that when you purchase your pet rat, you get them from a reputable location that breeds “domesticated rats.” These are very different than “tame” or “wild” rats. This means that they have been specially bred to be kept as pets. So by selective breeding, they have become very different from their wildest brothers and sisters. They are different in behavior, and they also look different. (3) You should never, ever catch a wild rat and try to tame it as a household pet. The rats found in nature carry a host of diseases, are not bred to be held or tamed, and they do not take kindly to humans. A pet rat does not cost much to purchase and is bred to be a pet, so there is truly never a reason to catch a wild rat as a pet.(3)

You may also be wondering if your children/child is old enough for a pet rat? If you are questioning this, then simply think about if they would be old enough and responsible enough to care for a kitten or a puppy. Your pet rat needs the same attention and care as a large pet would. You may also be wondering if having a rat is generally safe to keep in your home. The overall answer is yes, absolutely. Just as you would clean up after a cat, dog, or bird that lives in your home, you would treat having a rat in the house precisely the same. You wouldn’t have your cat’s litter box on your kitchen counter, nor would you eat a hamburger while holding your cat or dog. It boils down to using common sense as a responsible pet owner.

And lastly, you may wonder how long a pet rat lives? The general consensus is between 2 and 3 years old. Domesticated rats do live longer than wild rats as they are well fed and adequately taken care of. Some rats can and do live double the amount of time. The oldest rat to date is featured in the Guinness Book of World Records, and he lived to be just over seven years old.(3)

In conclusion, if you have the time and patience, a pet rat is a beautiful addition to most family units. They are loving, intelligent creatures who love human interaction, and they will give you lasting memories.

References:

  1. https://www.independent.co.uk/property/house-and-home/pets/features/your-questions-do-rats- make-good-pets-and-are-they-safe-to-keep-indoors-1654062.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/small-mammals/petrodents.html
  3. https://animalhow.com/rat-pets/

Author

  • Sarah is the managing editor and a frequent contributor at Creature Companions. Sarah is originally from sunny Florida, but has lived in Cyprus, China and Northern Ireland from 2009-2018. She currently resides, with her husband, Derek, in the City of Love, Philadelphia. Sarah is passionate about helping pet parents create a healthy lifestyle through preventative healthcare and positive enrichment for a long, vibrant life of their four-legged friends. She's had pets (mostly dogs) and has been writing about pet-focused topics, advice and trends since 2012.

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