Rats are not everyone’s favorite pet and they are often considered to be pests. However, you can keep rats as pets and they can make great companions. Seriously. In this guide we’ll show you how to care for a pet rat, how to feed it the right foods, make sure it gets a complete diet, and offer you all the other tips you need for taking care of your own pet rat.
As always, if you have questions about specific foods and whether or not these are okay for your pet rat, just check our menus above. We have a lot more info on cat nutrition and dog nutrition, as you would expect, but we’re doing our bit for fans of these cute little rodents as well and we have many articles relating to pet rat diets.
Pet Rat Diet
Rats are omnivores, which means they can eat fruits (see Rats and Grapes), vegetables and meat-based foods. However, the notion that rats can eat anything and everything is incorrect. The truth is that there are many foods that you pet rat needs to avoid, foods that could cause serious harm. These are discussed further down this pet rat care guide.
As far as keeping you pet rat in optical health goes, there are a few things to consider:
- They need animal protein and should also be fed some vegetables
- Just because they eat it or try to eat it, doesn’t mean it is safe for them
- Anything that is moldy or that contains fungus can be deadly for them
- They can not eat too much sugar or sugary foods
- Keep treats to a minimum
Your pet rat’s diet should consist of a small amount of fresh vegetables and fruit 2 to 4 times a week, just to keep their diet balanced. The rest of the time they should be fed on a nutrient rich food made specially for rat. These are known as “Lab Blocks” or “Nutri Blocks” and contain dense nutrients that they need to keep them going throughout the day.
Keeping Rats as Pets
When people think of rats they think of the pests that carry disease and scuttle through garbage. You don’t want them in your home and you barely tolerate the fact that you know they are currently scuttling away in a nearby sewer somewhere. However, these rats are different to pet rats. The former will likely bite you and leave you in need of medical attention, the latter can be as loving as a hamster.
“But it’s wild!” people argue. That’s true, to an extent. But the same can be said for rabbits. There are wild rabbits and there are pet rabbits. You wouldn’t invite a wild rabbit into your home, yet you would happily give your young child a pet one. The same goes for dogs, cats and all other animals for that matter, but for some reason pet rats still have this stigma having over them.
Of course, if you have a fear of rats or rodents, then it is not advised. If not, and if you generally like mice and hamsters, then these could be great pets. They will happily run across your shoulders and back. You haven’t lived until you’ve plonked a pet rat on your hand, stretched out your arms and then watched as it runs up one arm, over your neck and down the other, before repeating the trip.
They really are cute and loving, providing you handle them and feed them well. So, don’t discount them yet and keep the advice on this pet rat nutrition page in mind if you are thinking about getting one.
Help with Pet Rats: Before you Buy
There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re looking to get your first pet rat:
- Buy in same-sex pairs only. Rats are better with companions.
- Make sure you get the sex that works best for you. Females are smaller, they are playful and they smell less. Males are less prone to certain cancers and are usually much calmer.
- Make sure you’re well prepared and know about habitat and diet.
- Rats will live for just 2 to 3 years on average, although this can be longer with good health.
- Rats can get many diseases, including cancer, so be on the lookout for signs.
Best Rat for a Pet
There are several different kinds of pet rats, including hairless rats, which we have covered elsewhere. These rats can polarize opinion with regards to their cuteness, but their special needs also make it harder to care for them, so they may not be the best pet rat for you or for your children.
Rex rats are some of the best rats you can keep as pets. They are said to be okay for people with allergies and they have a lovely, soft coat, much like a Rex Rabbit. They are one of the cutest pet rats you can find and may be ideally suited for all kinds of owners due to their sweet and friendly nature and their high intelligence.
Pet Rat Habitat
Pet rat cages are basically the same as cages given to mice and hamsters. They usually have bars for the rats to climb and keep themselves occupied and they are filled with sawdust to minimize urine smell and bedding so they can cuddle up. There should be a separate area for them to sleep, preferable with a roof over their head and there should also be a wheel for them to exercise in, a food bowl for them to eat, a water bottle for them to drink, and a few toys to keep them busy.
Many hamster cages and mice cages are smaller, but rats are bigger and need bigger spaces, so make sure you give these guys plenty of room to move around. You should also look to exercise them outside of the cage, in exercise balls and even just playing on mazes you’ve created on the floor or desk. Just make sure they don’t leave your sight and escape under the floorboards, they can be agile and sneaky little things.
Find Pet Rats for Sales
You shouldn’t have an issue finding pet rats for sale in your location. They sell them in pet shops worldwide, but you might have to travel a little out of the way in some cases. They are not as sought-after as some other small animals, so while rabbits, hamsters and even mice get pride of place in pet shops, rats are often ignored.
You can also find pet rat owners. Rats breed like crazy and there are usually owners out there who have found themselves the unexpected owner of several new pet rats, usually because they ended up putting male and females together without realizing it. These owners will usually be more than happy to give you a baby from the litter if you can give it a good home.
You can often find such owners on Facebook, as well as local pet forums and enthusiast sites.
Human Foods that Rats Can Eat
There are many foods that rats can eat and we have covered the majority of these individually here on Can-Pets-Eat. If you want to discover a single food, just punch it into our search engine or check with the menus above. There are far too many foods that are safe for us to list them. However, to make it a little easier there is a list below covering foods that should not be in any pet rat’s diet.
Human Foods that Rats Can not Eat
You should avoid giving your pet rat any of these foods as they can be harmful, causing discomfort, harm or even death. This is by no means a complete list, so don’t assume that anything not on here is fine for you pet rat, because that might not be the case:
- Carbonated and Caffeinated Drinks
- Apple Seeds
- Avocado Skin
- Blue Cheese
- Hamster Food
- Orange and Orange Juice
- Poppy Seeds
- Raw Beans