Affectionate, intelligent, and fun-loving, though rats have been much maligned throughout history, they make excellent pets. They’re low-maintenance, don’t require a lot of room, and have dynamic personalities. The modern Fancy Rat is as far removed from its wild cousins as dogs are from wolves – they’ve been bred for gentleness and docility over hundreds of generations, and enthusiasts often describe them as dog-like in their desire for human interaction and affection.
Though the stereotype often portrays rats as filthy and disease-ridden, this is very untrue for the domesticated Fancy Rat. Fancy Rats spend almost a third of their waking hours grooming themselves and each other. If a rat becomes unclean or develops an odor, it’s likely a sign of a dirty cage or an illness.
Though they make fantastic pets, people often underestimate the amount of interaction and stimulation they need to be truly happy. If you want a pet that will stay in its cage and keep to itself, a rat isn’t for you. Rats enjoy interacting, whether that’s riding on your shoulder or getting rubbed behind the ears. You should aim to spend at least ½ to an hour with your rats every day, and to provide plenty of toys and activities for your rats to entertain themselves with in your absence. In return you’ll find you have a pint-sized companion with great affection and loyalty.
Appearance / health:
The Standard Fancy Rat is a moderately sized rodent averaging from 9 – 11 inches in length including their tail. They have a long body with a thin, tapering tail and relatively short legs. Their face is long with a tapering snout, long whiskers, round prominent eyes, and upright, rounded ears. Their bodies are covered in short, smooth, and glossy fur, though their feet and tail are mostly bare.
The Standard variety comes in a broad array of colors and patterns. Colors include white (usually with pink eyes), champagne, beige, platinum, silver, blue, black, chocolate, mink, agouti, cinnamon, chinchilla, fawn, lynx, and pearl. There are many different patterns categorized by the specific placement of certain patches of color (Marked), spots, pointed (a light body with dark colors on the nose, ears, legs and base of the tail, and of course solid.
Unfortunately, the Standard Fancy Rat is at risk for a variety of illnesses and health particularly respiratory infections and pneumonia, skin problems (often caused by illness, injury, parasites, or allergies), occlusion (from overgrown teeth), ear infections (often manifesting with a head tilt or balance problems),and growths, including tumors. Mammary tumors are particularly common in female rats from about 1.5 years old. They can often be surgically removed by an experienced small animal/exotics vet, though having them spayed at a young age can reduce their risk considerably. Ill rats will often have a red discharge called “porphyrin” around their nose and eyes. Ensuring a healthy diet and clean environment can help prevent many of these ailments.
Fancy Rats have a lifespan of 2-3 years.
Behavior / temperament:
Rats are an intelligent and social animal who, when socialized properly, are generally quite fond of human interaction. In fact, rats can bond quite closely with their human companions and will crave their time and attention. They love to be handled and petted and very rarely bite. They can learn their name and even a few tricks, and are known to play games like tug-o-war and hide-n-seek with their owners. Their highly social nature means rats should always be kept in groups – even the most dedicated human companion can’t substitute for the interactions rats have with each other. Unlike many other species of rodents, male mice can generally live together happily without aggression.
Rats are nocturnal so they will be most active in the mornings and evenings. They’re active and inquisitive and should be given many opportunities for entertainment and exploration. They like to chew and should be given appropriate things to gnaw to help keep their teeth from over-growing – there are a variety of commercial products available, but hard nuts like acorns or walnuts, or the wood from fruit trees, are also good choices.
Large, wire cages are the ideal habitat for your rats: they have good air circulation, they give your rats a better opportunity to enjoy the sounds and smells outside their cage, and they make it easier to accessorize the cage with toys and hammocks. A good rule of thumb is 2 cubic feet of cage space per rat, with a minimum of 80x50x50cm for a pair. The bars should be no further than ½ inch apart for adult rats, and powder-coated metal is the safest and most durable option. If the cage has a wire or mesh floor, it should be covered, as rats can develop a painful condition known as bumblefoot.
Rats will most enjoy a cage with multiple levels, accessorized with a variety of entertainment and enrichment opportunities such as hammocks, ropes, toys (bird toys are popular), tubes and tunnels, and a large, solid-floored exercise wheel (at least 11”). Provide them with lots of materials to chew, shred, and nest with, such as cardboard boxes or toys, paper towels, tissue, and shredded paper.
Rats have sensitive respiratory tracts, so an appropriate bedding choice is important. Never use scented bedding, cedar/pine shavings, sawdust, or any dusty bedding. Aspen shavings, recycled paper, newspaper with non-toxic ink, and commercial paper bedding products are acceptable, as are towels and fleece if changed frequently.
You should clean your rats’ cage before it begins to smell, as ammonia vapors can be very irritating and damaging to a rat’s respiratory tract. Wet bedding may become moldy and also presents a health threat. The frequency of cage cleaning will depend on the size of the cage, the kind of bedding being used, and the number of rats being kept in it.
Rats are omnivores, and wild rats eat a variety of seeds, grains, fruits and vegetables, insects, eggs, and even fish, birds, or dead animals. Your pet rat’s diet can be much simpler! There are a variety of commercial diets available that will satisfy all of your rat’s nutritional needs, but not all mixes are created equal. Many mixes are high in fattening seeds and nuts, or contain an abundance of dried corn (which should be highly limited in your rat’s diet.) Lab blocks, sometimes called rat or rodent blocks, are a complete diet, may help wear down teeth, but lack flavor and variety. Lab blocks supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables is probably the easiest way to ensure your rat is getting a nutritious and delicious complete and balanced diet. Fortified mixes of nuts and seeds can be supplemented as a treat, and some owners even scatter it throughout the cage to encourage natural foraging behavior.
There are a variety of fresh foods you can add to your rat’s diet, including apples, bananas, grapes, strawberries, melon, broccoli, squash, and carrots. In the summer, frozen peas added to a shallow dish of water can make for a snack that is fun and cooling. Wheat grass sold in the produce section of grocery stores can also provide a treat and entertainment, as many rats enjoy digging through the dirt as well. Unsweetened cereal, pasta (cooked or dry), brown rice, plain popcorn and crackers can make a fun occasional treat, and if you’d like to give your rat a little extra protein, cottage cheese, egg, cooked chicken or turkey, and even dog food or biscuits also make good treats.
Fresh water should always be available and refreshed daily. Water is best provided in hanging gravity bottle feeders installed with gnaw-proof attachments.
Amazing pets, friendly loving creatures, inexpensive pets, Great Overall Pet, quick learners
heavy chewers, Mycoplasma Pneumonia, upper respiratory infections, short life spans, mammal savvy vet
sweatshirt hood, perfect apartment pet, obstacle courses, food stealing, Critter Nation
Just as wondeful as a dog
I'll admit when my brother first said that he wanted pet rats I was a little bit skeptical but oh how I ended up loving them. I never expected these little guys to be so intelligent, sweet, or clean!! They were easily potty trained and so cuddly!!! They only lived for a few years but we loved all of our time with them. My brother would let them roam free around his room for several hours throughout the day and they would come cuddle or explore and when they had to use the bathroom they always went back to their cage. One of their favorite spots was in the front pocket of our hoodies or even the hood of the hoodie. We made sure their cage was decently big and we made them little hammocks out of fleece as a hide out in addition to the house we gave them. Sometimes their bedding or food would end up outside of their cage but other than that they weren't messy. And if anyone is concerned about the smell, it was never a issue as long as we cleaned the cage regularly. Personally I think they smell better than a hamster and MUCH better than a ferret. Rats are social creatures so we always made sure to have two of whatever kind we had. This was a nice difference between them and hamsters as well. You get twice the pets for the same amount of work as with one. If you're like me and you're skeptical about having rats for pets, I hope this helps! Because they really are such a wonderful pet and think everyone should give them a shot. .
From Daphne Petty Dec 30 2018 9:56PM
From Angela Dwyer DVM 476 days ago
The best way to start socializing your rat with every human
Giving treats to your rats is one of the best ways for them to get used to you when you bring them home. This will make the rats trust you and see a caring friend in you.
Make your pet comfortable by not scaring them, and be easy going. Open the cage and leave the treat on one of your fingers that you will bring inside the cage (not throug the bars), let the rat approach to you and sniff you before taking the treat.
Your pet rats will feel comfortable with you when they start taking treats from your finger without snifing them- this is when you can start handling..
From Jelena Pavlovic 739 days ago