One of the first questions to pop on our mind when we think about getting a pet rat is if they are clean and a safe pet. A misconception that most people have is that rats are dirty and full of diseases. This idea is widely spread mostly because that’s how they’re portrayed in any kind of media.
Are pet rats clean? Yes, they’re the cleanest animals you can find, actually! Very much like cats, they spend a big part of the day cleaning themselves over and over again.
Rats groom themselves all the time, but part of their cleaning comes from you as well. Keeping a cleaned cage is important both for you and your companion! And sometimes, you can also help them out in their hygiene.
How To Keep A Pet Rat Clean
There’s also the misconception that rats will smell bad. Well, this isn’t true. Not unless you don’t keep their cages clean of course. Rats will usually use one place of their cage for their necessities. And there are litter trays that you can put on the cage and they’ll learn to use it.
Then you just need to do a daily clean-up and you’re good. But, in general, the rats themselves won’t smell bad at all!
So what I mean here is that rats are one of the cleanest animals you can find. They don’t like to live in a mess either!
You mostly don’t need to clean a pet rat. They will clean themselves without the extra help. But if your pet rat is sick or got into a dirty place, you may want to help him/her clean up. Some rats can also be very lazy with cleaning their tail. Even though they don’t like you to touch their tail a lot, you might need to help them out a bit.
If you need to help clean, there are two ways to go about it:
- You can fill your washbasin with a bit of water, let them in and play in the water. Alternatively, you can just leave the water running in the basin. You won’t need to do a lot here since they’ll start cleaning themselves right away! But be careful though. Don’t just force your rat to go into the water.
Some rats like water and others don’t. So it’s important to introduce it to them, slowly. I actually wrote an article about this and it’s a good idea to check it out, before trying to give a bath to your rattie.
When they’re clean, you can get a small towel and pick them up. Handle them softly as you dry their fur. You won’t be able to dry them completely, but don’t worry, it will dry quickly enough!
You can use some shampoo on them. One for babies or even kitties or puppies is good since they don’t have any kind of strong chemical. After applying the shampoo, rinse your pet rat through the water until it’s clean. And try to avoid getting any water directly on their eyes or ears!
- Another option is to use pet wipes. These are usually safe and you can use them to clean your rattie very quickly, especially the tail!
In general, rats won’t really like for you to clean them, but if they get too dirty from playing in the dirt or something else, you should try and get most of it out. These pet wipes are perfect for that! You just pass them through their body very quickly and then your rattie is free to do whatever they want.
Finally, very quickly, I just want to point out that you shouldn’t give too many baths to your pet rat. Their bodies produce natural oils that protect their skin and body. But washing them too much, these oils will be constantly washed off. So bathe your rat only if it’s really necessary!
Do Pet Rats Carry Diseases?
Pet Rats can have a number of diseases, just like any other pet. But these are mostly safe for humans, they won’t get transmitted.
There are some diseases that can pass to us, but these are just germs that your pet can get if they go onto the wild or if you’re not sure where they came from before you got them. So, in general, it’s very rare for a pet rat to carry a disease that will transmit to you.
Any other disease they might have, are in no way transmittable. So far I never had any problem, so you should be safe as well!
I talk more about this in the “Can Pet Rats Make You Sick?” article, so if you’d like to read more on it, check it out!
Are Wild Rats Safe To Handle?
In most cases, no. As I said, rats can get some diseases that can transmit to you. But these come from the wild. If you find a rat on the street or in your backyard, best keep your distance. You don’t know where they’ve been, what they’ve been in contact with, nothing.
Even though your pet rat is a safe animal to play around, a wild rat will probably not be so safe. Usually, they won’t even want you to approach them. They’re more scared of us than we are of them.
But either way, they can have diseases that are dangerous for you or if they feel too threatened, they’ll bite you.
There aren’t many cases of rats transmitting rabies. It is extremely rare, but they can have other issues you don’t know about and get infected with something else.
It is not only a bite you should be careful with. Just handling them can be dangerous to you. Leptospirosis is caused by a bacteria that is commonly carried by wild animals. The infection occurs usually through contact with water or food that was contaminated by urine.
Now, this wouldn’t be a problem exactly, but you can still get an infection if you have any kind of cut on your skin and get in contact with a wild rat. Rats urinate at any time and a lot. So, handling a wild rat will most definitely get some of its urine on you.
Salmonella bacteria can also be found on rats feces and you can get contaminated if you don’t wash your hands thoroughly after getting in contact with it. I imagine you won’t be messing around with a wild rat’s feces, but their body might still have some residues and you get in touch with these.
All in all, leave a wild rat alone. They won’t be interested in the interaction and turn aggressive and it might not end well for you either.
So, Are Pet Rats Safe?
Mostly yes, especially if you got them from a good breeder and you keep their environment clean.
Pet stores, unless you know they’re really good and know where they get their animals, should also be avoidable. They tend to leave all the rats clumped together and sometimes won’t even notice if one is sick.
Clean up their cage weekly and their litter daily. Rats don’t like to live in a messy cage either. They are very clean and like to live that way.
As for baths, they will clean themselves most of the time. If they’re too dirty, do wash them to get most of it off and then let them do their thing!
As for diseases, if they’re not in the wild, pet rats are safe for you. Any disease they might get will very rarely be transmittable and if so, your vet will let you know immediately!
In short, pet rats are not only safe but one the cleanest animals there are!
Are rats friendly pets? Definitely! A lot of people even consider them the perfect first pet for a child. They’re popular pets for children and adults. Pet rats are very social and friendly and very rarely aggressive!
Are rats dangerous? Only towards your wires or other objects perfect for chewing! My pet rats have never had aggressive behavior towards us nor tried to bite us. They do like chewing and gnawing at things, so keep your plants and wires safe!
Can rats be potty trained? Yes! By default, pet rats will choose a specific place of the cage for their necessities. With some patience and time, they’ll learn to use a litter very easily.
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