Can Pet Rats Make You Sick? What You Need To Know

Pet rats are starting to be a common and lovable pet to own. But there’s still a misconception that rats will transmit all kinds of diseases and will make us sick! It is understandable that people will worry about this issues. None of us want to bring any kind of dangerous diseases home that will harm us or our loved ones.

But I have to say, this goes to any kind of pet we might bring home.

So, can pet rats make you sick? Generally no. As long as it’s not wild and they come from a trustworthy breeder, your pet rats should be safe!

Now, of course, there can be some exceptions. Safe handling and a good hygiene are also very important when owning a pet rat as well, so let’s dive deeper in the matter.

Pet Rats Diseases That Spread To Humans

As I said, as long as you’re not in contact with wild rats or you bought your pet rat from a trustworthy breeder, the risk of transmittable diseases is very, very low.

There are indeed a number of diseases that can spread to humans, for example:

  • Rat Bite Fever: a bacteria carried by rats and it can transmit to humans through bites or scratches. This bacteria can also be spread through food or beverages that are contaminated by a rat’s urine or droppings. The symptoms include fever, vomiting, and headaches, including others and it is very easily treatable with antibiotics.
  • Leptospirosis: this bacteria can infect humans and a wide range of animals besides rats, such as dogs, cattle and raccoons. Some people might get this bacteria and show no symptoms at all, while others will be severely ill. This bacteria is transmittable through food or drink contaminated by urine.
  • Salmonellosis: An infection that occurs on the intestines, caused the by the Salmonella bacteria. This can be a very common bacteria found in eggs, fish and other ingredients once they’re past their time. With animals, the bacteria are transmitted through their droppings and that enter in contact, again, with food and drinks.

These three are the most common diseases spread by rodents. There’s also a rather new virus around, called the Seoul virus. Rats are immune to this virus, but we aren’t. Its symptoms include high fever, sweating, chills, abdominal pain, joint pain, red eye, nausea, headaches, and vomiting.

These can become very severe and it should be treated as soon as possible.
However, it is important to note that any of these diseases are very rare. Again, if your pet rat comes from a safe place and has no contact with a wild environment, chances are they are not infected with any kind of bacteria.

If you want to play safe, bring your pet rats to the vet and test them for any kind of infections or virus, like the Seoul Virus. This way you’ll be sure your pet rat is safe for you and your household.

Finally, if you start feeling any of the symptoms above, you should go to the hospital or your doctor so you can be properly diagnosed and receive the right treatment!

Can You Be Allergic To Pet Rats?

Unfortunately yes, even my boyfriend has a small allergy if he gets scratched by a rat nail. The scratches won’t even leave a wound. It’s just a light scratch from when the ratties climb all over us.

Small rashes appear and will disappear again in a matter of minutes. In his case, this means he’s allergic to their urine or saliva, or both!

If you are someone who tends to have allergies, you can be allergic to your pet rat as well. These allergies might manifest themselves differently though. If you never had an allergy, it can be difficult to differentiate it from a cold, for example!

If so, a good way to know if it’s an allergy is noticing for how long do the symptoms linger. A cold should go away in a week or so, with allergies though, these can nag you for 12 days or more!

Allergy To Pet Rats isn't the end of the world. In fact, most of the times it's just small rashes that don't matter that much!

As I mentioned, skin rashes can be a very common symptom, as well as a runny nose, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath and sinus congestion (that feeling of pressure below and above the eyes).

You can also test for allergies! If you’re unsure your pet is causing allergies to you, do seek the assistance of an allergist. You can be tested for a number of allergies and this way you’ll be sure if you’re allergic to pet rats or any other pets.

Now, if your allergies are too severe, maybe keeping a pet rat isn’t the best for you. It all depends on how severe your symptoms are, it’s up to you to decide if you should keep a pet or not.

Medication for these symptoms might help, but sometimes it’s just not doable.

For example, with my boyfriend, it was only the rashes. They’d itch a bit, but would be gone very quickly as well, so nothing too hard to handle. On the other hand, I could never own a pet when living with my family, because my father is allergic to almost everything!

Even a small hamster would leave him with a runny nose and difficulty with breathing. His allergies are very severe and owning a pet with fur is a big no-no. Even with medication, his symptoms would remain.

Everyone is different and the way allergies show is different from person to person as well. It’s up to you decide if you should keep a pet rat or not, as long as you’re healthy!

Pet Rats Hygiene

Pet rats are usually very clean and they take a good chunk of the day just cleaning themselves (think of them as a miniature Cat). So unless they are sick, they should be very active in cleaning themselves without needing any help from you.

You can give them a bath once in a while if you wish, but it’s important to not stress them and you shouldn’t bathe them frequently either! I wrote an article about water and if pet rats can swim, and I recommend you check it out if you want to get your pet rats used to water.

If they learn to like it, water can be an amazing playground for them, especially in those hot days of summer!

Now, a well-cleaned cage is always important to avoid allergies, any kind of disease and it will avoid unwanted smell! Pet rats are very clean animals and they won’t feel comfortable in a dirty home either.

It’s up to you to keep this hygiene. We usually do a daily cleaning. For example, I clean their litter every day, sometimes even change it. Any droppings or food thrown around the cage is also cleaned, as well as fresh food that stayed overnight.

Then, at the end of every week, we do a deep cleaning. Our ratties always hate it when their cage disappears, but it’s for the best. All the bedding goes into the trash or to be washed (we used bits of old clothes for their bedding), cardboard boxes that are already smelly, will also go to waste.

Then finally we clean all the containers and the cage, adding fresh food and clean bedding.

Your own hygiene is also very important, both for you and your pet rat. I recommend washing your hands before and after handling your rats. You might have touched something that is dangerous for them and they might get sick. For example, when you’re cleaning your house and use different cleaning products.

The same goes for you. If you handled a wild rat or a pet rat you’re unsure about, it is important to clean your hands after handling them.

All in all, pet rats should be clean a safe to handle, as long as you know where they come from!

Additional Questions

Can mouse droppings make you sick? Again, if your pet rat comes from a trustworthy place and was never in contact with the wild, they’ll be safe from any kind of bacteria or virus. Nevertheless, I’d recommend using at least some gloves when cleaning the droppings!

Do pet rats smell? Pet rats don’t have a strong scent in their urine when marking territory like many other animals. In general, pet rats don’t smell bad. The cage, however, will start to smell, unless it’s cleaned regularly. The cage should be cleaned once a week and a small daily cleaning is recommended as well!

Is rat urine toxic? Rat urine is non-toxic unless it comes from an infected rat. As we mentioned above there are a number of bacteria that is transmittable to humans through urine. But it is mostly found in wild rats or if a pet rat was in contact with the wild or other wild rodents.

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Can Pet Rats Make You Sick - Mostly they are safe, but there are some exceptions like allergies for example!