Owning a pet rat isn’t always how you see around the social media. Some people see pet rats as disgusting critters full of diseases, while others see them as adorable and social pets that enjoy their owner’s company. I’m here to tell you all about how it really is to own a pet rat.
What is it really like owning a pet rat? Owning a pet rat is a wonderful experience if you have the time to care for them. Pet rats are nocturnal and very social, so you need to keep this in mind when deciding if you should own a pet rat.
But let’s get more into detail on a few frequent questions and pros and cons of owning a pet rat.
Pros And Cons Of Owning A Pet Rat
Let’s start with the pros and cons of owning a pet rat. We’re going to talk about different things here, so buckle up!
- Pet rats are VERY intelligent. They can learn pet rat tricks like fetching things for you, being called by their name and many more. Not only this, but they can crack puzzles, forage treats that you’ve hidden and there are even pet rats that are trained to find mines for the military! They can also be very easily litter trained, so that makes cleaning up after them MUCH easier.
- Pet rats are almost as clean as a cat. In fact, they spend most part of their day just licking and cleaning themselves. It’s really adorable to see. As I’ve said before, they can also be litter trained. And most of the times if they’re out and about, they will try to find their way home instead of just pooping or peeing where they stand.
- They don’t smell very badly. In fact, I don’t think they actually smell bad at all. It’s a different scent that comes from one of these animals, just like you’d recognize the scent of a cat or a dog. Some people like to call it a “musky” scent, and I somewhat agree with that statement. Since they are always cleaning themselves over and over, they won’t actively smell bad overall.
- Pet rats are low maintenance. If you compare it to a dog that you have to walk every day and pick up their poop. Or with another exotic animal (remember, pet rats are considered exotic animals) where you need special licenses just to own them, they are quite low maintenance! The most work you’ll have to do is clean up their cage every now and then, and change their litter so it doesn’t smell bad in the room and cage. You also have to pay them attention, but that’s just like any other pet!
- They are very social and bond easily. Not only between themselves, but also with their owners. In fact, pet rats recognize their owner very easily through different senses. They will actively seek and play with other pet rats (and yourself!) every day if they trust them enough. Pet rats will also sleep together pretty much all the time! They just like to cuddle no matter how small their bed is. It’s adorable.
- Pet rats are excellent pets for kids. Since they are pretty low maintenance pets, they are perfect for small children to learn how to take care of. Not only that but they will learn the responsibility of owning a pet early on and have a buddy to socialize with. A win-win if you ask me!
- Each pet rat has a different personality. This, in my opinion, is a wonderful Pro of owning a pet rat. It shows how emotional pet rats are and the different ways they react to things. For example, some pet rats will love to chew toys and basically destroy and gnaw everything. While others will want to run around fetching balls and pushing them around. Some will love being handled and ride on your shoulders, others will just want to hang out in your lap and sleep. There are many different pet rats, and you never know what you’re going to get!
- Pet rats are adorable. Okay, this mostly depends on who you’re asking, but just look at that little face, aren’t they just the cutest?
- Pet rats are nocturnal. This can be a con for you or it can actually be a pro. What I mean by this is that depending on your schedule you might enjoy more of their company. For example, if you work during the late day and arrive home at night to relax, this might be a great opportunity to bond with your pet rat. On the other hand, if you work during the morning and the afternoon and go to sleep early, you may not have a lot of time to enjoy your pet rat’s active company. On a side note, pet rats DO modify their schedule to be more active when you’re around, so take that into consideration. I talk about this more in my post about pet rats being nocturnal, so check that out if you want more information!
- Pet rats have a very short lifespan. Pet rats live around 2 to 3 years, so you must take that into consideration when choosing it as your pet. This is quite a small timeframe and it will pass quicker than you think! Especially if you grow emotionally attached to them as me. I still think it’s worth the time, but you might have a different opinion.
- Pet rats can have several different health-related issues. This includes the, unfortunately quite normal in pet rats, respiratory problems, tumors, and spinal problems. They will most likely need medical care during their life (as with any other pet) so do keep in mind that you will need to take them to the vet for some of these issues.
- You can’t have male rats with female rats together, mostly. Unless your pet rats are spayed, you don’t want to have your male and female pet rats living together, trust me. Female rats become fertile at week 5 or 6 of their lifespan, and they will give birth in less than a month to a litter of around 10 little rats! That’s a lot of mouths to feed! So if you do get both genders of pet rats, you will need to either spay them or keep them in different cages.
- Pet rats need a big space to live. These aren’t tiny hamsters we’re talking about. Pet rats will grow quite a bit and will need a large space to live. This means that you will have to either buy a somewhat expensive cage or build your own if you’re handy with that.
- Rats need attention. Pet rats are very social and will need attention given to them on a daily basis. This is why you should always get more than one pet rat at a time. If they stand alone for a long time, they will become more and more depressed and might actually die because of this. They have mental problems just a regular human being.
- Pet rats love to chew EVERYTHING. This mostly depends on each pet rat, but the average pet rat will chew anything they find interesting. Doesn’t matter if it’s a toy, a box or the power chord of your computer, they will chew it. You must either rat proof everything or just keep an eye on them when you have them out and about.
Owning A Pet Rat For The First Time
If you’re owning a pet rat for the first time, there are a few things that you should know. I will give you a small list of things I wish I knew before I got my first pet rat.
- Get an extra large cage for your pet rats! They need space. The investment is worth it in the long run. I like the Ferret Cages by Prevue
Hendryx .It’s very large which is great for two pet rats, and you can open it up in either the top or the bottom floor, making it super easy to clean.
- Food for your pet rat should be a specific one. There are many different types of food that pet rats can’t eat, so some mixes for hamsters and other animals just won’t work. A brand I recommend is the Oxbow Regal Rat Food which comes in pellets. They are well balanced and come with every nutrient your pet rat needs.
- Let your pet rat get used to their new home. It takes time and patience. Don’t try to rush your bonding with your pet rat as soon as they get in the cage, first let them get used the cage and their surroundings. After some time it will be easier to bond with them.
- If you want to bond with your pet rats, start by bribing them. I find that “bribing” your pet rat with some tasty treats is one of the best ways to get them to know you. It also helps them trust you and not just think “this big creature wants to hurt me!”.
- Fill their cage with some toys! Pet rats love the colors and shapes of different toys, it helps them keep their mental health in check, and well, it looks nice on their cage! I won’t write much here about what toys to get, so check out my full article on pet rat toys if you’d like to learn more!
- There is much more I could write here but that would just fill the entire page. So if you’d like to learn more about pet rats, check out my other articles about Pet Rats!
Dangers Of Owning A Pet Rat
Dangers is a pretty strong word, but there are some problems with owning a pet rat.
First of all, most pet rats will be disease-free which is what most people are afraid of. As long as you get them from a trusted breeder or from a shelter, you will be fine. Also, I would like to note that pet rats very rarely have any sort of disease that carries over to humans.
Other than that, you might have an allergy to pet rats. Just like you could have an allergy to cat fur or dogs, it can happen. So you should always spend some time with a pet rat at a breeder, a shelter, or at someone’s place before you get a pet rat.
Allergies to pet rats can go all the way from making you sneeze and itch, to just minor inconveniences. For example, I actually have a small allergy to pet rats, but it’s nothing major. What happens is that when their claws touch my skin, it gets a bit red and itches. So I just always put my pet rats over my clothes and avoid their feet touching my skin.
You can also say that one of the dangers of owning a pet rat is their short lifespan as I’ve mentioned before. Since they die so soon, it’s kind of a heartbreak every time.
But all in all, the dangers of owning a pet rat are very minimal.
Is A Pet Rat A Good Pet?
Here comes the question where the answer depends on who you ask. Is a pet rat really a good pet?
If you want to have a very social, intelligent and low maintenance pet, a pet rat is a good pet for you. But as it is with everything, it depends.
Some people can’t handle the short lifespan of a pet rat, and would rather get a bigger pet so they can spend years and years with them. Others want to have a pet they can go outside with and run around the beach or the park, with a pet rat, this is quite a bit harder to do.
Other people want even lower maintenance pets, where they don’t have to give a lot of attention daily, so you can opt for a fish for example.
So all in all, a pet rat is a good pet if you know what you’re getting into. It can take some time getting used to and I understand that a pet rat isn’t for everyone. So take those cons we talked about into consideration before choosing a pet rat as your pet.
Are Pet Rats Affectionate?
Pet rats are very affectionate pets. I wouldn’t say quite at the same level that a dog, but more like a cat. Maybe even something in between those two.
They like to cuddle with you, to play with your hands and enjoy getting petted if they’re used to it from their early lives. They even do something called “bruxing” when they’re really happy, it’s quite a fun thing to see!
Of course, this depends on a few things. If they don’t know you for a long time, they might seem skittish and run away from you at first. You need to build trust with your pets by giving them treats, spending some time with them, letting them get to know you and so on.
This is why it’s very important to give attention to your pet rat!
Not only will they become more affectionate by spending more time with you, but they will also feel happier with it. Pet rats are extremely sensitive to depression, which is mostly caused by being left alone for long periods of time. This happens quite a lot, especially if you didn’t get more than a single pet rat (which you should never do, always get a couple!).
Being affectionate also depends on the gender of your pet rat. In my experience, male pet rats tend to be lazier and want to cuddle more often. While female rats tend to have higher energy, are very curious and tend to be always on the move.
Summing it up though, every pet rat is affectionate in their own way!
How Much Does It Cost To Own A Pet Rat
The costs of owning a pet rat can vary a lot, but I’ll break it down into small parts so you can have a general idea.
First of all, the price of the actual pet rat. Depending on where you live, it can vary from 10$ to 20$ each. Some shelters also have pet rats, so they can actually be free.
Then, the cage. I recommend a larger cage like I wrote about before. So it should be something around 100$ to 200$. If you’re a good DIY’er, you might also want to build your own cage! That will cut down the cost a lot. If not, the Prevue Hendryx Black Feisty Ferret Cage is a great spacious choice.
For the food, a bag of Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food should last you about a month for 2 adult pet rats. The bag is around 15$. These are very nutritious and because of their shape your pet rats won’t just choose some parts and toss the rest aside, which would be bad for their health.
Bedding for your pet rats. I wrote a whole article on what to use and what not to use for bedding, but my final conclusion is to use the Carefresh Complete Pet Bedding. The 60L bag should last you from 1 to 2 months, and costs around 16$.
Veterinarian costs. This can vary wildly depending on the health of your specific pet rat and the cost of the veterinarian. But in general, expect to spend around 40$ for a visit to the vet every couple of months. If you want to get your pet rat spayed, it should be around an extra 75$ on average as well.
And finally, pet rat toys! These are quite important for your pet rat and can basically be free of charge if you do it yourself with things around the house. Or it can be around 10$ for a store-bought toy. You can read all about the best toys for pet rats and some that you can do on your own in my article.
So with some quick math, you can expect to spend around 180$ for a pair of pet rats plus the Cage (plus 150$ if you want to spay them). And an extra 31$ per month for the bedding and food. The veterinarian bill depends wildly on the health of your pet rat, so I won’t count it here.
Is It Safe Having A Pet Rat And Other Pets Together?
Most pets can live together if kept at a safe distance. But if you want to have them live and socialize with each other, that’s a different story.
As a rule of thumb, if you have two young pets living together from the beginning, they will be tolerant around each other and see themselves as (somewhat) equals. But when they get older it gets harder and harder.
For example, having a pet rat and a cat is somewhat doable. Especially if you keep them at their own space, with your pet rat locked in their cage securely. But under no circumstance should you let your cat near your pet rat without you being there!
Cats are natural predators and will chase and kill pet rats if not taught otherwise.
The same thing happens with dogs, they will kill a pet rat if they see it as a menace to the household. They might even kill it by accident while trying to play with them.
So if you want to make it work with your other pets, you must spend a LOT of time with both your pet rat and other pet in the same room while keeping a close eye on what’s happening. If you notice your pet rat being stressed out with the situation (teeth grinding and trying to escape), stop what you’re doing and let them go to their cage. Pet rats suffer a lot with emotional distress, so don’t force it upon them.
Summing it up, you can have pet rats and other pets, but I wouldn’t recommend you to keep all your pets out in the open without your supervision. You never know what could happen.
Is a pet rat a good pet for children? Yes, it’s a perfect pet for children and young teens. It’s also a very good first pet. Pet rats will teach them responsibility, and be a very social companion every day.
Are pet rats social? Yes! Not only between each other but with their owner as well. They also recognize their owner and can sense when they’re nearby. Pet rats love to climb on your shoulders and take naps near you.
Do pet rats bite? Very rarely. If they are well taken care of, they will never bite you, unless they are very wounded or in a big amount of stress. Or they just think your finger smells a lot like food! If they are, here are the reasons and risks your pet rats are biting you.
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