Pet rats are adorable little rodents, and there are so many pet rat facts that people don’t know about! Being a pet rat lover is… not common! When I first told my friends and family that we own pet rats we had mixed reactions. Some people will be just like us and love the idea, others will find them a weird pet to have and of course, the “Rats?? Like in sewer rats??” reaction.
It’s normal! Truth is pet rats are not very common and for that reason, knowledge about them is a bit of a rarity as well!
So this is why we wanted to write this post. Some awesome pet rats facts that will make you and others around you fall in love with them:
- Pet rats will miss you when you’re away
- There are different types of pet rats, including hairless
- Pet rats are nocturnal
- Rats have different personalities
- Pet rats are very social
- Male rats are very snuggly and lazy
- Female rats are very curious and active
- It is possible to adopt pet rats
- Pet rats like to play wrestle
- Rats can’t throw up
- You can tell if your pet rat is happy
- Rats can’t see very well
- Pet Rats love being petted
- Their average lifespan is about 2-3 years
- There are tailless rats
- Pet rats are very clean
- You can litter box train your pet rats
- Pet rats love to learn tricks
- Rats are excellent swimmers
Let’s go into each of these in more detail and see how can you or anyone say no to such a cute and lovable pet!
1- Pet Rats Will Miss You When You’re Away!
Pet rats are very sociable and like to live in families. This does not only mean they like to live among their species, exclusively.
No, they’ll recognize their owners and even miss them, if you’re away for too long! They like to play with you, getting pets from you and even snuggle up on the sofa while you watch a movie or two.
Pet rats can be very shy at the beginning, but once they trust you, they’ll love their owners and really enjoy spending time with them. We tend to spend some weekends away from home to visit family.
Our girls know right away we’re leaving when they see all the preparation we do on the cage: extra food, a treat or two and so on. They even get a bit restless, but they’re ok with it.
When we get back home though, we’re sure to see them glued to the cage walls or the cage entrance! They can’t wait for us to open the cage and to get some pets.
This is a sure sign that they’ve missed us and I’m sure there are tons of stories similar to this one. Our ratties will even notice if we leave the room for some time and greet us whenever we get back.
One might think that owning a pet rat means that they’ll be living their own lives, on their space, but it’s quite the opposite! Pet rats enjoy company, both from their owners and other ratties. Once they trust you, they’ll want to spend time with you whenever they can!
2- There Are All Sorts Of Rat “Breeds”, Including Hairless!
Technically speaking, there are no pet rats breeds. They’re all one breed called the Norway rat, but you might also know them as the common rat or brown rat. There are however different types of rats, colors and even fur patterns!
When you’re considering getting a pet rat, this might be important for you. A standard pet rat will grow up to 20 inches, from nose to tail. However, there are Dwarf rats, that are ⅓ the size of a standard rat.
Then, there’s also the Manx rats, that have no tail, therefore will be smaller and tend to also be slimmer than the others! Finally, there are the Dumbo rats that by their name you can probably guess what is their charm.
Dumbo rats have larger and rounder ears. They’re also positioned differently than the standard rat. Dumbo rats have their ears right behind their cheeks. This makes them have a sweeter appearance and some people do say they tend to be friendlier than a standard pet rat.
As for the fur, you can also find different types of coats and this might also have some weight in your decision! Most rats have normal and straight fur, the only difference being that males’ tend to be coarser than female’s coats.
Then you have the bald or hairless pet rats! As the name says, they have no hair. If you or anyone at home is allergic to fur, this might be a good option. However, it’s important to note that hairless rats tend to need more food and protein or a warmer environment.
Lastly, but not least, there are the rex and double rex rats. The first has curly fur only, but the latter have both curly fur and whiskers! They can look very cute and different from the common pet rat.
Of course, there are different colors and patterns of their furs as well as eye coloring. It is very common to find albino pet rats, for example, with white fur, no pattern and red eyes.
There are pet rats for every taste!
3- Pet Rats Are Nocturnal
Here’s another fun pet rat fact: pet rats are nocturnal. But, and this might be good news for you, they can adapt to their owner’s schedule! We work at home and many times tend to work until late at night. So both for us and our
They mostly sleep during the day and start getting more active around 6 pm. This is always something to have in account if you’re interested in getting a pet rat. Some will adapt themselves to your schedules, but others might prefer to stay nocturnal.
Usually, if you give them food at times when you’re awake and around them, they’ll start to be up around that time. So that’s a way to convince your pet rats to change their habits!
I must note though, even though they’re mostly nocturnal, pet rats aren’t very loud. They don’t squeak between them (they only squeak only when they need their owner to hear them). And even though active and will play a lot between them, they’re still not very noisy.
If you do have them in your bedroom, you might hear them while you try to sleep of course, but I still think they’re not the loudest pets one could have!
4- Each Rat Has Different Personalities
Just like people, pet rats have different personalities and traits. Some are more curious and active, while others prefer to take long naps, comfortably and quietly by you.
When owning more than one pet rat, which is highly advisable, you’ll notice this right away! From the very beginning, we noticed that one of our girls was way more adventurous than the other. As well as one was more prone to getting pets than the adventurer one.
This is how we decided their names. We wanted to name one Sheik (from the Zelda games) and the other Freya. Once we saw how they behaved, the choice was easy: Sheik would be the brave adventurous girl and Freya for the more docile rattie.
So you see, from the very first moment you get your eyes on your future rodent friends, you’ll get to see a bit of their personality. This can be important when choosing a pet rat. You might want a pet that has a similar personality as yourself.
Too much energy might not suit you very well nor be able to provide them with sufficient entertainment. On the other hand, it might be the opposite case, you might want to play with them all the time and a snuggly, lazy rattie would not be the best choice.
It’s always important to meet your future pet rats and try to create a bond with them before bringing them home. This way you can already start to know each other and it makes their introduction to a new place much easier!
5- Pet Rats Are VERY Social
Rats are definitely a very social animal. This is why it is recommended to get more than one pet rat. They need a companion to play and be active with. An owner can be a substitute, but it’s always very hard to give them the necessary entertainment and companionship.
Pet rats are mostly always together and will do everything together. This makes it also easier for them to try new things. One rat will always be braver than the other and will convince their companion into new activities and adventures.
Our ratties always sleep together for example. Even if one decides to leave their cage to go sleep on the sofa, the other will notice her absence in a few minutes and join her!
Anything they’ll do, they do together. Even when starting to
Even if one might take a bit more time to join on activities, sooner or later they’ll be together, doing the same thing.
Pet rats are very social and need a companion to thrive! Otherwise, they might get depressed and even die of loneliness!
6- Male Rats Generally Like To Snuggle Up With You A Lot
You might think that male rats are very energetic and won’t stop for a minute, but actually no! Generally speaking, male rats are very lazy and like to snuggle a lot.
They love sleeping, calm activities and naps. It is more common to have males that will go into your lap, ready for some pets and just stand there until they fall asleep!
If you’re the type of person who prefers a calmer pet, then male pet rats might be a good choice for you. Again, try to meet the boys before bringing them home. As we mentioned, pet rats have different personalities and you never know if you’re bringing home a very energetic rattie!
7- Female Rats Are Usually Very Active And Curious!
On the other hand, female rats are usually much more active and curious! Once they wake up, there’s almost nothing that will make them stop.
Sometimes food will keep them still on our lap or by our side on the sofa, but not for long, because they’ll try to steal more treats from us!
For this reason, it can be easier to introduce new and different games or even teach tricks to female rats. They’re much more curious and will want to learn or take part in a new game more easily.
Pet rats, in general, are very curious and smart. But females tend to be much more energetic and prone to activities.
If you’re interested in teaching them tricks and playing with them a lot, female ratties would be a very good choice for you!
8- You Can Adopt Pet Rats
It’s true, in some cities and countries you can actually apply to adopt pet rats. There are tons of rescue places, so simply search for pet rat rescue and your city and you might be lucky! This a super handy pet rat fact.
I’ll always recommend adopting instead of buying a pet, so do make sure to find shelters nearby you and try a meet potential future pet rats. It’s generally free or with a small adoption fee and they’ve usually been seen by veterinarians and given the proper care so they’re healthy and ready to go to a new home.
If you’re in the USA, I found this website that has lots of different rodents and other animals to adopt! So do check it out. The website is Petfinder.com.
Although you can adopt pet rats, you might not have the option, like us. In some places, owning a rat as a pet is not common at all, so we had no choice but to buy. If so, be sure that the pet store or the breeder you chose is of trust and the ratties are well taken care of.
We prefer to look up for pet rat breeders, but if you’re 100% sure a pet store nearby you is good and trustworthy, then go for it!
Again, be sure to try and meet your future rodent friends beforehand to create a bond with them. And of course, be sure to check shelters and consider adopting your new friend!
9- Pet Rats Like To Play Wrestling
Pet rats will play fight amongst each other.
And they actually might like to play that way with their owners as well! Just mimic their movements with your hands, let them play and revolve around your hands and you’ll see they’ll enjoy playing with you!
Always remember to start slow and let them get used to wrestling with you. Some pet rats might be into the idea right away, while others might not like it ever!
As with anything, they have different tastes and personalities, so they might behave differently.
10- Rats Can’t Throw Up!
Okay so this isn’t a super adorable pet rat fact, but I think it’s an interesting one! Pet rats have no vomiting reflex and this can be an interesting fact to know, as well as useful.
For this reason, it’s important to not give them sticky foods and if so, in small doses. Your pet rat might choke on something and cannot, at all, toss it out again. This is why peanut butter, although a very tasty treat, can be an almost forbidden treat for pet rats!
Give it to them in small doses and through a spoon or your own finger to be sure they’re licking it carefully and safely.
Interestingly enough, pet rats cannot burp nor experience heartburn either! Also, if a rat ends up eating something toxic, for example, they’ll start consuming things like bedding, so to dilute the toxins in their stomach!
As we said, a weird and not adorable fact, but… the more you know!
11- You Can Tell If Your Pet Rat Is Happy
Dogs will wag their tails, cats will start to purr and pet rats? Grinding their teeth until it looks like their eyes will pop off!
This can be very terrifying to witness, especially if you don’t know about this behavior. But yes, it is very common for pet rats to start bruxing when they’re happy. This bruxing or grinding of their teeth is usually accompanied by some boggling of the eyes.
The boggling makes their eyes move a lot and even look like they’ll pop off at any moment. Don’t be scared though! Both of these together, the bruxism and boggling, usually means that your pet rat feels safe and happy.
You can also tell by their posture. Your pet rat might start grinding their teeth when they’re nervous as well. If you notice that, combined with a very tensed and even trembling body, your pet rat is definitely stressed. You should let them go to their safe place or check if they’re showing signs of sickness.
On the other hand, if your pet rat’s body is very relaxed, not wanting to move and even offering themselves for more pets, they’re most probably happy! This boggling of the eyes can also happen when their eating, because who doesn’t love to get some good food?
I wrote a whole lot more about this behavior and you can check it out if you want to know more about eye-boggling!
12- Pet Rats Can’t See Very Well, So They Use Their Cute Whiskers
Hear me out… pet rats have terrible eyesight! They’ll only see things well from a certain perspective and it needs to be right in front of them. Don’t worry though, they make it up with their whiskers!
If their eyes aren’t much help, their whiskers will be! Through vibrations, they’ll know where certain things are, if there are obstacles on their way or if their body can pass through narrow spaces.
Not only they can’t see very well, but their eyes are very sensitive. This is why pet rats tend to avoid bright and direct light. It can cause them stress and harm their eyes, so be sure to always have dark hideouts for them. It makes them feel safe and they can avoid the light if they wish to!
13- Rats Love Getting Petted In Specific Spots
Pet rats love pets once they get used to their owners. But not everywhere! For example, near the tail tends to be a big no-no. Their tails are very sensitive and they prefer for it to be a no-touch zone.
Bellies… it depends on the rat! Bellies are always a very sensitive place as well since they are prey animals. For any prey animal, the belly is the place they’ll protect the most since it’s a very fragile and weak spot.
For this reason, a lot of rats won’t really like the idea of being petted on their belly. But you never know! Lot’s of pet rats actually love and will flop on their backs to receive belly pets.
Now, if you want to know where to scratch so your pet rat will fall into your hands and charm, look for their ears! Scratches behind the ears are some of our girls’ favorites. As well as cheeks where they even start falling asleep on our hands.
Usually, places around their head and neck are very good petting zones! Just start scratching here and there and see how they’ll react to it.
14- The Average Lifespan Of A Pet Rat Is 2 to 3 Years
This doesn’t mean that it’s always the case. Some pet rats can last as long as 4 to 6 years if very well cared!
But, be ready to say goodbye to a pet rat sooner than you’d like. They’re very sensitive animals and, like many prey animals, don’t have a very long lifespan. It is fairly normal, for small animals, but this doesn’t mean your time with them won’t be worth it.
Quite the opposite, pet rats are a fantastic companion and will be worth and make you happy every day of their lives! With good caring and attention, your pet rat can even have a very healthy and long life.
15- There Are Tailless Rats!
As we mentioned all the way up in this article, not all pet rats have long tails. Due to a mutation in their genes, some pet rats actually don’t have a tail. They might have a stub or a very short tail, but it’s almost non-existent.
It is a very weird mutation since pet rats need and depend on their tails a lot! They’re very good at balancing on top of anything, including thin wires, because of their tails. That’s how they manage to swim so well, too.
For these reasons, a tailless rat might need extra care, since their sense of balance will be a bit off!
16- Pet Rats Are Very Clean
Contrary to the popular myth that rats are very filthy and full of diseases, the truth is actually the opposite! Pet rats are very similar to cats in the cleaning part. They keep cleaning and licking themselves all day and they actually don’t smell bad!
Here’s their usual routine: sleep, clean, eat, play, nap, clean, eat, play and finally sleep again! Once they wake from any nap, they’ll clean themselves and will be very attentive to each inch of their bodies!
They don’t enjoy a dirty cage nor a dirty body at all. Some rats can be lazy with their tails though. Probably because it’s such a sensitive area, they don’t even like touching their own tails.
But, even if they don’t enjoy it, you might need to help them with cleaning in that area. A humid towel can do the job, but remember to always be gentle and careful!
17- You Can Litter Box Train Your Pet Rat!
This one is closely related to the fact above. Since pet rats are very clean, they like to keep their cage as clean as possible. For this reason, they’re very easy to litter box train!
Some pet rats might take longer than others, but usually, they’ll all get there. Actually, pet rats tend to choose a spot in their cage to leave their droppings, so the idea of having a “bathroom” isn’t far off for them.
Just put a litter box with some pellets in that spot, add some of their droppings to the box and your pet rats will quickly understand that that’s the place they should go to.
If you’re interested in a step-by-step guide, check out my litter box training post that will help you out in no time!
18- Pet Rats Love To Learn New Tricks
Pet rats are very curious and smart and for this reason, they love to learn new tricks! The more, the best.
You just need to pick a time of the day that you can spend with them. Start by teaching them to come to you when called. Either by using a sound or by their own name. Yes, pet rats can learn their names and know when they’re being called!
Remember to be patient and take breaks. Pet rats are very curious, but they’ll also get bored with something very quickly. So it’s important to know when to stop for the day.
19- These Small Rodents Can Swim Very Well!
Pet rats are excellent swimmers! Just… better not throw them in the water right away. Even though they can excel at it, it doesn’t mean they like water or swimming. Pet rats and even rodents, in general, are very nervous and every new and different thing will cause them some stress.
If you live in a very warm place and feel that water could something good for them, introduce it slowly. Just a lid with some water in it, that they can approach, walk on and feel it. As they get used to it, start using containers, with a bit of water and grow from there.
When your pet rats start to enjoy the water, they’ll want to go into bigger containers and swim in no time! A good game for pet rats is to get a container with water and throw some frozen peas to eat. Let them fish the peas!
Remember that if you have a big container for them to swim, to add a dry island they can go to when feeling tired or just want to take a break from swimming!
Bonus: They Bond With Their Owner For Life!
Pet rats have an excellent memory and will not only remember you but bond with you for life! Even wild rats can remember specific people that they met before. They’ll know someone is good and safe to be around or if it’s someone they should avoid, depending on previous experiences.
If they can create this small bond with a stranger, imagine with their owner! They’ll not only remember you but also love and miss you. Pet rats will treat their owner like it’s part of their family.
They’ll look for their owner and will want to spend time with them. When you get a pet rat, it’s not just a pet, it’s a friend and a part of the family forever!
Are pet rats safe? Definitely. As long as they come from a safe and trustworthy place, they won’t be a danger to you or your family!
Do pet rats smell? As long as you keep their cage cleaned and the room is well ventilated, it will be odor-free. Pet rats themselves don’t smell, but their cage might start to smell if not cleaned once every week.
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