Should You Get A Pet Rat Or Mouse? (Differences And Reasons)

If you’re wondering if you should choose a rat or a mouse as a pet, then I’m here to make it easier for you! They’re both great pets and it all comes down to your own preferences or what kind of pet you can keep at the moment.

So, should you get a pet rat or a mouse? If you have a tighter budget, less space at home and don’t have a lot of time to interact with a pet, a mouse is the best choice for you. On the other hand, if time, budget and space aren’t a problem, then pet rats make excellent companions!

Of course, there’s more to it than that and we’re gonna go through all their differences to help you decide which of these adorable rodents should you get as companions.

How Social Do You Want Your Pet To Be?

Mice and pet rats are quite similar, but pet rats tend to be more sociable! They love to bond and play with their humans. However, that does not mean that a mouse isn’t capable of doing the same.

The major difference is that pet rats have been bred to be a human companion for longer and are thaught to deal with people from a very young age. While mice are a bit more uncommon and so they’re not as used to people.

Cute pet rat hanging from a wooden branch
Look at that cute pet rat!

I’ve read and heard of breeders that have very playful and calm mice because they grow in an environment where they are around humans.

So it’s a matter of what you might prefer: do you want a pet that is more social and likes the attention or one that prefers to keep to themselves?

I’ve even heard pet rats being compared to dogs and mice to cats! Pet rats will be more sociable and curious, need some more maintenance, space and to keep themselves occupied with interesting activities.

On the other hand, mice like to keep to themselves, don’t need as much activity and tend to be less curious.

If you’re someone that works most of the day and doesn’t have a lot of time to play with your pets, then mice might be a better option. On the other hand, if you want the company, interaction with your rodent friend and have the time to do so, then pet rats are a very good choice!

Also, I’d like to point out that either if you choose to get a pet rat or a mouse, you should always get a pair of the same sex. Even if mice aren’t as sociable, they’ll feel alone in the cage and need a companion.

Both pet rats and mice will get depressed if they’re alone and have no companionship.

Exploration VS Staying At Home

As I mentioned before, pet rats need activity! They like to get out of their cage and explore the room, love foraging and exploring new places. So it’s important to have that kind of space for them to play.

Every day when I get up, I open our girls’ cage door. Most of the time they’re still sleeping, but they also enjoy sleeping on the sofa, where we leave a blanket to serve as a nest for them.

Pet rats won’t enjoy being confined in their cage only, even if it’s big! They need space to explore and play.

Mice, on the other hand, are mostly perfectly fine in their cage and don’t need as much attention. They’re a bit more cautious, so they’re not interested in exploring.

They can and should leave the cage for a time, but while being handled by you, so to create a bond and trust between you both. But as opposed to rats, you shouldn’t leave their cage open the whole day and without supervision.

Let them climb your hands and roam through your lap for a few minutes and then let them return home if they so desire!

So in short: If you have a big room, with enough space and don’t mind having them roam freely, pet rats are the right choice for you!

Pet Rats like freedom and exploring!

If you leave in a smaller house/apartment and don’t have enough space and rather have your pets inside the cage, then mice are the best choice.

Remember that cages for both pet rats and mice should be big enough for them to live happy and healthy!

For pet rats, I usually recommend the Prevue Hendryx Cage on Amazon, since they’re very spacious and perfect for a pair of rats and can fit more if you wish to increase the family!

As for mice, it’s very common to use tanks or terrariums for their home. But a wired cage is possible as well! Even though it doesn’t need to be as big as a pet rat’s cage, mice need space to roam, play and tunnel around.

I find that the Midwest Deluxe Critter Nation, also on Amazon, is perfect for smaller rodents and is the perfect size for a pair of mice to leave in!

Sizes Of Pet Rats And Mice

Mice are significantly smaller than pet rats! For a lot of people, the size of a pet rat is a bit disconcerting. Personally, it never bothered me, I actually prefer it to a smaller rodent, since they look less fragile.

But of course, everyone has their preferences! Mice tend to grow to be 4 to 7 inches, while pet rats can grow up to 20 inches, tail included.

Of course, these sizes may differ, I’ve seen pet rats bigger than that! But generally speaking, those are the sizes your rodent friends will have once they reach adulthood.

So again, if you don’t have a lot of space or prefer a smaller pet, mice are the best solution. On the other hand, if a bigger rodent isn’t a problem for you and have the space for them, a pair of pet rats are perfect for you!

Another thing to have into consideration is if you have children, a pet rat might also be a better choice.

Mice are smaller and more fragile. They also tend to not enjoy human contact as much. They won’t be up to play with children and might even end up biting out of stress and fear.

Whereas a pet rat is much more opened to playfulness and contact with humans. They’re also bigger and it’s easier to handle them, making them perfect companions for children.

Of course, be sure that your pet rat is already acclimated to their new home and feel comfortable around you and your family! 

If you want to learn more about creating a good environment for your pet rat, I’ve created an article full of tips, tricks and everything you need to know to give them a comfortable home.

Taking Care Of Pet Rats And Mice

They are both very similar in terms of what you need to take care of them. A good cage, enough bedding, and food made specifically for them.

For example, I always recommend a ration made out of pellets, since they’re always more nutritious. When rations have a mixture of pellets and seeds, both pet rats and mice end up being picky with some of the ingredients and not eat them.

Having a ration made out of pellets only, means that they’ll enjoy everything there is to eat but also they’ll receive all the nutrients from it!

For pet rats, I think that the Oxbow Essentials for adult rats is really good and for mice the Oxbow Essentials for mice and young rats. These are both on Amazon and will last for at least a month (for mice it tends to last more than that)!

Their diets are very similar, but since mice are smaller, they need to be fed smaller quantities. For that reason, if you’re on a tighter budget, mice can be a better choice, since you’ll spend less on food.

Not only in food but also in bedding! Again, mice are smaller, so it takes longer for the cage to get dirty. You don’t need to clean their cage as often as with pet rats, which should be cleaned every week.

A mice cage can be cleaned every two weeks or so. This, of course, depends on how many mice you own and how clean/dirty they are.

Cleaning pet rats AND mice cage is essential, so keep that in mind when deciding which to get.

Also since mice tend to be more nervous it is not recommended to interfere with their home as often. So it’s best to leave it and just do the deep cleaning every two weeks or so.

Rodents are never too kin on us messing with their homes, but pet rats won’t get as nervous and they don’t like leaving in a dirty space either. I usually do a daily cleaning of their litters, so they feel comfortable and it doesn’t start to smell!

Other than that, be sure to get enough and interesting toys for your pet rats. They need to be active so they stay healthy and don’t get bored or depressed. For mice, it isn’t as important to get as many toys, but a chewing toy and a wheel is always a good addition to their cage!

So all in all, pet rats require some more maintenance and care than mice. Again it all depends on your preferences, time and budget.

The Appearance Of Pet Rats And Mice

One thing that you might help you make a decision is by the looks! Although quite similar, pet rats and mice have a few differences in their bodies. The first difference is the size. A lot of people get a bit disconcerted by the size of pet rats and their tails.

Personally it never really bothered me and I love their fuzzy tails. But if you’re not used to rodents, it’s normal for it to feel a bit weird.

Differences between pet rats and a mouse
Pet Rats on the left, Mouse on the right

Mice, on the other hand, are smaller and so are their tails. Their smaller size might make them appear more appealing and that could be a factor for you!

No judging here, the first time I held a rodent it was very strange for me and the sensation of their little feet walking through my hands was really weird. I got over that very easily, but when we’re not used to a certain animal, it’s normal to feel this way.

Mice and pet rats have a bit of a bad reputation, but I can assure you they’re the cleaner kind of pet you could get!

Both have big and round ears, although mice tend to be even bigger. And I think these are the most obvious differences in appearance from one rodent to the other. They have very similar looks, the biggest difference being their size.

So it all comes down to your own preference!

Getting Along With Other Pets

As I mentioned above, mice are more nervous and tend to keep to themselves. For that reason, they won’t interact as easily with other pets.

Even if you have other pets, they should be in separate divisions of the house so as to not create a stressful situation for any of the animals. 

Pet rats, however, are very sociable and will accept interaction with other animals more easily.

For that reason, pet rats should be considered if you already have other pets. They are actually known to get well with both dogs and cats!

Of course, you should be cautious. Be sure that the pet rats are already comfortable in their new home and have them meet each other slowly. Just a few minutes at first, with your rodent friends inside the cage and so that the other animal can reach and smell around.

This should always be made in your presence so that you can act in case one of the animals isn’t comfortable with the interaction. As they get used to the presence of each other, you can try and have the pet rats come out and let them sniff each other.

With time they might be companions, but their interaction should still be always in your presence and remember that animals have different personalities.

Don’t force them if you feel they’re too nervous or if the other animal doesn’t seem interested or is nervous as well.

And remember, they need time to get used to each other, so give them that time in a safe environment! 

Back to the Blog

Pinterest cover for Shoul you get a pet rat or a mouse?