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Do Rats Make Good Pets? What You Need to Know!

Oliver Jones

Many people are turned off by rats because they view these small animals as nasty pests. However, the simple rat has a big following, albeit small. Some people think that rats are perfect pets because they’re low-maintenance and easy to keep.

While a rat may not be your idea of a perfect pet to own, there are people out there who would quickly disagree with you. One thing we want to make very clear right from the start is that no wild animal makes a good pet, including a rat. For example, if you were to capture a rat in the wild and try to keep it as a pet, you’d fail in that attempt and possibly get hurt.

No wild animal should be taken from its natural habitat and forced to live in a cage or another type of enclosure. Now that we have that point out of the way, we’ll tell you that a rat can make a good pet, as long as the animal comes from a domesticated line of rats.

divider-hamsterThe Best Rat Species to Keep as Pets

Many people are surprised to learn that there are several varieties of pet rats including:

  • Dumbo
  • Dalmatian
  • Siamese
  • Burmese
  • Hairless
  • Rex

Each type of pet rat has its own personality and characteristics with some being prettier than others or more social and affectionate. For example, the Dumbo rat looks a little like Disney’s Dumbo the Elephant because its ears are on the side of its head rather than on top. These rats are friendlier than other pet rats and because they’re kind of cute, they’re popular pets.

Burmese rats are also friendly pet rats. Hairless rats may look cool but these pet rats are prone to skin issues and eye problems because they don’t have fur or eyelashes.

If you’re thinking of getting a pet rat but don’t know what type is right for you, do your homework. You can find lots of information online about the pet rat varieties to discover which type is best for you to keep.

happy rat close up
Image Credit: SHARKY PHOTOGRAPHY, Shutterstock

Where to Get a Pet Rat

A great place to get a pet rat is from your local pet shelter. Check there first to see if there are rescue rats available that need good homes. Unfortunately, many people who get pet rats end up losing interest in the animals and turn them over to rescue organizations.

You can also get a pet rat from a breeder. Look for a pet rat breeder near your home that has the type of rat you’re interested in. If you choose a breeder, be sure to ask them about the history of the rats they are selling to ensure you get a healthy one.

Another option is a pet store. If you decide to buy a rat from a pet store, be sure the animal has been handled so it’s used to people. The last thing you want is to bring a pet rat home only to find out it’s not tame at all. If that were to happen, the rat may end up biting you or someone you love, so be careful when using a pet store to get a pet rat!

A Rat Can Be a Cuddly Pet

You may be surprised to learn that a rat can be a cuddly pet to have. Rats are social animals that love hanging out with their owners on their shoulders or in their laps. Even though you can snuggle up to a pet rat, don’t attempt to kiss your rat on the nose or face because it may end up biting you. When you get too close to a rat’s face, it may view you as a threat and strike out with its long sharp teeth. Focus on petting your rat on the neck or back and keep those smooches for your dog or human companion!

rat in girl's shoulder
Image Credit: Darina Matasova, Shutterstock

Setting Up a Pet Rat Habitat

When you get a pet rat, that little animal will depend on you for its food, water, and security. Ideally, a pet rat should be kept in a chew-proof small animal cage. Just make sure the cage you get has bars that are spaced no more than an inch and a half apart.
Once you have the cage, get the things you need for inside the cage like bedding, a hammock, water bottle, food dishes, and toys. Remember that rats love to chew so pick up a few chew sticks from the rodent section of your local pet store.

As far as toys are concerned avoid getting any toys that have small parts like beads that could cause your rate to choke. Add a few toilet paper tubes, a small cardboard box, or an old clean sock for your rat to chew on and play with.

divider-hamsterConclusion

Rats can make wonderful pets as long as they are domesticated rats and not wild ones. Rats are more intelligent than many people give them credit for and they can even be cuddly and sweet! If you decide to get a pet rat, be sure to have its cage and all the cage accessories ready before you bring your cute little companion home!


Featured Image Credit: Varga, Pixabay

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.