Rats always seem to have a guilty expression on their face when they see you're looking at them

Rats are small, furry mammals that make great family pets. They are intelligent and social animals that can form strong bonds with their owners. Rats are easy to care for and require minimal space, making them a great pet for those who live in apartments or small homes.

Rats come in a variety of colors and sizes, so you can find one to suit your individual tastes. They are also relatively inexpensive to purchase and maintain.

Rats are one of the best pets you can have; they are smart, clean, and social animals that don’t need a huge cage or a lot of special care. When they are young they are easy to handle and are easy to train. They don’t bite and are easy to feed. 

Rats are very sociable and will become very attached to you and your family. They are great for kids because they are not very big or loud. Teaching kids to handle them and care for them is a good lesson in responsibility. Anyone can handle a pet rat and they are small enough to not be intimidating. They are very easy to train and love to be petted.

There are a few misconceptions about pet rats that you should be aware of. First, they don’t carry the plague. Rats are actually really clean animals, and will groom themselves much like cats. 

Rats are social, intelligent, playful, and affectionate animals, and make great pets for children. Because rats are so intelligent, they can learn tricks and solve puzzles and they can even be trained to use a litter box. They love to have fun and can really amuse themselves and their family. 

Rats are short-lived animals, living up to three years. They don’t like to live alone, and prefer to be in a group, it’s best if you have at least two.

Pet rats are not recommended for children under five years old, but they do make good pets for people with allergies. Because they’re small, and typically confined to their cage there is a lot less allergy causing materials throughout your house. Rats typically cost between $10 and $20 each.

Rats are very clean animals and can be litter trained. They will instinctively use a designated area for their bathroom needs, making it easy to keep their cage clean. Rats also have a natural curiosity and love to explore, so providing them with plenty of toys and chewable items is essential for keeping them entertained.

Overall, rats make great family pets that can bring joy and companionship for years to come. They are intelligent, social animals that require minimal space and care, making them a perfect choice for those looking for a new pet. With proper care and attention, Rats can be a great pet.

Information about Rats

  • Average size: 9 to 11 inches
  • Coat Colors: Brown, black, white, blue, silver lilac, and silver black
  • Grooming Needs: Low Need
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: No they suffer if exposed to extreme cold or heat
  • Good Pet: Yes
  • Safe with Children: Yes with training
  • Good with Other Rats: Yes
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: Yes
  • Training: They learn fast but trainers should exercise patience
  • Exercise Needs: Moderate
  • Weight Gain: They gain weight fast and can become obese
  • Health Concerns: Scabby, tumors, obesity, and respiratory diseases
  • Allergies: Poor ventilation causes respiratory problems
  • Average Life Span: 2 to 4 years

Physical Appearance of Rats

a white Rat on some wooden boards

Rats are small rodents with a small head compared to the rest of their body. Rats grow to an average size of about 6 – 10 inches without including their tail. Generally male Rats are bigger than the female ones. Common Rats are covered with smooth fur but there are also some exotic varieties that are furless.

Rats can have many different colors with the most common ones being brown, black, gray, or white. Some of the exotic Rats can be blue, Siamese, silver lilac, or silver black. 

Rats usually have two incisors protruding from their mouths.

Temperament of Rats

Rats are very playful pets that enjoy cuddling with their human caregivers. Rats can also learn awesome tricks because they’re very smart pets. 

It’s pretty rare that your Rats will become aggressive. They enjoy living in groups, if you only keep one Rat alone it might become stressed.

Training Rats

Spend time to create a strong bond with your Rat before starting on training. Take more time to handle your pet so that they get used to you. Make the training sessions as short as possible to avoid boredom. Repeat the tricks many times until your Rat learns.

Rats have different personalities and not all Rats can perform certain tricks. Take time to learn the character of your pet and come up with tricks they can handle with ease. Make sure that the training area for your Rat is safe or your Rats might not be able to learn what you want.

You can train your Rat how to use litter boxes. Once your Rat learns to use the litter box, you’ll have an easier time maintaining the hygiene of their cage. Other tricks you can teach your Rat include sitting down, clapping, or even standing. To encourage your pet to perform better, you can give them treats and toys to reward them.

Their Compatibility with Children

Rats love cheese, a rat poking their head out of a block of cheese

Rats make good pets for both adults and kids alike. If you buy a Rat for your kids, teach them how to safely handle them. For example, the Rat should never be held by their tail because it’s painful and could lead to more serious injuries. Kids should also know to never drop them on the floor because it could injure them if they land badly.

An adult should help kids learn how to handle your Rat without harming them. The work of cleaning and feeding should be done by an adult or older and more responsible child.

The Attention Needs of Rats

Rats are social pets and should be kept with at least one other Rat, but they will do well in small groups too. They also love human companionship and should be given as much time outside of their cage for playtime as possible. Make sure the room or area that you let them move around is Rat-safe because they can chew almost anything, or find a way to escape.

Their social behavior lets them enjoy being carried on shoulders or just being held and petted. Avoid holding them by the tail because Rats do not enjoy it and it can also hurt them.

They are active during the night and that is the best time to play with them. 

Rats are intelligent and love doing new things. Rotate their toys to prevent them from getting bored. 

Best Habitat for Rats


2 Rats next to each other

A Rat needs a wired cage that’s at least 20”L x 32”W x 20”T. One with multiple levels is best because it will give them more space to run around. Since Rats are very active and they enjoy climbing, the bigger the cage, the happier your Rat will be.

At the bottom of their cage should be a ceramic tray because wires only can hurt their feet or legs. Never use a wooden tray on the bottom of the cage because your Rat may chew on the wood and escape. It’s also important to note that wooden cages are hard to disinfect and may lead to accumulation of germs.

Avoid the aquarium style glass cages because they have poor ventilation and can make your pet sick. Rats are susceptible to respiratory illnesses that are caused by poor ventilation in their habitat.

Location of Their Cage

Their cage should be placed on something off the floor to give your pet a sense of security. Having their cage on the floor where the Rat can see pets such as dogs or cats will cause them unneeded stress. The location should also be away from direct sunlight because Rats are not active during the day and prefer to sleep most of the day. Bright light can make them uncomfortable.

Rats are affected by extreme cold or heat and don’t like wind or extreme hot conditions. The best temperatures for your Rat cage should be between 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Around 90 degrees Fahrenheit they’ll be uncomfortable but fine, but temperatures over 100 could give your Rat heatstroke.

Bedding Materials

Rats should be given comfortable bedding materials. If you don’t want to buy expensive bedding material, you can place some shredded toilet paper in the cage for your Rat to sleep on. Some shredded or cut up clothing or towels make an inexpensive hack for good bedding material for your Rat.

a rat next to a big piece of cheese

No matter what you choose you will need to keep replenishing the toilet paper or clothes. Chewing is something that Rats do instinctually. Anything given to them will be chewed up eventually.

Avoid using wood shavings or corn cobs as bedding for Rats because wood shavings aren’t digestible and could cause stomach complications for your pet. Corn cobs get moldy especially when exposed to wet conditions and can cause respiratory infections.


Rats are playful pets and it’s important to give them things to play with. Make sure that the toys are safe for your Rat to avoid injuries. Also avoid toys that make squishy noises at night when Rats are most active because it could disrupt your sleep.

Toys are great additions to a Rat’s habitat because the Rats can also chew on them. Chewy toys are especially important for your Rat because they help them trim their teeth and to sharpen their claws.

Litter Box

Rats are smart and with training can learn to poop in a litter box. You can also enhance their litter box with pellets to help absorb the smell of poop and urine in the cage. The pellets are necessary because they protect your pet from respiratory compilations brought about by pungent smells in their cage.

Habitat Maintenance

Spot clean your Rats cage every day to remove any food leftovers, and to wipe any spilled water. Replace bedding materials once a week with fresh bedding. Make sure your Rat has enough toys to play with and other chewing materials to give them a long healthy life.

Health Issues

Rats just like other pets can become ill especially if fed on improper diet or if their home has poor conditions. Here are some of the diseases to watch out for if you have a Rat.

Respiratory Disease

Small mammals such as mice, rats, and guinea pigs are prone to respiratory infections. These infections can be caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Common signs and symptoms of respiratory infection in small mammals include sneezing, nasal discharge, labored breathing, loss of appetite, and weight loss. If left untreated, these infections can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia.


Tumors are masses of abnormal cells that grow due to abnormal and unregulated cell division. In small mammals, tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumors are typically slow growing and don’t spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors can spread and invade nearby tissues or organs.


Scabby is caused by external parasites like mites, lice, and ticks. A pet is more susceptible to external parasites if their health isn’t great. Try to feed your pets a well-balanced diet and reduce stress within their enclosure so that your pets stay in good health.

Scabby makes your pet feel itchy that they’ll rub against objects. The fur around the affected areas can fall out, exposing their skin. Their skin underneath their fur can also appear discolored.

Overgrown Teeth

Small mammals such as ferrets, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats are prone to overgrown teeth. This is because their teeth continuously grow throughout their lifetime and if they don’t have things to chew on, their teeth can become overgrown. Overgrown teeth can be uncomfortable for your pet and cause difficulty with eating, chewing, and drinking. If left untreated it can lead to infection and even death.

It’s important to take your pet for regular check-ups with a veterinarian who specializes in small mammals. Your veterinarian can trim your pet’s teeth and recommend a proper diet to prevent overgrowth. In some cases, the vet may need to surgically remove some of the teeth if they are severely overgrown.

You can help maintain your pet’s dental health by giving them plenty of chew toys and hard foods. Chew toys can help keep your pet’s teeth at a healthy length, and hard foods can help remove plaque buildup on their teeth.

If you suspect that your pet has overgrown teeth, it’s important to take them to the veterinarian right away. Your vet will examine your pet and recommend the best course of treatment. With proper dental care, you can help ensure your pet’s health and prevent overgrown teeth.


Small mammals are prone to obesity, just like humans. Obesity in small mammals is a serious condition that can lead to a number of health complications and even death if it’s not managed properly. Symptoms of obesity include an increase in body fat, excessive hunger, low energy levels, difficulty breathing, and labored movements. 

The primary cause of obesity in small mammals is an unhealthy diet or not enough exercise. Poor dietary choices such as high-fat, high-sugar foods can lead to weight gain and obesity in these animals. A sedentary lifestyle without enough exercise can contribute to obesity in small mammals. Stress and hormonal imbalances can also lead to excess weight gain in these animals.

Grooming and Care Tips for Rats


Rats are generally very clean pets and they spend a lot of time cleaning and grooming each other. Once in a while, it’s okay to give your Rat a soothing bath without causing it stress. The best way to clean your Rat is by using your fingers to gently massage through the fur using water and shampoo.

Their tail is a good place to focus on because Rats aren’t able to clean their tail. Avoid overdoing on the cleaning and take the shortest time possible so that you don’t wash away all the essential oils your Rat’s skin.

Some of the cases when you may want to consider regular baths for your Rats are:

  • Old Rat that doesn’t groom themselves
  • Sick Rat
  • Before treatment for external parasite
  • An obese Rat that cannot groom itself

Nail trimming

Nail trimming isn’t necessary for healthy Rats because they trim them on their own. If you have a concern due to human interactions and want to avoid scratches, you can consider trimming your Rat’s nails. For older Rats, you can help them trim their nails if they don’t seem to be keeping trim on their own.

Ear checkup

Just like humans, Rats produce ear wax that can fall down their ears while they sleep. Don’t try to remove the wax from the ears because it helps trap dust and other things from entering their ears. If you notice an unpleasant smell from the wax or if your Rat seems bothered by the wax, then consult with your veterinarian.

Feeding Rats

Your Rats’ diet should be made up of about 80 percent carbohydrates, 4 percent fat, and 16 percent protein. Most people make the mistake of feeding Rats seed mixes. These seeds are high in fats and protein which aren’t the best foods for your pet.

Because Rats are omnivorous, they can eat meat and vegetables. Commercial pellets and Rat blocks are good foods because they are nutritionally balanced for Rats. If you buy the Rat blocks, opt for the ones with low calories and fat. The Rat blocks with high soy meal instead of corn are the best for your Rat.

Feed your pet fruits like apples, bananas, and pears. Rats also enjoy cooked or raw vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, broccoli, cucumber, and carrots. Feeding your pet with some cooked meat is also a great way to supplement their diet with protein.

Once in a while, you can offer your Rat a treat, they enjoy yogurt, nuts, dog biscuits or even cheese. Make sure not to overdo it on the treats because they have lots of calories that could cause your Rat to gain weight. 

Avoid foods such as chocolate and other sticky foods because they can easily choke your pet. Another food to avoid is avocado because the skin is toxic to Rats.

Rats need clean water at all times. Sipper water bottles are the best because they reduce contamination and your Rat can drink water whenever it gets thirsty. It’s also worth noting that your Rat may end up chewing on the water bottle to satisfy its need for chewing. This is perfectly normal, but bottles and tips are available that your pet can’t chew through and we recommend these longer lasting bottles.

The feeding bowls should be made of sturdy ceramic material to let your Rat perch during feeding without toppling. A weak bowl could topple over your Rat and make a big mess in their cage that will need to be cleaned up.

Related Questions:

How often do Rats breed?

Rats can breed very fast if you keep them in pairs. If you don’t want to rear Rat babies, then you will only want to keep similar sexes of Rats. Female Rats can give birth to a litter of about 8 – 10 and even get pregnant the same day after giving birth.

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Contributing Author & Social Media Expert

Maryna is an animal expert that has had dozens of animals in her life over the years. She has never found an animal that she didn't love immediately. It seems like every year she finds kittens that have been abandoned by their mom and she nurses them to health and finds homes for them. She contributes her vast knowledge about animals and family pets to our website and we're forever grateful to have her working with us. She's also an amazing graphics designer and has designed all of the social media images that we use across all platforms.