Do Rats Make Good Pets?

There are many kinds of pets that you can care for at home, and while cats and dogs are the most popular options, there are some people that prefer to take care of exotic and peculiar pets. One of the uncommon pets that you can get is a rat, which is significantly smaller than cats but is typically as intelligent as most pets. So, do rats make good pets? And are rats suitable for you? We will find out more as we take a look at the intricacies of rats and why they can be good pets.

What are Pet Rats?

There are many species of rats around the world, but the one that is considered to be the best to keep as a pet is the “fancy rat,” which has the scientific name Rattus norvegicus domestica. The fancy rat is a domesticated form of Rattus norvegicus, also known as the brown rat. Because of how it has been bred to be domesticated, the fancy rat is arguably the most common species of rat that is kept as a pet, although there are a few experienced breeders that own wild species of rats.

Fancy rats were originally bred for blood sports or for fighting during the 19th century in Europe, but they would later become popular pets because of their tame personality and intelligence. These fancy rats usually come in a variety of coat colors and patterns, and most of them are very affordable. In fact, fancy rats are regarded as some of the most affordable pets in the world. In terms of lifespan, fancy rats can live for up to three years, but there have been some that have lived for much longer.

Are Pet Rats Safe?

In regards to how safe pet rats are for humans, pet rats are tested and treated for parasites and other harmful elements before they are sold in pet stores and to owners. There has been a stigma for many years that rats carry severe diseases that can affect humans, and while this stigma is true for the most part, it shouldn’t be applied to pet rats that are treated with care and proper medical attention compared to wild rats that live in sewers and other unclean places where they can get different kinds of bacteria, viruses, and other germs.

However, much like wild rats, pet rats are susceptible to carrying dangerous diseases if they aren’t treated or if their health isn’t maintained well. Pet rats get more susceptible to diseases that can affect not only them but also their human owners when they are exposed to wild rats, which can introduce them to pathogens like Streptobacillus moniliformis, a bacterium that can cause rat-bite fever.

Rat-bite fever is a disease that is usually found in domesticated rats that have come in contact with wild rats or have been bred in masses or large batches in pet stores. This disease is transmitted through rat bites and scratches, and a human that is affected by the disease can experience fever, headaches, body aches, and vomiting. Fortunately, rat-bite fever is rare and easy to prevent as long as you purchase pet rats from legitimate, reliable, and responsible pet stores.

Are Pet Rats Good Pets for Kids?

When it comes to children, rats may not be the best pets for them. A big reason why rats are not good pets for kids is that rats can be quite fragile because of their small and soft bodies, and kids tend to get rough when it comes to petting or holding domesticated animals. If a child wants to have a pet rat, his or her parents or guardians should offer supervision to make sure that both the child and the pet rat are safe.

Taking Care of Pet Rats

Interestingly, pet rats are easier to take care of compared to other rodents like hamsters, gerbils, and porcupines. What makes pet rats easier to care for is their immune system and digestive system. Pet rats are less susceptible to diseases that commonly affect rodents, and rats also don’t have sensitive stomachs, so they can eat more types of food compared to hamsters and gerbils. [1] Pet rats are omnivores, so they can eat both meat and vegetables. For a proper diet, you should give pet rats a balanced meal that can contain fruits, vegetables, eggs, rice, mealworms, seeds, and grains.

But even if pet rats are stronger or more durable, they can get diseases if their cages are not properly cleaned. The cages should be cleaned at least once or twice a week. Pet rats are also prone to being obese if they are just inside a cage with nothing to do besides eat and sleep. To prevent obesity, you should provide your pet rat with exercise wheels and other exercise toys inside the cage that he or she can play with. Moreover, you may also need to decorate the pet rat’s cage with ladders, rooms, walls, chew toys, and other pieces of tiny furniture.

These are just some of the most important things that you should know about pet rats and why they can be suitable for you. Keep in mind that taking care of small animals like pet rats, hamsters, and porcupines requires a lot of care and attention, so make sure that you monitor their health and movements every now and then to make sure that they are healthy and safe in their cage. If you are going out for work or school, you can ask a family member or friend to monitor your pet rat for you to ensure that everything will be alright while you are gone.


[1] Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. (2015, April 3). RATS AS PETS. Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from

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