Rats as pets?? Of course!!!!!

My son Logan with his pet rat Spencer
My son Logan with his pet rat Spencer

Why a rat?

When my kids asked me for a small pet, I ran through all the obvious choices-hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, guinea pigs, and ferrets. Having had most of these myself as a child, I remember all to well the responsibilities that went along with them. But never the less I thought my kids would enjoy having a small animal to help take care of.

I began doing some research online to see what pets would be the best for my kids ages-4 and 7. Surprisingly, over and over again the same result came up-a rat. My first reaction was probably like many people---EWWWWWW!!!! But as a read about them, I became less grossed out and more intrigued. Sure they were cute little things-(minus the long tail!!), but it was the overall profile of these critters that drew me in. I wanted an animal that my kids could handle, without being bitten, and could bond with. I also knew that having 2 boys-I would probably have to get 2 of these animals, one for each kid to "claim". I also wanted something that would not require me to air out the house every day to get rid of the "poo-poo" smell! Its seems as if rats fit all those requirements!

Rat Facts

  • The average life span of a rat is 2-3 years
  • Average length 9-11 inches, tail 7-9 inches
  • Rats are nocturnal animals, so they will be active at night
  • Rats are non aggressive and easily tamed
  • Rats are very intelligent, learning their names and even can do tricks
  • Rats like to chew-they need to in fact to keep their teeth worn down, so that they don't overgrow and cause eating difficulties.
  • Rats are very inexpensive-most pet stores carry them for an average of $10.00 a rat
  • They are generally low maintenance, not very smelly, and easy to care for
  • Rats are sociable animals, prefer to be in pairs or groups, and love attention

Our pets-Spencer and Gibby
Our pets-Spencer and Gibby

How to care for a rat

Caring for your rat is relatively easy. They will need an appropriate cage, one that is designed for rats, not hamsters or rabbits. The bars will need to be close together to prevent escaping, and also should allow the rats to climb, as they love to do. The cage should be large enough for the amount of rats you have. Rats love to hide under and in things, and there are a variety of little houses and caves you can put in the cage for them. My kids have gotten very creative with what they use as their rats houses! You can also use cardboard tubes and wooden boxes for them as they can chew on them too. The litter should NOT be made of cedar of pine shavings-due to health risks. There are all kinds of new great litter made of recyclable products like newspaper, that is soft and absorbs odor well. There should be a water bottle that is easily accessible to the rats, and a food bowl-I like the ones that attach to the cage, so it won't get tipped over. The cage should be changed approximately once a week, and its as easy as removing the bottom pan, dumping the old litter in the trash and laying down a new layer of litter. I barely have to wipe the pan out!

Feed your rats food that is designed for rats-- pelleted or block type diets are available for rats, and are formulated to be nutritionally complete. Rats also loves treats-I found the best ones are banana chips, and I get them at my local dollar store!! They also love raw noodles, cereal, veggies and any other crunchy goody.

This is the cage we have for our 2 rats-its actually 2 cages put together to give them even more room!
This is the cage we have for our 2 rats-its actually 2 cages put together to give them even more room!

Pros and Cons


  • non aggressive
  • very socialble
  • low maintenance
  • inexpensive
  • easy to handle


  • short life span
  • nocturnal
  • cleaning is required

My son Alex with our 2 pet rats
My son Alex with our 2 pet rats

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Comments 5 comments

KristenGrace profile image

KristenGrace 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

Hmm... I understand the pros and the pictures sure are cute of your boys, buuut... Like you mentioned, that tail - I don't know if I could get passed it!

Betty Reid profile image

Betty Reid 5 years ago from Texas

OMG! They really don't bite? How can something be so cute and gross at the same time?

christinepurr profile image

christinepurr 5 years ago

Rats are the loveliest small pet out there! They don't bite, unless you pick up a rat who hasn't been handled often by humans. Also, they'll confuse a finger for a treat if you mistakenly feed them through cage bars instead of opening the door. Rats LOVE their humans, and are devilishly smart! You can pottytrain them, teach them tricks, they can learn their names, and have you ever seen them play rat basketball? ;)

greg grant 4 years ago

i had a rat one time and he live about 5 years i takeing care of him i love takeing him to the beach his name was jack i love him

Angela Percival profile image

Angela Percival 4 years ago

I'm glad to see another person discover the joys of rats--your boy and your rats are adorable. Pet rats, especially if obtained from a responsible breeder (google your town or state and "rattery" to find one) but even from a shelter or rescue, will do almost anything to NOT bite a human, even when they are being handled roughly or are scared. They will sometimes use their teeth very gently to push your hand away. Only extremely rarely will one bite, and usually because it is cage-protective--they almost never bite when out, and you can use a basket to carry them to a play area like a bed or table--they will hop right in. The other small pet rodents bite much more than rats. They do like to build up trust in an area where they can run about and jump onto their humans' laps. They also require care by a vet who is experienced with rats; usually listed as someone who treats "exotic" pets. :) A good all-purpose site is www.ratguide.com to help with health issues. It's true that they have very short lives, but that just makes it easier to shower them with affection their whole lives--it's a short commitment--too short to get bored with them. Enjoy your wonderful ratties.

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