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Why rats make great pets

Updated on December 18, 2010
Even our Cat likes this rat
Even our Cat likes this rat
Olive and Alice
Olive and Alice

A Little History

For some having a pet can be a huge undertaking, for me it’s just part of life, my biggest decision is where I will put the new little darlings.  After having numerous pets of many different varieties, I think I have found the perfect pet.

For years Rats have been considered vermin and indeed were felt to have been the cause of the Bubonic Plague, it has been discovered since that is was the fleas from the rats that  were the cause.  Rats got a bad reputation for this, and have been considered creepy for many centuries.  They have been killed on site and poisoned throughout the ages.  The science community has used these animals for experiments in the last century, and in this we can thank them for at least one thing, the discovery of what great pets Rats make.

In animal stores there are many pets to choose from that dwell in cages, Rats seem to be quite content to live within the confines of tanks, cages and just about anything that will hold them.  Unlike some other cage dwellers, they truly have no desire for escape.  Most pet rats will not attempt to chew their way out of their cage so just about any style will work with them, even plastic.  They have been bred to come in different colors white, black, black and white and cream color. 

The Merits of having a Rat as a pet

1.)  Rats are very quiet, the biggest noise you may hear coming from them is the sound of chewing their food.

2.)  Rats like to be held, so playing with them and letting them ride on your shoulder keeps you both happy.  My ‘Sam’ used to ride on my shoulder during the day as I worked around my house and even taking walks around the neighborhood.  He liked to peek through my hair as he viewed the world.

3.)  Rats are very clean animals.  They spend a lot of their time grooming, washing their faces after eating, and washing their bodies after being held is common.  They like making a ‘well’ with their bedding to sleep in and if some of their droppings by chance get in they will quickly remove it during housekeeping. 

4.)  Rats like things tidy, and will spend time each day moving things around to suit their needs.  This makes them great house keepers, too bad they can’t move around MY vacuum.

5.)  The cost of having a pet rat is minimal, just a few dollars each month (once the initial purchase of cage has been taken care of) will cover the expense of having one of these nifty creatures.

6.)   Rats are trainable.  The limits of what you can train them to do is limited to your imagination of what you want them to do.  Their tail isn’t quite prehensile, but will give them good balance for tightrope walking!

7.)  These are very friendly creatures and will enjoy meeting your friends.

Information you should know about preparing for a Rat

The eyesight of a rat isn’t the greatest, and you will find that they use their nose as their forerunner, they will sniff to see if something is safe before trying it.  If they don’t feel safe they will turn around and go the other way.  They sleep heavily so to prevent startling them, talk as you are opening the cage.  Try to think of how you would feel if someone just picked you up out of a sound sleep, you might get cranky.  Most rats are not biters, but accidents do happen and if you practice precaution when waking, the chances of being bitten are very slim.

Rat are essentially opportunists, they will adapt to survive in their surroundings.  Feeding a rat is fairly easy, you provide things such as seed and grain along with a few crunchies thrown in and they will be happy.  Every now and then they like fruits and veggies, you don’t want to give them too much of this because it is possible to cause diarrhea, and nobody likes that!  Rats will eat just about anything, as I have said they are opportunists, but to keep your pet happy and healthy a commercial food that contains a variety of things is best.

The bedding that is best to use would be pine shavings, this can be found at most discount or pet stores.  A good inch of bedding placed in the bottom of the cage should be sufficient.  There are different kinds of wood shavings available to purchase such as cedar and alpine, the strong odor of the cedar may be pleasant for your nose, but the rat won’t much care for it.  Just imagine being in a room filled with perfume 24 hours a day, you probably wouldn’t like that.

The different kinds of cages that can be found vary, glass aquariums are very nice, you can see inside all around and the pine shavings that are used for bedding will be kept neat and tidy inside.  Purchasing a screen top that fit’s the size of the aquarium will assure that your rat is kept where you want them.  You can put items for your rat to play with inside as well, such as a running wheel for exercise.

Cages with metal bars are fine to use as well, but with the openness of the bars, you may find as your rat is moving the bedding around some will be pushed through the bars, making a mess.  A guinea pig cage should not be used for a rat, the bars are to far apart, and undoubtedly they will slip through.  In the winter these can get drafty as well, so if you should choose one of these and you live in a cold climate, keep your cage in a warm place.

There are cages that you can buy that can cost upwards of $100, these have holes that tubes can be affixed to create a larger area for your pet to run in.  These are fine, but rats will most likely just use these tubes to sleep in. 

Exercise balls can be purchased for your rat to run around your floor in.  These are great, just don’t lose site of them, a hard wood or linoleum floor will get them a long distance, they can easily get stuck in corners so make sure you keep an eye out for where they go. 


Let’s recap the advantages:  Quiet, friendly, clean, cost effective, tidy and trainable.  Once you get past the history of the rat, you will find that having a rat as your friend will benefit you as well as them.  You might even be able to change the mind of those who speak against rats.  Why wouldn't you want to have one?


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    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 5 years ago from Michigan

      I have found with my animals I let them be themselves. If my cat wants to visit with the rats, I let him, if he doesn't I won't force it. If a cat is going to be a mouser there is nothing you can do about it, it will be in his genes. Time and patience is what i recommend with any animal.

    • profile image

      magyar1991 5 years ago

      i have cat no breedtype at all and to rat cat is not eve a year old any ideas on how to have them get along with out risking the cat on not becoming a mouser ???

    • worldgrandeur profile image

      worldgrandeur 7 years ago from The Moon

      Though i am afraied of them but they seem cute here :) thanks for the information.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      Kinda makes you want to run out and get another one don't it?? LOL Just kidding!!

    • equealla profile image

      equealla 7 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      My kids had a "secret" rat in the hostel at school. I never knew about him, till the house mother found him, after more than a year. I was at first not too pleased to add another pet in the house. But I must agree, he gave us so much pleasure. I can confirm, they are lovely pets.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      How wonderful Skaditch!! I sure miss my Sam, he was cream in color and I named him from the movie ghost "Sam Wheat"... He didn't do anything in particularly awesome, but he loved me, and to me, that was all that mattered. He was almost 4 when he passed, that is a long time for rats.

    • Skaditch profile image

      Skaditch 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      I had a pet rat in high school named Oscar, he was awesome! He would grab my finger and lick the tip and when I would do homework on the floor he would bounce on to my books or paper make a playful grab at my pencil and the hop off to the edge and wait to do it again! He was smarter than some dogs I've had. Sigh, reading this makes me miss him. Great hub!

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      Awwww, Aiden.. truly there is nothing to be scared of. They don't bite, don't have disease, not too hairy, what scares you about them? If you look very closely at their tail you will see that they do indeed have hair, in neat little rows. And above all else, I like that their whiskers tickle me.

    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great hub about rats but sadly not for me, to scared of them :)

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      LOL drbj, you will surely want to pave the way with your friends, and talk about them. Most people have a curiosity of the unknown, even if it is a little morbid. Once they take the chance and meet your new friend, surely they will fall in love with them as well.

      Abhitheprince - Thank you so much. I too love the little darlings...

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      Fascinating info about rats. You say that rats will enjoy meeting my friends. The big question for me would be, would my friends enjoy meeting the rats? :)

    • Abhitheprince profile image

      Abhitheprince 7 years ago

      i love animals..will read this again and again.ssso nice