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Talk to me about Rats

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

I've heard that rats make very good pets, are intelligent and friendly, and only live about 2 years.  That's about all I know; I still need to do a lot of research.  I'd love to get 2 rats, but my main concern is cost--how much does it cost to keep a rat?  Do I need to buy special rat food?  Is it expensive?  Would I need to take them to the vet at all?  Anything else I should know before I look into getting rats?

post #2 of 13


Edited by oiseau - 9/27/13 at 4:13pm
post #3 of 13

i had one that lived for quite awhile, she just got over weight i think. i had to get rid of her because she gave me hives and i couldn't just let her sit in the cage (my favorite part was holding her!) our class pet had babies and i brought her home from a pretty young age, she was very sweet and smart. great pet imo!

post #4 of 13

I <3 my ratties!!!!


They are really awesome pets.


I have 4 right now...my nuetered male is over 2 now and the lsat survivor of my original group.  I recently added three baby girls. 


When getting rats, please be careful.  You should get from a reputable breeder or a rescue, just like with dogs, cats, etc.  Socialization is key to making friendly, well rounded pets.


I feed a combo of dog food and homemade wet mix.  There is a thread on MDC from a while back where several people talked about different homemade diets and combos they had success with.


Search for a vet that handles rats.  Some vets will, but charge ridiculous amounts so call around. 

post #5 of 13

I LOVED having rats. They do take money to care for but much less than a dog or a cat. I now have an allergy to rats and other small pets but when I could deal with it I had 8 rats! They are such great pets and I would love to have them again. I would get boys, I think their friendlier, but that could be personal. If you can buy them from a breeder or rescue that's raised them from birth and they will love you right away.


My rats licked my hands like a dog they were so friendly! Check out ratster.com

post #6 of 13

I loved my rats as well, they make awesome pets! I agree with the PP who suggested boys, they're generally calmer and make better pets. I fed my guys reggie rat food (available at most pet stores for about $5-6 a bag) and fresh fruits and veggies. Another tip is to not use pine or cedar bedding. I've read that the oils can cause health problems in rodents. 

Unfortunately, I developed allergies to my rats which would cause hives so when my last one passed away, I didn't get anymore. I do miss them though.

post #7 of 13

I loved my rats too! I got my first one when I was living alone for the first time, in an apartment too tiny for a dog. My DH rescued her from the zoology department on campus.


She had the run of the place when I was home, and would come when she was called. She was very snuggly, and would curl up in my lap or at the nape of my neck when I watched TV. I would put her in the hood of a sweatshirt and take her for bike rides - sometimes she would curl up in the bottom; other times she would stick her head out, like a dog sticking his head out a car window. She was very clean - when I was home, I left the door of her cage open, and she would jump back in to go to the bathroom. When I moved out, I half expected to find a hidden rat toilet somewhere under the furniture, but I didn't.


She loved me, and alweays wanted to be near me. I took her to my Mom's lake cabin, and left her on the dock while I went swimming. She jumped off the dock and swam to me! It's been almost 30 years, and I still miss that rat.

post #8 of 13

I have had rats for about 8 years now. I currently have 2 girls, Mocha and Snickerdoodle. :)


Downsides: Cage cleaning is a pain. I've had several escape artists which make things challenging. They don't live long enough, and I haven't had too many die on their own, I usually end up having them euthanized when their suffering warrants it. (In the wild, they would get eaten by a predator when they got ill or slowed down for any reason.) This is an expense, as well as perscriptions for the ones that have had URI's, and having tumors removed can be costly but worth it in an otherwise healthy rat.


Upsides: They are fun to watch and fun to play with! They are smart and loving and friendly. They have good balance and hold on well, easier for smaller children to handle safely than some other small animals. Once you buy the cage, outfitting it is pretty cheap. We cut up old worn out clothing for hammocks, I buy 49 cent baskets at the thrift store to hang in the cage, and boxes are easy to come by. I use woodstove pellets for bedding, it's cheap and works great.


I've had as many as 4, and our neutered boy was the most mellow and laid back. I love to watch the girls scurry around though, they are always busy! I've had a few that lived to 3 1/4 or 3 1/2, but average for me has been 2 1/2 years old.

post #9 of 13

I had 2 pet rats that lived to be about 4 1/2 years old!! They ate some rat pellet diet, but mostly stuff from from the veggie drawer in the fridge, I never knew their lifespans were so short until I had rats later in my adult life. My first two were both females and extremely docile. I would put them in a pouch or pockets and could take them anywhere with me. I always handled them and never had any problem trimming their little nails. They had supervised run of my room and would come to me when I called them. My rats were clean as well, keeping their poop in the cage and not leaving rat raisins on the floor or elsewhere when left out. Echo the PP on not using pine or cedar bedding... I always used aspen (which is a little pricey) and later the recycled paper bedding, which I found has been amazing in controlling odor in other animals (rats typically don't smell unless there is poor husbandry involved).


I kept rats a second (and 3rd!) time years later. If you get males and females definitely get your boys fixed, rats multiply extremely quickly, and neutering is much healthier for the boys anyway. 

post #10 of 13
Other posters have covered it pretty good. I've never seen a need to neuter male rats so long as you are only keeping one gender. The boys are known for being large and cuddly, the girls tend to be more active and into exploring. Rats are prone to tumors as they age, and you should factor vet bills related to that into your budget. Tumors can be removed, depending on the circumstances. I had one female develop a tumor at a year old, which we had removed. She lived quite happily for another year or two before developing a second tumor which was not removed due to her age. They are also prone to a form of upper respiratory infection. All new rats should be quarantined for this reason, and you should be wary of pet store rats, were the disease seems to be more common. Watch for an wheezing, sniffling etc when choosing your rat. (not saying to never buy from a petstore, some of my favorite rats were petshop rats- just to be SURE you check their health- and also their temperament (many are bred solely for snake food and particularly older specimens may be aggressive)

Another thing about rats is that they need a much larger cage than most people would expect. A hamster cage or small aquarium is simply not adequate. In fact, most rat enthusiasts dont recommend aquariums at all. If you google "rat cage calculator" you'll find tools where you input the number of rats you own, and it'll tell you the cage dimensions you need, or you input the dimensions of a cage you're looking at, and it will tell you the max number of rats that can comfortably live in it.

As far as food, I fed a diet of Oxbow Regal Rat pellets, and Suebee's rat diet, which is a diet you make yourself using the recipe. Plus, all manner of table scraps. Rats can even eat your chicken bones for you. smile.gif One thing I was careful of when feeding rats was to avoid all preservatives and artificial colorants in their diet. Rats are already prone to cancer, so I tried my best to avoid feeding them those things. Many small animal food manufacturers haven't caught on to the natural food trend yet, so it can be hard to find diets without artificial color or dyes. When you read the ingredients, try to avoid anything with ethoxyquin, BHA, or BHT. Plus stuff like Red Dye 40 etc.

I found this site really helpful for rat care- http://www.ratsrule.com/ The Suebees diet recipe is listed there, I think they have a cage calculator, and they have a great rat forum. smile.gif
post #11 of 13

Concerning cages: I agree with what the PP have suggested about cages.

In my experience, Martin's Cages ( http://www.martinscages.com/products/cages/rat/) are the most recommended cages by rat enthusiasts. I had The Rat Skyscraper and my guys had plenty of room to run around and the cage was very easy to clean.

post #12 of 13

I love rats...but unfortunately my kids and I are all allergic to them.  We won't have rats again.


What I have learned about rats:  that respiratory thing is called mycoplasmosis.  It's pervasive.  Some rats are more resistant than others.  If I were able to have rats again, I would get them from a breeder so that I could have more information on how likely they were to resist myco.  Also, the mammary tumors in females are no joke.  I would choose males just based on the tumor aspect.


post #13 of 13

Just another former rat owner. I loved my rats, they were great pets.  It took me a while to clue in that I was allergic to them, though.  Yup, there was a reason I got wheezy as soon as I went to bed --their cage was next to my bed.  Holding them made my eyes swell and itch, and their little nails left itchy little bumps on my skin.  So sad!  They were loads more fun than hamsters.


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