Welcome to my new monthly series featuring pocket pets, birds and reptiles. Each month, an expert will give you the pros and cons to help you decide if a particular pet is a good fit for you. I’m excited to have Abby Chesnut as my first guest, telling you about pet rats. I have had pet rats in the past and just adored them.
So you have seen all the cute photos and videos of these fluffy, smart, and whiskery rodents and you are thinking about getting some as pets. Don’t get me wrong, they make wonderful pets, but there are a few pros and cons you should know before diving into the world of pet rats.
Things to consider before purchasing pet rats
- Lifespan – The average for rats are around 2-4 years. Rats age very quickly compared to cats or dogs and this can be disheartening for many, but I like to think of that quote where they say for you, your pet might not be your whole life, but for your pet you are his whole life. Just gives you more reason to spoil them, right?
- Health – Depending on where you get your rat (pet store or breeder) you will most likely run into some health problems that require you going to a vet. Before you decide that you want to have a pet rat please make sure that there is an exotic vet in your area that sees them. Costs can get high depending on where you live so it is always nice to have money stored up for an emergency.
- Social Animals – Rats need buddies so it is very frowned upon to get just a single rat. They live happier healthier lives when they have another rat to cuddle and interact with. The only thing I would say is more costly about having 2 rats compared to 1 is higher vet bills. Food doesn’t cost much and I mean come on, who doesn’t look cool with a rat on each shoulder?
- Environment – Rats love to climb so they need enclosures that are more tall than long. Aquariums are not ventilated and can harm their fragile respiratory system so wire cages that are similar to bird cages but made for small pets like rats are the best. There are many cage calculators online that can help you find out if a cage is big enough, but overall for price and ease of use I always recommend the Critter Nation cage. Cleaning is important as well (they can get smelly), and you will need to clean your cage at least 1-2 weeks depending on how litter box trained they are (yes, it is possible), what bedding you use, and how big your cage is. Don’t forget that you will need to fill your cage up with toys, huts, hammocks, chew toys, a litter box, bedding, water bottle, and food!
Baby Delmar and Everett playing in their wheel (click the picture to see the video)
- Exercise – When I first had my rats as babies they would go so crazy at night on their wheel! It was definitely hard to sleep at first, but what really helped that over the years is getting them out of their cage to release some of their energy. A lot of people put them on their bed with a dedicated rat blanket, or let them roam the bathroom, and even some people have their own rat rooms (a girl can dream). With many dogs and cats in my household, I put cardboard boxes on top of their cage and they go and play there while still being able to go back in for potty breaks and getting water. No dogs can get to them, and I supervise when one of my rat crazy cats is around. My point is that you can get creative, but exercise is very important for pet rats.
So I have touched on some major points to consider when you decide that you are serious about getting a pet rat (or two, or seven). Let us look at what makes them great pets!
What makes rats great pets
- Super smart – Some people have compared them to dogs when it comes to smarts, and they aren’t wrong. Did you know that rats were the first animal to be clicker trained? Mine actually love to do tricks, even though they only know two (spin and stand up) and they were so quick to catch on that it surprised me.
- Adorable – Rats are super cute! Despite the horrible stigma people have against them, those big eyes and whiskery noses are the best things to come home to after a long day. They will greet you at their cage door to say hi and eagerly await dinner. Afterwards, they very well would probably enjoy a shoulder rub! (I know my Delmar does) Rats do this cool thing where they brux (grind their teeth) and boggle (eyes bulge out because of the brux) when they are content. Some people think it is creepy, but I see it as a sign of a happy rat!
- Just Plain Cool – Have you ever walked around and seen a person with a rat on their shoulder? No? Well, you could be the next. I love to go to public events like pet parades and pet shows to educate the public about how amazing rats can be. So many people think that they are disgusting, once they learn how much grooming they do (as much as a cat) and pet them a little bit, you can change minds.
Overall, I think rats can make a great pet for older children (rats claws can be sharp and their bodies are fragile) and people of all ages can enjoy them just as well. If you aren’t ready for the big commitment for a dog or cat, but looking for a great small pet I think rats make a great animal companion!
Abby Chesnut is a pet product influencer on her blog The Chesnut Mutts which has been around since November 2014. Jada and Bailey are her two mutts who have mostly taken over her blog with high-quality pet product reviews and giveaways, but her cat Shipoopi, pet rats Everett and Delmar, Emilio the betta fish, Tyrone the Apple Snail, and other household sharing dogs & cats pop in frequently. She loves to make people smile and laugh either by her photography, videos, or just her humorous and laid-back reviews.
If you are a blogger and interested in contributing to this series, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.