Pet Rats - Tell Me About Them

I am thinking of getting my son a pet rat for his birthday. We have had hamsters in the past so I figure this shouldn’t be that much different. Any Dopers out there have pet rats? Anything I should know that would make them different from other small rodents? Can I keep two of them together in the same cage? Send some knowledge my way guys. Thanks in advance.

I recommend two (at least). Rats are sociable and prefer not to live alone. (We did have one nasty fellow who used to beat up his roomie, but that was one rat out of a couple of dozen that we have had. They do have squabbles from time to time, but rarely to the point of getting hurt.)

Rats are clean, friendly, and curious.

I would not recommend feeding them snacks through the cage; if they get used to snatching the food through the wires, they will accidentally bite fingers held near the cage, thinking they are food.

You should get a decent sized cage, not a little five gallon fish tank. They like to move around.

The worst thing about rats is their 23 - 26 month life expectancy. Once you’ve gotten attached to one, it will die.

They should be kept away from drafts or damp places; they are prone to respiratory distress that too easily turns to pneumonia. You should also see if you can find a reputable breeder. Some families are prone to cancerous tumors and the breeders should be watching to avoid keeping those lines going.

Other threads on rats or related matters:

Recommend me: A Rodent and An Exercise Machine

Got a good rat story?

Any advice on rats as pets?

I spent $600 cumulatively on my daughter’s pet rat, mostly from vet bills. They’re smart as hell, seem to know individuals, and show their enjoyment of petting. They also tend to get tumors which must treated (by mom or dad or vet). Once you begin treating them, you fall for them too. Because they’re so smart and expressive, you can’t just flush them when the child’s at school.

I second the other responses. I’ve had 3 pet rats for just over a year now and I love them dearly. They are very smart, gentle and show unwaning joy everytime you enter the room. Mine are all female, which on the whole tend to be more energetic than males. Males are more “lap rats” - they’re just content to sit there and be cuddled, while the females are always exploring.
The only downside to getting a female rat is that there’s always a chance they could be knocked up and you wouldn’t know it. My girl Bettina was just a week away from giving birth to nine pups when I got her. I had no idea - I thought she was just a little fat. When I came home one day and saw all the little squeaking jellybeans, I had to quickly become an expert on baby rats (The babies were weaned successfully and all adopted out to good homes, except for Cookie, who I decide to keep :)). Pet stores keep males and females apart, but there’s always a chance the two could meet.

If you do get a rat, one word of caution: Do not use pine or cedar shavings as bedding. The oils in these woods are toxic to rats and will harm their respiratory system and liver. Safe beddings are Swheat Scoop, CareFresh, or corn cob. Corn cob bedding is my favorite - I find it absorbs the best and smells the least.

I used to have two ratties, Peaches and Dangerous Beans (thanks to Pratchett for the names). They were great. I let them have free range of the house occasionally - though I got a nice hole in my quilt from that once. Mine did get tumors at the end. I decided not to have them operated on, because they were old and the tumors would just come back anyway. Sweet, clean, and fun pets with real personality.

Definitely check out the breeders first. I got mine from the humane society, and they hadn’t been handled much. They were shy their whole lives because of it. Standard pet store rats are typically not the healthiest or friendliest, but YMMV.

Other notes - females are much less stinky than males, though males are snugglier. When you get a cage, I’d recommend powder coated metal cages (rat urine will rust plain metal). Stay away from cages with a metal bar floor - they can break their feet in between the bars (same goes for exercise wheels). Aquariums will work, but ammonia smells build up in them if they aren’t cleaned very frequently. Also, they’re very active at night, so if your son is a light sleeper you’ll want them away from his bedroom!

They make good snake food.

That’s not necessary. :mad:

There’s a lot of people here and elsewhere who really love and care for their rats, so please keep your ignorant nasty comments to yourself.

No, actually, they don’t. A frightened “feeder” rat can seriously injure a pet snake.

I pretty much agree with what everyone else has said about pet rats. Our two boys (Ebenezer and Wilkinson, brothers) were very sweet and fun. After Wilkinson died of an abdominal tumor, 'Nezer sort of adopted us as honorary rats and would nibble-groom our arms if we scratched his neck a certain way.

Having raised both rats and hamsters, I can offer the following points of comparison:

  • Rats are more social and more responsive to their owners. On the one hand, this means they do require more attention than the average hamster. On the other hand, this means they’re actually somewhat trainable and interactive.

  • Rats do require more living space (comes with the territory of being larger).

  • A cage containing two hefty boy rats needs much more frequent cleaning than one containing a single medium-sized hamster. :slight_smile:

I highly recommend rats as pets, overall. :slight_smile:

True, but the same can be said for any rodent. That’s why there are certain measures which one should undertake before feeding rodents to a snake.

And this thread isn’t discussing that. The OP is asking a question about pets, not feeders.

No argument from me, but I never claimed this made them different from other rodents either, so I’m afraid I don’t see your point.

Now, if you were trying to answer in the context of the OP, in which Amp implied that he/she was wondering if raising a pet rat were different from raising a hamster, saying “Well, either one could be fed to a snake, but either could potentially cause injuries to it” is pretty much irrelevant.

Hand-raised snakes which have been habituated to pre-killed food are probably the best bet.