They are vermin – smelly and dirty animals! These are some of the misconceptions people have about rats as pets.
Let’s be honest, rats have a bad reputation. But in this article, we will look at why they actually make great pets and how a pet rat is actually not the same as a wild rat. Wild rats are often considered vermin and are associated with unclean or dirty areas. But this is not true of the ‘fancy rats’ kept as pets. They can also carry diseases, as can many animals, but by keeping them inside this is also not an for pet rats. As a result, they are now commonly being home bred and also found for sale in pet shops.
Pet rats, although originating from wild rats, look very different now. There are many different types and can come in a variety of colours; unlike wild rats, which are mostly brown or grey for camouflage. Pet rats are often larger in size than their wild counterparts, due to differences in food and exercise. This is because wild rats have to find food from wherever they can, which often leads to the idea they are vermin. Out in the wild, they tend to avoid humans as they are not useful to them. As pets, they want to interact with humans.
Due to our care pet rats live longer than wild ones, living approximately two years. Whilst we certainly wouldn’t advise trying to tame a wild rat, a pet rat is well worth considering as your next pet.
What makes a rat a good pet?
Rats make excellent pets as they are highly intelligent, they can be trained to do puzzles and play with games in their cage, usually involving food as a reward. This intelligence means that they do need interaction and should be handled every day. Not only to get them used to being handled but also to allow a bond between you and your pet to develop. They are easy to handle once you are used to them… Plus it can be calming handling them regularly. Rats are very sociable animals and enjoy having company, so having more than one rat is advised. But bear in mind the size of the cage needed for the number of rats you choose to keep.
Once their cage and housing are set up, they are relatively easy to care for. They are friendly and inquisitive pets, so will investigate new objects and new smells in their home. Some owners allow them to have free time in a room, to allow them more space to exercise and explore. But we would advise keeping windows and doors shut to prevent escapees!
How friendly are they though?
If handled from a young age, it will become natural to them and they will very rarely bite. Once a regular routine has been set up, and they are cleaned out to remove faeces and urine-soaked bedding, they do not smell and are actually quite clean animals in their cage. They normally use one area as a toilet and they can even be litter trained to make cleaning even easier. As they are very inquisitive animals, having lots of interaction with different toys can really help their development. This can also be extremely rewarding for you as an owner.
We hope you now see how pet rats are different from wild ones and can make good pets and be rewarding to care for. It’s always worth chatting to your vet before getting a new pet, they can advise on suitable housing, feeding and general care of your rat. Lastly, enjoy your new pet!
For further advice contact your vet or you can see some information here ; https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rodents/rats
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