Do Rats Make Good Family Pets?

In Emotional Support Animal by Emotional Pet Support TeamLeave a Comment

Most families choose dogs or cats as pets. Apart from that small animals like hamsters or bunnies are often the first furry friends of young children. Rats are rarely considered to become the new family member. Most people just don’t know that the little rodents can be very good companions for kids and adults. In this article, we want to show you the qualities of pet rats.

What makes rats good pets?

Apart from the things we discuss in the upcoming section, there is one main reason parents think rats might be a good first pet for their children: the relatively short lifespan. Of course the 2 or 3 years a rat lives are nothing compared to dogs or cats. But there is a commitment nonetheless.

Have in mind your rats deserve proper care till the last day if you decide to get them.

By the way: did you know that rats can be an ESA?

Rats are very clean

There is nothing filthy about pet rats. You simply can’t compare them to their wild relatives. The first rats were domesticated in the 18th century. From there on breeders put all their efforts into breeding friendly and clean pets.

Actually fancy rats, as pet rats are often called, love to groom themselves and each other. Just like cats, they spend quite a while every day with this activity. When getting dirty, they will immediately try to get clean again. 

It isn’t difficult to litter train rats. When you take some feces and put them into a litter box most rats will get the point and start using it as a toilet right away.

The personality of rats

Every rat has its own personality, some are shy, others curious, and lively. It’s fun to learn more about the individuals and how they interact with you and each other. If you offer the right environment and spend some time with them every day, you will even recognize how their personalities grow.

Rats build a strong bond to their owners

In contrast to other small animals, rats really love to cuddle. They enjoy climbing onto your shoulders and spend some time on your site. Sometimes they will even lick you to show their affection, just like a dog would do.

There is another thing that distinguishes rats from other rodents: They won’t bite you. Rats are friendly and they will show in other ways when they don’t want to play or be touched.

Some rats are more intelligent than dogs

Sounds unbelievable? But it’s true, rats can learn tricks very easily:

  • Play fetch, seek-n-hide and other games
  • Come when called by name
  • Walk a rope
  • Jump through a hoop
  • Raise a flag
  • And many more

What do rats need to be happy?

A companion of their species

Rats are very social, the one on one time you offer during the day is not enough. Most of the day your little friend will be alone in his cage. That is why you should keep at least 2 rats together.

Make sure, under all circumstances, that all are of the same gender. If not you will soon have a lot of rats to care for. A female rat can get pregnant the first time at only 5 weeks and often it is difficult to determine the gender at this age.

Male rats tend to be more territory and it can be that they don’t accept other ones later in their life. Females on the other side make friends quite easily.

A habitat that meets the needs

Setting up the new home for your pets goes far beyond choosing the right rat cage. But there are definitely the most failures to make:

  • Many new rat owners are not aware of the space rats need. The size should be at least 2 cubic feet per rat.
  • Aquarium tanks with a wire top are not suitable for rats. The ventilation is poor and ammonia build-up is only a matter of time. This can seriously harm the respiratory system of your new friends.
  • While wire is a good material for the sides and the top of a cage, the bottom must be solid. Rats have very sensitive feet and standing on wire leads to infections and bumblefoot.

Apart from the cage, there are some other things your rats need in their cage:

  • Bedding: we suggest to go with paper, it is cheap and can be changed frequently. Shavings like pine or cedar are toxic and harm the respiratory system.
  • Hiding place: Rats love to have a place where they can rest and sleep. 
  • Toys: Rats can be bored easily. Make sure they have several toys to play with. Rotate them often to offer even more enrichment. Make sure there is always a chewing toy available. This prevents chewing on the wire mesh and supports dental health.

A varied and healthy diet

Rats tend to be picky eaters and as omnivores, they need a good varied diet. Mainly there are 2 different types of products: block-type food and varied mixed food. Both come with pros and cons but most rat owners use the block formula.

The block type is highly processed, but all ingredients are processed to uniform kibbles. Even the pickiest rat has no choice to choose its favorite. The products are designed especially for rats, so you can be sure to meet the nutritional requirements.

The varied mixed food often leads to rats who eat only their 2 or 3 favorite ingredients. You can solve this problem by mixing both food types.

Additionally, rats need fresh foods and vegetables, only 80 % of their diet should be the above-described foods. Here you find some information about what rats can eat and what not.


Rats can be very good family pets. They love to be social and enjoy being around your family. Your kids will have a good time teaching them tricks or cuddling on the sofa. But don’t forget there is a lot of responsibility too. You need to make sure the environment meets the rats’ needs and one family member has to free up at least one hour per day for playtime.


Christian Steinmeier writes at about all kinds of pets. In his life, he gathered experience with dogs, various small pets, and fish. One of his goals is to make pet owners more aware of the needs of their pets.

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