Tips for Keeping Pet Rats

The pet rat is an intelligent and highly social pet that loves to interact and explore with its owners.

Sub-optimal housing conditions can trigger behavioral problems in small rodents such as pet rats. If the owners are comprehensively informed about the animal-friendly husbandry of their protégés, this also promotes their health.


Order rodents (Rodentia) – suborder mice relatives (Myomorpha) – family long-tailed mice (Muridae) – genus rats (Rattus) – species brown rat Rattus norvegicus

Life expectancy

about 21-48 months


after about 40-70 days


Today’s pet rat descends from the brown rat ( Rattus norvegicus ), which was originally found in East Asia. Due to their high adaptability brown rats are now spread almost worldwide. Domestication dates back to the 19th century when they were bred and used as experimental animals. Therefore, they are also referred to as “laboratory rats”. In the period that followed, more and more color variants (“pet rats) emerged through targeted breeding. After the particular popularity that the pet rat experienced through the punk movement of the 1980s, they are now firmly established as a popular pet in veterinary practices.

Social behavior

Rats are highly social and should be kept in groups of at least three. A solitary attitude is to be regarded as contrary to animal welfare. Rats exhibit many social behaviors such as crawling on top of one another, grooming one another, and lying together with physical contact. In terms of keeping conditions, pack keeping with a mixed age structure (especially for the males) is recommended. Young animals should always be integrated into a new group in pairs so that they have a play partner of the same age and socialization is easier. Territorial conflicts can be reduced through careful habituation training with scent exchange and assembly on “neutral terrain”.


The rat is an omnivore. While feral brown rats can live in sewers and landfills, that doesn’t mean you can feed pet rats waste and leftovers. According to the Animal Welfare Act, pet owners are obliged to feed their pets according to their species. Pet rats should therefore be given commercially available rat food as well as fresh vegetables and fruit. In addition, one should feed small amounts of animal protein, e.g. B. some boiled egg, a small piece of hard cheese, 1 teaspoon of natural yogurt, food from insects, or some dry dog ​​food (see also the recommendation of the TVT). You can also feed components that have a high gnawing requirement, for example, unpeeled nuts, uncooked noodles, and twigs from time to time so that the teeth that grow back can rub off.

The food should continue to be offered for employment purposes with food toys or hidden and distributed in the husbandry. Especially when kept in packs, several feeding and watering points must be made available to avoid conflicts


Since rats are usually very active, they need the largest possible housing facility with minimum dimensions of 100 x 50 x 100 cm (L x W x H) for up to three rats. A tower of at least 80 x 50 x 120 cm is also possible (TVT recommendation). Every housing facility should be equipped with a lot of environmental enrichment. These include, for example, several sleeping houses, ladders, ropes, hammocks, and a sand bath with chinchilla sand. But it also includes hay, straw, cardboard tubes, cellulose,e and various types of gnawing material. The higher-up sleeping huts are often preferred and must have a soft, padded floor (provide nesting material).

Since rats like to bathe and are good swimmers, you can set up shallow pools filled with water and offer them opportunities to swim. However, the animals must seek out the water voluntarily and are not simply placed in deep water and forced to swim. Therefore ramps are required. In nature, rats create a burrow about 40 cm deep, consisting of a very branched tunnel system, several nests and pantry chambers, and many blind tunnels. This should also be taken into account when keeping pets, e.g. B. by providing a large, deeply interspersed tub.

Due to the convex spine and long tails, common running wheels are unsuitable for rats and should be discouraged. Running or jogging balls are relevant to animal welfare. Due to their sensitive eyes, albino rats should not be exposed to direct sunlight/light and should be kept in darker rooms. This also applies to other albino animals.

Behavioral problems

Many possible behavioral disorders in rats are known from laboratory animal husbandry. Intraspecific aggression is common, especially when socialized or when housing conditions are suboptimal. Because laboratory animals are often not kept in a species-appropriate manner, abnormal-repetitive behaviors (ARV) are to be expected in many cases. But ARV can also be caused in pet keeping due to poor keeping conditions. These include auto-aggression, trichotillomania, fur-eating of conspecifics, scratching in corners, and gnawing on bars (not to be confused with demanding attention). Krone or cannibalism is also possible if the space is too small or if the occupation density is too high.

Frequently Asked Question

How smart is a rat?

Rats are intelligent, adaptable, have a sophisticated social structure, and are extremely keen to reproduce. That is why they have spread all over the world.

Are rats for beginners?

A small pack of at least 3 rats is ideal for beginners. For them to feel comfortable and secure with you, they need a comfortable home.

How do I tame my rat?

Try offering your rat a nut or a piece of fruit inside the cage. When things are going well, they eat out of your hand. If it doesn’t work the first time, be patient and slowly place the treat in the cage – she’ll go for it.

Rats are quiet, clean, and easy to maintain. They are sweet, smart, friendly, social, active, and very entertaining. You can keep your pet rat as healthy as possible by following the simple instructions below. Wild rats are burrowing, colonial animals.

What is the best way to keep rats?

If you like it quiet at night, you shouldn’t put the cage in your bedroom. Rats are wide awake at night, chasing each other through the cage or loudly gnawing on their interior. The cage should be cleaned at least once a week. Rats like it clean.

Can you cuddle with rats?

Speaking of cuddling: rats love to cuddle. So offer them at least one little house where they can all find space together. While you are welcome to exchange other items, the common sleeping house should always remain in the same place. heart and mind for animals.

Should you bathe rats?

Because rats keep themselves clean by extensively grooming their fur, they don’t need to, and shouldn’t, be bathed. It is nonsensical to want to bathe rats (especially the males) because of their species-specific odor.

How much sleep does a rat need?

The rat is a nocturnal animal and mainly sleeps during the day. Sleep recordings over 24 hours showed that the rat sleeps about 12 hours a day. Of these, ten hours are non-REM sleep and two hours is REM sleep.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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