Of all of the animals we carry in Critter Corner’s Small Animal Room, rats evoke the biggest reaction. Most people who see pet rats for sale cringe at the idea of having one in their home, let alone as a well loved companion. Who would want a pet rat? What could you possibly get out of having a pet rat? Well, despite the stereotype of rats being flea carrying bringers of disease, domesticated pet rats are clean, intelligent, personable animals that rarely bite, can be trained to do tricks, and make wonderful pets for gentle children and adults alike.
Having had several pet rats, I’ve found them to be one of the best small pets I’ve ever had. They don’t get frightened easily, and they are very friendly when handled regularly. They don’t have the “mousey” smell of a lot of rodents, and they have so much more personality. My two favorite rats were Piper and Caesar, who I would let free roam about my living room and bedroom. They were “potty trained” and would scamper back to their cage to do their business, instead of leaving it drop wherever they went. Piper was a prankster, and liked to play tag with me. Her favorite activity was hiding under the couch and beneath cushions. She would wait until I was no longer looking for her, and then sticking her cold nose against my leg to give me a jump. She’d bound away like a bunny, expecting me to chase her, and it would go on for hours if I’d let it. Caesar, who I still have, though he is very old, goes underneath the furniture and retrieves cat toys that my Bengal, Sookie absently bats out of human (and feline) reach. Wherever there is a lost toy, Caesar is sure to find it! All of my rats have been extremely affectionate and loved to groom and lick me. When happy, they will begin chattering their teeth lightly, a behavior known as “bruxing”. Bruxing is the equivalent of a cat purring contently and it is very pleasant to hear.
The average adult rat grows to be about a foot long including the tail and may weigh up to a pound. Every animal is different, and depending on genetics and diet, some may end up smaller or larger. There are many breed variations of rats, including but not limited to dumbos, rexes, double rexes, hairless, mock hairless, satins, even tailess! Dumbos are a favorite among rat fanciers because of their endearing expressions. The ears of a dumbo rat are rounder and set lower on the head, earning them their name. Dumbo rats can come in any color and hair type as well. There are thousands of color patterns and markings that rats can come in that may resemble the markings of purebred cats and dogs. Just a few examples are Siamese, Himalayan, merle, agouti, blue, mink, and Dalmation. Professional rat keepers who show rats, that’s right, show rats, take pride in breeding for color, temperament, size, and genetic purity. Your average run of the mill pet store rat will not be as fancy as a show rat, but occasionally, stunning colors and patterns will show up at That Fish Place, so keep your eyes open!
Rats are very social creatures that benefit greatly from having a companion. My rats have always been kept in pairs. They always are grooming each other and sleeping snug up inside their hammock together!
Rats are very social creatures that benefit greatly from having a companion, so you may plan to keep at least two. Introduce the pair (preferably between 4-6 weeks of age) to ensure they bond and no fights break out. Introducing adult rats that are not accustomed to each other can result in severe injury to one or both of your pets. Consider keeping rats of the same sex as well. As fun as the idea of breeding rats and raising babies may seem, it is not healthy for a female rat to go through continuous pregnancies. As long as there is a male present, a female rat will get pregnant every 20-25 days, whether she is still caring for a litter or not. This is extremely taxing on her body. Producing milk for a litter as big as 15 hungry pups while another litter is developing inside her depletes her system of nutrients, weakens her bones, and shortens her life. A female rat with babies may also become aggressive and could bite out of protective maternal instinct, even if she is normally incredibly friendly.
Once the babies are old enough to leave the nest, she will be back to her old self. What about her pups? Do you have a plan for finding them homes? If you cannot get rid of your pups soon enough, they will breed with each other resulting in more pups, many that may have health issues resulting from inbreeding. If you must keep a male and female rat together, opt to have one or both of them fixed. I had my male rat, Caesar neutered at 4 months of age, and it cost about $140, but was well worth it.There are many vets who deal with exotic animals that will be able to neuter or spay your rats. It is usually best for you and your pet if they are not allowed to breed.
Be sure to come back for part 2 of this blog! I’ll tell you all about what you need to keep pet rats happy in your home.
Hairless Rat image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Alma 1980
American Blue Rat image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Barbara b