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Pet Rats - Information to Train and Care for your lovely rats!

Pet Rats

Despite popular belief, rats aren’t disease-ridden, dirty creatures that bite and scratch – in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Domesticated rats make clean, friendly, playful, quiet, inexpensive, low-maintenance and entertaining pets that are often described as miniature dogs.

Rats are suitable for children and adults alike. Rats are friendlier than hamsters, gerbils and mice – pet rats are sociable creatures that simply love company. Rats can also be taught tricks, such as to come when called and to hop through a hoop. Your pet rats can even be house-trained! (See: Toilet/Potty/Litter Training Pet Rats)


About Pet Rats Info behaviour and care

Female rats can get pregnant as young as 5 weeks of age and can reproduce young four to six times a year. There are usually four to ten young in one litter. Female rats go into heat every 4 to 5 days. Unlike other mammals, there is no discharge from them during their heat cycle. One female can wean about twenty young a year. Baby rats wean at a minimum of 4 weeks.

Rat Sizes

Length: About - 6-10 inches (15-21 cm.) long (not including the tail)

Weight: About - 6-18 ounces 170-500 grams)
Males are usually larger than females. Males can weigh up to 2 pounds (.9 kg.) but typically way less.


Unfortunately a rat's life span is quite short. On average rats live 1.5 - 3 years. In rare cases they can live up to 4-5 years. The oldest reported rat in the "The Guinness Book of World Records" was 7 years 4 months old.

In the rat world community if you have a rat make it to 3 years old you are considered lucky, anything over that and you are considered very, very lucky! If possible try to get the exact date of birth of your pet from the place you are acquiring them from. Having an exact birth date can be helpful for celebrating rat birthdays and determining their age.

Determing A Rat's Age

Rats under 6 months old have a small pointy head/nose, while older adult rats have a larger wider (fatter) head.

At the end of a rat's tail, sometimes there will be a little "pointy tip". Usually if there is a "pointy tip" on your rat's tail, it means that your rat is still growing and is probably under 6 months old. However, this is not true in all cases, as some rats have "pointy tip" on their tails their whole lives, while others lose the "pointy tip" once they are fully grown.

Rats under 6 months old are very active and love to run around, as rats get older around 8 months they tend to become fatter & lazier. (especially true with males. Females tend to stay energetic.)

Handle Your Pet Rats

The more attention you give your new rats when you first get them home, the sooner they will get used to your voice and your smell and begin to make friends with you. Handle your rats as much as possible, whether they seem to like it or not at first -- they will soon learn to enjoy your company.

Unless a rat is very nervous or unwell, you cannot give it too much attention or handling. One good way of getting your rats used to you is to let them ride around the house on your shoulder or inside your sweater.

Rats should not be picked up by the tail -- they don't like it, and it can cause injury. It is best to lift your rats by placing one or both hands under the chest, behind the front legs -but be careful not to squeeze!

Rat skeleton in museum


Rats generally do not bite, contradictory to what most people believe. However, pregnant rats or rats with babies will be more territorial and more prone to bite.

Rats may also bite if they smell food on you, but in truth, they would more likely lick you. One of my pet rats is called Coffee. Once I had some peanut butter under my nail when I went to pick up Coffee but he was more interested in getting the peanut butter from under my nail. He didn't bite me, he was just nibbling on my nail and tugging on it trying to get the peanut butter!

If your rat has a problem with biting and nipping, read the article on Pet Rats Which Bite and Nip

Body of the Rat

Cute pet rat

Pet rats come in many different colours and with many different coat patterns. Did you know that you can get a Dalmation coated rat? Read more on Different Rat Coats and Colours.

A lot of people are put off by the long tails that rats have. Did you know rats make use of their tail to balance and to cool themselves down? It's covered by many little hairs which help control the temperature of the rat. Personally, I think their tails are the best part.

Rats clean themselves about as much as cats do. My pet rats spend a third of their time cleaning themselves and each other. So, against common belief, rats are very clean.

Also to note, males are a lot bigger in size than females and have large genital sacks.

Rat Talk

You know in movies where you come to a scene of a big under ground sewer pipe and there are heaps of squeaky rats? Well guess what? It's impossible for that squeaky noise to be real. Rats simply do not sound like that and are not that noisy.

Simply put, rats are generally quiet. Here is a list of the sounds pet rats make, and what they mean:

  • Short, Sharp squeak = Pain
  • Quiet, whiny squeak = Irritation
  • Bark type squeak = Surprise
  • Chattering teeth = Excitement
  • Grinding teeth (Bruxing) = Contentment

Meaningful Lives For Your Pet Rats

I feel sad when I think about when I have to say good-bye to my beloved ratties. However, you can certainly extend the life-span of your pet rats by giving them a good quality of life.

This doesn't mean that you pamper them with a lot of chocolate and cheese though. Feeding your pet rats with the right amounts of healthy balanced food (See: Recommended Rat Diet), giving them clean living conditions (See: Cleaning Your Pet Rats' Tank/Cage), showering them with a lot of TLC, and providing a stimulating lifestyle are the best things you can offer your rats.

Always talk to them, pet them and play with them! Make a maze, or even an assault course (See: Pet Rats Toy Ideas) and reward your ratties with treats. Remember that rats are really fast learners, so try not to insult their intelligence! last updated 1 Oct, 2017


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