Jessica is an experienced pet mom with dogs, cats, rats, fish, axolotls, a
gecko, chickens, and ducks.
Rats are smart and highly social, so why wouldn’t you want one to look after?
Owning a Rat as a Pet
When people think of small pets they often think of hamsters, gerbils, and
guinea pigs before they think of rats, but rats are awesome pets that should
not be overlooked! From their intelligence to their cute little faces, rats
prove that great pets can come in small packages.
Rats Have Big Personalities
Rats make awesome pets because they are full of personality. They are often
compared to dogs because of how social, cuddly, and smart they are. Each rat
is an individual; some just want to cuddle on the couch or in a hammock all
day, and some want to run around, play, and explore. Male rats are known to be
more snuggly, while female rats are known to be more rambunctious, but of
course, there are exceptions to this.
Although they all have different personalities, a common trait is being good-
natured. Rats are known to bond very strongly with their owners. Many rats
will ride along on their owner’s shoulders, or spend lots of time cuddling.
The bond you experience with rats is very to the bond between a person and a
dog or cat.
My rat Matthias enjoying being social.
They Are Super Smart
Rats are way smarter than you might think. They have complex social dynamics,
seem to have emotional intelligence, are clean, and are even trainable! This
makes for a super-smart pet in such a small package!
Rats are social creatures, so it is important for them to live with at least
one other rat. You will see that they are incredibly social. They like to
snuggle, share, run around, and even communicate using high-frequency sounds.
They will play fight, and sometimes they use play fighting to establish
dominance. As long as there is no puffed-up hair, biting, or blood, this is
just normal rat behavior. It is actually helpful and natural for them to have
a pecking order when living in groups.
Rats have been shown to display empathy. A study published in 2011 conducted
by Inbal Ben-Ami, Jean Decety, and Peggy Mason working at the University of
Chicago showed that rats will free restrained companions even without any
training to do so. They will even choose to free another rat instead of
getting a treat. Freeing another rat instead of keeping all of the treats to
themselves shows that rats can be very empathetic!
Research has also shown that rats can laugh, and they laugh while they are
being tickled. These studies show that rats have complex emotions of empathy
Rats are very clean for rodents. They do not like to use the bathroom where
they sleep, and many of them will pick a specific area of the cage to go. It
is also possible to litter box train them. They spend a lot of time grooming
themselves, and they will also groom cage mates.
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Rats can learn to do a variety of tricks. They can do simple things like
learning to come when you call their name and learning to ride on your
shoulder, but they can also learn tricks that are much more complex. They can
learn tricks like learning to stand, jumping through hoops, or running through
a maze or obstacle course. Rats love their humans and they are extremely food
motivated, so you can train them easily with positive reinforcement and
They Don’t Like to Bite
In all of the years that I have owned rats, I have never had one bite me
aggressively. Most rats really do not like to bite people. Most of the time if
you are nipped by a rat, it is because they mistook your finger for food,
there was something on you that confused them (like a band-aid or glove), or
they were extremely scared. It is also possible to have a rat with hormonal
aggression, but this is pretty rare. For the most part, rats are very gentle
You Can Keep Them in Large Groups
It is totally ok to keep a rat with just one or two cage mates, but if you
want more, rats do very well in large colonies! It’s not uncommon for rat
lovers to keep six or more rats in a large cage. Some good rules of thumb when
keeping big groups of rats are:
- Make sure to socialize all new rats properly in a neutral area. There are several methods for socializing rats but it takes time. They will need to live separately from your other rats during this process.
- Make sure you have plenty of room for your rats. This rat cage size calculator will tell you how many rats can comfortably fit in your cage.
- Know that the more rats you have the more expenses you will have! Expect to pay more for food, bedding, and vet bills.
Rats love to cuddle with their cage mates.
Rats Are Quiet Pets
Rats do not make very much noise. They will squeak when they are playing, and
you may hear some rustling and chewing, but that is about the extent of their
noise. Most of the noises they make are in a range above normal human hearing.
A lot of their time is spent quietly snuggling with their cage mates. This
makes them great pets for places like apartments.
Rats are nocturnal, so they will spend most of the day sleeping. Most of the
noise they make would be in the evening, and this would be a great time to
take your rats out to play!
- Rat Personality, Intelligence, and Care
- Play, Tiff or Clash? Understanding Pet Rat Relationships
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It
is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription,
or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional.
Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a
© 2021 Jess H