What You Need to Know Before Owning a Pet Rat

pet rat

If you’ve only viewed rats as a pest, the idea of caring for them as a pet may be appalling. But cats, dogs, rabbits, and hamsters aren’t the only animals capable of being domesticated. Rats can be your best friend, too.

Domesticated rats can are unlike the invasive vermin that scuttles along your crawl spaces and ducts. You may imagine them as the typical filthy animal that inhabits damp and dark spaces, but in reality, rats are fastidious groomers too, like their feline nemesis. They’re also intelligent and capable of being trained like a pup.

But your concerns about living with a rat are well-placed. Having one rat at home may encourage other rodents to invade your dwelling, too. And if your rat mates with another one of its kind, you’d have a problem getting rid of it. After all, rats can act vengefully if you’ve threatened them.

So before owning a pet rat, note the following first:

1. They’re Low Maintenance

If you want a sweet and obedient pet that won’t require too much work to care for, a rat suits you. Since they groom a lot, you don’t need to bathe them as often. In fact, they can stay clean without bathing at all. But old, obese, ill, or arthritic rats may have trouble grooming themselves, so you’d have to help them by giving them occasional baths. Unaltered males who mark their territories with urine may need baths too, especially if they hop on your bed and/or kitchen counters.

2. Rats are More Intelligent Than People Give Them Credit For

A rat’s intelligence is the reason they’re often the animal used in psychological studies for understanding human behavior. Unfortunately, this puts them at a disadvantage as well, particularly with drug and cosmetic companies that use them for their laboratory tests. Hence, by adopting a rat, you can increase awareness about their brilliance and empathy, which may help put an end to laboratory tests harming rats.

Some tricks you can teach rats are fetching and catching an object. They can even learn how to drop a ball through a hoop, like parrots. Rats can also recognize their own names and respond to them. And when their fellow rats are distressed, they can sense it, and show them empathy.

rat in a cage

3. Rats are Nocturnal

Expect your pet rat to sleep all day, and stay awake all night. You may need to be a night owl to be able to bond with them. When they’re awake, they’d often run on wheels, chew on objects, or find another animal to play with. So make time for your rat every night, because once they fall asleep, they wouldn’t like being disturbed.

4. Rats Also Require Veterinary Care

Rats also need their health monitored periodically. Their veterinary needs can be as expensive as those of a cat or dog. They’re prone to upper respiratory infections, which are often fatal. That’s also a reason they shouldn’t bathe often; bathing affects their respiratory organs.

Vaccination, neutering, and spaying aren’t necessary for rats. To prevent them from contracting rabies and other diseases, take them to the vet periodically for a health examination. While they can be spayed or neutered, they might be too small for those procedures. If possible, just separate your female and male rats, or adopt two female rats. Two male rats housed together often fight, while their female counterparts usually get along well.

5. There are Different Breeds of Rats

Colors and sizes aren’t the only ones that distinguish rats from one another. They have breeds too. Fancy breeds include the curly-haired Rex, tailless and hairless rats, and the satin rats with a shiny coat. If you’re familiar with the breed that has large ears, that’s a Dumbo rat.

If you’re not particular with breeds, consider adopting a domestic one from a rescue shelter, or purchasing one from a local pet shop.

6. Rodent Extermination is Still Necessary

Rats are highly social, so if you let them roam around freely, they’d most likely find other rats to play with. But street and sewage rodents may carry bacteria and viruses that your rat can contract. So, protect them and your home by hiring rodent control services when necessary. Have it done before adopting your rat as well, so the other rodents won’t be attracted to your pet’s scent.

Caring for a pet rat is also as fulfilling and rewarding as caring for any other pet. They definitely don’t deserve the contempt they receive from most people, much less the harsh lab treatments done to them. By owning a pet rat, you can show the world how these animals can love humans back if we show them kindness.

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