Monday, February 23, 2015

12 Truths About Rats ... That No One Told You

I have had rats for about 6 months now, and they are my favorite pocket pet (other than a bearded dragon). A lot of the research I did before getting them didn't prepare me, so I want to share a few truths about the rats that I found out only through experience.

  1. You will have a new friend. Rats are so very social! They want to cuddle and spend time with you, once you are a part of their "pack". They also give tiny little kisses and have obvious signs of affection ... some even wag their tails. Seriously. You will know how much your rats love you.

  2. Your heart will break. Rats can live 2-9 years, but most seem to live 2-4, which means you will make friends fast and lose them relatively soon. Both genders are prone to tumors, females especially. You can minimize this risk by having her spayed. That being said, don't feel bad if you spoil them during their short time on earth with you. Even with tumors, they can live for years. Once it starts to hinder their life and begins to irritate them (sores, pain, etc.), then most people will have them put down.
    Labrador dogs are also prone to tumors, but that doesn't stop that dog's popularity!

  3. They can eat meat without turning viscous. Meat doesn't make rats viscious. They are natural omnivores, like bears, so they can eat almost anything you give them. There are a few exceptions, such as male rats can't eat citrus. Feeding rats through the bars will train them to bite at whatever gets shoved into their cage that way. Open the door to feed them food and treats. And don't hold them by their tail.

  4. You can never stay mad at them. Yes, they will chew through the toys you get them. Yes, they might be up all night running on a while. Yes, they are the darn cutest thing when they take a treat, run off and hide it, and come back for more.

  5. You will make friends based on who likes rats. Truth #1 rings louder here. If you have a best friend, you probably won't be hanging around people that have beef with them, think they are too ugly to be around, etc. There are always exceptions, but you learn pretty quick that rats are nothing to be ashamed of, so you don't want to feel ashamed of them. Just wait... you'll see.

  6. You will have many failed attempts at taking pictures of them and with them. In fact, you will be lucky to talk a selfie with them and see something other than a blur or a butt.

  7. Your facebook feed will be pictures of rats. If you have rats and you are not a part of The Rat Fan Club and Rats Are Awesome groups, get on it! People ask questions all the time about everything from health to requesting pictures of tiny rat feet. Every day, you will have dozens of adorable rat images on your feed. Its lovely, especially since the alternative is ads, memes and rants.

  8. They don't naturally like baths, but you can teach them to enjoy water. Don't ever just throw your rats into a bath. Even an inch of water they can't escape from will cause them stress (and little fear poops). There are easier ways to introduce them to water until they are worked up to swimming (if they like it). I hold my girls under a faucet and lather them up with natural no-tear baby shampoo if they start to smell funny. Animal-safe wipes are fine, too, but try to get natural.

  9. They are tremendously smart. If you have ANY doubts that a rat is smarter than your average dog, head over to YouTube and look up Rat Tricks.

  10. They need a pal. Again, Truth #1. A rat can become lonely and depressed if they don't have companionship. They love to ride on your shoulder and snuggle into a hoodie, so don't be bashful! Even if you have a few hours a day to spend with your rat, you should keep in mind that they are naturally nocturnal. Get them a friend. The mess isn't much bigger, and one more rat won't eat up much more food.

  11. They need to be out of the cage. Rats are smart and need stimulation. Being out of their cage gives them new textures to feel, new smells, new tunnels to explore.

  12. Each gender is unique in temperament and dietary restrictions. Like I mentioned with the food, male rats have certain things they can't eat. Neither gender should be getting candy or raw potatoes, among othter things. In regards to temperament, males seem to be more laid back and cuddly, but they are also more lazy ... er, harder to potty train, etc. Females are more high energy. My girls do cuddle, but when I take them out to cuddle, they normally want to run around for a good while before they are willing to settle down. Keep in mind these are generalizations from peoples' experiences; each rat is an individual with a unique personality.

    I know this isn't really a "normal" post for me, but its something that I've wanted to post for a while. Rats really are fantastic pets. As long as you clean out the cage at least once a week, you don't have to worry about any smell. Ferrets are way worse than rats in terms of smell. Rats are also the least aggressive of any pocket pet rodent. That means you are more likely to be bit by a rabbit or guinea pig than a rat. Huh.


  1. You always think of rats in a bad way, but the points you make, make them sound like cute animals :)


    1. They are fantastic creatures. On the pet rodent chart, they are actually the least aggressive (me and guinea pigs... we don't get along.) If you need more info (or just want to see adorable pics and hear heart-warming stories), check out the facebook groups. They are super informational.