Introduction: How To: Pet Rats

Picture of How To: Pet Rats

 Because rats are looked at so negatively by a lot of people I wanted to make an instructable on how to have rats as pets.

 Rats are considered an exotic pet and "gross" to some people and honestly, I would say the same thing about tarantula's. It's just not for me. However, they really make great pets. Rats are very intelligent, they love to learn tricks, and they can be super cuddly! Keep in mind though that every rat has a different personality just like your dog or cat, or whatever animal you might have. You can't expect each one to do the same thing or like the same things.

 The Perks:

 1. Smart
 2. Small
 3. Furry
 4. Litter Trained

The Cons:

 1. Short life spam
 2. Negative view

 Now let's get started.

Step 1: Research!

 It is very important to do a lot of research on what it means to have a rat as a pet. Because they are no common pets you probably won't know instinctively how to take care of one compared to say... a dog or a cat.

 Prior to getting my rats I did research on WHERE TO BUY, How big of a cage they need, what they eat, health conditions and life length, and how many to have.

 There are some good websites to check out VIA Google.


Step 2: Where to Buy.

Picture of Where to Buy.

 This topic is highly debated and argued about by many rat owners.


The BEST PLACE to buy your pet rats is from a breeder who only breeds rats as PETS. Just like any other animal there are bad rats and good rats. If you buy from a breeder you are mostly likely going to get a healthy and very friendly rat.


 Another place you can buy your rats from is a shelter. Many people give their animals to shelters when they are no longer able to care for their pets. You would be surprised how many pet rats are left at shelters. This can be a good and bad place to buy your rats. In this case you may run into older/more aggressive rats and health conditions, just like ANY OTHER ANIMAL you might get from a shelter. If you are new to rats, I would not recommend this option unless you are very good with animals. You might get lucky and acquire a great friend, but you also might encounter some issues.

 Pet Store:

 This is the most highly debated option for buying your pet rats. Why? Because just like any pet store your pet rat comes from a pet mill that probably doesn't take good care of its rats. They may have mites or other health conditions as they are bred for MONEY, not care. However, I have two pet rats from a pet store that sold them as pets and the only issue I've come across is mites, which are extremely easy and cheap to treat, about $5 to be exact.


 Yes. Rats are sold as food for snacks. Why? I still don't know. Gerbils and Hamsters are stupid, so why not use them instead? Okay okay, I'll be nice. ;)

 You can buy your pet rat from a pet store that sells them as food. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS. You may feel like you are rescuing them, but you will run into a lot of problems. I have/had two pet rats this way, one of which I had to give away because I could not stop him from biting me. The other I still have. However, he gets in moods, just like an aggressive dog of cat might, where you can only pet him once or twice and then he'll back up. He warns you, but if you continue chances are he will bite. It's just a warning bite, he doesn't draw blood, but this is caused from him being bred and stuck with other rats in an aquarium where they are treated like CRAP. He is a great pet, but again, not recommended for those that are new to or not good with pets.


Step 3: What Type of Cage and Accessories?

Picture of What Type of Cage and Accessories?

 Cage Calculater:

 Space Needed: 2-2 1/2 cubic feet per rat (Males need the larger amount of space)

 There are several types of cages you can buy for your rats, however, I recommend making one if you don't want to spend the money buying one.

 Most rat enthusiasts recommend Martin's Cages which are built specifically for rats. You can also get them a really nice cage such as a Ferret Nation/Critter Nation. We can all dream, right? :P


1. HAMMOCKS. Your rat needs hammocks and they are easy peasy to make. You can buy them, but again, expensive! I've sewn mine some nice ones, but if you don't know how to sew (learn) you can use old t-shirts, pant legs, rats, etc.

 2. CLIPS. You need a way to hang your hammocks. Easy! Just go to the bathroom section where the shower curtains are and get some shower curtain hooks, the cheap kind. You don't need anything fancy.

 3. BOXES! Ratties just looooove boxes. They are an easy toy and you can use old tissues boxes, cereal boxes, or any kind and cut holes, tape them together and WALA! A rattie apartment complex.

 4. CHEW LOG. Rats teeth grow... and grow... and grow. They never stop. They must have something to chew on and this will keep them from chewing on other things such as their hammocks or cage. You can get one at Walmart of Petsmart for pretty cheap.

 5. WATER BOTTLE, FOOD BOWL, LITTER BOWL. This is pretty self explanatory, but I recommend getting something with high walls for your litter and food bowl. It will keep it from getting everywhere. The water bottle should attach on the side of the cage. A bowl won't work as they will just drag stuff into it and get the water dirty.

Step 4: Food They Need.

Picture of Food They Need.

 They are many options for food as rats can eat anything, but you want them to get the right amount of nutrition in their diet.

 Harlan Lab Blocks are an option.
 Suebee's Rat Diet which can be found online.

 You can buy food at the petstore, but it's not the right amount of nutrition they need. They also need to be fed:

 Fresh vegetables and fruit daily:

 Carrots, green beans, apples, banana's, etc.

 *NOTE* Rats can pretty much eat anything we can, but keep in mind what is healthy for US and most likely that is what they should eat. This is something you should do more research on. If you make the mix yourself (Suebee's Rat Diet) you will save A LOT of money. A lot. Just put the mix into large containers and you're done! :)

Step 5: Health Conditions and Life Span.

Picture of Health Conditions and Life Span.

 Find a good vet:

 Finding a good vet that has dealt with rats is a plus. You can call around in your area and you should ask some questions before you make a decision.

 Rat Illness':

 If you feed your rats right, give them attention, and they get daily exercise they will live a lot longer and have less health problems. However, you should be aware of health problems they may get.

 Mites are fairly common, but they are easy to cure. A little Ivermectin, which you can get online or at a farm store will fix this. Just a small dot the size of a grain of rice once a week for three weeks should cure it.

 Respiatory Problems can problems can be caused from too much dust or a type of bedding or litter you are using. DO NOT USE PINE OR SCENTED BEDDING.  Towels work great and they love to dig in them or you can use Yesterday's News.

 Bumblefoot is common with wire bottom cages. It is easy to cover these wire levels with material. You can tie them on pretty easily as well.

 Tumors, cancer, and other more serious illness' should be consulted with your vet. These can be better avoided by proper feeding and care.

Step 6: Cage Mates.

Picture of Cage Mates.

 Rats need friend. Getting one rat isn't really a good idea, but it can be done with a lot of attention and play time with it's owner.

 2 or more is usually the rule and your rat will be a lot happier. Many rat owners have as much as 8 or 9 rats, sometimes more. Remember though that this will require more food, more poo cleanup, more space for a cage, and more vet bills.

 Introducing New Rats:

 When introducing a new rat they should be quaranteed from the others for at least 2 weeks to make sure they are healthy. When introducing it may take a few days or even weeks to get them all in one cage. Be patient. Would you want to live with someone you met that same day? So be patient and give them play time together for at least an hour each day and try and expanding that time each day.

 If you have problems such as aggression with each other you may be forced to keep them seperate.

Step 7: Behavior.

Picture of Behavior.

 As I mentioned with purchasing your rat this will have a lot to do with their behavior. Aggressive rats should be seperated from the others and worked with one on one with you.

 Males tend to be more cuddly and females tend to like to learn new tricks... or so I am told. I've only had males!

 Biting is NOT NORMAL. If your rat is biting you need to spend more time with him and find out when it happens and why. If it continues you may want to keep him seperate from the others and find someone that is good with aggressive animals.

Step 8: Litter Training.

Picture of Litter Training.


 This is pretty simple. Buy a bowl or use a large tuple ware container and put litter in it. For litter you will want to use YESTERDAY'S NEWS or small animal litter which is a bit more expensive, but works great. Start by putting their litter bowl in the corner they most poop in. Put their "raisens" in the litter bowl each time you see them not in the litter. You can also put little treats in their litter to encourage them. Be consistent with putting their poo in the litter and this will keep them from pooping other places. I found that the small animal litter made them poo there AUTOMATICALLY. I didn't have to do anything! It worked great, but unfortunately it got expensive. Using Yesterday's News was cheaper, but required more work to get them to poop there instead of everywhere else.


 Peeing... unfortunately your rats will pee everywhere. It's how they mark their territory. Fortunately they don't pee in large puddles. It's easy to clean up. At the end of the day take a wet clothes or lysol wipes and wipe down the levels of their cage.


alsdaratlover (author)2017-02-09

hi guys im new to rats and I relly want two what gender do you reccomend

qultiq (author)2009-10-27

I had 13 at one time. Built a huge cage that took up one of my bedrooms.
I also used SueBees food recipe. If I remember it cost about $25 for a months worth of food.

komecake (author)qultiq2009-12-07

 I would love to have a rat room, but I honestly don't need one with only 3 rats. It would be fun to make and decorate though. :)

ChristianK5 (author)komecake2015-02-12

what would you think coffee would do to a rat?????

i have to do a science project and im having two rats and one is going to be drinking coffee

how would you think that would turn out????

ElizabethW54 (author)ChristianK52016-03-05

I have a male rat and he loves coffee

he can smell i and tries to get out of cage to get it it's kind of funny because the are not how to have coffee my four-year-old accidentally knocked on my copy off on to the table and my rack taste of it now he's adjective to it

Zaphod Beeblebrox (author)qultiq2009-10-27

wow 13 ,a room!!!!!! I WANT TO BE YOU SOOOO BAD!

ElizabethW54 (author)2016-03-05

I have for baby rats and I have to take care of them but I can't get them to eat every 3 hours like it says what should I do

EverythingAbby (author)2015-02-22

I'm a little confused, when you say negative view as a con, what do you mean?

I think the author meant that society has a negative view of rats. They're seen as dirty pests that cause infestations. This isn't necessarily accurate, as rats are the sweetest, cleanest rodents I've ever come across - but I'm guessing if I asked my landlord, they would balk at the idea of a tenant having pet rats.

One con I would add to the list is that skin allergies to rats are very common! I personally am allergic. My understanding is that because rat claws are very small and sharp, they cause tiny cuts that let rat dander affect human skin far easier than cat or dog dander.

cp062500 (author)2014-09-29

Do you have a masked rat? Only wondering because I think they are super cool.

komecake (author)cp0625002014-09-29

I had a masked rat named Jasper at one point, yes. :)

cp062500 (author)2014-09-29

Sorry last question. Do you know of any breeders in Missouri? I'm hoping to get a pair of rats and am having no luck finding any. I am thinking about rescue rats and if not maybe feeder rats because I know a place that has rats in decient living conditions. I will to chain stores for I have learned the truth recently. But still I really want rats and would like suggestions.

komecake (author)cp0625002014-09-29

I don't know any breeders in that area as I live in Florida. I wouldn't recommend feeder rats. I have rescued them before and they did not make good pets. Very skiddish and hard to train. I would buy from a breeder or a pet store or rescue them from a shelter.

cp062500 (author)2014-09-29

Also can I use bedding if I chose to? And how do you feel about hay? For rats, of course.

komecake (author)cp0625002014-09-29

Be careful which bedding you use as rats can get upper respitory infections very easily. I didn't use bedding at all and I don't remember which ones are safe, so do some research on it first! Yesterday's News would work okay. I used it for litter though.

garysan68 (author)2014-06-08

rats are great. I stopped feeding the bigger ones to my snake because they are smart and can be very defensive even against a 4 foot python! my rat was "willamina " and she was one of my best and most memorable pets.

coralskye (author)2014-04-10

I don't know if anyone said this but always have at least two rats.

HorseGirl774 (author)2013-07-15

This is so awesome. I want to be a rat!

Skye2171 (author)2013-06-08

Sharmie is right you can't feed them that kind of food

kauaileslie (author)2010-04-18

 Had a pet rat (gave to friend as I was allergic) "Sushi".  Just want to mention to those of you who are thinking of getting one. They are sweet, but are extremely destructive if you let them run around like we did.  Lamps didn't work and when we looked at the cord, chewed... lots of electrical cords destroyed from Sushi.  Just be aware.  Sweet though...

Kris T. (author)kauaileslie2013-05-22

I guess I was extremely lucky with my little guy; he never chewed on anything in my room. The only problem I had with him was that he would climb up my leg to jump up to the desk and pee on whatever I was drawing. He was my toughest critic apparently. :/

komecake (author)kauaileslie2010-04-18

  Of course. You need to keep them in a cage, and IF you let them out, you need to watch them. They don't like wires because of the noise they give off. You ever hear that high pitched noise coming from electrical appliances in the house? It drives them nuts.

 I like the name Sushi btw. Very cute! :)

poikilotherm (author)komecake2012-03-24

One of my rats completely severed a telephone cord once. We have to remove all of the live electric cords from their reach before we let them run free; otherwise they will electrocute themselves.

romoshka (author)2010-06-19

While this may irritate all of the rat owner/lovers here, as I buy rats to feed my snakes, I have one question for you guys. How do you control the very pungent odor? I transport my feeder rats in aerated 3lb coffee cans and they only spend 10-20 minutes in them but the stench is awful.

geek65535 (author)romoshka2013-03-20

Buy from a better breeder would be my guess. While rats, like many animals, have a natural smell, unless you are very, very sensitive, it just shouldn't be an awful stench. If they really smell that bad, chances are your source is treating them poorly.

I don't take offense to your feeding rats to your snakes (I have a snake that eats mice). But if you know they're going to have a short life, and least find a breeder that will make it a pleasant one.

Sharmie (author)2010-12-28

I'd just like to point out that rats CANNOT eat 'anything'
chocolate, raw beans, carbonated drinks, sweet potato, blue cheese, raw brussel sprouts, raw artichokes, orange juice, green bananas, green potato skin and eyes, rhubarb, dried corn, cucumber, radishes,collards, turnip greens, beets, poppy seeds, raw onion and apple seeds are just a few off the top of my head.

SIRJAMES09 (author)Sharmie2011-07-21

is this stuff you mentioned like poisen to them?? or it just makes them sick? explain pls.

I have never had a rat as a pet.

Totysheep (author)SIRJAMES092012-08-22

raw beans, raw potatoes/sweet/skin and eyes, raw rhubarband apple seeds are highly poisonous for rats AND people. Some fruits and veggies in exes will just give them diarhea: too much cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce and such. And some veggies are too irritating for tiny ratties, like: onions, radish, turnipgreens, collards(and other cabbage like greens), garlic, poppyseeds and other 'spicy' food. Carbonated drinks, chocolate and cany is just bad in general

komecake (author)Sharmie2010-12-28

That's not true. There is a list of things they cannot have, but then there are a few things you should only feed in moderation. For example, dark chocolate can be given to them in moderation, say like once every few months and only a very small amount. Carbonated drinks, however, are a NEVER. Boiled peanuts or uncooked corn are also a no, but roasted peanuts are okay. I mean... chicken bones are supposed to be okay and they really like them, but I'll never give them to them again. I dunno how they're okay if it makes their poo runny and stick horribly. So... I guess it just depends on where you look and research and how much you pay attention to your rats reaction to a particular food you give them. I'd assume if you're going to have rats that you'd research all of this first! Or at least... I'd hope. Thanks for your input. :)

brain_bomb (author)2009-11-16

 Did you just say that you can use old rats to make hammocks for your new ones?

poikilotherm (author)brain_bomb2012-03-24

That is hilarious!

komecake (author)brain_bomb2009-11-16

  LOL. Omgosh, I did! That's too funny. Haha.

poikilotherm (author)2012-03-24

We got our rats from a shelter. They had come from a special rat breeder, and had been given to a family, but it didn't work out for the family so they gave it to the shelter. Then we got it from the shelter. Those rats have been the sweetest little things I have ever seen. And they are humongous.

zebragrrl (author)2010-10-10

The basic rules are simple enough, in terms of feeding your rats, and they really will eat just about anything, but they love crispy crunchy things that they can hold in their paws (so make sure the pieces aren't much bigger than a bottle cap). If a garden-raiding squirrel would like it, chances are good that a rat will too, so squirrel food (in your garden center) is a "good cheap base" to start with if you're mixing your own rat food for the first time.

But if you really want to get on your rat's good side, Go to the bulk food section of your local "bag your own groceries" store, and get a little bit of just about every dried fruit, seeds, granola, and nuts, and probably a little bit of dry cat/dog food.. just to balance everything out.. Mix it all up in balanced quantities, then give her some in her dish. See which things disappear quickest. Be sure to mix in extra of those things next time. (for my rat, it was Banana Chips and Pumpkin Seeds). I tried to avoid giving her "sticky" or "candied" dried fruits.. because I was a bit worried about giving her too much sugar too often, but I did occasionally toss in some Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch as a treat.. cause she really liked it.

komecake (author)zebragrrl2010-12-28

I do a lot of crunchy things too, but my rats really LOVE frozen vegetables and cottage cheese in the summer. Also, I bake up some oats with cuts up fruits and they love that, or just cooked oats with cut up veggies or fruits in it. They'll eat just about anything really, but they're all different. One of my old men doesn't like his normal feed and won't eat a lot of it. He's super picky and often will only eat the oats. Haha.

poikilotherm (author)komecake2012-03-24

My rats like to drink coffee (I am not kidding!) and they love espresso beans. It makes them a little more energetic. They also LOVE vichyssoise and dried banana chips. We keep the banana chips in a drawer, and whenever the drawer is opened the rats recognize it and run to the door of the cage to await their treats.

TheJenx (author)2011-08-15

Great guide! I've had rats for a while and they're my favourite pets. But I've been having a problem with the latest rats-- I don't know who started it, but one of them has decided she needs to pee on EVERYTHING to mark her territory and the others have followed suit. This is ok for shelves and most things which can be wiped down, but the problem has spread to the food dish and their chew logs. Not so good. Any idea how to stop this?

komecake (author)TheJenx2012-01-07

From what I know, you cannot stop this. It's just what they do. I just use pan liners, that I cut to fit from fleece material I buy at the craft store, and wash those once a week when I clean their cage. I don't worry about the chew toys. They really don't need cleaned, but I do wipe everything down and clean their food bowls and litter out. It would be great if they didn't pee everywhere though!

SIRJAMES09 (author)2011-07-21

I have lots of Maple Trees around my house, & was wondering why can I not just cut a piece of Maple for them to chew on???

jany (author)2011-07-14

I am VERY impressed with your ideas and condo like home. I must do something fun for my guy. Hugs. Jan

Crystalline_Chaos (author)2010-07-12

I love rats! They are just simply adorable! I have probably had at one time over 16 rats in my house thanks to Tammy. Tammy was very special to me, she never bit me, not even as a mistake. She was very careful. When she had her babies, 14 at one time mind you. She would let me hold them as pinkies and she would hop up on my shoulder and give me a lick on the cheek. Tammy was very precious and well behaved too she wouldn't go far when I let her on walks out of her cage. I just wish they would live longer.

KoreanPup (author)2010-06-24

Rats have a TON more pros to them than just those 4!! RATS A AMAZING PETS!!!

komecake (author)KoreanPup2010-06-28

Oh, I agree! I could go on and on about my babies. :)

Eric95 (author)2010-04-03

 Lol, I have 6 rats. They're loads of work, but I love them!

komecake (author)Eric952010-04-18

  Omgosh, yes. I only have 3 right now, but I want mooooore!

LisaYum (author)2009-12-06

I know this isn't really what your 'ible is about, but my dad is thinks rats can eat everything. And well, they can, but it doesn't mean it's healthy for them and he doesn't get it. He keeps feeding them the leftovers of high fat meals he has and he says he's not going to stop. And I can't make him stop either.
He just doesn't get it even after I explain rodent obesity. I don't know what to do with him.

Also, I'm a second time rodent owner, first time rat owner. I have two rats. One is big, (Cecilia)  the other is small (Matilda). Matilda stores her food, and Cecilia steals it. I don't know who's the normal size and if Matilda is eating enough @_@

Sorry to bother you but these issues have been haunting me

komecake (author)LisaYum2010-02-10

  I thought I'd replied to this already, but I guess it never posted.

 I have the same problem at home. My mother's bf likes to give them highly fattening foods. The best thing you can do is to counteract that with healthy foods like carrots and some fruits, etc. When you see the junk food in their cage, take it out. Doing little things like that will help.

egadsman (author)2009-12-07

hi, im considering having a pet rat in my bedroom because i think they owuld make quite a good pet, my only concern is that ive been told by a few people that they smell bad, and my mother is a bit of a clean frek, so is there any methods in which i can reduce smell or is it just inevitable? also, would you suggest buying a cage from a store or building one yourself?

komecake (author)egadsman2009-12-07

  Male rats have more of an odor than female rats. I really don't have a problem with mine though, but I bathe them every couple of weeks or like before a new person comes over.

 Keeping their cage clean is the trick. Rats are VERY clean animals, and like cats, do not like a dirty environment. You can do this by having a litter bowl for them to poop in, but they will still pee everywhere else. For this I use towels and just change them out every few days. You can also wipe down the levels and spot clean daily. I have really bad allergies myself so I can tell really quickly when the cage needs cleaned. 

 I built this cage, but I actually have a Ferret Nation by Midwest now. It's much bigger and it's all metal, so I don't have to worry about it getting chewed through or smelling bad. With wood and plastic you are out a downfall because these materials soak up the smell of what is around them... meaning pee and poop. It's inevitable that eventually you will have to get a new cage or it will stink a lot.

 Cage Suggestions?: Martin's Cages-

 Honestly? You'll spend the same price on one of these cages as you will at Petsmart. You're looking at around $100 for a new cage for at least 2-3 rats (please get at least 2). Rats are very social animals.

 I use Lysol wipes to wipe down the levels on their cage or when they play on top of the dresser. They work great! Just make sure your rats don't lick the Lysol. It's not likely... but you never know. Lol.

 In conclusion: Just like any other pet, you need to keep their cage or play area clean. Rats themselves are NOT dirty animals and rarely smell. In fact, my rat Beemer ALWAYS smells good, Cupcake normally smells like pee, and Williard... well you never know. LOL. They are constantly cleaning themselves though and smell no worse than cats or dogs.
 Males can develop an orange liquid on their skin. Just wipe them down with a damp cloth. If you want to bathe them, you can do so, but expect patience on your part and a freak out on theirs. I have learned methods in which work really well with my rats. I actually want to do an Instuctable on that if I can get someone to take pictures for me. :)

Zaphod Beeblebrox (author)2009-10-27

i had 1 when i was like 4 or 5 his name was none   (pronounced: Knoe-knee)

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