Caring for your pet rat

Rats make good pets for children as they are friendly, easy to handle, highly intelligent and can be trained... 

They are very social animals and love to have a companion. They pose no more of a health risk than other common pets. There is a great variation in colouring, markings, body and coat types.


Heart rate: 130-190 beats per minute.

Body temperature: 38.0° Celsius.

Life expectancy: 2-5 years.

Sexual maturity: 6 weeks (for male and female).

Pregnancy: 24-26 days.

Litter size: 3-6 kittens.

Weaning: 4-5 weeks of age.


As they spend a lot of time in their cage, buy as large a cage as possible. It should have a surface area of at least 40cm x 80cm. Rats love to play and to climb, so a cage with different levels is necessary. As rats are very clean animals, they will use a small litter tray (filled with cat litter) as their toilet. A variety of toys are available to put in the cage, most of which are also suitable for ferrets. Tunnels, hammocks and ropes are the favourite ones.

Make sure that there is a dark area for bedding as rats like to sleep in dark places. For bedding, you can use wood-based cat litter or special unperfumed rat bedding.


The best time to feed your rat is in the evening. They should have daily:

Rat Mix - good-quality food is Reggie Rat or Burgess Supa Rat.

Fresh Water - changed daily.

Treats - raisins, plain popcorn, yoghurt drops for hamsters.

Fresh Vegetables/Fruit - small portions of carrots, apple, grapes, strawberry, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower and tomato.

Buying A Rat

As they are very sociable animals, you must choose at least two rats (same sex to prevent babies!) preferably from the same litter.

The rats should be friendly and have a nice, shiny coat without bald patches or crusts. Red staining around the eyes/nose is a sign of an underlying illness so do not buy them. They should not sneeze or wheeze.

In general, males are less active then females.

Common Problems


Mange is a tiny parasite that lives in the skin. It is characterized by dry, scaly skin, open wounds and scratching. It is treated with a spot-on preparation.

Sneezing, Wheezing

Rats are very prone to developing respiratory problems. Sometimes it is caused by the bedding but most of the time, it is infection related. An antibiotic course will commonly keep it under control.


From 1 year old, rats can develop tumours. They can be benign or malignant. Early surgical intervention can be beneficial.