Remember Ron Weasley’s pet rat – Scabbers – in the famous Harry Potter series? Although it may seem as though Ron is having a very easy time taking care Scabbers, having rats as pets actually requires considerable amount of work too. Before this article goes any further though, it should be clear that pet rats are not of the wild variety. Individuals couldn’t just catch a rat in their home and keep it as a pet. Instead, one should purchase what is called a “fancy rat” from a veterinarian since this is the type that is kept as a pet and free from diseases common in wild rats. In the Harry Potter series, the rat Scabbers was Ron’s pet for about 12 years. In truth, rats only have a life span of 2 years, which may extend to 5 if taken care of correctly. Unlike other small pets, rats love to be taken out of their cages and cuddled by their owners. They can also be very clean and fun to watch because of their high energy levels. They can grow as much as 8 to 9 inches long and would not bite if frequently handled. Males are bigger but the females are more energetic.

Why Choose Rats as Pets?

Rats offer the best of both worlds for pet owners since they may be cuddled when a person feels like it and brought back to the cage when the owner is busy. Unlike cats and dogs which would require constant supervision – rats are perfectly content occupying their small space for days provided there are more than one in a cage. Rats are very sociable and would get bored easily so having around three of them would be ideal. The fact that they are very clean also works on their favor. These rodents would choose a specific place to leave their droppings so owners wouldn’t have to worry about cleaning up after them. Their staple diet is also comprised of easily available items which make it trouble-free for the owner to keep stock.

Pet Rats for Kids

Kids around seven years old are already mature enough to keep rats as pets. What makes these rodents ideal for a kid is that they’re low maintenance and does not require the child to cater to them 24/7. Even better, children can pick up their pet rate and cuddle this whenever they like – something that children are very fond of. Rats are not prone to biting and are usually kept indoors. When choosing a pet rat, make sure to check out their coat and see if it is full and has a healthy shine. When picked up, it should be able to easily relax in the holder’s hands. If the rodent panics even after a few seconds of soothing then it might be best to settle for another more sociable rat. The skin should be free of redness with a well-groomed coat, clean ears, clear eyes, even breathing and a mouth with no sign of drooling.

Accessories for Pet Rats

Of course, like cats and dogs, pet rats also need a few things to keep them happy. Following are some of the items every rat owner should have.

  • Cage

The cage should be kept indoors and as big as possible. There are currently fancy rat cage calculators online that owners can utilize to estimate the size of the cage their rat would feel comfortable in. These rodents can live in an aquarium or cages made for rabbits, parrots or ferrets. When using an aquarium, there must be a wire mesh attached at the top to prevent the rats from escaping. However, most owners are discouraged from using an aquarium mainly because of poor ventilation. Owners should look for something durable and easy to clean especially since rats like to urinate all over the place. Ideally, the cages should be placed far from heat to keep the pet comfortable.

  • Bedding

Bedding may be anything from shredded cardboard, shredded paper, straw, hemp or even old clothes that are no longer used. Never use wood chips since this causes respiratory problems for the rat. These rodents love to play with their bedding and would often loll around in the cage in a flurry of energy.

  • Hidey Holes

Although not exactly necessary, hidey holes made from cardboard gives rats a sense of privacy whenever they want. The number of hidey holes may be equal to the number of rats in the cage.

  • Food and Water

One of the perks of having rats as pets is that they are not overly demanding when it comes to food and would eat almost anything. They’re especially fond of bananas, sweet corn, pasta, meat, chicken bones and eggs. Of course, there are currently rat feed being sold in most pet stores so owners wouldn’t have to worry about keeping a supply of fresh food to feed their pets. Water on the other hand must be kept available – preferably through gravity tubes which is available in most pet stores.

  • Rat Toys

Rats love to chew stuff and would be greatly appreciative of even a cardboard tube or empty tissue boxes to exercise their teeth on. Additionally, exercise wheels commonly used with hamsters may also be installed in a pet rat’s cage to keep them physically healthy.

Tips for Taking Care of Pet Rats

Rat Hygiene

Rats are basically clean but may be given baths if the owner chooses. The cage itself must be kept clean though and frequently washed as rat urine can smell bad.

Rat Droppings

Fairly smart, owners can place a small container with rat droppings inside and the rats would instantly label this area as their “bathroom”.

Visits to the Vet

Rats are prone to several diseases like skin infection, respiratory problems, dental disease and sometimes even cancer. For this reason, owners must bring the pet to the vet whenever they notice something off with the animal.