Five Things You Should Know About Rats (We Need to Stop Demonizing Rats)

I want to talk about five things you should know about rats to show how loving they can be as pets, and stop people demonizing the little pocket puppies! As a parent to five adorable little boys, it is important to understand the difference between each rats’ behaviour and how pet rats live out their daily lives.

So, let’s talk about it…

  1. Rats have different personalities and are very smart.

Rats are highly intelligent rodents that naturally excel in learning concepts and training. They are considered, by experts, to be one of the smartest species on the planet along with chimpanzees, dolphins, elephants, and dogs.

Just like humans do, rats have very different personalities from each other and show varying levels of cognitive ability throughout each pack. These small rodents are very inquisitive by nature, so it is great for them to have different toys to play with to keep their curiosity saturated. They show their curiosity through a range of motions, from standing on their hind legs to staring into and sniffing the air. However, rats can also experience negative emotions like anxiety and depressions, especially if they live in their cage alone. So, make sure to always have at least two pet rats: just remember they are sociable animals, so the more furry friends they can have, the better!

  1. Rats are very empathetic (basically pocket puppies).

Rats are very social creatures and have high levels of loyalty when it comes to other members of their pack. It is important to introduce rats from different litters slowly and on neutral grounds, to allow them to establish a hierarchy and form these empathetic bonds with each other.

Not only are rats empathetic to one another but they normally share emotional connections with their human counterparts, like dogs. Rats can recognize their owners and respond to their sight, smell, and voice. They love to be given attention from their human guardians and will often bounce around waiting to be picked up. Rats show their love in many ways, from ‘grooming’ their owners to using their shoulders as a perch for cleaning.

To sum up: the more love you show to rats, the more love they will give right back!

  1. Rats are prone to disease.

Sadly, rats are prone to several types of diseases, most commonly respiratory infections – the leading cause of death in rats. These respiratory infections can be caused by several things, from contact with contaminated urine or faeces to being exposed to smoke, dry ambient air or perfumes and sprays.

Early signs and symptoms of respiratory diseases:

  • Sneezing and coughing.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Erratic panicked movements.

  • Nasal discharge.

Another of the most common diseases in rats are tumours, from benign lipomas to malignant tumours. This means it is very important for pet rat owners to regularly check their rats for any signs of cancer, to be able to get the tumour removed as soon as possible to prevent spread.

Early signs and symptoms of tumours:

  • Lethargy.

  • Pain.

  • Weight loss.

  • Visible lumps (tumours).

  • Movement disorders (brain tumours).

The sign and symptoms listed above are just the few common diseases that we have talked about. Rats can also suffer from many other diseases, so pet rats should be checked over daily and if in doubt you should always seek medical advice as soon as possible.

  1. Rats don’t live very long.

Unfortunately, rats typically only live for around 2-3 years of age, although some can live even longer. This life span can vary throughout different rat breeds and between sex: male or female. As rats are prone to diseases, it is common for rats to die due to disease, which can cause their lifespans to decrease.

However, this life span is much longer than those of wild rats. This is because pet rats are protected from predators and have constant access to everything they need: warmth, food, water, and medicine. So, do what is best for the rats and give them a home!

  1. Rats’ diets are very varied.

Rats have very tolerant stomachs that have been evolved to accept a variety of food types from rat muesli and fresh vegetables to various meats and eggs. Due to rats being prone to many (respiratory) diseases, it is important that they maintain a healthy diet to obtain an increased resistance to disease. The most standard source of nutrients for rats is from specific rat muesli or nuggets, but should always be accompanied by healthy snacks regularly, including fruits, vegetables, and meats.

Caution: rats do not have a gag reflex, so it is important to only feed them food items that aren’t sticky as this can form a choking hazard to them. For a greater insight into what to and what not to feed rats refer to

These are just five of the things that make pet rats so special and are just the first few things to consider when getting pet rats. Have we convinced you to love the little fluffballs as much as we do? If you decide to get pet rats or know anyone planning to, make sure to do the research and check out our website for a RattyFatty starter/subscription kit or extra accessories and snacks.

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