Three standard grey rats playing at the door of their vertical cage.

Rats are the Hidden Gem of Companion Animals

Rats are the Hidden Gem of Companion Animals

Play a game of hide and seek with a rat. They catch on quick to the goals of this game. And they will win every time. A rat can think around corners and through the strategy of hiding and seeking. I watched my eight-year-old daughter teach her standard grey hooded rat, Shmee, how to play the game in less than fifteen minutes. Shmee became a professional. He relished her surprise when he ran out from hiding. Jumping up in the air and scrambling into her lap.

Rats are personable, loving, intelligent, and surprising.

  • Rats are not dirty. They spend more time grooming themselves than a cat. Fastidious in self-care, and cage cleanliness, rats will use litter boxes if they are provided. (Rats do leave a minute urine trail as they wander around, to find their way back or for their cage mates to follow.)
  • Rats are on the same sleep schedule as humans. They are ready to go when you are, and ready for bed as you are at night.
  • Every rat is different and has a personality. Shy, silly, fearless, funny, childlike, serious, thinking. The traits are endless.
  • Rats do not come in breeds (different shapes and sizes) like other species. They come in varieties (different coat types, ear type, no tail)
  1. Standard – Short, smooth hair
  2. Rex – Curly hair whiskers
  3. Tailless - Like hamsters
  4. Hairless – Like skinny guinea pigs
  5. Satin – Thin, long, shiny hair
  6. Dumbo – Large ears set to the side of their head
  7. Bristle Coat – Stiff and coarse hair
Hooded standard rat playing on red yarn balls on top of his cage.

    Here's how to make a cage a home for your rat.

    • Rats love climbing. A vertical cage offering multiple platforms or floors is mandatory.
    • Never use an aquarium to house a rat. It is mentally and physically unhealthy for them.
    • Furnish for fun! Hammocks, hides, tunnels, bridges, boxes, tubes, wash clothes, small towels and bedding.
    • Rats love to collect and store things. Foraging toys and shiny objects are a passion.
    • Rats are persnickety about a clean cage. They will use a litter box.
    • Rats are happier with friends. Same sex couples are the best option. Neuter males to keep the territorial testosterone limited.
    • Any bedding works. Recycled paper, paper and pine mix, pellet bedding. Add fleece hides, towels, and socks for comfort and snuggle fun.
    • A water bottle or two.
    • Food bowls(s) One for pellets, one for treats, one for fresh foods.
    1. Feed rat food pellets and experiment with fresh foods. Rats love fresh.
    2. Obesity is a problem for rats. Stay away from seeds, nuts and cheese.
    Black and white rat snuggling in a blanket hut.

      Health and Wellness

      Two common health challenges for rats are respiratory disease and mammary tumors.

      Respiratory disease is caused by a bacteria called mycoplasma. Treated with antibiotics, respiratory disease is challenging to treat, particularly if your rat is older or has other health challenges.

      Female rats can develop hormone-dependent mammary tumors if not spayed. Spaying eliminates the threat.

      A rat's lifespan is less than four years. Feeder rats purchased at a pet store have a two-year lifespan, while breeder rats for companionship tend toward three to four. Rats bring humor, games, friendship, companionship and love to a human. Short years filled to the brim with smiles and sighs.

       Two young rats playing outside in the grass with each other.

      Kathy LaFollett is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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