Pet-parents-to-be don't always want the conventional kitten or puppy. Rats are an excellent choice of pet if you're looking for a low-maintenance, intelligent, and affectionate companion. Here, our Turlock veterinarians discuss the benefits of owning a pet rat and what you should know before getting one.
Reasons to Own a Rat
Rats as pets are inquisitive and social creatures that require less time for proper care. They need less space and resources due to their small size and cleanliness.
Also, rats' shorter lifespan means less of a long-term commitment. Rats provide companionship, form strong bonds, and respond to their owners due to their high intelligence.
They are playful and entertaining pets that come at a lower cost than other animals, making them an ideal option for those on a budget.
Rat cages, food, and supplies are relatively inexpensive, making rat ownership affordable.
Health Benefits of Pet Rats
Owning a pet rat can offer many health benefits despite being perceived as a pest. They provide a sense of responsibility and routine, which can benefit those struggling with depression or anxiety.
Pet rats are excellent sources of companionship and can help boost the immune system, reduce allergies in children, and lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and the risk of stroke.
They're ideal for those with chronic illnesses as they offer comfort and therapeutic benefits. Caring for a pet rat is also a great way to teach children about animal care and responsibility, promoting empathy and respect.
Rat Care Facts
All rodents have continuously growing incisors (front teeth), with the upper ones being shorter than the lower ones.
Overgrown incisors are common in rats, but they can be prevented with gnawing opportunities such as chewing toys and wood.
Veterinarians can grind or file down overgrown incisors if necessary, often under anesthesia. Rats are opportunistic eaters, prone to obesity if not fed properly.
They're also prone to chronic respiratory infections and mammary tumors. Though male and female rats get along well, they frequently breed from an early age (less than two months).
Selecting Your Pet
Rats can be adopted from shelters or bought from pet stores or breeders, and young rats are called pups. A rat's eyes and nose should be free of any discharge, and sneezing could indicate a respiratory infection.
Active and inquisitive rats are healthy, while sick rats may sit quietly in corners or appear thin. Moisture around the anus could be a sign of diarrhea, and the skin and haircoat should be free of parasites.
When possible, examine the rat's mouth for issues such as broken or overgrown incisors, discolored gums, and sores. Additionally, it's essential to inquire about any health guarantees the shelter or seller offers.
How long do rats live as pets?
Pet rats have a relatively short lifespan compared to other household pets. On average, pet rats can live for around 2-3 years, although some may live up to 4-5 years with proper care.
However, there are some instances of rats living longer than 5 years, with the oldest recorded pet rat living up to 7 years.
Factors such as genetics, diet, exercise, and overall health can play a significant role in the lifespan of a pet rat. Rats that receive proper nutrition, exercise, and veterinary care may live longer and healthier lives.
After purchasing a rat, it's crucial to have it examined by a veterinarian familiar with rats within 48 hours. The shelter or seller may require this examination, and a guarantee may be voided without it.
The veterinarian will weigh the rat, discuss proper diet, housing, and toys, and examine a stool sample for parasites.
Annual physical examinations and fecal tests are necessary to check for parasites, and neutering can be discussed with the veterinarian.
Rats should be examined at least once a year and twice a year as they age. Vaccination is unnecessary for rats.