A pet rat can be intelligent, fun to watch, active, clean and easy to care for. Rats like human company - but remember that they are clever enough to escape given the opportunity.

A rat needs 

  • Companionship - to be with other rats and people
  • A balanced diet of seeds, grains, nuts and freshly washed fruit and vegetables. Young rats require more protein in the form of milk, cooked meat or complete dried dog food.
  • A salt/mineral lick
  • To have a constant supply of fresh drinking water from a drip-feed bottle with a metal spout
  • A piece of hard wood to gnaw
  • A large cage or tank, ideally with more than one floor; at least 75 x 65 x 30 cm. There should be a minimum of 4800sq cm floorspace for two rats.
  • A clean layer of peat, sawdust or woodshavings on the floor of its cage
  • A cage with hiding places and a nest box with white paper or wood fibre for bedding
  • A clean cage - cleanliness is important. Uneaten food must be removed daily
  • Plenty of exercise. The cage should contain toys, ladders and tunnels to make life interesting for a rat.
  • To be kept indoors at an even room temperature away from direct sunlight
  • Careful and sensitive handling
  • To be taken to a veterinary surgeon straightaway when it is unwell
  • To be looked after at holiday times
  • Your time and interest for the rest of its life

Fact Sheet

Average 2-3 years

Sexually mature
63 days

You should not breed from your rats. Males and females kept together will produce a litter every 4-5 weeks

In season (When female rat is fertile and can be made pregnant)
Every 4-6 days

Gestation (Length of pregnancy)
Average 20-22 days

Litter size

Handle a rat gently and regularly to keep it tame. To lift your rat, place one hand round its shoulders and support the hindquarters in your other hand

Rats need the company of other rats

Health problems

A sore nose and sneezing could be caused by an allergic reaction to hay or sawdust. Use only the best quality hay and soft wood shavings rather than sawdust. If symptoms continue, seek veterinary advice

Ear infection
If the rat holds its head on one side and walks in circles, it may have middle ear disease. Seek veterinary advice straightaway.

Can be caused by poor quality food and poor hygiene in the cage. Dishes must be kept clean and uneaten food must be removed every day. Seek veterinary advice straightaway.

Overgrown teeth
Teeth can continue to grow unless the rat has bones, nuts, wood or hard biscuit to gnaw on. Seek veterinary advice straightaway.

Parasites could be brought in on contaminated floor litter or bedding. Treatment is available from your veterinary surgeon.

Respiratory disease
The rat will lose its appetite, develop a nasal disease discharge and breath unevenly. Keep the rat warm and seek veterinary advice straight away.

Skin disease
These can be spread by a dirty cage, litter of bedding. Seek veterinary advice immediately

Rats, especially older ones often develop lumps and tumours. Seek veterinary advice straight away.

Remember if your pet is showing unusual symptoms bring it to your local vet.