Garden and Nature in Words

Why Rats Make the Best Pets

a pet rat

My rat Maurice in my jumper pocket

When the Bubonic Plague struck Europe in 1347 and spread like fire until 1500, it ravaged a third of the population of the continent.

The Black Death was indeed a devastating disease that has remained engraved in our collective consciousness ever since. This plague was blamed on many different things, but the creature that has suffered the most from false assumptions of blame, has been the rat.

The disease was spread, not by rats, but by the fleas that inhabited rats. Despite this very real historical and biological fact, rats still suffer cruelly from the general assumption that they are dirty disease spreading rodents that are unwelcome in homes and gardens.

This could not be a more unfair presumption. Rats are in fact incredibly clean, intelligent and friendly creatures that deserve to be defended to the very end.

As a rat owner myself, I am constantly having to explain what rats are like as pets. People can scarcely believe that I’d want these parasites in my home, let alone snuggled on my shoulder, asleep on my lap or eating treats from my hand.

Rats are friendly

Rats display an affinity towards their owners that is comparable, if not equal to that displayed by dogs.

When I come home, my two little boy rats emerge from their sleeping corner to greet me and stand on their hind legs, with their little feet holding onto the cage bars.

They respond to my affection by grooming me as if I were one of them. This is their way of expressing their affection for me. It, of course, took them a while to trust me enough to do this, but any rat owner will agree that the first time this happens is a very special time.

They trust you so implicitly that when they are out of their cage roaming around exploring, if something frightens them, they instantly run back towards you seeking protection.

They are happy to sit on your shoulder and watch as you go about your business, simply enjoying your company and watching the world go by with you.

a rat being rubbed

Monty enjoys being tickled, just as a dog or cat would.


Rats are clever

I heard once that rats had been measured to be more intelligent than the average 2 year old human.

This referred to their ability to not repeat mistakes that cause harm (for example, after falling off a surface, they will not venture to the dangerous side of this surface again).

They can sense depth in a way a small toddler will not, which is why you will often see a toddler tumbling off a chair or sliding from a sofa, but a rat will rarely lean over the edge, sense the depth and go for it anyway.

Rats, when taught their own name repetitively, will learn it and respond to it. So when your rat is playing and you call their name, they will come to you.

Rats have the ability to learn tricks – check out some of the videos available on YouTube, such as this little guy who’s been taught to open and shut the door in this amateur video.


Rats are clean 

While male rats do tend to smell a lot more than females, meaning that sometimes a rat room can have a fairly distinct smell, rats are NOT dirty animals.

If you spend more than five minutes in the company of rats, you will notice they are constantly cleaning themselves and each other. They clean themselves after eating, after you’ve touched them (so they think we’re the dirty ones!) and after going to the toilet.

I have even trained my rats to go to the toilet in their litter tray…

They’re cheap to keep, will love you like a dog and they bring endless hours of fun to your home and children.

For those of you still repulsed at the thought of rats as pets, I suggest you look up some videos and info on pet rats and you’ll see that they really do make excellent companions.

Stand up for rats and help them shed centuries of oppression and being misunderstood.

You can’t deny that these guys are cute! What do you think?

rats in a cage

22 thoughts on “Why Rats Make the Best Pets

  1. Pet rats are very comfortable around people. They spend a large amount of their time grooming, and they like to be in clean places. They will be happy to sit with you during movie time or simply play around with your body. Great article! 👍Thank you for sharing!


  2. Rats are awesome they are the best pets ever I am writing an argumentative essay about them today to! I have one question though. What do you do if your rats tail hanged by one thread and is always squeaking because my pet rat has been getting attacked by the other rats in the cage and i am getting really worried right now. I have a big cage for them they are all males and they are all full grown.


    • I have the same problem. Making the cage bigger helps. Also having lots of hiding places will help keep the other rats away. Cardboard boxes etc. My rats actually bit pieces of each others tails off, sadly
      Sent via my BlackBerry from Vodacom – let your email find you!


  3. I actually was terrified of rats. Until I met my sweet Julius. My friend was trying to help me get over my fear. He climbed in my hand and started to sniff and then snuggled me. It was love right there. He’s sweet as pie and will sit or snuggle me in bed. Never had a betterrible companion animal.


  4. I KNEW IT! That rats were not responsible for the plague but fleas… ugh them fleas!
    I have a female rat by the name of Alice and she is the sweetest thing alive! Never tried to bite me, even when she was scared of me. I can safely say the same about mice sans the biting part. I a have always been a big cat lover but now rodents are my thing! 😀


  5. Well we sort of inherited a family of baby rats when the mother drowned in our toilet. We didn’t have the heart to kill the tiny whelps, so we brought them up with baby food formula. Now we have nine rats in two big cages with ramps, swings and tunnels. They are indeed very cute and are growing more and more tame as time goes by. Its rather amusing to watch them chase each other round and round.


    • They do, they do. I’m doing some stuff with quail, chickens, and fish, so no time to give the little rodents a try. Please let me know if your experience with pet rats matches the expectation we have set!


  6. Pingback: Rats! We have rats, and other hazards of urban life : Persimmon Frost

  7. I love your site and your embarcement of life. You seem to not have fallen to what are called “mind viruses”, which are created beliefs that become reality tho not always based on true facts. I’m a novice at this so all information is so appreciated. Love the deal about rats as pets. Why not so can be a horse or a pygmy goat. If we paid moreattention we could learn alot from animals.


  8. Also eaten by many people – was in Vietnam some time ago and they were going for them for dinner. Wonder how hamsters are OK to keep as pets but not rats?


    • One of those social conventions Ross. I guess it is the same thing as people in this country being disgusted by the thought of eating dogs – it is something that just would not happen.


  9. I love this! I’m so excited to see rats finally getting some good PR, thanks to folks like you. We’ve had lots of criticism re: our rat ownership, but I don’t let it bother me anymore. Because of people like you and articles like this, rats may be the most popular household pets one of these days. We love our pet rats so much that we’ve devoted an entire blog to our silly adventures with them.


    • Wow what a fantastic site you have there – full of heart and soul.

      I must say that I am new to the whole pet rat scene, and it really does make sense to keep something small, suited to the environment, intelligent, and affectionate. Rats seem to fit the bill.


  10. Great post! I used to have a rat and she was the sweetest. I went to the pet store intending to buy a hamster when the lady convinced me to buy a rat. She made some good points about how rats will live longer, that hamsters sleep all day, and rats will be a better companion and will like to play and interact. I was sold and even my unsure friends grew to love her too.


    • Well Jillian I guess that is a big thank you to the pet store lady. Am starting to think about trying the same thing, everyone that gets them (such as yourself), has a great experience with them.


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