They can be perceived as a strange animal to have as a pet but pet rats are an ideal choice for rodent company. Pet rats, or domesticated rats, tend to have a bad reputation due to their wild and city brown and black counterparts however just like having a wolf, tuna or ocelot as a pet, domesticated animals are bred to live with humans and would unlikely survive in the wild. Furthermore they are specially bred and vaccinated so that they pose no threat in passing transmissible diseases to humans. Rats are very affectionate and quite like a pet cat, they are clean; can be trained and enjoy being petted and playing with you. They are easy to keep and unlike hamsters and gerbils, they don't mind breaking their sleep routine to say hello.
Due to their long tails, they can climb and jump fantastically- so they are always entertaining when active; and they are intelligent so they like to learn, explore and play with toys, much like a cat does. They are huge fans of music because of the way they hear frequencies, many they use in communicating with each other, inaudible to our ears; subsequently having more than one rat is necessary as it's not much fun chattering alone!
Our two female rats, Ginny and Bifta are nearly nine months old. They are Dumbo rats, which is a special breed known for their sweet nature and large ears and they are very different in character. They are very clean animals and only use one place for their toilet. They don't need bathing as, similarly to cats they clean themselves- and look very cute in the process!
Ginny is energetic and curious. She loves to explore and lead the way when playing out of the cage. She also loves Led Zeppelin and chickpeas.
Bifta is more timid and follows Ginny's lead but occasionally she will go off alone, especially if there are lots of places to hide! She loves eating and sleeping and can be a little lazy, however she is the most affectionate and will kiss your fingers and nuzzle into your neck if you are holding her.
We keep our Rats in a cage in the living room, we are give them 4 levels to climb around across two cages. Ginny and bifta love exploring and need something to be occupied with, they have a small bell, wooden climbing frame and a little shelter to tuck themselves away. They love to sleep inside the box and we pass them strips of paper so they can make a cozy bed, although bifta spends the most time inside. Ginny loves climbing outside and on top of the cage, always eager to be picked up and explore something new or give you a cuddle.
Both Ginny and Bifta love food and although we feed them a dry mix of complete food, we like to give them some fresh mixed lettuce leaves every day and a variety of fresh vegetables or fruit. Rats are carnivorous so sometimes we treat them to a little chicken or fish once a week.
As we had Ginny and Bifta since they were 4 weeks old, we trained them ourselves. Although very shy and timid at first they have quickly become comfortable with us. In the first days, they would move very little when handled and be cautious about eating from our hands; nowadays though, they'll happily run up our arms and come for a walk to the balcony or to see what is in the fridge. They are very friendly and when friends come to our flat they enjoy being held and running across our shoulders for a better view and maybe some peas. If they are out roaming, whenever they get tired they return to your feet, ready to be picked up and taken back to the cage. Although they sometimes like to hide, they will always return for some peas or corn.
Rats sleep intermittently and they are generally nocturnal but they like to say good morning and have a little play and something to eat when we wake up before settling down for the day and only coming out for an hour or two. At 6 or 7pm, we let them out for exercise and they run around a little with obstacles and things to move about. Now it is summer, we hope to let the rats have a little swim to keep cool while having some exercise.
Our Rats find almost anything amusing and any changes to their cage environment exciting to explore. We frequently add new things for them to play with as these intelligent little furballs love to learn and see new things. Rats' teeth are constantly growing and they need hard things to chew, so anything they can pick up and carry or knaw on to help grind down their teeth is good. We add wooden structures, to climb and chew, small balls, feathers to chase and tubes to run through. They also like to play in your hands and can be rewarded for coming back with fresh corn and green peas. Ginny and Bifta love to dig so we made them a small dig box tray, in which we hide sunflower seeds in compost earth and they enjoy rummaging to find them together.
Go to our TikTok account and view more cute videos of our rats: