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Caring for a Pet Rat

November 01, 2019

November 12th is Fancy Rat and Mouse Day. While rats and mice definitely aren’t the most popular pets, they can make cute little animal companions. In fact, these guys have some pretty dedicated fans! A Los Gatos, CA vet discusses rat care below.


Rats are larger than most pocket pets, with a body size that reaches up to 11 inches. They come in quite a few different colors, ranging from cinnamon to white to grey. The term ‘fancy rat’ is used to describe specific breeds, such as the adorable Dumbo rat, with its big ears.

Pros and Cons

Domestic rats are actually quite playful, and can form strong bonds with their humans. Unlike wild rats, they are no more likely to carry diseases than any other pet. They can even learn cute tricks! On the down side, rats are susceptible to quite a few different health issues. They do chew a lot, so you’ll need to do some rat-proofing. It’s worth noting that rats only live 2-3 years. This can be a pro or a con, depending on your situation.


We recommend getting a large wire cage. Ideally, this cage should have a few levels, as well as ramps and platforms for your pet to climb and explore. Shelves and hammocks can provide additional space. Choose a cage with a solid floor: wire floors can cause paw and tail injuries. If you find a cage with a wire floor, you can cover it with a thin sheet of something solid, such as plywood. You’ll need to add a nesting box, as well as some nesting material. Some good options are paper towels, tissues, and plain paper. There are quite a few options for substrate, including aspen and pellet products. Avoid pine and cedar substrates. You’ll also need to add toys, such as ladders, blocks, rope toys, and wood toys. Rats do chew a lot, so provide plenty of chew toys as well.


You can give your pet a commercial rat food, which will likely come in the form of pellets or blocks. For treats, you can give your little buddy certain fruits and veggies. Mealworms are also fine, as are cheese, nuts, seeds, and brown rice. Ask your vet for specific advice.

Please contact us, your Los Gatos, CA vet clinic, for all your rat’s veterinary care needs. We’re here to help!