What Is The Average Lifespan of Pet Rats?

old rat

It is only natural when considering getting a rat for a pet just how long they will live. 

 The answer to that question will depend on several factors; their environment where they live, their genes, diet, and health.

What Is The Average Lifespan of a Pet Rat?

The average lifespan of a pet rat is about 1.8 years but very seldom do they live to be much older.  A fancy pet rat, whose genetics are traceable, can live to two to three years of age.  The reason is that they are less susceptible to diseases like respiratory infections and tumors because of their breeding

Life Cycle of a Pet Rat

Experts divide a pet rat’s life cycle into four phrases.

  • Newborn—they are blind, tiny, and dependent on their mother.  They start to crawl at five days and open their eyes after 14 days.
  • 4 weeks—at this stage, the young rat will no longer need their mother as they can feed themselves and are fully alert.  They will still need their siblings to help them develop socially.  The right time to bring home a pet rat is when they are between six and eight weeks of age.
  • At the age of one year, they have reached full adulthood.  They are playful, easy to train, and very active.
  • Over a year of age, they might be less active and may start to develop health problems.
  Can Pet Rats Eat Chocolate?
newborn rat

How to Help Your Pet Rat to Live Longer

It is possible to help your pet rat live longer by doing the following:

  • First, when you get a pet rat, be careful about the rat you choose. Make sure that you get it from a reputable breeder that is ethical and is very knowledgeable about rats.  This will make sure that you get a rat that was on a proper diet and not overfed.  They will make sure that their rats come from healthy parents and it does not have any genetic issues.
  • Watch their diet and make sure you are feeding your pet rat the right foods.  You need to make sure that their diet includes vegetables and fruits, which contain antioxidants that they need.  The antioxidants help to reduce the inflammation and damage of their cells that happen when they get older.  You should include berries, carrots, kale, red bell pepper, and kiwis.  You should also make sure you are feeding pellets and food blocks specifically for pet rats.
  • For their environment, be sure that it is one that is open and active as pet rats are social creatures and love to play.  They need that open environment so they can remain as active as they can.  If they do not have the exercise, it can make them depressed.  It will also, in the long run, make it difficult for them to be active physically when they get older and their hindquarters are getting weak.

Factors That Can Affect Their Lifespan

One factor that can affect your pet rat’s lifespan is inbreeding.  It can also affect their health.  If the breeder is inexperienced then they could breed rats that will pass on an undesirable trait, like a hereditary health condition.  This is especially true if they do not keep track of which rats are related to which rats and a brother/sister accidentally breeds.  

  Can Pet Rats Eat Grapes?

 You also need to be sure they have a proper diet.  If it is a diet that is high in fat and lots of junk food, then there is a greater chance of your pet rat developing cardiovascular problems and obesity.  You also need to make sure which human foods are good for your pet rat and which ones are toxic as the wrong human food could kill them.

young rat

Health Problems That Can Shorten Your Pet Rat’s Lifespan

  • Respiratory disease—this is a common health problem in pet rats.  If they start to sneeze, have a discharge from their nose and eyes, you should take them to the veterinarian.  Most of these are bacterial and can be treated with antibiotics.  If it is a viral infection, your pet rat will need to have good supportive care like the proper cage conditions and a quality diet.  Make sure that their cage is well-ventilated and kept clean to help prevent these infections
  • Cancer—mammary tumors are also common in pet rats but most are not cancerous.  Although they can be found in males, most occur in females.  They can happen from the age of 18 months, which is when the female rat stops ovulating.  If you feel any lumps, contact the veterinarian.
  • Skin parasites—a pet rat is mostly prone to skin mites, which can range from just a few to a full infestation.  It is normal to find a few but if your pet rat is sick or stressed, this can open them up to a full infestation.  

Is Your Pet Rat Getting Old?

You can tell that your pet rat is getting old because they start to lose their body weight and muscle mass.  They can develop arthritis and their motor function can deteriorate.  Their hind limbs can start to weaken, may exhibit some reduced mobility, exhibit stiffness, and their tail may move abnormally.  

  Can Pet Rats Eat Tomatoes?


  • A pet rat normally lives to almost two years of age but if you make sure that they are kept active and on the proper diet, they may live a little longer.
  • If they appear ill, you should take them to the veterinarian to find out the cause.
  • The dumbo rat and white rat can have on average  a life span of two to three years/
  • Following these tips will help your pet rat to live a healthy life, maybe even a little longer than the average life span.
  • Weigh your pet rat every couple of weeks to make sure that they are within normal weight and are not underweight or overweight.  
  • Keep their cages out of direct sunlight and the temperature between 65 and 70 degrees F. to keep them from becoming sick.