How to Take Care of Pet Rats —Beginners Guide

How to take care of Pet rats Beginners guide

When you are the owner of a new pet rat, it is important to know how to take care of them so they will live a long, happy, healthy life. 

  The main things you need to know is what to feed them, know how to tell when they are sick, and what their environment should be.  All of this will be discussed in this article.

What to Know Before You Adopt a Pet Rat

Before you adopt a pet rat you should know that on average, they live to be almost two years old while some live almost three years.  You have to be ready to take care of them for the duration of their life.  They are also nocturnal so this means that they are mostly active during the night so they may do a lot of running around at night. 

Each pet rat has its own personality so it may take time for their personality to come out.  You also have to a room that is kept at the ideal temperature, which is between 65 and 75 degrees F. and out of the direct sun.

Pet rats are social creatures so when considering getting a pet rat, you need to get at least two or more pet rats so they have company and others to play with.  It is best to get all of one sex as the same-sex seems to get along better, except for males as sometimes they can be aggressive and territorial with other males.

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What to Feed Your Pet Rat

The best food for your pet rat is food that is made especially for them.  This can include pellets or rat blocks along with some fresh fruits and vegetables to make a well-balanced diet.  Make sure that the rat block is of high quality to ensure that it contains all the nutrients your pet rat needs. 

Choose healthy treats that have no artificial colors, low salt, and sugar-free. If possible, they should be organic.  You can give them unsweetened cereal like puff cereal or Cheerios, cooked beans, raw unsalted pumpkin seeds, potato peels, bananas, and more.  

boy and pet rat

Their Living Environment

When choosing their cage, make sure that the bar spacing is one-half inch or less if they are juveniles and one inch if they are adults so they cannot get out of the cage between the bars.  They also need a large cage to play in.  How big depends on how many pet rats you have.  On average, for every pet rat you have, you should allow two cubic feet.

The best material for a cage is metal as they provide the best ventilation, which is important because they are susceptible to respiratory infections.  A cage made of plastic, wood, or glass will keep the ammonia from the urine inside the cage, which is not good for your pet rat.  Avoid cages with wire mesh flooring as this could cause your pet rat to develop booblefoot.  Get a cage with a full floor to walk on.

Provide a Hiding Area

Your pet rat likes to have a private place to hide so you can use a nesting box, a small rat house, or anything where they can go to sleep or just hide and relax.  

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Type of Bedding

This is very important to keep your pet rat healthy and happy.  You want to make sure that their bedding is not dusty or unhealthy for them.  Some bedding that you should stay away from is any type of dusty cat litter and pine or cedar bedding,  which has a strong scent of its own that can harm your pet rat’s respiratory system.  Good bedding includes:

1. Paper Pellet Bedding

You can buy this at a pet store or use shredded paper you make with what you have at home.  Use paper that has no ink on it but if it has ink, make sure it is non-toxic.

2. Aspen

This type of wood shavings has no toxic aromatic compounds that can hurt their respiratory system

3. Cloth Bedding

The most popular type of clothing to use for their bedding is fleece but you can also use old clothes.  

Whatever bedding you choose to use, make sure that you change it often because your pet rat will pee around the cage and on the bedding so the ammonia will start to build up and that can also hurt your pet rat’s respiratory system.

cute rat kisses


When you have a pet rat, you want to make sure that they have socializing time playing with you.  This will help you and your pet rat to bond.  You should spend at least 10 minutes with them every other day.  They also need a time out of the cage at least an hour a day to explore and play with your other pet rats.  You should also have climbing toys, exercise wheels, tunnels, and chewing toys.

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Cleaning Their Cage

You should make sure that you clean their clean every week but wipe it down every day.  You also need to replace the bedding where they have urinated and pooped on, replace the water, remove any leftover food before you feed them more, and check to see if any cloths need to be washed every day.

Every week you need to clean the cage thoroughly with products that are pet safe, which can be regular dish soap as long as you rinse it good.  All bedding that can be washed needs to be washed in hot water using unscented laundry soap. 

You also need to wash and disinfect their water bottle and food dish with a diluted vinegar mixture.  Let everything dry before you put everything back.  Also make sure if there are any toys, they are washed too.


  • Because your pet rat is nocturnal and sleeps during the day, make sure that you put their cage where it is not noisy during the day.
  • If you have other pets, make sure that they cannot sniff around the cage or tip it over and get at your pet rat.