Are Rats the right pets for you!

If you are looking for a small pet that can bring you lots of joy, laughter and love, then consider adding rats to your family! They do not require a lot of care, but you should know that they have requirements like all animals, and you need to commit to caring for them throughout their entire lives - 2-3 years or maybe a little longer. This means providing ample cage space, proper and regular cleaning, proper food and clean water, spending time with them daily and taking them to the veterinarian like you would your dog or cat if or when illness appears. If you are not willing to be a responsible rat owner and follow the simple requirements for rat care, then please don't bother getting rats!

Males or Females?

I frequently am asked which gender makes the better pets. That all comes down to your preference. Both genders make excellent pets! Each gender demonstrates a different set of biological behaviors and characteristics. However, there are exceptions found in both genders as well.

Rats continually mark their territory. They mark their cage, and any other place they hang out be it, their hammock or your bed, couch or even YOU. Rats don't discriminate! They don't have much control of their little bladders. This is why rat owners cover the furniture and even themselves when their rats come out to play or be held. Rats can to some degree have control over their bowels. Both genders can be trained to poop in a litter box.

Females, by nature are more active than males, always exploring, and may do so throughout their lifetime. I call them "busy." They are more adventurous than males and because of this are generally known to be easier to train to do tricks. They may stop for a moment to say hello and get a few "scritches"or brief petting from you, and then resume their playing and exploring. If you prefer a curious active pet, a female may be a great choice. Typically, they mark less than the males and some people claim they are cleaner overall (in their cage, etc), but I have not seen much difference between my males and females. Females usually don't have much of a problem accepting new cage mates, but they may be a little scuffling. Young rats are always easiest to introduce to adults.

What can be seen as a drawback with females is that they can be prone to tumors, especially as they get older. (I do try to breed away from it, but there are no guarantees.) Spaying might help prevent mammary tumors. Some breeders claim that certain diets can prevent tumors. I'm still researching this.

Males. When young males are curious, like to explore and can be playful. As adults they are usually much more laid back and likely to curl up on your lap and cuddle. When getting free time, my males often will follow me where ever I go to sit. I have had males act so much like a lap dog that I've called them my "pocket dogs!" So if you are looking for rats to spend more time visiting you, then males are for you.

Males are typically much larger than females. Some males can reach up to 2 lbs or more! The main drawbacks to males are that they tend to urine mark more than females as they walk. It may be just a drop or two or may turn out to be more of a stream. If you are very sqeamish about your ratties peeing on you then males may not be for you afterall. The other drawback is that if you have to introduce adult males to each other there can be some severe fighting, and they may never get along. It is always best to bring young rats in as new companions, not other adults. Young males are not usually seen as threats to the adults so may be accepted easier. (ALWAYS introduce new rats under supervision!) Once they are 3-4 months old and their hormones start to kick in there can be problems with introductions. But males that are raised together will generally be friends for life. If a lot of fighting continues then neutering the most agressive or all them often puts an end to it. Neutering also helps reduce or totally eliminate the musky odor and "Buck grease" that can occur on some males. Buck grease is an orangish skin discharge associated with too much testosterone.

It may seem that males have more issues, but they more than make up for it when they are sitting with you, giving you kisses, grooming you and just being their overall loving selves!

Remember, there are exceptions to the rule about genders. There are some busy boy rats, and some calm girl rats that like to sit with you. I have found Both can make excellent "shoulder" rats!