While they may have a bad reputation, rats are extremely intelligent animals and make great pets. Rats are natural students, have a strong memory, and are excellent learners. They understand complex concepts and once they learn a navigation route, they do not forget it.
Rat Are Social Animals
Rats are extremely social animals. They become attached to other rats and recognize their own family members. Rats also easily bond with their human owners and make for affectionate pets. Pet rats enjoy being pet by their owners and sometimes even enjoy a gentle massage, a scratch behind the ears, or a simple tickle. Rats have also been known to return affection by "grooming" their owners. Additionally, they are highly skilled at communication and use high-frequency sounds (that humans cannot hear) to communicate with each other.
Rats Are Playful
Domesticated rats are very gentle and playful creatures. Like a pet dog, a pet rat can learn many tricks and can even respond to its own name. Pet rats can learn to sit up, fetch, jump through a hoop, and even walk on a tightrope. Additionally, rats can be taught to solve puzzles, run through mazes, and perform tricks. Training a pet rat is relatively simple and rats respond well to a food-based reward.
Pet Rats Are Very Clean
Domesticated rats do not like getting dirty and are constantly grooming themselves. Usually, if a rat gets something on its fur, it will immediately try to remove it. Rats also enjoy grooming each other and will gather in groups to take part in a group grooming. Rats rarely need to be bathed since they are such fastidious groomers. Older, sick, or obese rats are generally the only ones that need bathing (because they often have difficulting grooming themselves).
How to House Your Pet Rat
Your pet rat will need a cage to live in. Wire cages are best and most rats will prefer one with horizontal bars so they can climb up the sides. The cage can have shelves or multiple levels for the rat to climb on. Be sure to avoid wire flooring on the bottom of the cage, as this can injure the rat's feet. You will also need to provide pet bedding and nesting materials which the rats can shred and then use to line their nest. Rats also need a nest box to sleep. A cardboard box is sufficient or pet stores sell pre-made nest boxes specifically for rodents. Finally, rats enjoy a wide variety of toys and accessories. Ropes, ladders, hammocks, tubes, and chew toys will all be appreciated and well-used by your pet rat.
Rats also enjoy playtime outside of their cage and can engage in a wide variety of activities like cuddling or running mazes. Be sure that any time outside of the cage is rat-proofed. Rats will chew on anything in their vicinity. Electrical wires and poisonous plants are the top risks to rats when they are outside of their cages.
Your local pet store will help you outfit your rat's cage with fun, and challenging, objects for your rat to enjoy and play with.