Domestic rats (Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus), in all their varieties (skinny, rex, Himalayan, dumbo, etc.), make excellent domestic companions. They are highly social animals that should live in groups or colonies since they naturally live in packs, making it highly recommended to acquire several individuals rather than keeping them alone. Their lifespan is 26-40 months.
Rats are omnivorous animals. You should provide a balanced diet based on high-quality extruded pellets to avoid seed mixtures (brands like Beaphar, Selective, Crispy pellets by Versele-Laga). Additionally, offer fresh vegetables daily (spinach, cucumber, zucchini, endives, arugula, bell pepper), fresh fruits (orange, strawberries, apple, pear, watermelon, etc.), boiled pasta or rice, quinoa, corn, peas, and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, etc.). Occasionally, provide nuts as a source of essential fatty acids, such as walnuts. Occasionally, offer animal-based protein like boiled eggs, chicken, or unsalted and lactose-free fresh cheese.
It’s important that they live in large cages, preferably multi-level ones with hiding spots and shelters. Provide bedding made from plant-based materials (corn, pressed paper, pellets, etc.) that prevent dust production (do not use cat litter) and allow for good urine absorption to avoid excess humidity in the environment.
Vaccinations and Veterinary Care
Currently, rats do not require any mandatory vaccinations. We recommend at least an annual check-up for internal and external deworming. Additionally, early sterilization and neutering are recommended to prevent the frequent development of mammary tumors, which can occur in both females and males.
Can They Transmit Diseases to Humans?
While rats, especially non-domesticated ones, can carry bacteria such as Salmonella or Leptospira, as well as Streptobacillus moniliformis and Spirillum minus as part of their normal oral flora, it’s recommended to follow basic hygiene and prophylactic guidelines. This includes thoroughly washing hands after handling them, especially for children, or disinfecting carefully in case of a bite. Generally, domestic rats kept in hygienic environments should not pose any significant zoonotic risk.
How Do We Know If Our Rat Is Ill?
Apathy, lethargy, loss of appetite (anorexia), respiratory noises, or diarrhea can be signs of illness. Any rat experiencing a disease or highly stressful situation will start producing chromodacryorrhea. This signal consists of pigment production (porphyrin) from the eyes and nostrils, which may resemble blood coloring.