Rats are intelligent, social animals that can make wonderful pets. Many people are wrongly under the impression that rats carry disease. While modern wild rats can carry Leptospirosis and some other “zoonotic” conditions (those which can be transferred across species, to humans, for example), these conditions are in fact rarely found (not true in neotropical countries). Wild rats living in good environments are typically healthy and robust animals. Wild rats living in cities may suffer from poor diets and internal parasites and mites, but do not generally spread disease to humans. Pet rats do not pose any more of a health risk than pets such as cats and dogs.
Tamed rats are generally friendly and can be taught to perform selected behaviors, like using a litter tray. Rats love interaction with their owners but you need to gain their trust first. When you get a new rat, first let it get use to its cage and new environment, before offering it some snacks to gain its trust. Once the rat gets more confident with you, try to pick it up gently using both hands. This will be the beginning of a great friendship.
The normal lifespan of rats ranges from two to five years, and is typically three years.
You can feed your rat small amounts of fruits and vegetables, whole grain pastas and bread, brown rice, yogurt, and occasionally low fat cooked meat, mealworms, cheese, seeds and nuts. In addition, treats such as dog biscuits can be given. It is important to keep rats on a high fibre and low fat diet though, so limit higher fat foods such as cheese, seeds, and nuts.
Pelleted or block type diets are available for rats, and are formulated to be nutritionally complete. Choose a rat block that is low in fat and calories, and has soy meal high on the ingredient list rather than corn. Rats have a bit of a sweet tooth, but resist the temptation to feed sugary foods or junk food, including chocolate.
Avoid feeding any of these items to pet rats: chocolate, raw beans , raw sweet potato , cabbage, brussel sprouts, green potatoes, sweet sugary treats, any other “junk food” , caffeinated beverages or carbonated drinks.