How Long Do Pet Rats Live?

Rat Flying through the Air

Considering getting a small animal as a pet, but want all the facts first?

Rats are, in my opinion, the very best pets for people looking for a small animal companion.

They are smart, adorable, easily trainable, social, and if given the proper exercise and nutrition they can live around two to three years.

Rats are super cute, adorable little creatures that come in a wide variety of coat colors, textures, and breeds.

The six breeds of domestic rats available today are the standard, rex, hairless, dumbo, dwarf, and tailless.

Each has their own set of personality traits and care requirements.


When you picture a pet rat the picture that comes to mind is most likely that of a standard rat. These cuties come in a huge variety of colors and are absolutely adorable.

If socialized from a young age, these rats are very docile and sweet and will likely be hanging out on your shoulder or in your pocket in no time.

Rex Rat in Human Hand

While these rats are super easy to find and are available in just about every pet store I recommend finding a local breeder to get yours. Many rats in pet stores are kept in terrible conditions and commingled populations.

Overcrowding can lead to lots of medical conditions like upper respiratory infection, and if they have their population commingled, you could adopt one or two female rats and one day come home to an entire litter.

If you are anything like me you will still be tempted to go to the pet store and save one of these unfortunate critters. While I commend you on the effort, keep in mind that your rat may not live as long if he comes from poor breeding, and you may be in for an expensive vet visit if he ends up having an upper respiratory infection.


These rats are pretty darn adorable, with a coat full of curls it’s hard to resist giving them a snuggle. Rexes come in a variety of colors and coat patterns, but all have curly whiskers.

This variety of rat is rather common and shares most of the same personality traits as the standard. You may be forced to go to a breeder if you want this variety though as most pet stores don’t carry them.


The most unique and sensitive of the varieties is the hairless rat. While these little cuties want everyone to believe they are just as tough as everyone else, that isn’t the case.

They tend to get chilled easily and their skin can develop sensitivities to certain beddings and materials.

Be sure to keep lots of snuggly items in their cage, or get them a hairy friend they can snuggle with.

Hairless Rat Close Up

While putting their cage by a window in the sunlight may seem like a good way to keep them warm, it’s actually the opposite. Their skin burns easily and once burned they will get a fever and be even colder.

It’s ok to have them in the sunlight with you for short amounts of time, but be sure not to let them get burned!


The term dumbo just refers to the rat’s ears, if the ears are on the side of the rat’s head instead of the top, they are a dumbo.

I don’t know for sure, but I have my suspicions that these little cuties are named after the baby elephant that we all know and love in the movie with the same name.

Hairless Rat in Lego Home

The dumbo trait can actually be combined with any of the other varieties, a regular dumbo is a standard with dumbo ears, but you can also get hairless or rexes with the dumbo trait.


If you really want a rat, but think they are too big, look into getting a dwarf. These little dudes are about ⅓ of the size as their standard cousins with the same personality.


While this variety is quite rare there are quite a few breeders working to make them more readily available. If you love the idea of owning a rat, but are completely grossed out by their tails this may be the perfect pet for you!

Start looking for Tailless breeders now, as you may need to get on a waiting list to adopt one.

Basically the same as a standard with a nubbin for a tail these guys are like giant loving hamsters.

Should I Get One or More?

When deciding what rat you want it’s important to also consider how much time you will have to spend with it.

Rats are very social creatures, so if you work from home and can spend 4-6 hours a day playing with your new friend— you are the ideal rat owner.

Brown Rat Sniffing Something Out

However, if you will be away from the house and busy at school or work, the kindest thing you can do is get two or three. This way they can keep each other company while you are away.

Your rats will still bond with you no matter how many friends you get them, so don’t let that worry you.

Some other benefits of having more than one rat are that they will groom each other, play with each other, help build large nests together, and just be plain cute together. When I had rats, one of my favorite things to do was simply watch them interact with each other.

Here’s a great video showcasing rat snuggles:

The Perfect Cage:

Whether you are getting one rat or sixteen, it’s important you get a cage that is large enough to accommodate them.

A good rule of thumb is to have 2 cubic feet of space per rat. Males tend to like more floor space, while females tend to love climbing.

Looking for the right cage can be overwhelming, but there are lots of great resources out there for finding the right one.

Many rat enthusiasts like to use converted ferret cages for their rats, while others like to build their own out of converted book shelves or other fun items. The most important things to keep in mind are that they will have enough room and that they can’t escape.

You also want to make sure they have an ample amount of ventilation as too much humidity or ammonia could cause respiratory issues.


When choosing bedding for your rat avoid any kind of wood chips, they aren’t very comfortable and the chemicals released by the wood can cause your rattie to have breathing issues.

My favorite bedding to use is Carefresh Natural Pet Bedding, it is made from paper pulp and is very absorbent, soft, and completely safe for your new little buddies.

Long Haired Grey Rat

When outfitting my rat’s cage I also liked to give them different things to make their actual beds out of.

Some of their favorites were empty tissue boxes, tissues, paper towels, pieces of fabric, and occasionally I would give them tiny fleece blankets.


There are tons of fun toys on the market for rats and they will love just about all of them!

Some of my rat’s favorites were wooden ladders I got in the bird section of the pet store, ferret hammocks, wooden toys, and PVC pipes.

That’s right, there is a world of fun for rats in the plumbing section of your nearest hardware store.

PVC pipe is super easy to clean and there is a never ending amount of ways that you can hook the pipes together or use them to hide your pet’s food and treats.


This is one of the most important aspects of rat care! Rats are scavengers in the wild and benefit from a varied diet.

When I owned my rats I fed them a super nutritious pelleted rat food, and then I gave them a variety of fresh foods daily.

When choosing a block or pelleted food be sure to avoid those that have seeds mixed in or that have been dyed bright colors.

Seeds are very fattening and while they are a great treat they should never be a staple in your rats diet.

When giving your rat fresh foods there is truly a ton of options.

For more information on diet and what fresh foods you can and can not feed your rat, Rat Fan Club, has tons of  homemade rat diet recipes if you would like to skip the pellet formula and feed your rats something all natural.

If you want to make your rat treats these doggie treat recipes would work great for rats, too. 

Hairless Rat on Top of Grey Rat

Now that you know the basics you are ready to go out and find your new rodent friend, or friends if you decided to get more than one.

Be sure to follow all the tips and tricks in this article and your rat will live to a ripe old age, while two or three is the average some people have reported their rats living to five or six.

Good luck on your new adventure and have fun with your adorable new friends.

Bonus: For more unusual pets, check out our reptile guide.

Dog Shedding and Sitting on a Red Rug

How to Control Dog Shedding

Does your dog shed? Learn how to control their shedding!

10 Adoption Stories Guaranteed to Put a Smile on Your Face

If you love dogs, chances are you love a good dog adoption story! These ten stories are ones that I experienced first hand while working at animal rescues and shelters over the last eight years. They may make you laugh, cry, smile or a little of each, but they are guaranteed to warm your heart!…

Long Haired Beauties, What’s the Best Long Haired Cat Breed?

Are you looking to add a long-haired cat to your family, but aren’t sure which breed is right for you? Look no further because I’ve got you covered, from the Brachycephalic Persian to the dainty Turkish Angora there is a long haired cat out there for every personality type. Persian: One of the oldest cat…

Pug Smiling at Dog Park

Here’s How to Find a “Good” Dog Park!

Learn the insider secrets of finding the best dog park possible!

Dogs Walking on Path

How to Spot the Signs of Discomfort and Stress in Dogs

Do you know when your dog is stressed out or in discomfort?

Two Turtles Sunbathing on a Rock

How to Choose the Turtle for You

Turtles come in all shapes and sizes, with different living environments and dietary needs that you will need to be prepared to accommodate.

Pitbull Laying Out on the Beach

How to Rent a Dog for a Day

Want a furry friend, but don’t know if you can make the commitment just yet ?

Dog From a Painting Chewing on a Page from a Book

BO-ZING! 8 Most Popular Dogs in Literary Fiction

Even though Spot was used in the early 1930s to teach kids the fundamentals of reading, he certainly isn’t the only canine to find his way into a good book.

Dog Drinking Water out of Fountain

How Much Water Should Your Dog Really Drink?

It’s important for us to know what is and what isn’t normal for our pets.

Neapolitan Mastiff Outside in the Yard Protective Dog Breed

The 10 Most Protective Dog Breeds

These 10 breeds are all known for their dedication to their owners and their willingness to protect them.

Dog Playing with Pink Toy on Bed

Is Your Dog Possessive Over their Toys?

It’s normal for young pups to be a bit possessive over their toys…

Pug with Wrinkles on Face by Seaside

How to Clean Your Dog’s Skin Folds

The wrinkly faces of the Pug, Bulldog, Shar Pei and other brachycephalic breeds are adorable, but they also require regular cleaning.

Cat Profile in Plane Looking out Window

How to Fly with Your Cat

You have to give yourself plenty of preparation before you and your cat are ready to go jet set off on a plane somewhere.

Pug with Flowers in His Face

10 Dangerous Things in Your Yard for Your Dog

Have you taken a good look at your yard to be sure that everything is safe for your furry friends?

Chow Chow Least Obedient Dog Cover

Watch Out! The 10 Least Obedient Dog Breeds

Every dog can be trained, but some are simply a little less motivated than others.

Two Greyhounds Laying in the Backyard

How Long Should You Leave Your Dog Alone?

There is no short answer to this question as many factors can affect it.

Black Cat in Litter Box Newspaper on Wall

Why Should You Clean the Litter Box so Frequently?

Keeping your cat’s litter box clean is extremely important to her psyche as well as her health.

Millennials Spoil their Pets Jack Russell Sleeping

How Millennials are Changing Pet Parenthood

Millennials are putting off big life events like getting married and having children.
Instead, they’re having fur babies.

What Size Dog Should You Choose Dog Reading Self Help Book

What Size Dog is Best for You?

One thing that you definitely need to consider is size.

Puppy in Training to be a Guide DogPuppy in Training to be a Guide Dog

How to Train Your Dog to Become a Guide Dog

Dogs have been helping humans for hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise that one common job for dogs is guiding the blind.

White Albino Labrador

How to Train a Deaf Dog—It’s Easy!

Luckily, training a deaf dog isn’t so different from a fully-abled dog.

White Great Dane Laying on the Couch

Why are White Coated Dogs Deaf?

Deafness affects white coated dogs, but not all white coated dogs are deaf.

Sheep Dog with Matted Fur in his Eyes

How to Get Mats out of Your Animals’ Fur

Mats in fur are an issue that many dogs face, especially shaggy ones.

Pitbull out in the Summer Sun

How to Prevent Your Dog From Overheating

It’s up to us. Our dogs don’t know when they’re overheating.

Three Greyhounds Sleeping in Dog Beds in Family Room

April is Adopt a Greyhound Month! 50 Amazing Facts about Greyhounds

The Greyhound, the professional sleeper.

Black Cat on Window Sill

7 Myths about the Black Cat and Why You Should Have One

Black cats are famous for “bad luck.”

Small Brussells Griffons Eating in Kitchen in a Line

What is Food Aggression and How Do You Stop It?

A useful response in the wild, but not so much in the home.

Yellow and Black Snake

How to Help Your Snake Shed his Skin

Shedding skin is a natural process for all reptiles.

German Shepherd Dog with Green Backpack on Back

The Top 10 Dog Traveling Gear Must Haves

Luckily, you don’t need to bring a ton of things.

Two Dogs Hike in Los Angeles

Love Traveling? Countries to NOT Travel With Your Dog To

Watch out for Belarus.

Dog Eating a Treat

Yum. Yum. Yum. Can Dogs Eat Sugar?

We love sweets, but can our dogs eat them, too?

Pitbull Looking up at the Camera

Going Out of Town? Best Pet Sitters in Atlanta

Going out of town and need someone to watch your dog?

Maine Coon Backlit by the Sunset

Feline Monsters: Norwegian Forest Cat vs. Siberian Cat vs. Maine Coon

Not only are these cats’ big, their personalities are larger than life, too.

Boston Terrier by Water

French Bulldog vs. the Boston Terrier: What’s the Difference?

To the untrained eye, French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers could be the same breed

Labradoodle Hybrid Dog with Tongue Out

Why Do People Want Hybrid Dogs?

They’re cute and they’re…healthier?

Two Cats on the Floor Bonding

5 Reasons Why You Should Adopt an Older Cat

Adopting an older cat is a great way to get an amazing cat without all the work of kittenhood.

Black Cat Outside on the Lawn

10 years? 15? How Old Do Cats Live?

Cat’s have nine lives, but how long are those lives?

Grey and White Cat with Green Eyes

How to Prevent Cat Bladder Infections

Bladder infections are the number one reason cats visit the vet.

Dog on Hillside in San Francisco, California

The Top Dog-Friendly Cities in the U.S.

How can you go wrong with a pub-crawl with your dog?

German Shepherd with Pointed Ears

What is Schutzhund and How Do You Train Your Dog for it?

This sport has withstood the test of time.

Dog International in England Shakespeare House

Your Introduction to Traveling Abroad with Your Dog

Going to a new country with your dog can be a great experience.

Brown Horse with Black Mane Trotting in Dirt

How to Manage Chronically Infected Wounds in Horses

This can be a scary thing, because infections can eventually lead to the horse’s death if left untreated for too long.

Alusky Hybrid Frozen in the Snow

The Alusky—the Hybrid of Two Great Arctic Breeds

One portmanteau that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves—the Alusky.

Two Dogs with Tongues out with Separation Anxiety

How to Beat Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a well-known problem for many pet parents.

Alaskan Malamute Standing in the Mud

65 Fun Facts About the Alaskan Malamute

They’ve lived alongside humans for thousands of years.

Egyptian Mau on Cat Tree

Where Do Different Cat Breeds Come From?

There are over 70 specific recognized breeds…that’s a lot of cats.

Alaskan Malamute Outside in the Snow

Your Go-To Guide to Snow Dog Breeds

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Girl Waving at Computer

10 Ways to Build a Strong Relationship with Your Dog

Not sure how to help your pooch feel more appreciated?

Siberian Cat Profile Outdoors

How to Read Cat Body Language

There are many tell-tale signs to indicate Kitty’s mood.

White American Eskimo by the Lake

What are the Top 10 Dog Breeds that Shed the Most?

Did you know that a dog’s coat serves three distinct purposes?