Rats are very sociable animals that enjoy the company of people and other rats. They are best kept in groups of two or more, separating the sexes if breeding is not desired. Rats are intelligent animals that are easy to keep and require little maintenance, they can even be litter trained.
Most pet rats are commonly known as fancy rats and are desendants of brown rats. There are 30 varieties of fancy rat which, like mice, have been bred to have coats and even eyes of different colours. Rats can weigh up to 500g and measure about 25cm long. Males of both species are usually heavier than females. Pet rats will usually live to between 3-4 years
Before keeping mice and rats, it is crucial that any potential owner finds as much out about them as they can. Only then can they decide if mice or rats are the right pets for them and if they can provide the specialist care, time, financial means and long-term commitment to look after them properly. Before bringing the mice or rats home, owners should make sure they have the right accommodation, food and the necessary accessories in place. They should also take the time to speak with other experienced rat and mice keepers and a vet for advice before making a final decision about mice or rat ownership.
Rats are a very active rodent and because of this, need a large cage to accomodate them. They love to climb, fall, roll around and chase each other. A glass aquarium would be a bad choice, as there is no way for the rat to climb, and the ventilation in an aquarium is terrible at best. It is recommended to have atleast a two storey hamster cage for one rat, and adding at least a tier for every additional rat you have. Ferret cages make wonderful rat cages, especially the models with the large tubes for them to run through. Keep in mind that if you house a male and female together, the inevitable will happen, and you'll end up with pinkies every 28 days or so. It's usually best to house two females together, as unfixed males often have a stronger musk than the females. You should place the cage in a warm room away from windows, doors, vents, and hungry dogs or cats. Make sure that your cage is on a sturdy stand, because if your rats get loose, you're going to have a hard time catching them.
Choose as large a cage as possible for your rats, ideally 18 in X 36 in with several levels and room for toys such as a solid exercise wheel, ladders, tubes and a hammock. The floor should be solid, as wire can injure rats' feet.
Place the cage out of direct sunlight and drafts, in an area with family activity. Cover the floor with safe bedding such as Carefresh or Aspen shavings. For your rats' comfort add a nest box filled with soft shredded paper.
 Feeding your Rat
 Suitable Foods
Your rats can eat the same food that you eat, anything from scrambled eggs to bread to vegetables. They can also survive nicely on dog food, as long as it is of good quality and not too high in protein. The following is a list of good foods to feed your rat;
- Dry rolled oats - Any type is fine as long as it contains no sugar.
- Puffed wheat cereal - Malt-O-Meal, Quaker or Kashi, which is available in natural food stores. Cheerios are also a viable alternative, nutrios are great that can be found in the baby section at your grocery store.
- Puffed rice cereal - Preferably a type that contains no sugar. Rice Krispies really are not recommended.
- Roasted, unsalted soy nuts - These are somewhat high in protein, but contain valuable cancer-preventing agents, so they are a good addition to the mix. If you can't find them, you can work soy into their diet in other ways, such as soy milk, tofu, soy crumbles and soy yoghurt.
- Dried fruits - Bananas, which offer potassium, and cranberries are good for the urinary tract.
Or you can give them fresh fruit that your eating.
- Dry pasta - The tri-colored spirals, with spinach and tomato flavor. Nice and crunchy for the teeth, and a good source of carbohydrates, which helps balance the protein in the soy nuts.
- Sunflower seeds - Unsalted, they can be bought bulk.
- Fresh vegetables
- Chicken bones - The ones left over from supper are a great healthy treat.
Just give them a variety of foods that are good for them, just things that you have in your cupboard, mix them all together and you have a perfectly suitable rat food. Then make sure they have dog food handy at all times. Some people will just buy a mouse and rodent mix or lab blocks, and add dog food.
- Dog food - Any good quality low protein dog food is good.
 Unsuitable foods
Generally any food you can eat, you can give it to your rats. However, there are some exceptions to the rule:
- Blue cheese - The mold in it is toxic to rats.
- Licorice - Is suspected to cause neurological poisoning in a rat.
- Raw sweet potato - Contains compounds that form cyanide in the stomach.
- Raw dry beans or peanuts - Contains antinutrients that destroy Vitamin A and enzymes needed to digest protein and starches, and causes the red blood cells to clump.
- Raw red cabbage and brussel sprout - Contains antinutrient that destroys thiamin.
- Raw artichokes - Inhibits protein digestion.
- Green bananas - Inhibits starch digestion enzymes.
- Green potato skin and eyes - Contain solanine, a toxin.
- Rhubarb - Contains high levels of oxalates.
- Raw bulk tofu - The bulk unpackaged kind contain bacteria. The packaged raw tofu is safe.
- Peanut butter - Has been known to choke a rat. It is very thick and can get caught in your rats throat. Stay away from it just to be on the safe side.