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Above is one of our patients, the beautiful pet rat Pearl and her girls Arianna and Tirzah at a rat show where Pearl won Prettiest Rat!

Rats can get a bad rap! They are actually smart, fun, clean and social pets!

Of all of the small creatures we call “pocket pets”, rats have to be the sweetest, friendliest and some of the smartest little rodents around. Rats make excellent pets and tend to be easy to care for, forming strong bonds with their owners.

Some Basics:

  • Body wt. 250-520 g (males are larger than females)
  • Respiratory rate 70-115 breaths/min.
  • Heart rate 250-450 beats/min
  • Lifespan 2 – 3½ years
  • Breeding onset 65-110 days
  • Gestation period 21-23 days
  • Body temperature 99.5-101.3


Fresh water and a good quality pelleted rat food is essential. Some examples of brands include Mazuri, Oxbow and Kaytee. Rare treats including fresh fruits and vegetables are fine to offer in small quantities. Obesity is a common problem in rats, and so table foods should be kept to a minimum.


Most rats are kept in either wire or glass cages. Wire is a better choice for improved ventilation and housing should be escape proof. Ammonia from urine can build up in any cage and cause damage to a rat’s respiratory system. Shavings such as birch, aspen, or alder can be used, along with paper bedding. Do not use cedar or pine shavings as they have oils that can give off fumes that are harmful to rats. Many rats enjoy a wooden or cardboard box to nest in. Rats are social animals and should be handled every day by their owners. You can keep multiple rats as long as they have been raised together. Be sure of their sexes however, as reproduction can occur as early as 65 days of age. Here at Oswego Veterinary Hospital we can neuter your male rats to prevent unwanted babies.

Mammary Tumors:

Mammary tumors are very common and can occur in up to 90% of intact female rats. They can occur on the chest, but also along their sides or even up on their back. Most mammary tumors are benign, but they can grow quite fast. We can remove these growths early, before they become so large that surgery is no longer an option. Anesthetic risks and complications are much lower when these lumps are caught early and the procedure is less painful when the incision is small. All surgical patients, regardless of size are given one or more types of pain relief to keep them comfortable.

Respiratory Problems/Pneumonia:

Rats are commonly infected with an organism called mycoplasma, which they may harbor from birth. They may also suffer from other bacterial or viral diseases as well as cancer. A rat may not show any sign of illness until old age. Difficulty breathing, sneezing, or porphorin tears (these are from a red pigment, not blood) may be seen. They may also have moist or dried discharge around their nostril or on their front legs from grooming. Respiratory damage from cages that lack ventilation or bedding that isn’t changed regularly can contribute to respiratory disease. A cure may not be possible and often longterm medication is used to control pneumonia in rats.

Skin Problems:

Rats can harbor fleas, but more commonly mites or lice can infect their skin. They can be especially problematic for older rats with compromised immune systems. Mites that may be present all of their lives, may only show disease as pet rats age. Ringworm (a fungal infection) can also infect rats, especially older animals, young naive animls or those living in warm, humid climates.

Come by and let us meet your new furry friend at the time of adoption. Regular check ups every 6 months are recommended to help keep your rat happy, and living a longer, healthier life.