Fancy Rats - How Many Pet Rats Should You Get?

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Many people make the mistake of buying just one rat. They assume that one rat is easier to take care of than two, or that their single rat will bond better with humans. But unlike, say, hamsters, pet rats are highly social creatures. They need the companionship of other rats.

Fancy rats are intelligent and lively, which means they need lots of stimulating activity and attention every day. A rat living by herself is a little like a human living in solitary confinement: She will get bored, depressed, and even neurotic. This can be offset somewhat by spending at least eight hours a day with your rat, but not only is this a huge time investment, you can never take the place of another rat. No amount of attention you shower on your rat will be enough to compensate for those times when you go to school, go to work, or fall asleep each night.

Caring for two rats is just as easy as caring for one. When you have one rat, you still have to clean the cage often and completely replace the bedding each week. You still need to change the water daily. The routine of cleaning the cage doesn't change much with two rats, and food costs won't be that much higher.

With two or more rats, you get the enjoyment of seeing their different personalities and watching them interact with each other. You'll learn much more about rats and how they really behave.

It's simply not true that single rats are more affectionate towards humans than rats kept in pairs. How a rat behaves towards humans depends on her personality and whether or not she was properly handled from birth. A rat that has been treated well and socialized since babyhood will be a sweet and affectionate pet, regardless of how many other rats she lives with.

Although you should have at least two rats, it's up to you to decide how many you can handle. Three is a good number, because you'll have a mini rat community with more social dynamics. It's interesting to watch the group evolve and see who becomes alpha rat. Just keep in mind that the more rats you have, the more money you'll spend on food and bedding--and the more time you'll have to spend playing with them and keeping their cages clean.

Whatever you do, don't put intact males and females together. Rats breed easily and often, and females are capable of having as many as 30 babies in a single litter! (The average is 12.)

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Victoria A. Neely has 1 articles online

Rats are becoming popular pets, but it's still hard to find accurate, up-to-date information about proper rat care. Some books even recommend pine or cedar shavings, which are absolutely terrible for a rat's sensitive respiratory system. For some of the best information on fancy rat care, visit

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Fancy Rats - How Many Pet Rats Should You Get?

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This article was published on 2010/04/03