A Short History about Rats

Rats have an interesting history with humans, some good and some not so good.

Short rat HistoryRats have a very long history. It is believed that first group of rats, the Norvegicus Rats (Known as the brown Rats) origins go back to China and Mongolia, original call the Asia plains, where their ancestors used to live in burrows over 160 hundred thousand years ago. This group of rats revolved from the Anagalids. Some wild rats still live there today.

The rats that we are most formally with are called Rattus, they evolved around 4.5 million years ago in the Mediterranean countries.  They split into two different groups around 2.5 million years ago.  From there they have into over 51 different species groups

They connected with humans as our race was developing, over several thousand years ago. From this and with properly some unknown help from humans they work their way around the globe.  Rats were possibly used as a source of food at that time too. I know some countries today still have rats on the menu.  These are normality undeveloped countries where rats are a free source of food.

Rats got a bad reputation for being thought responsible for the Black Death plague through the middle ages killing millions of people, however, they may not off been responsible. See articles in national geographic – https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/01/rats-plague-black-death-humans-lice-health-science/.  This is properly why humans do not like rats too much, and it properly not even their fault.

Using Rats to torture people in the seventeenth century would not of help their reputation either. This is where a person place on a bench then tie to it.  Then a cage of Rats is put on their stomachs and then the rats would eat the person. Not a good way to die.

Rats started to become more popular as pets around the start of the nineteenth century.

But the truth is us humans should be grateful to our Rats friends as they have helped us in a lot of different areas in research, especially in the medical research area which is still happening today.  Today any rat keep for research purposes is a lot better look after then it was in years gone by. They are properly even having a better life than most rats on the street.  However, this research has also been a help to the rats too. It has helped work out what is a good rat diet for them, what rat cages are best for them.  A good example of this is in the book, The China Study by T. Colin and Thomas Campbell, which refer to research done in regard to Rat’s diet. It brings up the research where rat fed on a high protein diet versus rats fed on a low protein diet.  The rats feed on the high protein diets did not survive as well as the one on the low protein diet. This was a big test study in relation to tumors and cancer research. With the results from the study, being helpful to both the human race and pet rats.

Feeding Your Pet Rat

Feeding Pet RatsRat Food and Rat Diet

Rats are omnivores and need to eat both meat and vegetables. They require a diet that has variety. They can be fussy eaters. A pet rat’s diet should consist mostly of fruit, vegetables and a small amount of cooked lean meat. Rat pellets are available at Pet Stores and can be used to substitute parts of their diet.  The pellets can help provide a better balanced diet for rats.


Food That Is Suitable For Pet Rats

Pet Rat Diet

 A rat’s diet should consist mostly of the following:

Cooked lean meat, chicken bones, apples, pear, bananas, grapes, strawberries and other berries, cherries, stone and citrus fruits, broccoli, cooked sweet potatoes, cabbage (but not red cabbage) cucumbers, carrots, boy choy and other Asian greens, celery, parsley, peas and corn (in small quantities only), wholegrain wheat pasta and bread.

Other Dietary Considerations For Your Pet Rat

 Whenever possible, all fruit and vegetables should be washed and peeled to get rid of any residual pesticides on the skin.

Rat diets should be a combination of foods that comes from the following three primary food groups:

  • Complex carbohydrates
  • Good proteins and
  • Healthy fats.

Foods That Is Unsuitable For Pet Rats

Avoid foods that are high in sugars or simple carbohydrates as these can possibly lead to the rat developing tumors and cancers. (Sound a little bit like a human diet.)

Avoid These Foods if possible:

 Raw peanuts, green potatoes skins, liquorice, orange juice, mango, raw artichokes, raw dried beans, raw red cabbage, raw brussel sprouts, raw sweet potatoes, avocado, lollies/candy and seaweed

Danger Foods for Pet Rats:

These foods are highly toxic to rats.

Bay leaves, pepper, peppermint, blue cheese, poppy seeds, bitter almonds, green potatoes, rhubarb leaves and stems, moldy food and fruit that has d-limonene, for example mango and orange juice.

Pet Rat Feeding Hints And Tips

How Often to Feed Your Pet Rat

As a guide, rats tend to eat around 8% to 22% of their body weight each day.  More frequent, smaller meals are better than one big meal each day as rats have small stomachs. They will therefore need to have access to food at least every six hours. This is important as otherwise, they run the risk of starvation and gastric complications.

How To Give Your Pet Rat The Right Amount Of Food (How To Tell If You Pet Rat Is Overweight)

The best way to monitor food quantities is to observe your rat (including physical activity) and watch their weight by actually weighing them on kitchen scales. After weighting your rat several times, you will get an idea of your rat’s normal weight for that breed (different breeds have a different average weights).  Rats don’t tend to became overweight unless that are overfed on excessively fatty or sugary foods or do not get regular, stimulating exercise.

Food Games To Play With Your Pet Rat

Rats are very smart and can be quite playful. They will love playing hide and seek with their food. Start by hiding small amount of their food around a sealed room safe for them to run around in (that is, no cat or dog waiting for their opportunity to also get in on the act). It is important that they (or you) have found the food as rotting food not only smells (especially to us humans), it could also cause intestinal problems for any animals (rat, cat, dog or child) that may track down rotting food later (not to mention potentially attract uninvited vermin).

Bonding With Your Pet Rat

Whilst you rat is out of their cage with you, it is also a great opportunity to bond personally with your rat and even teach it a few tricks (for food motivated rats, of course). This will go a long way to cementing a long and loving relationship with your lovable pet rat.

When, where, how and what you feed your pet rat is important.  With a little bit of planning you can make this in a fun time and training opportunity with your pet.


Pet Rat Breeds

Pet Rat breeds

Pet rats come in a vary of colours and breeds. Currently there are over 70 recognised rat breeds.

The main recognise breeds of rats are:

Standard – which have short hair with a nice glossy finish. Female rat’s hair tends to be softer then the male rats.

Hairless – the name said it all, no hair and pink thin skin. Great for people who are allergy to pet hair.  But with no fur coat, need to careful of it in cold weather and when it outside on a sunny day (could get sun burn very easily).

Tailness (Manx) – No tail or may still have a small furry stub or very small tail.

Dumbo – Again as the name implies it is normally slightly bigger than other rat breeds and their ears are little bit bigger and rounder and are situated a little bit lower than other rat ears. This breed can also come in a vary of colours.


Other Rat breeds varieties.

Marked -This breed comes in normally two colours that form a set pattern. The National Fancy Rat Society has recognised 12 marked varieties. One example of a marked Rat breed is Capped – Mostly white with colour on its head only.

Other marked varieties are: Berkshire, Badger, Hooked, Irish, Variegated, Essex, Blazed Essex, Chinchilla, Squirrel, Roan and Striped Roan.

Self Varieties – These breeds tend to be of one colour. For example, Pink Eyed White – White colour rat with pink eyes. Other Self Varieties are: Champagne, Buff, Platinum, Quicksilver, British Blue, black, Chocolate, Mink and Ivory.

Pet Rat Breed

Other breeds that I would like to mention are:

Siamese – very similar to the Siamese cat colouring.

Rex – Evenly curled dense coat.  Plus, will have curly whiskers.


Reminder Rats can come in a vary of colours. Personally I like the Ivory rat breed.

For more information on Rat Breeds visit www.nfrs.org.

Rats With Other Pets

Rats are actually very good with other pets, provided they are socialised well and kept healthy. More often than not, it’s how the other pets socialise with the rats which determine whether you as the owner can let them play together.


Rats and More Rats

Having two rats is better than one. It keeps them socialised and happy. The main point of concern is introducing the two animals since they can be territorial. For this reason it is important to introduce them in neutral territory so that one does not feel it has to defend its territory against the other.

Rats and Cats

Cats can be either really good or really bad with rats. My sister has a cat that always tried to get into the rat cage and therefore had to be kept separate (and eventually gave away the rat). I have also heard other cases where the cat and the rat got on amazingly, however it is still important to always monitor the two when they are together since there is always that off chance that the cat may try to be a little too aggressive, even if it was only playing.


Rats and Dogs

Dogs are similar to cats in the threat they potentially pose. Always be careful when introducing the two since that will determine the beginning of the relationship. If the two are friendly that is great, the only concern that you may have is that if it’s a big dog it could crush the small rat by accident. So like the cat, always monitor the two together.

Rats and other small animals

Rats get along well with most small animals. It’s similar to the rat-on-rat relationship in the way that one is not huge compared to the other, like a dog or cat. I have even heard of people keeping rats and guinea pigs in the same cage (which I do not recommend personally).

Rats are social animals and the best animal companions you can give them is yourself and other rats. If they do not get along with your cat/dog you may need to keep them separate but this is of course a case by case basis. Good luck!

For more information on how to train a rat Click Here,

And for more articles related to this one check out: Dog behavior small pets pet rat tips and Do rats get along with other pets – YouTube video


How to Train a Rat

Training Pet rat

Rats are great pets for training. They respond well to positive reinforcement, much like dogs, and can be trained to do a large variety of tricks. The main part of this training is rewarding behaviour that you want to encourage with both food and/or verbal praise. Training has the added benefit of socialising your rat and building a bond with you.

When it comes to teaching the rat their name for example, hold out some food and call its name. Repeat as many times as you need to until the rat as associated the reward with its name, and will now be more responsive to you. This also works for other types of training, you encourage the rat to perform the behaviour that you want and then reward it. This type of training is all about consistency, repetition and patience.

The first two “tricks” that I found helpful for my rat were the “come here” command, and litterbox training. This way I know that he will run back to me when I let him out of his cage and the litter training helps to keep the rat cage clean and makes it easier to maintain a high level of cleanliness.

Here are my 3 main tips when it comes to rat training:

  • You must remain consistent, since inconsistency will confuse the rat and make the training take longer
  • With this consistency is repetition which is the main way that a rat will learn its tricks. You are aiming to encourage certain behaviour again and again so it becomes more habitual.
  • And lastly you must have patience. This consistency and repetition can feel boring at times, but you must keep up with it and have patience with your rat’s development as that is what is going to help the succeed in the end.

Hope these tips help you as they helped me. Just remember that all rats will learn at a different pace to try to stick with it and you will be rewarded in the end.

Here are some other resources for rat training: