I have five charming, sweet-natured pet rats who are very low maintenance in some respects. They are quite happy to sleep in their cage in their hammocks (available online) all day. During the day when you are at work, they won’t care what you are doing and will be quite happy to be on their own. At night, while you are frolicking at a club, they will still be happy leaping around trashing their cage!
Remember that you should get a couple of rats- would you like to live on your own for the rest of your life, not even being able to talk to other people? A pair of ratties the same age is what you need. They live approximately 2–3 years, some longer. About 6–8 weeks is the right age to obtain them.
They do require looking after however, so make sure you get a couple the same sex. The males are unmistakable regardless of what the assistants in the pet shop tell you - think male dogs bits and pieces. As long as you keep their cage and litter tray changed regularly, they are smell free.
They will need a litter tray and don’t get the CRYSTAL litter as it is toxic for them. The paper pellets or the lucerne hay pellets are the best. The lucerne ones smell of grass and you can empty them into the garden. If no lucerne available then get biodegradable.
You will need to play with them and socialise them on a regular basis just not as often as cats and dogs.
You can look up rat rescues online and get lovely socialised pets from a shelter. There are literally dozens of rat rescues - and rabbit rescues too - right across the USA and some in Australia. Plenty in the UK and I should imagine in Europe. Rescue shelter personnel are always happy to help and willing to give you all the information you need on how to feed them and look after them. You will be asked for a small fee because the shelter does not run on-air and goodwill!!!
If you buy rats, look up clubs and buy from a registered breeder. There are clubs around!
They require proper hard pellets for their teeth, but you can also feed them vegetables and the occasional chop bone (as a treat.) Never get that trashy lucerne hay mix that the pet shops try to tell you is the correct food for rats.
You need to be aware - and some people are astonished - that rats do need medicine from time to time. The most prolific killer of rats are viral pneumonia and cancer, the latter being the reason why rats (mice, guinea pigs & rabbits) are used so much in laboratories for experiments Viral pneumonia can be detected when you hear your rat’s chest-rattling. If you press the rat’s body against your ear you will hear its lungs distinctly rattling. This can be fatal, so a vet visit needs to be arranged immediately. Baytril/Doxycycline mix is the correct medicine. Also, your rats need to be wormed about every 3–4 months (just like the cat or dog) with a small animal wormer or horse wormer Ivomectin (a spec the size of a grain of rice).
You need to clean their cage out probably every two-three days (they will trash it) and make sure they have two bottles of freshwater with ball dispensers available all the time. Two in case one blocks up - occasionally the ball will get stuck in the tube. They will need small animal wormer two-monthly and if they get sick, it's usually doxycycline/Baytril mix once per day.
If you keep their cage clean, they will not smell - they don’t smell like mice - and will be charming, affectionate pets. You can take them out and play on the lounge with them - put a sheet over the lounge suite. Some people free-range their rats but I don’t recommend this as they can get into hard to find places. A friend of mine had a “rat room” set up with tunnels, ladders, little houses and all sorts of playthings for them to scuttle up and down. You can put tunnels and playhouses into their cage along with their hammock.
Make sure that you don’t put their cage within grabbing distance of anything you don’t want re-decorated! Curtains, for example, should be out of reach, clothes draped across anything near them. I have just discovered that theses five little thugs have eaten out the blind over the big glass door because I had the cage too close to it. It was a team effort in spite of the fact that the two families hate each other’s guts because it has been eaten high up and low down, which means that Daisy and her Daughters gnashed the bottom half (they live on the lower level) and Lily and Esmeralda ate the top parts.
Do not ever ever ever put a bird in a cage right next to the cage or if you have a pet bird that has “time out” allow it to get near the rat cage. They will drag it in and kill it in seconds - before you can even get near to save it.
Don’t ever take them out into the garden and put them on the ground. A hawk will spot them from miles up and snatch them up before you can save them.
Don’t forget that if the weather turns boiling hot to leave an air-conditioner on for them - 24 Economy is fine - or if it is winter, a heater on low. Hammocks are generally made of polar fleece so they are pretty warm, but sometimes it’s just too cold in some parts of the world.
Think about it! They are sweet, loving little animals.
PS: Sadly. they don’t live long, 2–3 years is pretty average. I now have three little ratties - not the same as mentioned in my answer. Nesta, Hesta and Billy passed to the Rainbow Bridge, Benny had a stroke and left us about a year ago.
We now have Daisy and her two tiny daughters living with us! She is a lovely little mink colour and her girls started out cream in colour but have changed to gorgeous mink.
UPDATE ON DAISY AND THE GIRLS!
All are well! Daisy and her Daughters enjoy a frolic on our bed in the afternoon (nanny nap time for oldies!) and Lily and Esmeralda enjoy trundling around on the lounge and taking their turn in the bedroom. Poor Esmeralda has developed a bad head tilt which no amount of meds can cure. We think she might have a tumour, but as long as she is happy and eating, we will just monitor it.
I gave the huge cage away and now the girls are in different cages - Daisy and her Thugs in one and Lily and Esmeralda in a new one! I put them almost next to each other at night so they can enjoy stamping their little feet and hissing at each other! Enrichment!