Ten things I learned in my first year of rat parenting

Everything has a learning curve to it. Especially when it comes to a brand new animal that you’ve never cared for. When I first adopted rodents, I had literally no experience. I had helped raise dogs and cats, but that was the extent of my abilities. The most I had ever really seen of a rodent were the field mice my orange fluffer butt Chester and his buddy Luanne brought home as “presents.” All of the research I did before finding Lucy didn’t tell me what I was about to learn through experience. These are a few things you want to keep in mind when bringing home a little friend.

  1. The mess is ridiculous

No one warns you about the mess they make! Seriously, bedding everywhere. Rats like to dig, burrow, and build nests so if you use bedding that can be broken into pieces (such as paper bedding) it will be all over your carpet within about 10 minutes. Have fun!

  1. The smell is even worse

Animal urine in general smells awful. But when you have 2 or 3 rats that all use the same corner as their restroom, it gets pretty intense. Keeping the cage clean is the best way to really combat this, but the best trick I’ve found is a little bit of vanilla in their water. You’ll thank me later.

  1. They’re expensive!

So expensive! I mean, to adopt a rat it’s usually between $20 and $40, but that’s just adopting. Then there’s the cage, the bedding, the house, the toys, the food, the treats, and the medical care. Today alone, I spent $101 on a vet visit. That’s more than I pay for myself to go to the human doctor!

  1. Health Problems

Don’t even get me started on the health issues rats can have (that no one warns you about.) Respiratory issues, parasites, UTIs, ear infections; it gets crazy. And best of luck finding a vet that can help take care of it all. Most vets take only “companion animals.” So cats and dogs. Finding an exotic animal clinic is nearly impossible in some areas. Google is your best friend when it comes to this.But, always make sure to check the local clinics as well to see if they happen to have an exotic animal doctor. Some do and don’t advertise it on their website. If Google fails, try making some calls and see what turns up. Having a vet you can go to is important, no matter what the animal is.

  1. The noises are frightening sometimes

Usually, rats are pretty quiet animals. I mean, they don’t bark at the mailman or anything like that. But, if you don’t know why they’re doing it, the little chitters, squeaks, and clicks they make can be unnerving. Not to mention the noises they make when they play fight or just decide to rearrange their cage. If you’re not expecting it, the sound of a small house being pushed around can make you just out of your seat.

  1. There’s a difference between nibbles and bites

This one seems pretty obvious, but I’ve noticed that some people don’t seem to know the difference. Bites are hardcore painful and can very easily break the skin and draw blood. Those typically only happen if your ratty feels threatened or if you REALLY smell like food. Nibbles are, well, nibbles. Those are when your fingers smell like food and they gently put their teeth on them to test it. Once they realize its skin, they let go. Don’t panic. It’s normal.

  1. The scratches!

Oh goodness, the scratches. Rats have some serious claws on them, even if you give them regular trims and something to file them down. It’s part of being a rat parent. Just remember to keep those scratches clean. No one wants rat scratch fever. Helping the rats keep their feet clean can help prevent infections from scratches as well. I use special puppy paw wipes to get bacteria off their little toes if it’s getting close to bath day.

  1. No one thinks you’re doing it right

I feel like this is to be said for just about everything in life, whether it’s a human child, a dog, a cat, or a rat. No one thinks you’re doing it right. The food you feed them isn’t right. Neither are the treats. Or the bedding. Or the toys. Or the cage. And God forbid someone (who thinks free roam is the only way to go) sees the cage you spent $200 on because “how dare you lock up such a precious thing?!” My best advice: do what works for you. As long as you are both happy and healthy, forget what anyone else has to say.

  1. Play time is the best time.

Even after all of the bad and the headache, you seem to forget it exists when play time comes around. Nothing is sweeter than watching a little rat make itself a nest, chase balls around a pen, or just letting it snuggle up in your hood. That’s the best feeling. Until they use your carpet, your shirt, your pants, or your hands as their bathroom. Then it comes crashing back. But, no matter what, you still love them with all your dark little heart.

  1. Rat love is the best love

It really is. The way they run to the cage door when you come home, the excited little chitters they make when you finally hold them against your body, it’s all the best. And some days, you’re even lucky enough to get little licks. So, forget what everyone else thinks. Because, you know what, anyone who says “ew” when you mention your rat has never had that kind of love. It’s short and it’s painful, but it’s so worth it.

I feel like this was  important to have up immediately because I’ve seen a few people just jumping into having a rat/hamster/gerbil/some kind of rodent and getting a little overwhelmed with all of the things that comes with it. This is just what I found out the hard way when I first jumped in. I hope this is helpful in a sense. Just a few things to keep in mind when adopting a new rodent love.


If there is something I left out that you had to learn the hard way, leave it in the comments down below! If there is anything you want to see posts about, again, just let me know.


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