Can Brown Rats be Pets? Pros and Cons to Consider

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Many people consider rats pests and would never consider having one as a pet. However, some find these creatures to be fascinating and even affectionate. Brown rats, also known as Norway rats, are a common species kept as pets.

While some may find it strange to keep a rat as a pet, brown rats can make great companions for the right person. They are intelligent, social animals that enjoy interacting with their owners. With proper care and attention, brown rats can live happy, healthy lives in captivity.

Before deciding to bring a brown rat into your home, it’s essential to research and understand pet ownership responsibilities. While they may not require as much attention as a dog or cat, rats still need a clean living environment, a balanced diet, and regular veterinary check-ups. Additionally, it’s important to note that not all cities and states allow pet rats, so check local regulations before deciding.


Characteristics of Brown Rats


Brown rats, also known as Norway rats, are popular for those looking for an intelligent and affectionate companion. Their unique characteristics make them a great addition to any household. Here are some of their key traits:

  • Intelligence: Brown rats are highly intelligent creatures that can be trained to perform a variety of tricks and tasks. They have excellent memories and can learn and remember new things quickly.
  • Social: Brown rats are social animals that thrive in the company of others. They enjoy interacting with their owners and other rats and can become quite attached to their human family.
  • Cleanliness: Contrary to popular belief, rats are very clean animals. They spend a lot of time grooming themselves and each other and are careful to keep their living area tidy.
  • Active: Brown rats are very active creatures requiring plenty of exercises and mental stimulation. They enjoy playing with toys, climbing, and exploring their surroundings.
  • Adaptable: Brown rats are highly adaptable creatures that thrive in various environments. They can adjust to changes in their surroundings and be kept in various living situations.

Overall, brown rats are intelligent, social, and active creatures that make great pets for those willing to provide them with the love, attention, and care they need to thrive.


Pros and Cons of Keeping Brown Rats as Pets


Keeping brown rats as pets can be a unique and rewarding experience but also comes with challenges. Here are some pros and cons to consider before deciding to adopt a brown rat as a pet:


  • Brown rats are intelligent and social animals that can form strong bonds with their owners.
  • They are relatively low-maintenance pets that do not require a lot of space or expensive equipment.
  • Brown rats are generally easy to train and can learn various tricks and behaviors.
  • They have a 2-3 year lifespan, which can be a good option for those who want a shorter commitment than a dog or cat.
  • Brown rats are very active and playful, which can provide entertainment and enrichment for both the rat and its owner.




  • Brown rats have a strong odor that can be difficult to manage, especially in small living spaces.
  • They are prone to specific health issues, such as respiratory infections and tumors, which can be expensive and time-consuming to treat.
  • Brown rats are nocturnal animals, so they may be more active and noisy at night when their owners try to sleep.
  • They tend to chew on things, damaging furniture, wires, and other household items.
  • Brown rats have a stigma as pests, making it challenging to find a veterinarian or boarding facility to treat them.

Overall, keeping a brown rat as a pet can be a rewarding experience for those willing to put in the time and effort to care for them properly. However, it is essential to carefully consider the pros and cons before deciding to adopt one as a pet.


Housing and Feeding Brown Rats


Brown rats are intelligent and social animals that require adequate space to move around and play. Therefore, a large cage or enclosure is necessary to ensure that they have enough room to run, climb, and play. The minimum recommended size for a pair of rats is 2 feet long, 1.5 feet wide, and 1.5 feet tall. The cage should be made of metal or wire mesh and have a solid floor to prevent injury to the rats’ feet.

It’s essential to provide a variety of toys and hiding places in the cage to keep the rats entertained and stimulated. Rats enjoy playing with toys such as tunnels, hammocks, and ropes. Additionally, they need a place to hide and sleep, so providing a cozy nest box or hiding spot is essential.

A balanced diet is crucial to their health and well-being when feeding brown rats. High-quality commercial rat food should comprise the bulk of their diet, supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid feeding your rats sugary or fatty treats, leading to obesity and other health problems.

It’s essential to provide clean, fresh water at all times. A water bottle attached to the side of the cage is the best option, as it prevents the water from becoming contaminated with bedding or food particles.

Remember that rats are social animals that thrive on interaction with their owners. Therefore, spending time with your rats daily, playing with them, and providing them with attention and affection is essential to their happiness and well-being.


Health and Safety Considerations


Before deciding to keep a brown rat as a pet, it is essential to consider the health and safety implications. While brown rats can make excellent pets, they can also carry diseases and parasites that can be transmitted to humans. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Regular Vet Check-ups: Taking your brown rat to the vet for regular check-ups is essential to ensure that they are healthy and not carrying any diseases.
  • Hygiene: Brown rats carry diseases such as Leptospirosis, Salmonella, and Hantavirus. Practicing good hygiene when handling your pet, such as washing your hands thoroughly before and after and regularly cleaning their cage, is essential.
  • Bite Risk: While brown rats are generally docile and friendly, they can bite if they feel threatened or scared. It is essential to handle them gently and avoid startling them.
  • Environmental Hazards: Brown rats are curious creatures and can get into trouble if their environment is not adequately secured. Ensure their cage is escape-proof and free of any hazards, such as electrical cords, toxic plants, or small objects they could swallow.

By considering these health and safety considerations, you can ensure that your brown rat stays happy and healthy while keeping yourself and your family safe.


Legal Aspects of Keeping Brown Rats as Pets


Before deciding to keep a brown rat as a pet, it’s essential to consider its legal aspects. While brown rats are not illegal to own as pets in most states in the United States, there are some necessary regulations to be aware of.

Firstly, some states require a permit to keep a pet rat, and you must check with your local authorities to ensure you comply with any regulations. Additionally, some cities and municipalities have specific laws regarding the ownership of rats, so it’s essential to check with your local government before bringing a brown rat into your home.

It’s also important to note that while brown rats are legal to own as pets, releasing them into the wild is illegal. This is because brown rats are considered an invasive species and can cause harm to local ecosystems if released into the wild.

Finally, it’s essential to consider the ethical implications of keeping a brown rat as a pet. While they can make great companions, you must provide them with a safe and healthy environment and meet their physical and emotional needs.




After exploring the various aspects of owning a brown rat as a pet, it’s clear that there are both pros and cons to consider. Brown rats can make affectionate, intelligent, and entertaining pets, but they also require significant care and attention.

It’s important to remember that brown rats are not for everyone. They have specific needs and behaviors that require a dedicated and knowledgeable owner. Additionally, some people may find keeping a rat as a pet unappealing or even unsettling.

However, owning a brown rat can be a rewarding experience for those willing to put in the time and effort. They can form strong bonds with their owners and provide hours of entertainment with their playful and curious nature.

Ultimately, the decision to own a brown rat as a pet should be made carefully and with consideration for both the rat’s welfare and the owner’s lifestyle. With proper care and attention, a brown rat can make an excellent addition to the appropriate household.

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