How Long Do Rats Live as Pets?

"If I seem full of malaise, please take me to the vet."
"If I seem full of malaise, please take me to the vet." (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Welcoming any new living being into your life is a major commitment, whether a horse, rat or anything else. Pet rats have many strong qualities, including both their typically amiable dispositions and their compact size. Since rats generally don't live as long as many other pets, lifespan is also a big consideration.

Typical Lifespan

Domestic rats, like most other rodents, usually have markedly brief lifespans. Pet rats survive, on average, between two and three years, according to the ASPCA. This is not much different from their rodent kin. Hamsters usually live anywhere from one to two years. Gerbils generally have a little more longevity -- think a range of three to five years. Guinea pigs have larger bodies and lengthier life expectancies, often living from five to seven years.


If you feed your pet rat an appropriate diet, his chances of staying healthy -- and therefore living longer -- increase. Commercial lab blocks that are marked for exclusive rat consumption make a strong and suitable foundation. Fresh produce also can add a lot to a pet rat's menu, as long as it's chopped into tiny bits. Some rat favorites are carrots, lettuce, strawberries, apples, cucumber, broccoli, peas, bananas and strawberries. You can offer your rat veggies in small amounts on a daily basis, but keep the fruits to two or three times a week. Always keep the portions moderate -- think roughly a single tablespoon.

Healthy Rat

If your rat is healthy and content, it might be apparent to you just by looking at him. Rats in optimal condition are full of energy and are often moving around. They also are usually friendly and aware of their surroundings. Importantly, they also tend to display strong appetites. Physical fitness is also key for success in keeping a rat. Rats adore running around, and plastic or metal exercise wheels are an appropriate option for keeping their wee bodies active.

Veterinary Care

A balanced diet isn't the only way to ensure the happiness, strength and possibly increased lifespan of a domestic rat. It's important to make sure your rat sees a vet at least once per year for a checkup. If your rat seems unwell, however, get urgent care for the little one. Always be on the lookout for hints that something is amiss health-wise, such as loose and runny stools, glazed-over eyes, exhaustion, sneezing, loss of weight, labored breathing, runny nose, skin wounds and inordinate growing of the teeth.

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