After having over a dozen rats as pets over the past 20 years, I know there are expenses that I never thought would pop up for them, things I never thought of before bringing my first rat home. For such a small, relatively inexpensive pet to adopt, they can be a healthy expense once you get them home. Are you willing to pay the money to take care of them and keep them healthy?
Did you know that rats need a lot of space to run, play, sleep, eat and even need a bathroom corner? A small $20 hamster cage is not suitable for rats because they grow to be much bigger than hamsters and will not fit into the tubes, bubbles, wheels and houses. There are cages made specifically for rats and they will run you about $140 each. The cage I bought is a Ferret Nation cage which is close to a Critter Nation cage, the only real differences between the two is the Critter Nation cage has smaller bar spacing so baby rats can't fit through the bars. But I didn't have babies so this was fine with me. The Dimensions of the Critter Nation cage are: 36L x 24W x 39H inches. So you can see this is a large cage and I easily had 4 rats in this cage together. Even if you only have two rats, you need a cage this big so they have enough room to play, hide, sleep and have places to climb.
Rats needs toys, beds, houses, ladders, ropes, food bowls, water bottles, hammocks, bedding, and sometimes wheels. The thing is, you aren't going to be buying these things once, you are going to be buying these things many times over because rats like to chew and just about everything you put in their cage gets chewed up and destroyed. So it has to be replaced.
Rats not only need a good bagged rat food like Oxbow rat food, but they also need treats, and fresh fruits and vegetables. I have 2 rats right now and I spend about $60 a month on the bagged dry Oxbow rat food, yogie treats, other rat treats like Gerber Graduates banana cookies as well as fresh fruits and vegetables that I give to my rats every day. It all adds up to a lot of food and money each month.
You wouldn't think that laundry would be a big part of having a pet rat, but it is for me because I found out that using fleece blankets and cotton baby blankets as liners for the bottom and the shelves of my rat cages is the best thing I could use for them. They are not dusty like some of the bagged bedding and dust can cause allergic reactions as well as upper respiratory infections. So when I clean out the cages each week, I have to take all of the fleece blankets, baby blankets and hammocks out of the cage and throw them into the washer and dryer. This is also cheaper than buying the bagged bedding at the pet store and it's reusable.
Rats can get sick and need medicine for different things just like we do. Are you willing to pay for things like antibiotics if they get an upper respiratory infection, medicine to get rid of mites or other parasites, antibiotic ointment and bandages for cuts, scrapes and illnesses like bumblefoot?
If your rat gets sick are you willing to take them to the vets office and have them looked at and treated? If they get old or sick and need to be humanely put to sleep, are you willing to take them to the vet and pay for that? If you bring home a pet, you have a responsibility to make sure that they don't suffer if they get sick. If you cannot or will not take your rat to the veterinarian then you should not adopt a pet rat.
Who Are You Buying The Rat For?
Are you bringing home the rat for yourself or your kids? Children should always be supervised around animals and can quickly become bored with pets where they don't want to take care of them and if this happens are you willing to take responsibility for the animal and care for it? If you are thinking of buying a rat as a gift for a birthday or Christmas present for a niece, nephew or neighbor...don't. Did you ask the parents if they want a rat? Are the parents willing to care for the animal if their child doesn't?
Caring for An Older Rat
Are you willing to take the time to care for an older rat if they can't walk, won't drink from the water bottle and need special soft human foods? I had an elderly rat who was 4 years old and I had to syringe feed him water and food every 2-4 hours *for almost 4 months*, feed him soft foods like pudding, eggs, rice, noodles and other soft foods several times a day because he only ate a little at a time and fresh foods go bad so I had to clean out the old and put new food in all the time. He had hind leg degeneration so I had to buy another smaller one level cage so that he stayed on the ground floor and didn't fall off any high platforms or shelves. He didn't clean himself too much so I had to change his blanket which is in his bed, because he urinated on it since he couldn't walk around so well anymore. I sometimes had to bathe him in the sink if he had diarrhea or if he got wet from urine. When he stopped eating and drinking and slows down to where I know it's time to help him rest, I was going to take him to the vet and have him humanely put to sleep *he passed away in his sleep* , are you willing to do that? It's not right to let them suffer.
So before you adopt a pet think about what you are willing to do if that pet gets sick or needs to see a vet. If the answer is nothing, then reconsider getting any pet.