Welcome To Our Complete Guide To Rat Lifespan.
Giving You The Rundown On Rat Life Expectancy, And How To Help Your Rat Stay Healthy For As Long As Possible.
Thinking about getting a pet rat? Excellent choice!
Rats make intelligent, affectionate, and playful animal companions.
If you’ve never had a rat before, you might be curious about rat life expectancy.
Since small pets like rats, mice, and gerbils have shorter lifespans than other animals like dogs and cats, this can be an important question.
Small animals like rats are often the first pet that parents get for young children, so it can be helpful to understand the rat lifespan and explain it to children.
How long do pet rats live?
Many experts say that the average lifespan of a rat is between 2 and 3 years.
However, there are rat experts who report that, in rare cases, pet rat life expectancy can be as long as 4 or 5 healthy years!
Choosing a healthy pet rat and giving it proper care and good nutrition throughout its life can go a long way to extending the lifespan of a domestic rat.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at rats, both wild and domestic, so potential owners can understand both the rat lifespan and rat life cycle.
Wild rat lifespan
Domestic (also called “fancy”) rats are descended from wild rats.
Rats in the wild are generally black or brown, but people began trapping white (called “albino”) rats born to common wild rats, and keeping them as pets.
How long do wild rats live?
Many wild rats will not make it to their first birthday.
Experts report that the average lifespan of a rat in the wild is between 6 and 11 months.
Rats in the wild face many more dangers than pet rats.
They are a common prey animal for many predators.
Wild rats are also impacted by food supply, such as food shortages caused by draught.
Given these threats, it’s not surprising that the lifespan of a wild rat can be very short.
Pet rat lifespan
When people started to take a fancy to albino rats and domesticate them, they soon realized that rats are clean, curious, and loving animals that make great pets.
Rat fanciers began breeding different types of domestic rat.
While albino is still popular, rats come in a variety of colors and markings.
As well as different body types such as hairless and dumbo varieties.
How long do rats live as pets?
In the early days of domestication, pet rat life expectancy was around 1 ½ to 2 years, occasionally as long as 3 in some cases.
Improved knowledge about proper rat care, feeding, and veterinary care in recent years has made it feasible for rats to live as long as 4 or more years in captivity.
Rat life cycle
Now that we have an idea of the average lifespan of a pet rat, what stages of life can new owners expect their rats to experience?
Rat experts generally divide the rat life cycle into 4 phases: newborn, 4 weeks, 1 year, and over 1 year.
Newborn rats are tiny, blind, and dependent on their mothers. They grow quickly, beginning to crawl at 5 days, and their eyes will open at 2 weeks.
At only 4 weeks, a young rat will no longer need its mother. They are fully alert and can feed themselves. But they will still need their siblings to ensure they develop socially.
Around 6 to 8 weeks is the right time to bring home a baby rat.
Rats reach full adulthood at 1 year of age. They are active, playful, and easy to train.
Rats over a year old can be less active and may develop health problems that are common to older pets.
Fancy rat lifespan
How long do fancy rats live?
“Fancy” is a term commonly used to describe all domestic rats, and a fancy rat is not a specific breed of pet rat.
Fancy rats come in 7 different varieties, mostly related to the thickness and texture of the coat.
Besides coat type, there are also hairless, tailless, and big-eared (called “dumbo”) fancy rat varieties.
They come in a wide range of colors. Their fur patterns include agouti (or ticked), Siamese, merle, and spotted. They can also have head markings called hoods, caps, and masks.
But the lifespan of a fancy rat is the same as any pet rat.
How long do domestic rats live? 2 to 3 years is the average lifespan of a pet rat, but individuals can live up to 4 or 5 years.
Dumbo rat lifespan
How long do dumbo rats live?
Dumbo rats are a variety of fancy rat. They are distinguished by their large round ears, set low on the head.
Dumbo is a recessive genetic trait, meaning that if both parents are dumbos, all the babies will be dumbos.
One dumbo parent mated with a regular rat could produce litters with either some dumbos or no dumbos.
A healthy dumbo rat should have a normal pet rat life expectancy. The main factor that could contribute to poor health or a shortened lifespan is inbreeding.
Inbreeding for all-dumbo litters could pass down other, unwanted characteristics besides the desired large ears.
Reputable breeders will outcross their rats to unrelated animals to remove negative traits and add positive ones.
Good rat breeders will breed not only for physical characteristics, but for overall health as well.
Hairless rat lifespan
Like the dumbo, the hairless rat is also a variety of the domestic fancy rat.
Hairless rats can have skin of any color, and the skin should be smooth and blemish-free. Many hairless rats will have short, curly whiskers, or none at all.
Unfortunately, hairless rats have a lot more health problems than their haired cousins.
Think carefully before bringing them home, and make sure you check out this guide for the full story.
Does rat coat color affect their lifespan?
Many potential owners have questions about the albino rat lifespan, and wonder if coat color in general impacts pet rat life expectancy.
How long do white rats live…or rats of any color for that matter?
Although hairless rats don’t live as long, the coat color and markings of a rat do not influence its overall lifespan.
Any color rat, including albino, can live a long healthy life if bred from healthy lines and cared for properly.
Inbreeding can affect a rat’s health and lifespan if an inexperienced breeder passes on undesirable traits along with a particular coat color or pattern.
One important thing to keep in mind when buying a rat from a pet store is to make sure that you are getting a fancy rat from a breeder and not a so-called “feeder” rat.
Feeder rats are sold as food for animals like snakes. They are often bred from unhealthy genetic lines, are prone to illnesses, and have a short life expectancy.
Feeder rats are often white (although they can be any color), so it’s important to know that the pet store rat you are buying is not a feeder rat.
Helping your rat to live longer
How long can a rat live? The answer depends on how you choose a healthy baby rat and how you care for your rat over its entire lifespan.
The optimal age to acquire rats is around 6 weeks old. Look for a healthy rat with a shiny coat and bright eyes.
Your rat should not be sneezing, or have a runny nose or eyes. Check your rat’s droppings to make sure they are dark and firm.
Healthy young rats should also be active and curious.
Once you bring your new rats home, how do you give them a long and healthy life?
Here are some expert tips on nutrition and care.
Feeding your rats
Like other pets, rats that are fed too much unhealthy food can become obese.
Studies have shown that even a small reduction in food quantity can significantly increase a rat’s lifespan and improve its overall health.
Feeding your rat a diet rich in antioxidants can also help increase lifespan.
As with humans, oxidative stress caused by free radicals in the body can cause disease and accelerate the aging process.
Healthy food for your rat includes quality commercial pellets as well as fresh vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and peas.
Feed your rat fresh fruit as an occasional treat. Rats enjoy people food like bread, nuts, and eggs.
Save these foods for special treats.
Rat health problems
Besides feeding your rat a healthy diet, you should also monitor your pet for certain medical conditions common to domestic rats.
Rats can be prone to upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, tumors of the mammary glands, and skin parasites.
Respiratory disease is the most common health problem in rats.
Look for eye and nose discharge, as well as sneezing.
Most respiratory infections are bacterial in nature, and can be treated with antibiotics. Viral infections require good supportive care like a quality diet and proper cage conditions.
To prevent respiratory infections, your rat’s cage should be clean and well-ventilated.
Rats are sensitive to light and heat. Keep their cages out of direct sunlight and away from extreme heat and cold.
Temperature should range between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fortunately, while common, most rat mammary tumors are benign and not cancerous.
Keep in touch with your vet
If you are concerned about your rat, the best thing to do is to take him to the vet.
Your veterinarian is the best person to help a poorly pet.
Many who specialize in rats recommend buying a small scale, so you can monitor any weight changes in your rat. Unexplained weight loss can be a sign of illness.
Check your rat regularly for signs of hair loss and skin problems. Note any changes in the appearance or odor of your rat’s urine and feces.
Make sure your rat’s teeth do not become overgrown.
Provide your rat with materials like wood blocks to gnaw on and bring your rat to the vet for dental trimming if necessary.
Rat lifespan is on average around 2 years.
Although there are a lot of factors that can influence the length.
Despite being fairly short lived creatures, with proper care, your pet rat can live a happy and healthy life for as long as possible!
- American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association
- “What You Need to Know About Rats: Tips from Exotic Veterinarians.” Veterinary Practice News, 2015.
- Donnelly, T.M. “Mice and Rats as Pets.” Merck Veterinary Manual.
- Quesenberry, K.E., Boschert, K.R. “Routine Health Care of Rats.” Merck Veterinary Manual.
- Rey, F., Bulliot, C., Bertin, N., et al. “Morbidity and Disease Management in Pet Rats: A Study of 375 Cases.” Veterinary Record, 2015.
- Richardson, A., Austad, S.N., Ikeno, Y., et al. “Significant Life Extension by Ten Percent Dietary Restriction.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2015.
- Kumar, D., Rizvi, S.I. “A Critical Period in Lifespan of Male Rats Coincides with Increased Oxidative Stress.” Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 2014.