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Which Type of Rat is Most Suitable?


The only species of rat that is commonly kept as a pet is the domesticated version of the Brown Rat. The wild Brown Rat is the creature that many of us are terrified of, the one that frequents sewers, warehouses and cellars. The domesticated Brown Rat however has become a much more docile and friendly creature, following generations of breeding in captivity. Despite the name, it’s also available in a variety of colours.


There are three main colours.

Self-coloured rats have a single body colour e.g. albino (white), black, cinnamon, chocolate, fawn, cream, blue and pearl.

Hooded rats have a mix of white with a darker colour like the Irish Black, which has a triangle of white fur on its chest and white feet and the Japanese Hooded, which has a white body, coloured head and shoulders and a stripe of colour along its back.  

Himalayan and Siamese rats are dark at the tips of their nose, ears and legs, but the rest of the body is a lighter colour.

Pet shops may stock a wide range of so-called fancy rats with different markings. You can choose whatever type you prefer but it’s worth remembering that the more exotic types are more expensive.


Most rats have short smooth coats but the rex variation exists too, with rougher looking coats.


It’s best to choose young rats aged between four to six weeks as they’ll adapt more easily to their new surroundings, than adults.


Male rats tend to have a slightly stronger smell than female rats. If you’re buying more than one rat, you should choose females as they’re less likely to fight. If you do choose females, make sure that they have not been mixing with males or they could be pregnant already.

Unless you have a keen interest in breeding rats, you should house males and females separately. It is not difficult to tell the difference between them but if you need help ask someone with experience or your vet.


Many people keep a single rat alone, which is fine provided you spend some time playing with it every day. You can also keep rats in pairs or in groups of one sex (preferably females) and if you keep groups together in one cage from when they are very young, they will be much less likely to fight.

If you are worried about your pet's health, visit the Petfix DIY Triage Checker or Ask a Vet. If it is urgent take your pet to your vet immediately.