Rats are social, inquisitive animals that make great companions. They very rarely bite so they are often great pets for children. Rats should be kept together in at least a pair although sometimes they may fight and need to be separated whereas spaying and neutering usually helps. Males should not be kept with females unless they are neutered because they breed readily and have large amounts of babies.
Rats need a solid bottom cage at least three feet long and two feet wide. Time outside of the cage to explore a safe area is great enrichment. They will chew wood and plastic so only ceramic or metal dishes should be used. Water bowls get very dirty so must be cleaned frequently and water bottles attached to the side of the cage should be used. Carefresh (recycled shredded paper) bedding or layers of fleece bedding are the best options to use at the bottom of the cage. There should be several hides that your rat can get completely under to hide and sleep. Cardboard boxes offer great hiding places and rats enjoy destroying them as well. Toilet paper rolls, wooden chews, grass hay, newspaper, and other destructible toys (avoid plastic) provide good enrichment and chewing opportunities.
Rats urinate and defecate a lot so their cage should be cleaned frequently (at least 1-2 times weekly) to reduce waste odor and contamination.
Diet and Nutrition
Rodent blocks and rat pellets are fortified with excellent nutrition and are much healthier than seed mixes. Avoid mixes with nuts, corn, seeds, and fruit as these will be favored and can lead to obesity. Small amounts of table scraps can be offered such as greens, whole grains, rice, nut butters, some fruit, healthy cereals, and pasta. You should not offer human junk food despite the fact they might like it.
Spaying female rats before 16 weeks old is recommended to decrease the incidence of mammary tumor development. With good care the average lifespan is about 2-2.5 years.