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Pet rat lifespan

cat on a sofa how long will it live

Photo by Cong H

Keeping rats as pets is more common than some think. Pet rats can be a lot of fun to care for so long as you're committed to the process.

Before going out and purchasing pet rats, it's wise to learn more about them. For example, it's important to know how long they're expected to live.

A pet rat’s lifespan is generally one and a half years to three years. It's very common for pet rats to live for two years.

Interestingly, the lifespan of wild rats is virtually the same as pet rats. It's expected that wild rats will live for around two years as well.

Find out how rat's age converts to human years

But in the end, how long rats live as a pet depends on how well the owner cares for them. According to the Guinness World Records, the oldes rat lived for over seven years!

Could your rat beat that?

What affects pet rat life expectancy?

There are quite a few things that will affect the life expectancy of your pet rat. If you can focus on doing things right, it's more likely that your pet rat will live for more than the standart two years.

  • Nutrition. The food that you feed your pet rat matters a lot. Pet rats need a balanced diet.
  • Obesity is known to shorten pet rats’ life. And even with a proper diet lack of exercise can lead to weight issues.
  • Rest. Not getting enough sleep will negatively impact the rat's life expectancy.
  • Environment. Severe stress can lead to early death.
  • Air. Environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke can kill pet rats faster.

What shortens pet rat lifespan?

Some health issues might shorten the life expectancy of pet rats. It's imperative to keep your eyes open for various health problems to protect your pet.

Respiratory Disease

Respiratory problems are the most common thing that will affect a rat's longevity. Pet rats are susceptible to respiratory infections.

These infections can be treated with antibiotics, but sometimes viral infections may occur. Generally, viral infections happen when pet rats aren't being fed well, and there are issues with the hygiene.

Always keep the cage clean and do your best to ensure proper ventilation. It'll help the rats significantly.

Failure to do so can result in many issues. Rats can get pneumonia, and such problems have the potential to kill them faster than you might think.


Cancer usually occurs when rats reach an advanced age. It's common for rats to get tumors, but they usually appear when a rat is under eighteen months old.

Female rats are more likely to get cancer. If you notice any lumps, it's best to contact a veterinarian right away.

If you catch things early, it might be possible to treat the illness. Otherwise, there isn't much that can be done.

Cancer is a serious health issue. With pet rats, it appears in the later life stages. So at least your pet will have lived a large portion of its life by the time it's likely to get cancer.

Skin Parasites

Skin parasites can be very problematic for pet rats. Skin mite infestations can stress rats, and this might contribute to a shorter life.

It's easy enough to treat this issue with medication, but you need to take action. To prevent skin mite issues, keep the cage clean and do your best to disinfect it.

Rats kept in stressful environments are more likely to have problems with skin mites, too.

So do your best to keep your pet rat happy by giving them a big enough cage in a calm room, feeding them well, and ensuring that they get exercise. And your pet rats will have a better chance to live longer.

How to Extend Your Pet Rat's Life

Extending your pet rat's lifespan should be your goal. If you care for the pet rat well and give it an appropriate environment to live in, you should be able to keep it alive for as long as possible.


Be sure to feed the rat the right types of food. Pet rats will benefit from fruits and veggies in their diet. Kiwi, broccoli, berries, carrots, kale, and beetroot are some of the best options.

Always give your pet rats reasonable portions.


Give your pet rat opportunities to exercise. Pet rats need an open environment where they can exercise and play. Buying a running wheel for the pet rat is recommended. Another option is a rat maze (even a DIY option will be perfect). It will add mental stimulation.

Regular check-ups

Take your pet rat to see a veterinarian from time to time.

Healthy environment

Never smoke near pet rats.

Do not expose pet rats to other environmental toxins such as phenols and ammonia.

Less stress

Avoid stressing your rats by overcrowding them or moving them around too much.

Ensure that your pet rat gets enough sleep. Pet rats need a dark and quiet sleeping area to thrive.

Keeping two pet rats at once will have a positive effect on their mental health.

If you take the advice above to heart, it should be easier to keep your pet rat safe and healthy. And your pet rat will have a chance to live close to three years.