Considering getting a pet rat? If you are, I think you’re making a great decision. Rats are great as pets; they’re intelligent, relatively low maintenance, cheap, funny, and cute! They’re also very easy to train and can learn many amazing tricks. However, before you run off to a pet store and buy a rat it’s a good idea to figure out how much you’ll have to spend on a rat to give them a good life. There might be costs associated with getting one of these critters as a pet that you’re not considering!
It happens all too often that people buy a pet without doing the proper research and don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. There are many more costs associated with having a rat as a pet than just buying the rat itself. After all, you need to buy a cage, food, and many other things.
In this post, I’m going to give a complete breakdown of all the costs associated with owning a rat. I will go over their housing, the costs of their food, vet costs, and every other cost you can expect to face when owning a rat. That way you can get a proper idea of how much you should expect to budget every month to take care of your rat.
I will divide the costs into upfront costs and recurring costs; the upfront costs are the costs that only have to be paid once while recurring costs will have to be paid every month. This divide makes it easier to see what the long-term costs will be. Now, let’s get into it!
Complete cost breakdown of owning a rat
|One-time cost (2 rats)
|Monthly costs (2 rats)
|$20 to $40
|$5 to $10
|Toys, water bottle, food dish, etc
|$40 to $50
|Toys, water bottle, food dish, etc
|$20 to $30
Upfront costs of getting a pet rat
Besides the obvious upfront cost of buying the rat itself, you also have to account for buying their cage and the furnishing for their cage. The furnishing includes water bottles, food bowls, and toys. Let’s take a look at all these costs to see what you should be prepared for!
The price of a pet rat
from $0 to $10-20 each
Rats are among the most plentiful rodents on earth. They live on every continent that’s inhabited by humans. Because of this, they’re very cheap to buy. The price of purchasing a rat from a pet shop or breeder is around $10-$20. If you adopt a rescue it’s sometimes possible to get one for free.
However, you should never keep a rat alone. They’re social creatures and benefit greatly from having another rat living with them. Therefore, you’ll need to get at least 2 of them which will bring the cost to $20-$40.
Most owners decide to get even more than 2, simply because it’s a lot of fun to watch these animals play with each other. However, this choice is up to you; you can get as many as you like as long as you’re able to give them the care they need.
Just keep in mind that the average price of a rat is around $15 and multiply it by the number of rats you want. You also have to keep in mind that the more rats you get, the more your monthly costs will go up. You will of course have to buy more food, spend more on vet costs, etc. For the sake of simplicity, this guide will work under the assumption that you will get 2 rats.
If you’re looking for rat breeders in the United States, the American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association has a good list of them available here.
Should you buy a pet rat from a breeder or a pet shop?
Most pet shops have rats for sale, but if you want a healthy, quality rat I recommend you to get one from a breeder.
Rats that are sold in pet shops are usually slightly cheaper than buying one from a breeder, but since rats are cheap pets in the first place the cost difference isn’t that high.
The primary reason why I suggest buying from a breeder is that you’ll get a healthier rat that has been treated better. Rats from pet stores can have parasites and other problems.
In addition, some pet stores do not separate them by gender which means you could be taking a pregnant female home. This might sound like a good deal (getting multiple rats for the price of one) but in reality, it’s often an unwelcome mistake.
The cost of a rat cage
Before you even buy the rats you will need a cage. You will want to have this set up before you bring the rats home so that you can move them into their new home immediately. Many people buy rats when they’re very small, and don’t realize that they actually get quite big when they’re fully grown. Take this into account when deciding on a cage to buy.
You basically have two options when it comes to housing your rat: a wire cage or an aquarium (without water of course…). I’ll go over both of them.
The choice on whether you go for an aquarium or a wire cage is yours, if you have a drafty house you can go for an aquarium. The solid walls will keep out the cold air and provide a warmer living space for your rats. Similarly, if you have other pets such as cats it might also be a decent idea to get an aquarium. If you do decide to house them in an aquarium make sure that it’s at least 20 gallons in size.
In all other cases, a wire cage is your best bet and even in the aforementioned situations, a cage is a better option than an aquarium. Rats LOVE climbing and a tall cage with multiple levels allows them to climb to their heart’s content. If you want to go fancy you can also choose to go for an aquarium on the bottom and stack a cage on top of it. This will give them even more space.
Now, onto the costs of the cage. The cost of the cage will of course depend on how big and how fancy the cage you buy is, but you can expect to spend around $70-$250 with the average being around $130.
It’s important that you get a cage that’s big enough for your rats to live in. The minimum recommended size for two rats is: 72 cm x 36 cm x 44 cm or in inches: 28 in x 14 in x 17 in. Also make sure that the bars are not too far apart: uphold a maximum bar distance of half an inch (around 1 cm) to ensure that they cannot escape.
Cost of toys, water bottles, food dishes, etc.
$40-50 upfront + $15 monthly
Once you’ve got a cage picked out and set up you’ll need to cozy the place up a bit for your new friends. They will of course need a place to eat and drink, which is why you’ll need to buy a water bottle and food dish. Since rats are highly intelligent animals they will also need some toys to keep them busy.
On average a water bottle and food dish will set you back around $10-$15 in total.
Toys are more expensive, but this highly depends on you. You can go crazy and furnish their cage with tons of toys and this will be of course more expensive than if you get them the bare minimum. Some toys that rats will enjoy are:
The average amount you should expect to spend on toys for your rat initially is around $30-40 to get them some basics. You will most likely add more toys for them later on, and you will also need to replace some of them when they break, so let’s add around $15 to our monthly budget for replacements and new toys.
If we add the water bottle/food dish + toys together we get an upfront cost of around $40 to $50.
Contrary to popular belief, rats are very clean. They’re often wrongly characterized as dirty animals that spread disease but this is not true. They’re one of the few animals that will actually go to the bathroom to relieve themselves and therefore you’ll need to get a litter box. Getting a litter box makes their cage a lot cleaner and also makes the cleaning process much easier.
A litter box doesn’t cost much, expect to spend around $6 on one. You can choose to get two, but if you have two rats they will be fine with sharing one.
Total upfront costs of having a pet rat
|$0 to $40
|$30 to $40
|Total upfront cost
Now that we’ve taken a look at all the individual upfront costs let’s add them all together so we can get an overview of how much you should have saved up before you buy a rat. Remember that this overview works under the assumption that you will get 2 rats.
So, the rats will cost around $30, the cage around $130, the litter box $6, and the toys and water bottle & food dish around $50. In total that’s $216 that you should expect to spend upfront. Make sure that you have all the other expenses covered before you go out and buy a rat because otherwise, you will have no place to house them.
Monthly costs of owning a rat
Now that we’ve covered all the upfront costs of taking care of a pet rat, let’s move on to the monthly costs. The monthly costs of owning a rat are their bedding, food, treats, and vet costs. Let’s look at them individually to see how much you should expect to spend on each of these.
Cost of feeding your rats
around $10 a month
Rats are tiny animals and because of that, they do not need a whole lot of food. This is a good thing because it means that unlike with some other animals, you won’t have to spend a whole lot on their food! The diet of a rat mainly consists of large bags of mixes or pellets that are specifically created for mice and rats.
These bags can be bought in bulk, which means that the price goes down. You should also feed them fruits and vegetables as treats, but since you’re most likely already eating those yourself, you can just give them some of yours. Some people also give their rats vitamin D and calcium supplements.
In total, expect to spend around $10 a month on food for 2 rats.
around $5-$10 a month
Bedding is the material that you put on the bottom of your rat’s cage. This gives them a more comfortable living experience. Bedding can be made a home from shredded-up paper, but most owners choose to buy it.
The cost of bedding varies depending on the kind of bedding you buy and on how big their cage is: the bigger the cage, the more bedding you will need.
A popular kind of bedding to use is Aspen. Luckily, you can buy this in huge bags that will last you a very long time. You should expect to spend around $5-$10 a month on bedding for 2 rats.
around $20-$30 a month
I count vet costs as a monthly expense because even though your rat will obviously not have to go to the vet every month it’s crucial to budget for it. You never want to be in a heartbreaking situation where your rat needs care and you do not have enough money to afford it.
It might happen that your rat will never need any care at all, and this is great, you can just keep the savings then. You should always try your best to keep your rat as healthy as possible. This means giving them a good diet that meets all their nutritional needs and keeping their living area in good condition. However even the healthiest rat can get sick, and if they do need care, you’ll be glad that you budgeted for it!
Rats need vet care quite frequently compared to some other animals and the cost of veterinary care can be pretty high. I recommend you to budget around $20-$30 a month for 2 rats.
It is also possible to get insurance for your rat, but I don’t recommend it. You’re most likely cheaper off just putting the money aside yourself every month.
If you decide to keep male and female rats together you have to make sure to spay or neuter them. If you do not, you’ll end up with a ton of rat babies before you know it. The cost to get this done depends on where you live, but expect it to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $50.
Total monthly costs
|Cost per month
|$10 for 2 rats
|$5 to $10
|$20 to $30
Now that we’ve looked at the individual monthly costs, let’s add them together so we can get an overview of how much disposable money you should have before you decide to take on the responsibility of taking care of a rat.
Their food will cost around $10 a month, their bedding will be around $7.50 a month, new toys + replacements are around $15 a month and vet cost savings should be are around $25 a month. If we add that all up, we get an average monthly cost of $57.50 for 2 rats.
Owning rats on a budget
Of course, the costs of owning rats can be brought down a lot if you take the proper steps. For instance, you can often find cages and toys for sale second-hand which drives down the price substantially. Furthermore, you can substitute commercial bedding for shredded paper (as long as it’s free of dyes and chemicals) which will make the monthly bedding costs negligible.
Conclusion – How much does a pet rat cost?
So, we’ve taken all the individual price components of owning a rat apart to take a look at exactly how much they cost. What we found out is that the upfront costs of buying 2 rats will be around $216, while the monthly costs will be around $57.50. Of course, this can vary greatly depending on how fancy you’re willing to get, but it’s a good ballpark estimate to let you know what you’re in for when deciding to take care of these creatures.
You have to keep in mind that this overview was based on the assumption that you will get two rats, so adjust it based on the number of rats you’re planning to get.
Now that we’ve discovered how much the upfront and monthly costs of rat ownership are, I hope that you’ve gotten a better idea of whether or not being the proud owner of a pet rat is for you. As far as pets go, they’re quite cheap and they’re extremely fun to take care of.
These intelligent, sweet animals make great pets and I’m sure you’ll love taking care of them!
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