If you’re deciding between getting a pet rat or a cat, you likely want to know all the key differences between these two popular pets. While both can make great companions, rats and cats have very different care requirements, temperaments, and costs.

Read on as we dive deep into rat vs cat pet ownership to help you determine which furry friend is right for you.

Costs of Pet Rats vs Cats

Upfront costs of purchasing/adopting

When it comes to upfront costs, pet rats are generally more affordable than cats. A pet rat can be purchased from a reputable breeder or adopted from a shelter for around $10 to $20. On the other hand, adopting a cat from a shelter can cost anywhere from $50 to $200, depending on the age and breed of the cat.

If you decide to purchase a purebred cat from a breeder, the cost can go up significantly, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Ongoing food costs

In terms of ongoing food costs, rats are also more economical. Rats are small animals and their diet mainly consists of commercially available rat pellets, fresh fruits, and vegetables. These can be purchased at a relatively low cost compared to cat food.

On average, a pet rat’s monthly food expenses can range from $5 to $15. On the other hand, cat food costs can vary depending on the brand, type (dry or wet), and size of the cat. Monthly cat food expenses can range from $20 to $50 or more.

Vet bills and health issues

Both pet rats and cats may require veterinary care throughout their lives. However, it is important to note that cats generally have higher veterinary expenses compared to rats. Cats require vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and regular check-ups to maintain their health.

They are also more prone to certain health issues such as dental problems and obesity. The cost of veterinary care for cats can vary greatly depending on the services needed, but on average, it can range from $200 to $500 per year.

Pet rats, on the other hand, may require fewer veterinary visits and their medical expenses are generally lower, ranging from $50 to $100 per year.

It is worth mentioning that these cost estimates can vary depending on various factors such as location, the specific needs of the pet, and individual circumstances. It is always recommended to budget for unexpected expenses and consider the long-term financial commitment before deciding to bring a pet into your home.

Temperament and Handling

Interaction and play time needs

When it comes to interaction and play time needs, both pet rats and cats have their own unique requirements. Pet rats are highly social animals and thrive on human interaction. They enjoy being handled, played with, and even learning tricks.

Rats are known to be affectionate and will often seek out human companionship. They are great pets for individuals or families who have the time and energy to devote to their social needs. On the other hand, cats are more independent by nature and may not require as much hands-on interaction.

While they do enjoy playtime and bonding with their owners, they are also content with exploring their environment and entertaining themselves.

Ease of training and handling

When it comes to training and handling, pet rats have a clear advantage. Rats are highly intelligent animals and can be easily trained to perform tricks, use litter boxes, and even come when called. They are quick learners and enjoy the mental stimulation that training provides.

Additionally, rats are small and easy to handle, making them suitable for individuals of all ages. Cats, on the other hand, are known for their independent nature, which can make training more challenging.

While some cats can be trained to perform basic commands, they are generally less responsive to training compared to rats.

Aggression and biting

In terms of aggression and biting, both pet rats and cats can exhibit these behaviors, but the frequency and severity may vary. Pet rats are generally docile and friendly, and aggression is relatively rare. However, like any animal, rats may bite if they feel threatened or scared.

It’s important to handle them gently and provide them with a safe and secure environment. Cats, on the other hand, have a natural instinct to bite and scratch, especially during play. While most cats can be trained to control their aggression, it’s important to understand that their predatory instincts may still manifest in certain situations.

Lifespan and Health Issues

Average lifespan of each pet

When considering a pet, it is important to take into account their lifespan. Cats typically live longer than pet rats. On average, cats live for 12 to 15 years, with some even reaching their early 20s. On the other hand, pet rats have a shorter lifespan, typically living for 2 to 3 years.

However, there have been cases where rats have lived up to 4 or 5 years with proper care.

Common health problems

Both cats and pet rats can experience health issues, but the types of problems they commonly face are quite different.

Cats are prone to certain conditions such as obesity, dental problems, and urinary tract issues. They may also develop diseases such as kidney disease, heart disease, or diabetes as they age. Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, and exercise can help prevent some of these issues.

On the other hand, pet rats are susceptible to respiratory problems, such as pneumonia or mycoplasma infection. Tumors are also a common health issue in rats. Proper cage hygiene, a well-balanced diet, and regular veterinary care can help prevent or manage these conditions.

Grooming needs

When it comes to grooming, cats and pet rats have different requirements.

Cats are generally self-groomers and take care of their own grooming needs. They spend a significant amount of time cleaning themselves, which helps keep their fur clean and free from tangles. However, regular brushing can help reduce shedding and prevent hairballs.

Pet rats, on the other hand, require minimal grooming. Their fur is short and smooth, so they don’t need brushing. However, regular nail trimming is necessary to prevent overgrowth and potential injuries.

Cage/Housing Setup

Cage/habitat requirements

When it comes to cage or habitat requirements, both pet rats and cats have different needs. Pet rats require a spacious cage with plenty of room for them to move around and explore. A multi-level cage with ramps and platforms is ideal for providing them with exercise and mental stimulation.

It’s important to choose a cage with narrow bar spacing to prevent escape. On the other hand, cats need a safe and comfortable space where they can relax and feel secure. A cat tree or a cozy bed placed in a quiet corner of your home can serve as their designated resting spot.

Cleaning needs

Keeping your pet’s living space clean is essential for their health and well-being. Pet rats are relatively clean animals and can be litter trained, making it easier to maintain their cage cleanliness. Regular spot-cleaning and weekly deep-cleaning of their cage are usually sufficient.

Cats, on the other hand, require a litter box that needs to be scooped daily and completely changed every few days. Additionally, cats may shed fur, so regular grooming and vacuuming may be necessary to keep your home tidy.

Ability to free roam

Pet rats are highly social and curious creatures, and they benefit greatly from supervised free roam time outside their cage. Setting up a rat-proofed room or using playpens can provide them with the opportunity to explore their surroundings and interact with their human companions.

Cats, on the other hand, are natural explorers and independent animals. They can roam freely around your home, but it’s important to ensure that there are no hazards or toxic substances that they can access.

Providing vertical spaces such as cat trees or shelves can also fulfill their natural climbing instincts.


In the end, there are great reasons to choose either a pet rat or cat. Rats make interactive, intelligent pets but require more frequent hands-on care. Cats are lower maintenance but can be more aloof. Take the time to honestly assess the commitment you can make, and think about which personality and traits would fit best into your lifestyle when making your decision.

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