The Cost Of Owning A Rat

Pet Rats May 12, 2022
Written by | Updated Jun 23, 2024
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The Cost Of Owning A Rat

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When you think of rats you might think of them as uncleanly, but that isn’t necessarily the case. As pets, rats are actually smart, friendly, and can be very affectionate.

Caring for a pet rat isn’t complicated, but you do need to have the right cage and accessories.

The average pet rat grows 9 to 11 inches long and lives up to 3 years. The key to keeping your rat healthy and happy is to feed him a high-quality diet and to make sure his other needs are met. This includes their needs for human companionship and exercise.

Purchasing a pet rat may only cost you a few dollars, but there are other costs to consider. Before you bring home your new pet, you should already have his cage set up and some idea of annual costs.

Here’s what you need to know about how much it costs to purchase a pet rat and to keep him.

Bringing Home A New Rat – One-time Costs

If you’ve already considered a rat as a pet, you’re probably happy to see that they are affordably priced. You shouldn’t have to spend more than $10 for a small to medium-sized rat at a pet store.

Before you purchase a pet rat, however, you need to think about the additional costs.

Your rat is going to need a cage, an exercise wheel, food bowls, and more. It’s also important to think about other initial costs like a vet visit, vaccinations, and spay/neuter surgery. These costs aren’t required for every pet, but it’s worth thinking about them as part of your decision.

Here’s what you need to know about one-time costs for pet rats:

Buying A Pet Rat

Rats are pretty easy animals to find but you may want to be careful where you shop.

Rat Cost Estimates

Source Average Cost (Low) Average Cost (High)
Pet Store $5 $12
Adoption $10 $15
Breeder $10 (single) $40 (per pair)

You can find pet rats at the pet store fairly easily, but not all rats are intended to be kept as pets – some are bred as feeder animals for snakes and other reptiles. There may not be much of a difference in the species or breed of rat, but there could be differences in the way the rats are raised.

Rats are intelligent and friendly creatures, but they need proper care and attention to develop and maintain a positive relationship with people. If you want a pet rat that has been properly socialized, consider adopting a rescue or buying directly from a breeder.

Purchasing a rat from a pet store may be the most inexpensive option, but you probably won’t know where the rat came from. Your options for coloring may be limited as well.

Generally speaking, a pet rat will cost you about $10. Pet stores often sell their rats according to size. If you buy directly from a breeder, you may only have the option to buy in pairs.

Supplies And Setup

Many people purchase young rats as pets, not realizing that they can actually grow quite large. A full-grown rat can reach 9 to 11 inches in length.

Rat Supplies and Setup

Cost Type Average Cost (Low) Average Cost (High)
Cage $50 $150
Cage Supplies $15 $30
Initial Food and Bedding $15 $25
Spay/Neuter Cost $50 $100
Initial Vet Visit/Vaccinations $30 $40
Total = $160 to $345

In addition to their size, you need to remember as well that rats are social creatures that tend to do best in pairs or small groups. This being the case, you need to find the right rat cage that is large enough to accommodate more than one pet.

When it comes to choosing a rat cage, remember that rats are rodents and they have a surprising ability to escape through very small spaces. If you choose a wire cage, make sure the bars are spaced no more than ½-inch apart to prevent escape – it also keeps your rat from getting his head stuck.

The size and durability of your rat cage is extremely important, so don’t buy something cheap. You should plan to spend $50 to $150 on a high-quality, spacious rat cage for a pair or trio of rats.

In addition to your rat’s cage, you’ll need certain supplies.

A multi-tier rat cage will provide some exercise through climbing, but you should also provide an exercise wheel. Give your rats several places to hide as well as tunnels to explore and areas to dig.

Other supplies you’ll need to get started with a pet rat include an assortment of toys, food bowls, water bottles, food, and bedding.

On top of these cage setup costs, think about your rat’s first vet visit as well. The average vet visit is about $35 for a small pet and you won’t need any vaccinations.

If you plant o have your rat spayed or neutered, plan an additional $50 to $100 for that.

Cost Of Rat Ownership – Annual Expense Breakdown

Once you’ve collected all the necessary supplies for your rat, it’s time to set up his cage. It’s a good idea to get everything set up before you bring your rat home, so he doesn’t have to stay in the box or carrier longer than necessary.

After putting your rat in his new home, give him some time to adjust before you try interacting with him. He’ll need time to get used to his new surroundings.

As you’re preparing to head to the pet store or shelter to pick up your rat, do a final run-through of your expected annual costs just to be sure you can handle the commitment. If you’re not sure, it never hurts to wait a little longer to save up an emergency fund.

Be sure to think about recurring expenses including annual vet visits, occasional treatments for things like mites and infections, and monthly necessities like food and bedding.

Here’s what you need to know about annual costs for pet rats:

Annual Medical Expenses

If you already bring your dog or cat to the vet, you probably haven’t seen too many rats in the waiting room. Regular veterinary care is just as important for small pets like rats, however.

With a healthy diet and proper care, your pet rat could live 5 years or more. The best way to protect your pet’s health is to understand some of the conditions to which he may be prone and keep an eye out for the symptoms that might develop.

Here are some of the common health problems known to affect rats:

  • Respiratory disease
  • Mites or fleas
  • Tumors
  • Fungal or bacterial infection
  • Obesity

An annual vet visit is recommended for pet rats, but you won’t need vaccinations. Rats tend to be pretty hardy, but they can suffer from respiratory problems if their cage isn’t kept clean and well-ventilated. A nutritious diet is also essential for good health.

As you think about the cost to keep your rat healthy, you might be considering pet insurance.

Pet insurance is a great option for pets with frequent veterinary expenses like multiple visits a year and vaccinations. Your rat really only needs one exam per year and the cost of treating the occasional health problem is unlikely to make it worth the price to pay a monthly premium.

Rather than spending money on rat insurance, take what you would pay each month for your premium and put it away in savings to keep in case of emergency.

Estimated Medical Costs for Rats

Cost Type Frequency Average Cost
Veterinary Checkup Annual $35
Dental Cleaning N/A N/A
Vaccinations N/A N/A
Flea, Tick, and Worm Treatments Occasional $15
Emergency Expenses Occasional $100 and up

Food And Supplies

The primary expense associated with keeping a pet rat is feeding it and keeping its cage clean.

Rats are fairly small, so they don’t eat a lot of food at once. It’s important, however, to choose a high-quality, nutritionally balanced pellet to provide for your pet’s needs. Treats like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can be offered occasionally as well.

Bedding helps cushion your rat’s delicate feet and it absorbs liquid waste. Good bedding helps reduce odor and keeps your rat’s cage comfortable between cleanings.

You should plan to clean your rat’s cage about once a week and replace the bedding. Replace toys and other accessories as needed. Be sure to use pet-safe cleaner on everything and let any wet surfaces dry before you add the bedding back to the cage.

Food and Supply Costs for Rats

Cost Type Frequency Average Cost
Food and Treats Monthly $10
Bedding Monthly $10
Toys Monthly $5
Additional Supplies Monthly $5
Total = $30

Total Annual Cost Of Owning A Rat

Just because rats are inexpensive pets to purchase compared to many others, that doesn’t mean they are cheap. Your rat needs a quality cage with a secure lid, an exercise wheel, and plenty of toys to keep him occupied.

In addition to these costs, he’ll also need a steady supply of food and bedding as well as routine veterinary care. The costs may add up over time to more than you expect.

Here’s a quick summary of the estimated annual cost for keeping a rat:

  • Purchasing/Adopting = $5 to $40 (single or pair)
  • Cage and Setup = $160 to $345
  • Annual Veterinary Costs = $35 (exam only)
  • Monthly Food and Supplies = $30

The cost to keep a pet rat will vary depending where you get your rat, how many you keep, and what cage and supplies you choose. You shouldn’t bring home a pet rat unless you’re prepared to take care of him properly.

Don’t skimp when it comes to the cage or essentials!

Your rat deserves the best possible care you can give him, so do your research and wait until you’ve saved enough money to care for your new pet properly.


How much does a rat cost?

Pet rats are fairly inexpensive, though prices may vary from one source to another. Pet stores often sell rats in different size groups with small rats priced around $5 and large rats priced up to $15. Adoption rates for rats are around $10 and breeders often sell their rats in pairs for $20 to $40.

How much does it cost to neuter/spay a rat?

Rats are prolific breeders, so if you don’t keep rats of a single sex you’re likely to end up with a litter of baby rats. It costs about $50 to $100 to spay or neuter a rat. If you’re adopting from a shelter, the procedure may have already been done.

How much does a rat vet checkup cost?

The average cost for a vet visit for your rat is $35. You may need to find an exotics vet or one familiar with small animals, so the cost could be higher.

How much does it cost to microchip a rat?

The average cost to have a pet microchipped is about $45 and it is a one-time fee. There’s little point in having a rat microchipped, however.

How much does rat food cost?

Your rat deserves a high-quality, nutritionally balanced pellet which costs about $10 per month. Remember, the more rats you keep the higher your food costs will be.

How much does a rat cage cost?

Rats are clever, so it’s worth the investment to buy a cage made with durable materials – you have to consider the size as well. Plan to spend $50 to $150 on a large, heavy-duty rat cage.

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Kate Barrington is avid pet lover and adoring owner of three cats and one dog, her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. She has been writing about pet care and pet products since 2010
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