A question I get asked a lot is whether it is possible for those who already own a cat to adopt pet rats. There are a number of factors to consider before making this decision. Whilst there are those few people who say that their cat poses no threat to their rodent pals and happily post pics of their cat and rat getting along well this is a very rare case and should not be treated as the norm.
I should point out at this stage that I live with my 2 pets rats, Pea and Mingles, my dog, Charlie, a Maltese x Shitzu and my cat, Dylan, a Ragdoll x Persian. All of my animals are rescues and they are all wonderful in different ways. However despite his Ragdoll bloodline, Dylan most definitely has the hunting instinct and I would never let the rats run around out of the rat cage whilst he is in the room. It is important to remember that even if you choose a gentle breed like a pure Ragdoll cat and have them from a kitten, they should still never be left out with your pet rats.
It is possible to keep pet rats if you have a cat, although you should weigh out the pros and cons before adopting your new pets. Here are some things to consider:
1. Separation – You will need to be able to easily separate your cat and rats when you want to let your rats out. This could mean using a spare room as a ratty room. This is what I do. The spare room is free from rat dangers like wires, sharp objects and small things they could choke on. It is also fully sealed. There are no little holes in the wall that the rats could escape from. I try to spend an hour a day in there with my rats. We can play together and I can do some training with them safely away from naughty cat claws and teeth. I also have a lot of fun tubes, boxes and even a rat swimming pool for them to explore. Cats are usually fine with this time out and as long as they have plenty of room to roam and their food, water and litter tray (and in our case a doggy companion) they will be fine.
2. Security – You will need to be 100% sure that your rat cage is secure. Of course you would need to do this anyway, because you would not want your rats to escape and get into danger. When we first adopted our two rats Pea and Mingles the old owners gave us their cage and it had a hole in. It was a small hole and I blocked it with plastic boxes and duct tape, but I had the scare of my life when I found Pea running around the floor with Dylan the cat about to pounce. Luckily I picked Pea up in time and the rats have since moved to a 100% safe (and huge!) Cage, but please do not let your pets get into this situation. Rats are notorious escape artists. You may think that the space is too small for them to squeeze out of, but they will surprise you. Make sure the rat cage is sturdy (can not be knocked over) and that there are plenty of areas for the rats to hide from prying eyes.
3. Common Sense – You know your cat better than anyone, but even if you have the gentlest cat in the world who appears to want to be friends with your rats, please be very careful and never ever leave them unsupervised together. I can have my rats sit on my shoulder whilst Dylan is sitting next to me on the sofa, but if he is sitting on top of the sofa I am very careful. The rats' tails are irresistible to most cats.
If you have a cat and you are willing to put in some extra effort to ensure the safety of your rats then there is no reason you should not have rodent pets. However, make sure that you have more than one rat. This is always best as the rats can keep each other company when they are in their rat cage. Even if you can spend a lot of time with your rat, when you are away, or asleep the rats can snuggle and play together and groom each other. It will make all the difference to their lives.
Rats may seem fearless at times, but if you have more than one cat, perhaps you should think about whether a rat is really a good pet for you and your family. Imagine how the rats will feel as all the cats investigate the cage and try to figure out ways to get in.
If you have decided to adopt some rats, be sure to take responsibility for their welfare. If you have a child who has begged you for rats they may learn some responsibility, but ultimately it is the adult who should ensure the animals' welfare and make sure the cats do not pose a problem. It is also essential to ensure your cats are getting just as much attention as they used to, before the new additions.
I hope this article has helped you work out whether keeping rats and cats together could work for your family.