Rats are highly gregarious animals and prolific breeders. Even though they live a short and difficult life, they might leave a legacy of multiple litters.

Rats have lived alongside human communities since prehistoric times. And it is not an overstatement to say that they wreak havoc on human food sources and transmit illness.

Many people despise rats, but others keep these mammalian species as pets and like spending quality time with them.

Fancy rats are another term for today’s pet rats. Even though we retain over seven different types of domestic rats in captivity, the phrase “fancy rats” refers to any domestic rat that can be bought from pet stores.

They come in various colors and patterns, and good maintenance has allowed us to increase their average lives by several years.

Rats and mice reproduce swiftly, and their average lifespan may amaze you. Today’s blog will go through rats’ life expectancies and life cycles.

Table of Contents

Taxonomical Classification of Rats


How long do rat lives?

White pet rats

Rats are tough little critters, even though living conditions are harsh!

They can go for more than a week without access to food and don’t require much water to thrive.

A rat may obtain much of the water it needs from the food it consumes. Rats do not require a good water supply for extended periods since they can obtain water from something as basic as condensation.

There are around 60 species of rats worldwide. Depending on their physical size, they can live for 1-2 years or over (13 years).

Wild rats have many predators. As a result, they can survive for up to two years. However, the majority of these rats die or are killed before reaching the age of one. And top of all, their poor eyesight doubles the chances.

The typical life span of common rats is 1.5-2 years. Yet, most die due to threats, infections, or hunger within a year.

Pet rats survive for three years on average, but in extreme circumstances, they can survive for 6-7 years.

This is because they are well-cared for, are protected from attackers, and have constant availability for sustenance. It is important to note that a rat’s life expectancy is affected by its surroundings.

For instance, rats who spend a lot of time in sewers will have a shorter life expectancy than rats that dwell in cleaner locations. This is simply due to their unclean surroundings, affecting their health.

Rat speciesRegionAverage lifespan
Tanezumi RatAsiaUp to 2 years
Bushy-Tailed Wood RatUSA and Canada3-4 years
Lesser Bandicoot RatSouthern Asia8-9 months
Brown RatEverywhere, except AntarcticaUp to 2 years
Muller’s Giant Sunda RatIndonesia and MalaysiaHalf a year in the wild. Two years or over in captivity
Northern Luzon Giant Cloud RatPhilippines13 years in captivity
Gambian Pouched RatAfrica8-9 years

Lifecycle of a rat

Rats go through four developmental stages: newborn, preadolescent, young adult, and adult.

Their physical characteristics change during the course of life. But, rats cease developing when they reach the age of seven months.

The life cycles of wild and pet rats are comparable, as described below.

Newborn Lifecycle

Small white pair of pet rats

When the rat is birthed, the newborn stage begins. Newborn rats are incredibly tiny, blind, and reliant on their mothers.

They begin to grow swiftly and can move only after five days, and their eyes begin to open around two weeks.

Juvenile (Preadolescents and Young Adults)

A four-week-old rat no longer requires its mother to live. At this age, they are entirely aware and capable of feeding themselves. Most baby pet rats are taken home between six and eight weeks.

Rats necessitate the companionship of their siblings, mainly if they are reared as pets as preadolescents. Whereas wild rats usually depart the nest after their mother has weaned them.

Life of adult rats

Rats attain maturity at one year of age. They are lively and fun at this time and should be disciplined.

Rats over a year old may begin to exhibit indications of aging. They become less energetic and suffer common health issues like senior dogs.

Neonatal (newborn)0-21 days
Weanling21-35 days
Preadolescent35-42 days
Young adult42-63 days
Adult rat>63 days

Aging Process in Rats

The aging process of a rat is also comparable to that of a person. Rats begin to lose muscle mass and body weight as they age.

Their motor functions diminish, and some may acquire arthritis. An aged rat frequently exhibits weak hind legs, irregular tail movement, and joint stiffness.

Sick or aged rats can be difficult to identify because, as prey animals, they seek to conceal any symptoms of disease or frailty.

There are four primary methods for determining a rat’s age. When you consider the color of their teeth, size, state of their coat, and activity levels, you may get a reasonable presumption of how old your pet is.

While understanding your rat’s age may appear to be only for knowledge’s sake, it may also benefit your rat’s well-being. The sexual maturity of rats reaches 8-9 weeks of age.

If you identify that you own a rat that is becoming older, you may alter his food and be ready to provide the medical treatment he may require sooner rather than later.

Tips for the longevity of lifespan

Healthy pet driver
  • These captive animals with excellent senses are light and heat sensitive. Hence, maintain their enclosures away from direct sunshine and excessive heat and cold. Ideally, temperatures should be in the 65-70 degree Fahrenheit range.
  • Provide your rat with chewable objects such as wood blocks and, if required, take your rat to the vet for teeth trimming.
  • According to research, even a minor reduction in food supply can significantly boost a pet rat’s longevity and general well-being.

Rat Lifespan And Health Problems

The most prevalent health issue in rats is a respiratory illness. Look for eye and nasal drainage, as well as sneezing.

Most respiratory infections are bacterial and may be treated with antibiotics. Viral infections need adequate supportive care, such as a nutritious meal and proper cage arrangements.

Cancer is more prevalent in female rats, and breast tumors frequently appear after 18 months of age, when the female rat stops ovulating.

Contact your veterinarian if you see any lumps under their skin. To remove the tumor, several therapeutic methods are available, including surgery.

Usually, rats have a few mites, which are not a concern. But if your pet is agitated or unwell, it could indicate a bad infestation.

The infection from infestation might cause changes in eye color, damage to incisor teeth, and loss of body mass.

Although medication can help, prevention is always preferable. To avoid mites, keep your rat’s box clean and disinfect regularly.

Tips for raising pet rats

Rat eating strawberry

If you own pet rats, you can follow some steps to increase the life span of these social animals.

  • Make sure you provide the rat with nutritious pet food and fresh water,
  • Regular check-ups for body temperature and any injuries,
  • Arrange ideal conditions for rats’ cages to decrease cancer risks,
  • Keep the rodent areas clean and hygienic to prevent health risks from rodent infestation and insect infestations,
  • These social species are excellent swimmers, so it is okay to add some exercise tools inside the cage.

Rat Fun Facts

  • During the early 1800s in England, the rat began to transition from nuisance to companion.
  • Because rats are nocturnal, they are most energetic at eating food at night.
  • Because rats are sociable, they thrive when maintained with another rat or a cluster of rats.
  • Males are often bigger, lazier, and have rougher coats than females. Females are lighter than males and are more energetic and lively.
  • When females approach puberty, they go into heat for roughly 24 hours every four or five days and may appear anxious or agitated during this period. This is why rats are so simple to breed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Rats Lose Hair As They Age?

Yes, rats can lose their hair as they become older. Rats’ hair will thin out and possibly become bald in patches as they age, but they should never go fully bald.
Along with some hair loss, you will notice a shabby appearance in general. Consult a veterinarian if your rat is fully bald and they don’t have a coat that molts.

Do Rats Bite Humans?

Rats can bite if they are trapped or under stress. You can get bitten when you stick your hand inside a rat box or come across one outdoors.

Which was the Oldest Living Pet Rat?

Rodney was the longest-living fancy rat. He lived for seven years and four months. Rodney was born in 1983 in Oklahoma and stayed there till 1990. Nobody appears to know what enabled him to live to seven.

Do Rats Recognize Their Owners?

Rats form lifetime attachments to their owners. Any rat lover will tell you that rats identify their owners and react to their sight and sound. They are pretty gregarious and enjoy spending time with human family members on the sofas, on people’s heads, or in their hands.

Because rats age so quickly, it might be challenging to keep track of them. We can only do our utmost with what we have and appraise them based on their biology and temperament.

Even if you have acknowledged that your pet rat cannot live forever, it doesn’t make it any easier to see them age.

Nevertheless, loving and caring for your rat will give you two or three years of pleasant companionship.

As much as we wish they might live longer, their short life cycle is normal, and you should be glad that you provided them with such a sweet and stress-free life.

Chickens are pets like rats kept around your backyard for meat and eggs. Want to find out their life span? Check about the best poultry breed here.

(Last Updated on September 5, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Shradha Bhatta holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Social Work along with a Post-graduate degree in Project Management from Georgian College in Canada. Shradha enjoys writing on various topics and takes pleasure in discovering new ideas. Her life’s mission is to make the world a better place for all beings.