The relationship between people and rats goes back in history a lot farther than wire mesh cages and clicker training. Rats were worshiped by ancient Egyptians and they are thought to be a symbol of wealth in Japan. People in China, consider rats a symbol of prosperity and there is a temple dedicated to them in India. There are records of rats being kept as pets by people in England during the 1800s and the first rat club was established in 1976.
If you are considering getting a rat as a pet there are some things you should know first. Rats do not live long. They have a normal lifespan of 2 to 3 years. Some will live up to 5 years but anything over that is unusual. They are very social animals. If they are left alone in a cage for long periods of time it will affect their health - both physical and mental. It is best to give them a playmate of the same sex and let them out of their cage on a daily basis. Although they are a small animal, they need a larger cage than other animals that are of similar size. They need room to move around and play. They will also scent mark just about everything they come in contact with. This includes you and anything they crawl over. They leave their scent with small drops of urine. The smell isn't overpowering but can be an unpleasant fact for some. Also, don't forget to find a veterinarian that will treat rats in case of an emergency.
Rats are not expensive pets to keep. Most of the expenses are up front when getting your rat(s) and setting up their home. A typical rat will cost around $20 from a breeder or less from a store. Toys are only a few dollars. A cage can run from $50 and up depending on the size and options you choose. Wire mesh cages are the best for several reasons. Never go with a plastic bottom cage. Your rat will chew through it. Litter and wood chew blocks are very inexpensive.
When you go shopping for a rat make sure that you choose one that is alert and attentive to what is going on around it. A healthy rat's eyes will be bright and shiny. An unhealthy rat may have a runny nose or eyes and be aware of any wheezing or sneezing.
Feeding your rat is a simple process. Get some rat blocks from your pet store for the main part of his or her diet. Find a rat block with soy meal rather than cornmeal if you can. Grain mixes can be a problem because your rat will only eat his favorite items out of it and leave the rest. You can also mix in some fruits and vegetables. These are very healthy for rats but the bulk of their diet should still be rat blocks.