Expected Cost of Keeping A Rat - Paw Talk - Pet Forums
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Expected Cost of Keeping A Rat

Posted 03-23-2012 at 10:31 AM by

Expected cost of keeping a rat

Disclaimer: These prices are S.E. US estimates based on my own personal experiences. Expect the unexpected.

Initial Purchase: $85-$265 +
  • Rats: $20-40 dollars per pair. Rats should not be kept alone and should be kept/purchased in same sex pairs or trios.
  • Cage: $50-200+ dollars. Prices vary widely and research should be made. This will be the biggest initial expense, and should be researched and not be skimped on as proper caging can make a difference in the health and well being of your rat. Get the most cage you can for your dollar. A cage should provide at a bare minimum 2 square cubic feet per rat, have plenty of ventilation, climbing capacity, and floor space. If wire cages are used, ˝ inch bar spacing is recommended, though 1 inch bar spacing can be used only for largest of adult male rats. (See my article on Cages and Accessories for more detailed personal opinions and suggestions)
  • Water Bottles and Food Bowls: $15-25 start up

Ongoing Monthly Costs: $10-40 a month ($120-480 a year or $240-$960 over their 2 year expected life span)
  • Bedding: $0-10 a month. Aspin shavings are the only safe wood bedding for rats. Other popular and safe bedding choices(In the US): Unscented Carefresh or Unscented Yesterday’s News; Shredded paper; Felt or Flannel.
  • Enrichment Items: Toys and Housing: $0-30 a month. While you can purchase ready made rat safe toys and housing, with a little creativity and recycling, rats are happy with toys and housing created from throw away items. The Dapper Rat website has a long list of ideas for rat enrichment.
  • Food: $28-40 a month
  1. High Quality Lab Block: $8-10 per month for 2 rats. Harlan Tekklad can be purchased in bulk online and is the number one choice for health and a complete staple diet. It is also offered occasionally in stores under the name Native Earth. Mazuri is another popular store lab block. Avoid seed mixes sold in pet stores even if they say they are rat food. They are very unhealthy.
  2. Fresh Fruit and Veggies: $20-30 a month. Research to make sure which fruits and veggies are safe for your rat.
Vet Care: $0-$90-$150 a month ($90-$1000+ over the two year life of your rat)

  • Vet bills are the hardest to quantify because they vary so widely. It is important to know beforehand when considering a rat as a pet, that ounce for ounce, they are one of the more expensive pets to keep for their size largely due to vet costs.
  • Vet bills are expensive for rats for a couple of reasons:
  1. They are considered exotics, which implies a specialist vet care. As with humans, specialists are always more expensive than general practitioners.
  2. Because of years of being raised exclusively in labs to help test for cancers and illnesses (and therefore being selectively bred to be prone to those issues), and the rise in the uniformly unscrupulous commercial mill breeding which gives no consideration to avoiding health issues in their drive for quantity over quality, today's rats live on average 1-3 years less than they did 20 years ago and are riddled with health problems.

  • Research on your part can help cut these bills down considerably.
  1. Price shop and skill shop your vets. The cost of a given procedure can vary as much as 150 dollars or from vet to vet. As well, it's hard to find a vet knowledgeable in rat care at all
  2. Search for a breeder with a proven track record of producing healthier rats. There are a handful of knowledgeable and dedicated breeders working to undo the damage done to pet rats as a whole, but it is an uphill battle. By going with a reputable breeder you can increase your chances of obtaining a healthier rat, but you can expect to bring even the healthiest rat to the vet at least twice in their two year lifetime.
  3. Search for cheaper options to common vet expenses. For example, antibiotics are a common expense. It is possible to educate yourself on preparation and dosages and purchase them in bulk in a dry form for a fraction of what you'd pay at a vet.
  4. Balance humane necessary care vs unnecessary costly extras. For example: Does your rat /really/ need a diagnostic Xray if the treatment would be the same no matter what? Unless you are a breeder, are working with a breeder, and knowing doesn't matter so much as treating, then probably not.

In my personal experience, I have had one healthy rat that has probably cost me $10 dollars in vet bills in 18 months. I have also had a particularly unhealthy rat that has cost me $450 in 9 months.
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