The Average Rat Lifespan and What To Expect Along the Way

LAST MODIFIED: Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Average rat lifespan

Fancy rats can be interesting pets with their unique personalities and quirks. Like with all
pets, their average lifespan could make or break the decision to bring home
your own mischief of rats.

 

What is the average lifespan of a Fancy Rat?

Although fancy rats have a better survival rate than most wild rats, they aren’t exactly known for having a long lifespan. If you’re hoping to get 10 years with your furry pal, you’ll be disappointed to know that their average lifespan is between 2-3 years.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for rats to face health complications before
their second birthday but some rats can live between 4-5 years of age!

average lifespan of a Fancy Rat

 

In comparison: What is the average lifespan of a Wild Rat?

As fancy rats are descendants of the black and brown rats observed in nature, it can be helpful to compare their lifespans.

The average lifespan of a wild rat is between 6 – 11 months. As wild rats must survive harsh weather conditions, predators, and an inconsistent supply of food, it probably doesn’t come as a shock that most of them pass away before their first birthday.

 

The Life Cycle of a Fancy Rat

Now that we are familiar with the average lifespan of a fancy rat, it can be helpful to learn what to expect as your rat ages. We can look at their life cycle as containing four distinct stages: Newborn, 4 Weeks, 1 Year, and Over 1 year.

 

Stage One:  Newborn

Newborn rats or “kittens” are blind and rely on their mother for warmth and sustenance. You will see rapid development during this stage with crawling movements starting around day five and the opening of eyes around week two.

 

Stage Two: 4 Weeks

During this stage, the babies become fully alert and independent from their mother. They eat and drink on their own and learn necessary social skills from playing with their siblings.

If you are buying a baby from a breeder, they shouldn’t be separated until 6 weeks of age.

 

Stage Three: 1 Year

At one year of age, a rat is considered an adult. A healthy rat in this stage should be energetic and high-spirited. Adult rats are easier to train than baby rats, so this is a good
time to teach your furry pals some cool tricks!

 

Stage Four: Over 1 Year

Health concerns become more prominent as your rat ages. This includes conditions like tumors, weight loss/gain, strokes, cataracts, overgrown teeth, and respiratory problems.

 

Factors that Influence Lifespan

Genetics play a huge role in the overall health of a fancy rat. Although you can’t control their genetics, you can do your part by only purchasing rats from a reputable breeder known to sell healthy rats.

Rats need access to healthy food, water, socialization, and mental stimulation to live a long, healthy life. Bored rats are prone to obesity which will increase the chance of contracting infections and succumbing to heart failure. A diet not suitable for their nutritional needs can lead to skin conditions, diarrhea, tumors, and premature death.

Receiving the proper veterinary care can do a lot for the longevity of rat’s life. As rats are prone to bacterial infections of the respiratory system, there will be at least one point in their life where you’ll need to take them to see a veterinarian and administer antibiotics.

Most serious infections will not go away on their own and will severely impact the length of your rat’s life if left untreated.

 

Common Causes of Premature Death

Tumors are one of the most common causes of premature death in fancy rats. While many tumors are benign, they will continue to grow eventually affecting movement, eating, and
functioning of internal organs.

This will leave you with the tough choice of getting your rat euthanized to avoid suffering. Tumors are usually caused by hormones and exposure to chemicals.

Other causes of premature death include untreated infection, predators, mishandling, chewing wires or dangerous material, consuming poisonous food, and prolonged exposure to very cold/hot temperatures.

 

Hairless Rat Lifespan

hairless-rat

Hairless rats require specialized care to live a healthy life. Unfortunately, with this level of care in mind, the average lifespan of a hairless rat is around 9-12 months.

Due to their delicate skin, they are prone to scratches from cage mates that can easily become infected. Some infections can turn into abscesses that will need to be carefully drained and disinfected.

Hairless rats have notoriously poor genes and weakened immune systems, making them more prone to eye infections, kidney failure, cancer, and
respiratory infections.

Lastly, hairless rats have stricter dietary needs than their furry counterparts. To produce enough body heat to keep warm, they require a diet that’s rich in fat and protein.

 

How to Keep Your Fancy Rat Healthy

The care you offer your fancy rats can go a long way in keeping them healthy. Be proactive when it comes to accessing veterinary assistance for illnesses and tumors. It’s easier
to treat when the problem hasn’t taken over.

A healthy diet of nutritional lab blocks, vegetables, and some fruit will provide the vitamins and minerals your rat needs to reduce the risk of some cancers.

Daily socialization and mental stimulation reduce depression and obesity. This helps strengthen the immune system and lowers the risk of heart disease.

 

Conclusion

Now that you know the average lifespan of a domesticated rat and what to expect as your rat ages, you can make an informed decision on whether a fancy rat is the right pet for you.

This is not a decision to take lightly because a rat depends on you to provide for all aspects of their care.