Rat Lifespan: How Long Do Rats Live?

Written by August Buck
Updated: October 18, 2022
Image Credit Maslov Dmitry/Shutterstock.com
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Whether you consider them pests or pets, rats are a part of our lives in one way or another. While they seem to be everywhere, this doesn’t mean that they live forever. How long do rats live, whether they are a part of our family or not?

If you are wondering about this as well as what the rat life cycle is like, we have some answers for you. You will also find the information on how to extend the life of your pet rat should you have one in your home. Let’s get started. 

How long do rats live?
Whether you consider them pests or pets, rats are a part of our lives in one way or another.

KireevI/Shutterstock.com

How Long Do Rats Live?

Rats live an average of two years, whether they are wild or in captivity. Pet rats may live up to 6 or 7 years in extreme cases (more on this below), but given their small size and genetic makeup, most small rodents live two years or less.

How long do rats live? Wild rats live an average of 1-2 years, given the prevalence of predators in their environment. Whether they live in cities or out in the country, rats face predators everywhere, such as birds, cats, and much more. 

Given their short life span, this makes the rat life cycle very interesting.

The Oldest Rat Ever

The oldest rat on record was was named Rodney. He lived to be 7 years and four month, which is more than 3.5 times as long as the average wild rat. believe it or not but some rodents like naked mole rats can live up to truly extraordinary ages. The oldest naked mole rat lived to be 28 years old!

The Average Rat Life Cycle

How long do rats live?
Rats live an average of two years, whether they are wild or in captivity.

Olena Kurashova/Shutterstock.com

From baby rats to adult rodents, the average rat life cycle is an interesting study. To learn more about this common rodent, read on.

Newborns

Like many newborn animals, rats are completely reliant on their mothers. They are born without their senses and without the ability to walk. This leads to the first week or two of their life as a time for feeding and sleeping exclusively.

Rats gain the ability to walk after roughly a week of time. After two to three weeks, a baby rat can see. This is how quickly rats grow and change. They have the ability to fend for themselves after three to five weeks, and will leave their mothers at this time.

Juvenile Rats

Young rats still need the comfort of siblings and friends. This is especially true if the rats will be raised for pet stores and homes. Wild rats likely venture out on their own away from their siblings much quicker than pet rats. 

Juvenile rats are finished growing from the ages of six months to one year. They eat rapidly and chew on things to keep their teeth from growing too long. A young pet rat is very active and friendly, capable of accompanying their owner on many different journeys and tasks. 

Adults

How long do rats live?
Young rats still need the comfort of siblings and friends.

Rats are considered grown and adult age by one year. Their life is likely nearing its end, especially if they are a wild rat. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t live their lives to the fullest, breeding and eating to their heart’s content. 

An adult pet rat is friendly and easy to train. After a year has passed, you may notice that your pet rat is less active and mobile. This is likely due to the fact that it is aging, as arthritis and other common mobility issues also plague rats. 

However, there are many things you can do to extend the life of your pet rats. While wild rats are likely not encouraged to live longer than they should, you may want to extend the life of your dear rodents. Read on to learn more. 

Tips for Giving Your Pet Rat a Long Life

How long do rats live?
An adult pet rat is friendly and easy to train.  

Maslov Dmitry/Shutterstock.com

Even though your pet rat likely won’t live more than five years, there are still many things you can do to improve their quality of life. Some tips for increasing your pet rat’s lifespan include:

How long do rats live and how to keep them healthy:

  • Keep your rat’s teeth healthy. All rodents have teeth that grow non-stop. Rats are no exception. You should be aware that your rat’s teeth will need to be maintained, either through regular vet visits or through toys and treats. Giving your rat wooden blocks or other pet approved items to chew on can keep them healthy and happy. 
  • Watch for signs of hair loss. One of the easiest ways to tell if your rat is getting old or ill is if it’s hair has changed. Any signs of balding or hair loss can be a sign of something deeper. You should check and see how your rat has been eating lately, as appetite is another sign of something deeper going on. Many infections or illnesses can cause hair loss in rats, so it is important to make an appointment with your vet if you think something is wrong. 

More Tips for Your Pet Rat

How long do rats live?
Contrary to popular belief, rats are very clean animals.

iStock.com/Argument

  • Handle your pet rat frequently. Rats are surprisingly social creatures, especially ones that have been raised as pets. You can train your rat to do tricks or spend time with you in exchange for treats. Pet rats enjoy company and our wonderful companions if trained and handled frequently. 
  • Clean your rat’s cage regularly. Your rat is more at risk of illness and injury if it is left in a dirty or improperly cared for enclosure. Cleaning your rat’s cage once per week can extend it’s life easily and simply. Remove any old bedding and food, and check the enclosure for signs of damage. 
  • Feed your rat a balanced diet. While rats will eat just about anything, your pet rat should be fed a wholesome diet along with exercise. Give your rat food that is made for rats specifically, and avoid giving your pet rat human food unless it is safe for them to eat.

baby-rat-playing

Maslov Dmitry/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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