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Is It Safe to Keep a Pet Rat and a Cat? Facts & Care Tips

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

By Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Rat whispered to the cat in ear

Both rats and cats can make great pets for many reasons. They are independent creatures, yet they tend to enjoy interacting with their human companions. They have their own unique personalities that make them comical, endearing, mischievous, and fun loving, which are traits that give them character and make them more fun to observe and interact with.

Rats and cats are also both generally easy animals to care for compared to pets like dogs and even ferrets. This isn’t to say that they aren’t huge responsibilities, though. Still, the big question here is whether you can keep a pet rat and a pet cat in the same house together.

The short answer is that yes, it’s safe to keep a pet rat and cat. However, there are a few things to be aware of and precautions to take. Once your household gets into a good groove, though, it’s possible to live happily with a rat and cat in the same home. Here’s what you should know.

Separate Quarters Are Necessary

It is important to keep in mind that cats have a high prey drive and would naturally hunt down a rat to eat them. If you have been a cat owner for any period of time, you may have seen a dead mouse sitting on the front porch or inside the house, as if your kitty left it behind as a trophy. So, even if you successfully introduce your pet cat to your new pet rat, it doesn’t mean there will not be conflict, especially when you aren’t around.

Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that your pet rat has a place to live that is safe from predators, preferably inside a closed and locked habitat. It should be kept in a room that can be closed off so your kitty cannot get into the room, whether you are home or not. This is the only way to ensure that no incidents that end in heartache can occur.

Scottish Straight cat and rat half face
Image Credit: Sonsedska Yuliia, Shutterstock

Cat-Proofing a Rat’s Habitat

It is always a good idea to cat-proof your rat’s habitat. No matter how diligent you are about keeping them separated—especially when no supervision is available—there is always a chance that your kitty will get an opportunity to try to break into the rat’s enclosure.

First, make sure the cage that you choose for your rat is sturdy and made for larger animals, like ferrets and guinea pigs. This isn’t to keep the rat in; it’s to help make sure the cat stays out.

You should also:
  • Reinforce the cage with hardware cloth. This will help ensure that your rat cannot escape the cage and that a cat’s paw cannot get into it.
  • Keep cat items like toys, bedding, and scratching posts away from the rat habitat at all times.
  • Incorporate plants, toys, and other objects into the walls of the habitat whenever possible. This will help create an extra barrier that will keep your cat and rat from getting too close to each other.

Introducing Rats and Cats

Depending on your cat’s and rat’s respective temperaments and personalities, you may be able to introduce the two pets to one another with little to no friction. It is best if your pet cat grows up around pet rats and understands how to treat them from a young age. Otherwise, it’s up to you to determine whether your cat’s temperament and personality can handle being around a pet rat.

The first thing that you should do is introduce your pet rat to your cat through the rat’s caged habitat. Let the cat get close, and see how they react to one another. The most important thing to remember is to not rush anything. These creatures will bond in their own time, not yours. It could take a week, or it could take several months. It may never happen!

Make sure both kitty and rat have been thoroughly exercised before introducing them to one another, even just through the rat’s caged habitat. Pay close attention to your rat’s behavior, as they are the prey and the one contained in a habitat. If they run and hide, it’s not a good time to introduce them to your cat. Keep trying through the cage until the two animals are sniffing each other and hanging out together through the caged habitat.

Once they seem to be comfortable in the caged habitat, you can try introducing the animals to one another face-to-face. Utilize treats to help break negative attention and reward positive behavior. Once the animals seem to be okay near each other, let them interact and see what happens, always keeping a close eye on your cat’s predatory ways and correcting behavior that you don’t deem to be beneficial to the interactions and relationship as a whole.

Cat and rat facing each other
Image Credit: Stuart Wilkins, Shutterstock

Keeping the Peace

Keeping the peace is the most important thing that you can do to maintain a safe and productive household with a rat and a cat living in it. Even if you can’t successfully introduce your cat to your rat and they do not create a relationship, you can keep the peace in your home without giving up either of your pets. This can be done by keeping the animals away from each other.

The door to the room where your rat resides should always be closed, even when you are home. You can still let your rat out for “free-roaming” interaction and exercise by putting your kitty in a different room and closing the door so they cannot get out. Then, you can bring out your rat for one-on-one attention. If you can keep the animals separated, there cannot be any unfortunate incidents.

In Conclusion

It’s possible to keep a pet rat and a pet cat in the same household. That said, advanced planning and careful management are required. If you are unsure of your ability to keep peace in the house, it’s a good idea to avoid being in the position of caring for both a rat and a cat at the same time. However, if you are confident that you can keep your rat safe from your cat, you should be able to create and maintain a happy, safe, and healthy environment for all.

Featured Image Credit: Jagodka, Shutterstock

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Authored by

Rachael has been a freelance writer since 2000, in which time she has had an opportunity to research and write about many different topics while working to master the art of fusing high-quality content with effective content marketing strategies. She lives off the grid in Hawaii with her husband, her garden, and her rescue animals including 5 dogs, a cat, a goat, and dozens of chickens. She is an artist at heart and loves...Read more

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