When I tell people I have pet rats, I sometimes get awkward faces—sometimes filled with disgust. It took a little getting used to, but I’ve become used to that sort of reaction. Over the years, I’ve come to understand why some people react that way. The reasoning behind such negative reactions is many people don’t know there is a difference between pet rats and wild rats. When they hear rats, the only image that comes to mind is the wild rat.  You might have some questions about this topic, and you might be a little unsure yourself, but by the end of this page, I hope you will be able to understand the differences between the two better.

Fancy Rats Are Domesticated

Fancy rats, another common term for pet rats, are not wild rats because they are domesticated. They are raised and bred by people. It’s as simple as that. When you got to a pet store or a rat breeder to buy a pet rat, you are looking domesticated rats.

The store/breeder didn’t go out into the woods and capture those furry little things. They’re all domesticated and come from a long history of rats that are raised by humans. Ever since the 18th century, rats have been bred as pets. Known records indicate it all started somewhere in Europe.

the difference between pet rats and wild rats is more than just their physical appearances

Pet Rats Are Found Only In Pet Stores

Pet rats can only be found in pet stores and rat breeders. Any rat you catch from the wild is considered a wild rat. What about a fancy rat that was captured from outside? Once a rat has made its way into the wild, it should be treated as a wild rat. There is a high chance it’s been contaminated and exposed to other wild rats, as well as the very environment that makes wild rats risky. It now carries the same risks for a disease that wild rats do. If you spot one of these rats, it’s best to treat it as a wild rat and deal with it accordingly.

Pet Rats Are Much Tamer

Pet rats have been raised by humans all their lives. Most of them are comfortable with being handled by humans, so they are tamer. They see us as friends, and they see us as the “thing” that feeds them, cares for them, and keeps them alive. They love us.

Wild rats, on the other hand, do not hold the same opinion. To them, we are predators; we are the bringer of doom. They fear us and they will not be so friendly like the fancy rats. They will defend themselves if they feel cornered—and bite if touched.

Pet Rats Don’t Carry The Same Disease Risks

All rats—both wild and domesticated—are capable of carrying disease. Wild rats are much more likely to carry disease and are considered high risk at all times. Pet rats are susceptible to the same diseases and can be a risk, but they are extremely low.

Fancy rats are very clean animals, and they are properly cared for, they should not carry disease. Aside from keeping them clean and taking care of them, they should not be exposed to wild rats. If you live in a home where you have an infestation of wild rats, you need to get rid of those rodents immediately. Allowing your pet rat to be exposed to wild rats on a regular basis greatly increases the chances of your pet becoming a disease risk itself.

Can You Tame a Wild Rat?

do not attempt to tame wild rats for pets

This question pops up sometimes, so I feel I should cover it for the sake of thoroughness. Some people are intrigued by the idea of catching and taming a wild rat. That is a BAD idea; do not try taming wild rats.

People like us, who are not trained experts with proper education should not attempt to tame a wild rat. We’re just not qualified for the task and doing so will put ourselves at risk. We’ll put other people at risk as well. Wild rats are unsanitary, and they can carry disease. We don’t know how to deal with the high risks involved safely.

But then what should you do about that wild rat you’ve seen running around the house? To be honest, any wild rodent should be trapped, and safely released far away from the house. Otherwise if that is not an option, you’re still much better off just getting rid of it. Leaving it to run around will expose you to sanitary problems and potential disease. If you already have pet rats at home, you definitely want to remove the wild one as son as you can. I won’t cover removal because that’s a whole different topic and I’m not much of an expert. You’re better off looking for removal advice from a site like Pestsoff.com.

Besides, it’s just not worth all the hassle. Just buy a fancy rat from a pet store or a breeder.

Physical Differences

Wild rats will usually be dark in color—dark brown. They do not come in various colors as fancy rats do.  Now, some fancy rats can look an awful lot like wild rats, but if you purchased it from a trustworthy shop or breeder, then no need to worry if it’s a wild rat or not.

Fancy rats can come in different colors with different color patterns. In very rare cases, wild rats can develop different coloration in the wild, but you won’t see those too often.

You have to understand and treat your pets rats as your pets, but treat the wild rats as pests—rodents. Still not convinced? Maybe I’m just biased? Once you find out how lovable rats are, it’s hard not to love them. But that really does only apply to pet rats. Rathelp.com, also agrees and so do many others. We are of the same thought because it’s important. If you do not make this differentiation, you not only put your pet at risk, but you also put yourself and other people at risk as well. Knowing the difference between pet rats and wild rats not only helps you avoid some risks, it also helps you understand why some people might give you weird face when you tell them you have some lovely pet rats.