The RightPet Pet Ownership Study was conducted online between 2010-2018 and was designed and performed by researchers with Ph.D.s in psychology.
Perhaps the most intriguing explanation for the popularity of pet rats has to do with developmental psychology, according to Brett Hodges, owner/editor at RightPet. Small pets like rats are often the first living creatures (not counting goldfish) a young person considers to be their very own, and successfully meeting the challenge of raising a pet can do wonders for self-esteem.
A close look at the user reviews reveals these additional reasons:
1)    Rats don’t cost a lot to keep
2)    Rats are smart and loving
3)    Rats freak parents out (which kids love): “For pre-teens and teens, pet rats have an aura of ‘creepy cute,’ and it can be appealing to have a pet that others find scary or strange,” says Gail F. Melson, Professor Emerita at the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Purdue University. “Adults probably associate fancy rats with the stereotyped dirty and disease-spreading wild rat. The association is unwarranted, but if I were a teen, I might enjoy having a pet that freaks out my parents.”
It’s the pet/owner relationship that young rat fans love most, however, saying that female rats tend to be more outgoing, playful and hygienic, and that male rats are more loving and cuddly.
“It’s easy to see why kids and teens love pet rats,” says Hodges, who added that they’re smart and affectionate “little clowns” who bond with their owners and thrive on social interaction.“My favorite thing to do after getting home from school would be to take her out and carry her on my shoulder; she would stay put there and nuzzle into my neck and hair. Owning a rat reminded me of having a miniature dog, as they can be just as loyal and loving,” shared RightPet member hayleaoryan.Unfortunately, owning a pet rat does have a few drawbacks. Rats have short lifespans of only 2-3 years, and many kids say the death of their pet rat is their first experience with mortality. Rats can also like to chew, can be noisy at night, and need their cage cleaned at least several times a week.

The appeal of rats, according to the RightPet survey, tends to wane in favor of cats, dogs and horses in the over-18 age group, but rats still remain the No. 4 most satisfying pet until age 30.

pet study infographic

The study finding is based on 5,150 reviews from 2,867 members from 74 countries, who currently own, or have owned, pets when they were 17 years old or younger. Adults and kids who owned animals between the ages of 10-17 reported that pet rats gave them more satisfaction than any other types of pets, including cats and dogs.

About RightPet

RightPet is the world’s largest online pet healthcare rating and recommendation site. With over one million breed- and species-specific reviews by vets, trainers and pet owners, RightPet harnesses consumer and expert experiences and presents it in a user-friendly, digestible way so pet owners can find the most effective – and cost-effective – options for an encyclopedic list of pet health, wellness and training issues.