Pet rat welfare in the United Kingdom: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Vikki M Neville*, Jessica Mounty, Livia Benato, Kristina Hunter, Michael T Mendl, E S Paul

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

Background
To date, despite the substantial literature investigating how rats prefer to be kept in captivity, no research has been conducted to assess the housing, husbandry and health of pet rats.

Methods
To better understand the United Kingdom’s pet rat population and the welfare issues they face, we conducted an online survey of pet rat owners. The survey included questions about the owner and their opinions about pet rats, and about their rats’ health, husbandry and housing.

Results
The results, from 677 complete responses, highlighted areas of rat care that were “good”, “bad”, and “ugly” (i.e. likely to be highly detrimental to welfare). The good was that many rats were provided with a social companion and enrichment; the bad was that we couldn’t be certain whether rats had a sufficiently nutritious diet or sufficient opportunities to explore or adequate nesting substrate; and the ugly included cases of exposure of rats to predator species within the home and a generally high prevalence of disease.

Conclusions
We conclude that there is much cause for concern about the welfare of pet rats in the United Kingdom.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalVeterinary Record
Volume2021
Issue numbere559
Early online date7 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
VN, MM, and ESP were funded by a grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC BB/T002654/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Veterinary Record published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Veterinary Association

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