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

In 2020, there were an estimated 100,000 rats kept as pets in the United Kingdom. However, very little is known about the housing, husbandry and health of these rats. To better understand the UK's pet rat population and the welfare issues they might face, Neville et al (2021) conducted a survey of pet rat owners in the UK which included questions about the owner and their opinions about pet rats, and about their rats' health, husbandry and housing. 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 it was unclear whether rats were provided with a sufficiently nutritious diet or had 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. It is concluded that there is much cause for concern about the welfare of pet rats in the UK.

Neville, V., Mounty, J., Benato, L., Hunter, K., Mendl, M., & Paul, E. S. (2021). Pet rat welfare in the United Kingdom: The good, the bad and the ugly. Veterinary Record, e559.

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