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Typical rattie girl: While it's fine for the male in the front to grant me a mere glance, the female has to come forward all the way from the back to check out what's going on.

Typical rattie girl: While it’s fine for the male in the front to grant me a mere glance, the female has to come forward all the way from the back to check out what’s going on.


Pet rats are very social animals, that’s why it’s best to keep at least two, for furry companionship. Pet rats can be a bit too social at times, that’s why they should always be kept in same sex pairs only.


So the question begs:

Girls or boys?

And while I’m in general very much against stereotyping genders, here just a few pointers to make this decision easier:



Males are quite bigger than females, they have a stockier body and more coarse hair.

They are easily identifiable as males, because, it has to be said: They have big balls. Like the size of their head. But they carry them well. Their goolies are covered in fur and flat against their body, so are not that noticeable as soon as you can resist the temptation to stare. 😉

In case you’re wondering, you can read more about: Why are rat testicles so big?



Rats in general are not smelly animals. They are extremely clean and only smell if their environment is not clean. So if you find your pet rat does not smell pleasant, it’s time to clean the cage.

Males and females smell very differently.

The girls hardly smell at all and easily take on the smells of their surroundings, so be generous with that perfume when your rattie sits on your shoulder, because she’s going to smell superlicious.

The males have quite a distinct odour about them, which some might not like. I love rubbing my nose in that thick fur of rattie boys: They have that warm animal smell, musk-like, a reminder of wildlife, but in a comforting way, like a walk up the hill towards the clearing at dawn with mist everywhere but then a sunbeam breaks through and promises warmth.



Rats tend to mark their territory with little drops of urine. Boys do so more than girls. Despite common belief there’s little chance you could catch any disease from your pet rat’s urine.

Rattie lovers accept that pet rats mark them in order to tell any other rat out there that you belong to them. But if you’re not comfortable with that idea, female rats leave less droplets than males.

Males can develop Buck Grease which can be mistaken as a skin disease but simply requires more frequent baths than for female rats.


Clan Roles

I like to compare the dynamics of a rat clan to that of a pack of lions: The females do everything, rearing the children, doing the hunting and gathering; while the males are lazing around, only needed for fights against other males.

So: The females are very busy, explorative, they roam and scavenge, and everything is an adventure. Because of that they hardly ever sit still and are a lot of fun to watch.

The males are all of that, but a bit of a calmer version. I once met a rattie boy that when told to stay, would indeed do that: Stay. We went out and came back and he was still there, in the same spot.

Some alpha males can take their role of clan defender a bit too serious and display aggressive behaviour towards their male buddies. A bit of playfight is alright, but if this gets too disruptive, sterilisation can help. Neutering boys also reduces their smell and means less marking, and, of course, less balls. 😉



Rat characters differ, they each have quite a personality. Some females are boisterous, some are squeamish, some boys are cuddly, some are full of beans.

Considering the difference between the genders can help make a better match with your future pet rat. E.g. Some would refer to females as hyperactive, while I find them highly entertaining. Or some would think boys appear lazy, where others welcome a bit of a more passive nature in their pet.

Ask yourself: Do you prefer a lap dog or would you enjoy watching Game of Thrones in a National Geographic for pets type of documentary style. Can you put up with the cleverness of these rascals or do you wish for rattie cuddles freely available whenever you need them.

Don’t fret: Whichever way you choose, rats are highly adaptable and will sooner or later find their way into your heart.

In the end I recommend to go with ‘love at first sight’: You might have your dream pet picture perfect in your head, but when you see a bunch of cutesy rat pups, you might go with the exact opposite just because you fell in love with the ratlet’s beautiful eyes or adorable belly. 🙂




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