WARNING! This section contains images that may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised. You do NOT need to read this section, but if you're considering buying from a pet store then please do.
The truth about rats labeled as "pets" in pet stores:
There has been an increase in misinformation regarding pet store rats labeled as pets. Some believe that rats labeled as feeders and rats labeled as pets are different in some ways - either in where they were bred, how they were bred, their health, their genetics, and their temperaments. The truth is they are the same. Rats labeled as pets in pet stores and rats labeled as feeders almost always come from the same mill. The ONLY difference is color. Rats labeled as pets are usually prettier, have nicer markings, and they usually don't have pink eyes. I have personally witnessed this in a local family owned pet store. The long-time employee admittedly stated how the ugly ones (usually white with pink eyes) will be sold as feeders and the pretty ones as pets. There was no difference in their rats other than how they looked. Where they came from, how they were raised (mills), their genetics, and their temperaments are all very uniform. The same is true for hamsters and other animals in pet stores.
Ever wonder why the pet store rats labeled as pets are almost always VERY sick after people take them home and/or have chronic health problems throughout their life? Really no different than your average feeder rat. Below are some photos I have gathered from a hamster breeder who discovered these inside photos of rodent mills. They breed hamsters, rats, guinea pigs, and more. Every time someone supports a pet store they are supporting this cruelty. More rat/hamster/etc sales in pet stores equal more rats/hamsters/etc born and raised through this system of horror. Knowledge of these facilities is one of the reasons I decided to become a breeder. Animals from pet stores come from mills like shown below. The goal is mass production. Quality, type, temperament, health and proper conditions mean nothing to these mills and the rats labeled pets and feeders come from the same place.
Are you rescuing when buying from a pet store:
NO. It is not a rescue if the animal has food, water, and a clean cage regardless of whether they are intended as pets or feeders. It's a purchase - a business transaction. A frequent argument I hear regarding the support of buying rats at pet stores is that they need homes too and they deserve a good life. While that is true, it's also true that their parents do as well, but they instead live a life of misery. Litter after litter after litter in darkness and/or tiny cages. No toys, no love, no enjoyment. Think of the breeding pigs in pig breeding facilities. Supporting pet stores is supporting the cruelty shown below. While not all mills are like this, most are. Those who are not like what is shown below are still mass producing in crammed cages with (90% of the time) no regard for temperament, type, personality, conformation, or health. While it is possible to get sweet rats from pet stores and feeder bins, you'll still be supporting mass production.
Pet store rats labeled as pets or feeders: less money to buy the rats, $150+ vet bill due to almost always being sick upon purchase, often have poor temperaments (often turn into biters or have aggression toward other rats), tend to die very young, usually chronically sick throughout life, raised in horrid conditions with no room to move or play.
Rats from reputable breeder: more money to buy the rats, 0$ vet bill, healthy upon purchase, raised in proper conditions (with good food, love, enrichment, and proper cages), high quality bloodlines, pedigreed, health and genetic guarantee, good or excellent temperaments (temperament guaranteed), live longer.
Some breeders raise their rats very similar to mills. It's very important you at least see a recent video of the set up they were raised in and better yet, see the cages in person! Just because someone is a breeder, doesn't mean they are a good one. If the breeder refuses to take a video of their cages or show you them in person, they have something to hide, and it's better to find a different breeder.
In the end, it's your decision whether to buy from a pet store or a reputable breeder, but now you can make an educated choice!