Ron Weasley has his pitiful pet rat Scabbers with him from almost the get-go. This rat is brought with Ron to Hogwarts for multiple years, and presumably Percy brought Scabbers to Hogwarts when he owned the rat.
Now the papers that Harry received with his acceptance letter clearly stated that a student may bring with them an owl OR a cat OR a toad. Nowhere is it mentioned that, should they be unable to afford an owl, a cat or a toad, then they may bring a rat. But no one at Hogwarts seemed to take notice or mention this fact.

So why was it that Ron (and presumably Percy) were permitted to bring a rat to Hogwarts?

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    Wondered this myself while playing Pottermore. May 3, 2012 at 1:30
  • 33
    Lee Jordan, a year ahead of Harry et al, had a pet tarantula. Ginny brought Arnold the Puffskein (Pygmy Puff?) her fifth year. But perhaps the choices for familiars increase/change as the students get older. I've wondered about Scabbers myself! May 3, 2012 at 1:31
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    Maybe Hogwarts provides you help in caring about an owl or a cat or a toad, such as food and suitable rooms (ponds), but you can bring any familiar as long as you can provide all its needs?
    – b_jonas
    May 3, 2012 at 7:30
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    For that matter, Hermione's cat was only part cat.
    – Kyralessa
    May 6, 2012 at 15:14
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    That's another thing, but if it's a rule, I can't imagine how Percy broke it! I mean, clearly the letter states 'Owl OR Cat OR Toad'. Percy. Break rules?
    – user50685
    Aug 16, 2015 at 9:42

8 Answers 8


There are plenty of examples of students breaking the rules in Hogwarts and getting away with it (e.g. Fred, George, Harry). If bringing rats to Hogwarts was not allowed, Ron would not be the first person to break a rule and get away with it.

Also, that letter never says that you can't bring any pet other than an Owl, Cat, or Toad. My guess is that part of the letter is more of a guideline than a rule. Remember that lots of witches and wizards come from muggle families, and they might have trouble adjusting to their new school. A pet would help with that, and by suggesting some magical pets Hogwarts is making their lives a lot easier.

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    Maybe they didn't all start out as rats...one mistaken spell, one glitchy wand... May 8, 2012 at 20:40
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    But would Percy have broken rules?
    – Möoz
    Mar 27, 2014 at 19:42
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    I seem to recall Lee Jordan had a pet tarantula..
    – BugFinder
    Aug 16, 2015 at 14:40
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    Dumbledore has pet Phoneix... Arrest him!! :) Dec 9, 2015 at 12:42

It actually strikes me that specifying which animals kids can bring doesn't seem to be the focus of the statement.

Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad.
(Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 5, Diagon Alley).

The emphasis there is on OR. The injunction is on bringing more than one pet to Hogwarts. Presumably in the past there was a student who turned up with an owl and a cat and a toad and a chihuahua or two - and the teachers found that the number of pets was getting out of hand. So they implemented a new rule: one pet per person.

Ron wasn't breaking this rule by bringing a rat. Owls, cats and toads are just examples of common pets that first-years might wish to bring if they so desire.

  • Except that OR is not exclusive. Students could still bring all three, an owl, cat and toad, and be within the bounds of the letter.
    – Xantec
    Jan 27, 2017 at 14:11
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    It generally is exclusive unless specified otherwise. That's why people use 'and/or' when they're trying to communicate that picking both options is acceptable. I can't imagine that someone who brought 25 cats to Hogwarts would be obeying either the spirit or the letter of the rules. Jan 27, 2017 at 14:18
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    I'd love to see what would happen if a student brought 25 cats to Hogwarts! Well, unless that student was Harry, he gets away with anything.
    – Obsidia
    Jul 8, 2017 at 2:46

Is it possible we've been misinterpreting the emphasis of this passage all along? As in, when we read it, we assume it's emphasizing the animals that are allowed, and by implication stating that all other animals are disallowed. Grammatically, it is at least equally possible that it is the "may" that is to be emphasized, implying that this is a change to a previous rule in which the students were not permitted to bring those animals.

For example, standing school policy for years prior to Book 1 could have been that students were not allowed to bring owls, cats, and toads. If that was a well-known rule in wizarding circles, then the school would make sure to let all students know that the rule had changed as of this year. The letter should then be taken to mean "(This year, a change to the rules has been implemented. From now on,) students may bring an owl or a cat or a toad." All other animals not listed have always been allowed (including Percy's rat and Lee's spider), and now this year, three animals that had previously been banned are now acceptable as well.

There is no canon to back this up, to my knowledge*. I merely point out a grammatically acceptable interpretation of the letter's passage.

* We know that Percy had owned Hermes since he became Prefect in his 5th year, but that was also Harry's first year, which is when the new rule would have come into effect. I do not know of any other examples of students bringing owls, toads, or cats to Hogwarts prior to the start of the books.


Perhaps if you were raised in a muggle household you were required to bring only certain pets and if you were raised in a wizarding household you were allowed a few more options?

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    Hi there! This is a great start for an answer. Do you have a source? Jan 27, 2017 at 0:44

Rats were so old fashioned, that they thought no one would bring one in fear of embarrassment. The cat, owl, or toad were seen as familiars or to help with school (such as owls are for mail), and to practice spells on. Tarantulas, pygmy puffs, etc., are for amusement therefore not included.

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    Welcome to Stack Exchange! Do you have a source for rats being seen as old-fashioned?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Feb 7, 2017 at 2:29
  • Toads are mentioned somewhere as old fashioned, but rats arent. Infact, in POA, the witch at the pet shop shows ron some fancy rats
    – ColonD
    Aug 27, 2017 at 6:48

The letter states you bring a cat, owl or toad, but it refers to them only as a messenger. Don't ask me how a cat or toad are supposed to deliver post, but that's what they're meant to be used for. The tarantula, rat, and whichever other animals that are mentioned are merely pets to entertain yourself with.

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    What do you mean when you say that the letter refers to them only as a messenger? In the first book the letter states "Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad". Nowhere does it say "messenger" - Hagrid mentions later that owls are useful because they also are messengers but this isn't in the letter laying out the guidelines.
    – Dason
    Apr 27, 2014 at 16:33
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    And actually, I think that a rat would be able to bring a letter more competently than a toad.
    – Mithical
    May 26, 2015 at 14:38

Maybe the school allowed rats up to that year but found first year students getting careless - letting the rats loose to chew things etc. - and said "no more" but since Percy had scabbers before the rule went into effect - and knowing Percy there weren't any problems with him keeping control - they made an exception. In law, they'd call it "grandfathering."

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    Almost tempted to upvote this since it made me smile. :) Jan 27, 2017 at 11:51

school wide spells aren't usually hard for the witches and wizards at Hogwarts. I think that if other animals were brought then the teachers would know. The only reason why they got away with scabbers is because he was technically human. The giant spider was born on the schools grounds so technically wasn't brought as a pet to the grounds.

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    Welcome to SFFSE! Do you have any evidence to support this theory? It would greatly boost the quality of your answer. Thanks! Dec 9, 2015 at 5:33
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    So you're saying that all of the teachers knew that Scabbers was really a human that was supposedly dead and just decided to not say anything about it and made an exception to the rules because of it?
    – phantom42
    Dec 9, 2015 at 6:33
  • @phantom42 I think that he probably meant that they had some "magic against animals" in Hogwarts and that Pettigrew didn't reach its threshold.
    – TGar
    Jan 27, 2017 at 8:41

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