You might be new to owning pet rats or considering buying them as pets and you wondering if they are affectionate pets. I have owned several pet rats over the years so here’s what I have experienced.
Pet rats can be very affectionate pets. Rats are social creatures who form bonds with their owners and will treat them with the same loving endearment reserved for their own species. Studies have shown that pet rats are able to comprehend a wide range of emotions (such as empathy) and make excellent emotional support animals.
Read on to find out more about our unsuspectingly cuddly pet rats, and to clear up any lingering curiosities about their disposition.
Rats may be one of the most authentically loving pets you could ever hope to find, and it’s a shame these creatures have gone so long without being properly understood. There’s a lot we can learn about judging too quickly and forming opinions that aren’t based in fact when we look at the history of the rat.
For starters, not only are pet rats affectionate, but they’re also quite intelligent, loyal, and easy to train, too. Besides having colorful personalities and being fairly outgoing, pet rats are more affordable and less of a time commitment than a dog or cat. They’re also better suited to smaller spaces and apartments, considering their compact size, fastidiousness, and nearly noiseless nature.
The domesticated pet rats we adopt today are vastly different when compared to the wild rats moseying about in sewers. Today’s varieties of pet rats have been domesticated and bred to be gentle and loving.
Not only that, but domesticated rats have been selectively bred to reduce their ability to harbor dangerous pathogens and bacteria, meaning they’re less likely to introduce disease or illness into your home than your standard dog or cat.
In addition to their added tameness and superior bill of health, domesticated rats are also smaller than their wild ancestors, typically having smaller bodies with sharper facial features.
Finally, our tiny tamed friends come in a wide array of colors and coat types, with varied markings and even body types!
Socializing and Bonding
As previously mentioned, rats are cordial creatures who benefit from having a few friends. It’s important when you consider adopting a rat to instead plan on adopting a pair; most lone rats will experience behavioral issues when they become isolated and lonely; most pet shops or breeders will either strongly encourage you to adopt a pair, or will outright not allow a single rat to be adopted into a home to live alone.
Don’t worry, adopting a pair won’t negatively impact a rat’s ability to bond with their human caretaker either. By providing a partner, both rats will be of a healthier mind and be better able to connect with their owners.
Proper socialization is key. Rats that have been handled plenty are going to be more comfortable around humans, hence it’s important to pick up and confidently handle your rats often. Softly stroking their fur and talking to them in a soothing tone will quickly have your rats opening up to you.
In the beginning, it’s common for the rat to seem unsure of these activities, so don’t be discouraged. Make a routine out of these handling sessions and your rats will soon understand what you’re about and that you don’t mean them any harm.
Eventually, they will be able to place their trust in you. With a little persistence, you will have found yourself a charming new pair of friends.
What does a happy rat look like? A happy rat will have relaxed ears that hang to either side of their head (leaving more space between their ears) instead of having their ears perked up. Rats will also gently grind their teeth together during times of contentedness, known as bruxing, and this is considered a rat’s take on purring.
Pet rats are also known to wiggle their tails in excitement, a behavior that’s overtly dog-like. Comfortable rats are able to move freely around their environment, free from the hesitation that is present during times of unassuredness.
Being open to interacting with you is a sign that they’re developing trust in you. A confident, curious disposition is the sign of a happy, healthy rat.
How Do Pet Rats Show Affection?
Pet rats show affection in a multitude of ways, some similar to that of dogs. In many aspects, pet rats are analogous to dogs in terms of friendliness and character. Most pet rats love having their ears rubbed, and may present their tummy for tickles if they’re feeling notably gregarious.
A study found published in Science that rats are capable of emitting a “laughing” sound when tickled, but that it’s too high-pitched for the human ear to register.
Rats are playful, fun-loving creatures who seek out companionship; they’re more apt to lick you than they are to bite you! In fact, it’s quite a rare event for a rat to bite a human! The more cuddling and petting you give your rats, the more they’re likely to demand it the next time they see you!
Rats are so motivated by the thought of getting some attention that they’ll purposely reschedule their day to be awake when you’re home. It’s a good idea to greet them in the morning and the evening when you come home, or when you have time to spare, as your rats will remember this and make time for you in turn. I love seeing our boys (Rocky, Moet and Rosie) run-up to their cage door to greet me every evening when I come home from work.
By routinely acknowledging your rats, you’ll teach them what your schedule looks like, and when you’re most available to play with them. This can help to adjust their sleep patterns so more of their time spent awake is also spent with you. Pet rats are nocturnal, so they will spend much of their time asleep when you’re away at work or school.
Pet rats are also observant, and it’s their strong sense of empathy and compassion that sets them apart from the other animals we keep as pets.
Rats value their friends and have been proven to endure and self-sacrifice if it means their pals don’t have to be uncomfortable. This selfless trait is something to be admired, and all the more reason to welcome a pair of pet rats into your heart and home.
You can be sure that once your bond has been forged, and you’ve earned your rats’ trust, that you’ve secured a solid spot in their hearts.
Why Keep a Pet Rat?
In addition to the aforementioned affection, pet rats are a surprisingly sturdy rodent, one that is much less likely to bite than a hamster, and more fastidious than a guinea pig.
They’re loyal, independent critters who want to spend just as much time with you as you do with them. Rats are thoughtful and observant, something that makes them a great friend to come home to see every day.
Interacting with these perceptive pets will allow you to witness their personalities; they are unique individuals with their own traits and odd quirks, and it can be fascinating to get to know your rats.
No two rats will have the same personality, and this fact adds a novel charm when raising them as pets. As your relationship develops, you’ll begin to see the differences between your rats and recognize them for their individual attributes.
Perhaps one rat is quite shy and prefers tender pampering; dozing off in your hand, whereas another rat may be much more rambunctious and rowdy; choosing to instigate play fights and scamper around.
Being as smart as they are, rats make excellent entertainers and can be taught a multitude of tricks, such as coming when called, sitting down, or even how to play fetch!
Mental stimulation is vital for your pet rats, lest they become bored and doleful. Teaching your pet rats tricks is a win-win; not only are they getting valuable cognitive exercise but you’re helping increase the bond you share, too!
Ultimately, rats don’t get the credit they deserve. Not only are they versatile pets, but affectionate and genuinely caring, too! Personable and insightful, each rat has its own colorful personality that will blossom under your care and attention.
Rats are naturally driven to seek companionship, and their ability to make friends is highly sought-after when looking for a pet with which to share your time.
As misunderstood as rats have become (due to their tainted and misleading past), it can sometimes be difficult for people to look at them with a fresh, unbiased perspective; however, this is what should be done, and the least we can do for these marvelous little beings.
Hopefully, this article has laid some misconceptions about pet rats to rest. Far from the dirty, aggressive vermin we’ve been taught to distrust, domesticated rats are quick-witted sweethearts just waiting for you to give them a chance to win you over.
If you’re looking for a pet with a sharp mind, big heart, and the desire to share your time together…look no further than your humble pet rat.
Are pet rats friendly? Yes, pet rats are incredibly friendly animals and make for great pets. Rats are highly social animals and this characteristic extends to their owners providing they have been socialized correctly.
Do pet rats like to cuddle? Rats can be very cuddly, this tends to be a common trait among male rats who often like to lounge about and sleep a lot. Females can be more energetic and playful. Bear in mind each rat has its own personality, this gender stereotype shouldn’t be taken for granted.