Are Pet Rats Friendly? 8 Excellent Reasons to Own a Pet Rat

Many people, before they decide to invest in some rats, want to know if their rats are going to be their friends. We can understand why this is important and it’s fair to say that some creatures, like lizards, might make for interesting pets but won’t spend very much time being your friend but is this true of rats too or are our rats likely to become our buddies? Let’s find out if pet rats are friendly?

As bright, curious and social creatures, rats can be very friendly, indeed. This is why many rat owners keep them as pets because they bring joy into their lives. Of course, this doesn’t mean that a rat is always going to be friendly – it’s up to you to treat them right but if you do, then they’re going to return your friendship with interest.

So, let’s take a look at why rats are friendly and some other great reasons to keep rats.

Companionship And Pets

As we lead increasingly more solitary lives as human beings with 28% of Americans living alone according to the previous census, we have come to desire more and more companionship in our lives and we often turn to pets to fill the void.

67% of American households now own at least one pet. That’s a big increase from 1988 when the country was first surveyed and only 56% of households had a pet.

This is a good thing, in fact, there are scientifically documented advantages of pet ownership and the companionship we get from our pets and they include:

  • People with pets suffer from less depression than those without. Sure, this doesn’t mean that pet ownership is a magical cure for this serious mental condition, but it does mean that having something else’s needs to focus on can help some people.
  • People with pets have lower blood pressure! It’s true, in fact, there’s even a study that showed people with borderline hypertension dropping down to ordinary levels of blood pressure within 5 months of picking up a shelter dog!
  • Playing with pets increases our levels of serotonin. Serotonin is nature’s happy chemical and our brain makes it when we do things that make us happy. And, in turn, it makes us happier.
  • Pet owners have lower levels of both cholesterol and triglyceride fats. These can be indicators of heart disease – so the lower, the better.
  • Pet owners that have had heart attacks tend to live longer than people without pets that have had heart attacks.
  • Pet owners spend less time at the doctors than those with pets.

Most of these benefits seem to derive directly from being friends with your pet.

That friendship is so important that it can change the behavior of even the most hardened criminals.

Pet friendships tend to be less judgmental and complex than human friendships.

A pet doesn’t care what clothes you wear, what you eat, the politics that you follow, the books you read, etc. it offers friendship in an honest and emotionally robust manner.

So, it matters to us if our pets are friendly and it is fair to say that some pets are not, friendly.

Nobody ever got a cuddle from a guppy or an Iguana. Your tortoise would thumb its nose at any kind of companion, it prefers to be alone. And so on..

That’s why we need to know if rats are friendly because for many of us, getting a pet is about bringing a new friend into our lives.

To find out just how good a pet rats make why not read our article “20 Reasons Why Rats Are Good Pets”.

Are Rats Friendly Creatures?

Yes, they absolutely are. Abby Chronister, 25, with various health conditions told the Washington Post of her rats; “Those little critters are what made me get out of bed, knowing I had those little lives to care for. They bond with you like a dog does. You might not have the energy to walk a dog, but you can manage to fill a water bottle.”

While many pet rodents bite, whereas most rats don’t bite and, in fact, as you can see from our article on “Do Rats Bite?” rats only bite when they’re frightened and it’s easy to stop your rats from becoming frightened.

A vet, Cory Bassett, said to the Washington Post in the same article that he would recommend buying a rat if you want to form a personal connection with a pet rodent because they’re the animals with the most to offer in that regard.

You might be surprised to know that there are celebrities with pet rats too and Angelina Jolie used to keep a rat, but she said that she had to part with it when it ate the curtains in the place that she was staying in – this is a lesson on not placing the rat’s cage near anything that they can chew on, rather than in the poor behavior of rats.

Rupert Grint, Ron Weasley of Harry Potter fame, adopted the rats that played his rat in the movies because he found them so much fun to be around.

Queen Victoria, of England, was also a huge fan of rats and had a rat catcher called Jack Black (no, not the actor) who’s job it was to catch rats and train them to do tricks. In fact, it’s possible that Queen Victoria’s love of rats inspired people to start keeping rats as pets more widely.

Rats are also very popular pets. While cats and dogs may occupy the top slot of “pet-dom” rats are owned by more than 100,000 people in the UK alone.

Can You Cuddle A Rat?

It’s important to know that rats can, indeed, be cuddled and, in fact, they enjoy the experience very much as far as we can tell but it’s important to ensure your rat is fully socialized before you do this.

This can be very easy if you adopt your rats as infants from the same litter and then raise them together while spending a lot of time around them.

The rats will, first, socialize each other and litter mates don’t tend to fight or bully each other (which can occur when strange rats encounter each other for the first time) and then they will come to socialize around you too.

This doesn’t mean that your rat will mistake you for another rat, sadly they won’t – rats need rats as company, but they will come to enjoy your presence and company and become receptive to cuddles, ear scratches, tickles and the like.

One thing you might not know is that rats like being tickled so much by a friendly human that they “chuckle” just like we do when we’re tickled.

Do Rats Bond With Their Owners?

Yes, in fact, rat owners feel that their pets form life long bonds with them.

A rat swiftly comes to recognize its owner and to react excitedly and happily to their presence.

They can respond to their owner’s voices too and even be taught to come when they’re called.

They also enjoy hanging out on their owners. Sitting on their shoulders or in their laps.

In short, rats are intelligent, friendly creatures that can genuinely appreciate the companionship of their owners. Of course, we might be anthropomorphizing but as we said in our article about rats feeling affection, we don’t think that we are.


Are pet rats friendly? Yes, very much so. If you want companionship from a pet then rats are an excellent choice, particularly if your accommodation simply won’t allow you to keep larger animals. Rats are intelligent, social animals that love to interact both with other rats and their human companions and they can demonstrate strong personalities if you allow them to shine.

Of course, friendliness in rats is much like it is in humans, it’s a reciprocal activity which requires you to be friendly to your rats in return. That means knowing how to handle rats to cause them a minimal amount of stress and never deliberately frightening them. This is pretty much what it takes to be friends with people too, so don’t worry – you already have the skills you need, they just need to be applied in a “rat-like” manner. Enjoy your new friendships!

Darren Black

I'm Darren Black, the owner, and author of I am from Scotland, United Kingdom and passionate about sharing useful information and tips about properly caring for an animal's wellbeing.

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