Are Pet Rats Nocturnal? The Sleeping Habits of a Rat

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So, you are considering getting a pet rat for the first time and you are wondering if rats are nocturnal animals. I have owned pet rats for many years and in this article, I share my knowledge and experience about pet rats sleeping habits.

Rats are naturally nocturnal creatures and are most active during the nighttime. Rats are prey animals so it makes sense to do their scavenging work under the cover of darkness to avoid potential predators. Rats are able to adapt their sleeping habits to be more active when you’re around and will attempt to be awake during the hours of the day where you’ll be available to pet them.

Pet rats are incredibly social creatures and, as they’re eager to have your attention.

Despite a rat’s aforementioned flexibility, their instincts won’t simply disappear. They will likely have some busywork and playing to do once you’re all tucked into bed. Tidying up a nest, foraging for tasty tidbits, or bumbling around to get some exercise are all tasks that appear on a rats’ nightly to-do list.

Read on for more sleep-related info regarding our dear, fuzzy pals and learn about what you can do to make the most out of bedtime for your rats!

Why Are Rats Nocturnal?

In the wild rats wake up to roam around during the night because they’re able to remain unseen from any potential predators. If they have to hide, they’re able to do so with greater success.

Rats rely heavily on their whiskers to help them navigate in the dark, as their eyesight is notoriously terrible, even during the day with plenty of light. To them, it’s much easier to scurry around using the dark as a cover than to try their luck in the daylight.

Fun Fact: Rat’s whiskers are an important part of their navigational toolset and, as such, are extremely sensitive. Rats can tell the direction of movement, as well as how far each whisker moves. This information is sent directly to their brain, where it is then utilized to maneuver around their environment.

How Much Sleep Does a Rat Need?


Pet rats can potentially sleep up to 14-15 hours per day! However, this doesn’t mean that you will never see them. They achieve this by taking little power naps, or the occasional 3-4 hour snooze, throughout the day. Getting up occasionally to groom themself or their cage buddies, munch a bit of food, or receive attention from you are all things that become a priority once awake.

My 3 rats Moet, Rocky, and Rosie (he is a boy, however, my 3-year-old girl named him Rosie – I’m sure he doesn’t mind) are always still active around sunrise and early evening around dusk.

Short bursts of energy are commonly seen between these naps and become more frequent and lengthier during the night.

Are Pet Rats Noisy at Night?

Any animal that is considered nocturnal carries the chance of being noisy at night, and rats are no exception. Rats might not be able to bark, but they can be tiny noisemakers in their own right. Their need to chew can cause a nightly raucous, as could their sporadic bursts of energy that have them running in their wheels through the early hours of the morning.

Though they may be small, it may not be advisable to place their cage in a bedroom, as they could certainly disturb your sleep! That being said, I have heard that some rat owners can’t fall asleep without hearing their little furry friends messing about.

In spite of this, rats are fairly quiet when compared to many other household pets. Most of the noise nuisance comes from cage accessories such as the wheel, or the water bottle, and both have “silent” options for purchase.

Do Pet Rats Acclimate Sleeping Habits to Humans?

It has been suggested that domesticated rats are more crepuscular (active during the twilight hours like rabbits) in nature, rather than strictly nocturnal. This is likely due to them adapting to our schedules.

A rat that receives attention in the morning when you first wake up is liable to remember and ensure they’re awake to collect more affection. If you make a point of giving pets to your rat when you’re awake, they’ll learn your schedule and when you’re more likely to be around to dote upon them.

This will vary from one rat to the next, as each has its own personality and quirks. Essentially, the more time you spend with your rats, the more they’ll be able to make you part of their lives.

Will Pet Rats Sleep Together?

Provided they get along, yes. Rats are exceptionally social creatures and strive to spend as much time as they can with others. Even when they’re sleeping.

Not only is it advisable to get rats in pairs or groups, but you’ll also notice that they’re more active when they have playmates. A single rat is much more likely to spend ample amounts of time sleeping simply due to boredom.

If your pet rats suddenly begin sleeping separately, it could be a sign that one of them has gotten sick. In rare occurrences, some rats prefer to sleep all on their lonesome but this just could be them needing a little rest from the group.

Nighttime Necessities

Rats enjoy sleeping where they feel is most safe: hidden away like a little secret. It’s a good idea to provide your rat with a bit of cage furniture that they can scuttle underneath to catch a quick snooze.

Like many other rodent species, rats need to gnaw on things to keep their teeth in check, so avoid putting anything in their cage that they’d be able to erroneously ingest.

Keep in mind that a rat’s cage should be kept out of high traffic areas, or places that get too loud during the day, to allow them a place to sleep soundly. Placing the cage in a quiet, dimly-lit room is a great way to ensure your rat sleeps well. Depending on the personality, it’s possible bright lights could stress your rat out or damage their eyesight.

Helping Your Rats Adjust Their Sleeping Routine

Moving to a new place is always somewhat stressful, and the first time you bring your rat home won’t be an exception. We’ve covered a lot about the ins and outs of a rat’s snooze schedule.

There’s a lot to know, so feel free to refer to this simple list, here are some things you can try to do to ease them into their new home.

Avoid High Trafficked or Noisy Rooms

High traffic and a lot of noise aren’t ideal and should be avoided, but tucking the cage into a seldom-used room will have your rats feeling lonely. Search for a happy medium, a place where your rats will see you every day but are still able to rest and relax.

Bedrooms aren’t ideal, as regular nighttime activities are likely to cause problems for you and rats can end up feeling neglected if left in a bedroom alone.

Brightly Light Rooms or Direct Sunlight Are a No, No

We wouldn’t find it easy (or soothing) to attempt sleeping in an ultra-bright room. Rats are no different. In fact, bright lights can actually cause stress and damage to their eyesight, particularly albino type rats with pink/ruby eyes. Mellow, ambient lighting is best, with nothing focused too closely on the rat’s cage.

Punctal Feeding Times

Not only does feeding your rats increase the bond you two share, but it also teaches your rat when you’re going to be coming around with food. If you’re punctual and stick to the same feeding times, you’ll notice your rats are always awake and ready.

Feeding routines can help a rat learn when they’d like to be awake, and what time of the day is so slow that you might as well sleep it away.

We keep our feeding time to around 6 or 7 pm, you can always count on our 3 boys patiently waiting at their cage doors to meet us for food and a play.

Safe Hideaways

Like most anyone when they’re sleeping, rats need to feel safe and protected. Providing a house, tunnel, or anything they can wriggle under will be muchly appreciated.

Don’t Startle Your Rats

It can be very tempting to reach out and softly stroke the fur of a sleeping rat. However, from the rat’s perspective, something unknown has pulled them from their slumber.

As you’d expect, this can be fairly terrifying, and may lead to a bite should you startle the rat. Biting folks isn’t something that rats are known for doing without reason, so this is something you’ll likely only see if you manage to frighten the poor thing.

Sleeping Buddies

As we now know, rats are incredibly social creatures who value time spent with their pals. Rats require a lot of mental stimulation and can benefit immensely from being given a partner. They love to sleep in big bundles, it looks pretty uncomfortable and squashed but you don’t be worried they are perfectly happy.

Top tips: Make sure you buy large enough homes and hideaways so all your rats can fit in, whether its 3 or 10 rats I can guarantee they will all try squeeze in to have a nap together.

You may find that with just one rat, the rat will sleep a lot more in comparison to other rats who are kept amongst friends.

The lonely rat will do this out of sheer loneliness and weariness, which is quite sad. Keeping rats partnered up will prevent them from feeling forgotten, and will give them more to do during the stints where they’re awake.

Pet Rats Make For Great Pets Despite Being Nocturnal

Despite rats being nocturnal, they still make for excellent pets that are much quieter than most other companion animals. The more you integrate them into your life, the more they’ll integrate you into theirs.

Most pet rats will end up sleeping through the day during the hours you’re at work or school and will become more active when you arrive home.

The stronger your bond is with your pet rat, the more time the rat will want to spend by your side and will adjust their schedule accordingly (though this will only go so far – they are still considered nocturnal, after all).

Related Questions

Do pet rats sleep at night? Rats are nocturnal animals which means they sleep during the day and are awake during the hours of the night. That being said they will adjust their sleeping routine to align with yours and tend to be awake at dusk and sunrise.

Do male rats sleep more? Male rats tend to be lazier and sleep a lot more than female rats, this starts around adulthood when your rat is about 1 year old. Female rats tend to be more energetic and playful throughout their lives.

How long do pet rats sleep? Rats can sleep up to 15 hours throughout the day and night.

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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