So, you’ve bought your first rats and you’re hoping to make a good impression on them but how can you tell if they like you? Well, the good news is that there are plenty of signs that a rat likes you and the even better news is that there are proven strategies to help develop an affectionate relationship with your pets.
How to know if your pet rat likes you: 10 signs and behaviors include vocalization, licking, grooming, scent marking, cuddling, accepting treats, not acting like you are a threat, their ears going pink, they become excited by your presence and they can brux and boggle.
So, let’s take a look at each of those behaviors and how to recognize them and then we’ll take a look at how you can better bond with your rats so that you can see these behaviors more often. After all, who doesn’t want a great relationship with their pets?
10 Signs That Your Pet Rat Likes You
There are 10 signs and behaviors that indicate that your pet rat likes you and you will almost certainly see more and more of them as your bond with your animal increases.
One thing you should be aware of is that rats aren’t loud animals. They do chatter all the time but most of the noises they make – you can’t hear because they’re in too high a frequency range for human ears. However, that doesn’t mean that your rat will be entirely silent, either.
You’ll find that as you get to know your rat, it starts to talk to you – you can pick up some chirps, squeaks, clucks, etc. that are clearly directed at you. Now, it should be relatively easy to perceive the emotion in the communication from your rats – happiness and contentment are easy to distinguish from pain, anger or fear.
Rats have many different reasons for licking their humans and we wrote in detail in a previous post which you can read here. However, the main reasons are going to be that your rat either smells food on your hands and is thus trying to get a taste of it, they think you smell bad and are trying to get you back to “right” which is a sign of affection or because they care about you.
There’s no bad reason for a rat to lick you and it’s one of the easiest ways for them to get used to your scent and to welcome you to their social group.
Rats groom themselves when they’re happy, now they won’t start grooming you – because you’re not a rat and they won’t understand how to groom you (though licking you is kind of grooming in some ways) but when they’re grooming, it’s a good indication that you’re providing the right kind of life for your rats.
Not every sign of affection is direct and sometimes, it’s nice to know that you’re appreciated even if your rat isn’t telling you directly how they feel. So, take the vision of nice clean rats as a real compliment to your rat handling skills and feel loved for it.
Now, this sign of affection may not always make you feel appreciated but when a rat leaves its scent on you, it’s marking you as part of its’ world. That’s a genuine sign of affection for another creature and you should feel good about it.
Unfortunately, there are two ways that a rat gives scent marks. The first is when they rub their body up against you and, of course, that’s nice and pleasant. The second is when they pee on you and male rats, in particular, are very happy to leave their scent like this on their humans. To find out more about why pet rats pee everywhere you why not read another one of our articles here.
You can also find out how to stop pet rats from peeing everywhere here in this informative article.
It seems pretty obvious but if your rats are up for a cuddle, they’re clearly happy to be around you. You should never squeeze a rat because they are very delicate compared to you and you can break a bone or worse.
However, you can cuddle a rat gently and they will respond positively if they are feeling the love in return. It’s one of the nicest things about owning a rat and you should enjoy every cuddle that is offered by your rats.
Rats can be very affectionate pets, find out more in this article here we recently wrote.
Accepts Treats Easily
Now, you’d think that rats, which are primarily motivated by food, would be happy to take food from anyone, particularly treats, right? Well, there’s another factor to consider here and that’s the rat’s familiarity with the giver of the treat.
Rats are neophobic and it takes them time to build up trust and comfort with their owners and they are always happy to take a treat from someone that they love. So, when your rat is happy to come to you for a little food, then you’re definitely in their heats.
Be sure not to overfeed your rat with too many treats or you could end up with a bit of a chonk. Please read one of our other recently written articles on how to know if your pet rat is overweight.
Doesn’t Respond With Threat Behavior
Have you ever seen someone corner a rat? They don’t react well at all. In fact, rats can hiss, scowl, and even attack someone when they feel threatened by them. So, when rats stop responding to their humans with threat behavior – you can see that they’re starting to like them.
Not every rat will start a relationship with its human on a hostile footing, but some will, but your patience, care and kindness will normally turn the relationship around.
Your Rat’s Ears Turn Pink
Now, if you think your day job is odd – then you will find it even more peculiar that there’s a guy out there whose job it is to tickle rats. Yes, Luca Melotti is a researcher at the University of Bern in Switzerland, and he spends his days investigating happiness in rats.
He found that rats laugh and that if you give a rat a good tickle, they laugh and while they’re laughing their ears turn pink. He’s not entirely sure why this is, mind you, but he’s pretty positive this is a sign of happiness at the interaction. So, if your rat’s ears turn pink – it’s probably happy to be around you.
They Are Excited To See You
There’s probably no clearer indication that your rats have missed you being around when they run excitedly to the bars of their cage to see you when you come back after being away for a while. It’s a bit like having a dog rush up to the front door of the house when you come into the house.
So, when they get excited by your presence – you can be sure that your rats have real love for you.
They Might “Brux” And “Boggle”
Happy rats can be given to grinding their teeth “bruxing” in the presence of their humans and this can lead to “boggling” which is when your rat’s eyes seem to pop in and out of their sockets. (Seriously).
While it is possible for other strong emotional situations to lead to bruxing and boggling, it’s fair to say that it appears to be linked mainly to contentment. So, if you see these two behaviors, you’re almost certainly doing something right.
4 Exercises To Help You Train Your Rat To Trust You
OK, now if you’re not seeing all these behaviors in your rats – don’t worry, we’ve got some exercises, tips and games that can help you bring your rats on side. Let’s begin with 4 exercises which help to build trust between you and your rats:
This is easy, let your rats settle and then offer them some treats in your open hands, when they come to trust you, they will come forward and accept food.
After a period of success with this, you can then pick up the rats gently before returning them to the cage (give them another treat as you do so). Finally, you can start taking your rats for a short walk in the palm of your hand.
This may take a little time, but it really works.
Bonding involves removing a single rat from the main cage and placing it in a safe space near to where you are during the time they are out of the cage.
The idea is simply to breed familiarity so that the rat learns you aren’t a threat. This can take a little time to do but it’s worth it.
You begin with bonding, then positively reinforce the message with little treats, then start picking them up and then take them for trips around the room.
This is a bit of an extension of the first exercise, this time you let all the rats out into a safe space which they can’t escape from and in which you are present (think your bedroom but make sure they can’t get out).
This doesn’t take as long for rats to get used to you, but you need to try to stop yourself from reaching out to the rats and let them decide to come to you.
This is a longer version of the treat trick which involves presenting your hands to your rats so that they can get used to your scent.
When they’re happy, you can start to pick them up and give them treats and then it’s time to learn to pet your rats so that they want to stay in your hands.
3 More Tips To Help Socialize Your Rat
If that wasn’t enough to get your rats to love you – then we’ve got three more tips than can help a reluctant rat socialize with their human.
Start Them Young
The younger your rats are when you bring them home, the easier it will be to socialize them. Rats over the age of 6 months or so, simply find it very difficult to accept people because they have already learned their social behavior and you weren’t part of that learning. It’s not that they can’t be socialized but it takes much longer.
If you want to know how old your pet rat is then you should read another one of our articles how to tell how old your pet rat is with examples.
So, buy rats that are younger, and you can speed up the process of making friends with them quite considerably.
Keep Your Voice Low
Rats can learn to respond to the sound of your voice, and they have super sensitive ears. If you gently repeat their names over and over again, you can help them to learn to respond to the sound of your voice. It’s good to give them a little treat when they do respond to encourage this process in the future.
However, if you’re too loud – you’re going to hurt their ears and they will shy away from you, instead. So, keep your voice low.
Learn To Hold Them Right
If you want your rat to respond well to you, you have to learn to handle it in the right way. That means picking up your rat gently and keeping your hands under its belly and without squeezing it any way (your hand should be open).
Don’t try and lay them on their back (exposing a belly means a rat is giving up dominance and it can be very stressful for them).
Eventually, your rats ought to jump onto your open hands because they enjoy the experience of being around you.
8 Games To Help Build Bonds With Your Rat
Finally, we’ve got some awesome games that you can play with your rats. As social creatures rats really love to play and the more you help them play, the more they will love you. I recently wrote another article all about how to play and have fun with your pet rats, click here to have a read.
The Food Fun Game
One game we love to play with rats is “bobbing for veg”. Take little bits of corn, peas and diced carrot and place them in a bowl of cold water and let them go bobbing for them. Now, it’s important to make sure the bowl’s heavy enough that they won’t knock it over and that you keep them company while they play, just in case they do anything silly in the water.
The Hanging Ball of Snacks
This one is easy. Fill a little cage like ball with some snacks and hang it from the roof of the cage. Let your rats work for their dinner while you watch and enjoy their antics!
Get Some Bird Toys
Shoe Box Hide And Seek
Rats love to forage because that’s their natural wild behavior and it comes instinctively. So, fill a little shoe box with hay (made from grass – you don’t want them to eat the hay) and then hid some snacks inside the box and let them jump in and find the treats for themselves.
Bedroom Hide And Seek
OK, you need to ensure that the space you play this in is completely sealed and you rat cannot get lost but once you have a relationship with your rat. You can hide from them and they will come looking for you. It’s a lot of fun.
Rats just love to play in dirt. So, take a little shoe box and fill it with some sterile soil and then let them play in it. They’ll be delighted to roam and dig.
Design Mazes With Rewards
You probably know this, but rats are really very clever and one of the easiest ways to engage them is to build a maze with a few treats at the end and then let them solve the maze. You can use cardboard to build a maze (you can even make tunnels from toilet tissue rolls). Just make sure that anything they can climb won’t endanger them as rats really do love to climb.
The Paper Treasures Game
Rats love little bits of paper. So, tear some paper into small strips and offer the rat some paper. It will snatch it from you, go hide it and come back. This really helps the rat understand that good things come from interacting with you.
We hope that our “How to know if your pet rat likes you: 10 signs and behaviors” guide has been of use and that now you can tell when your rat really likes you and that you know how to build better relationships with your rats.
Rats can be amazingly affectionate and it’s one of the best things about keeping rats as pets but you do have to approach building a relationship with them in the right way, to get the most out of it.