Learn Why Pet Rats Are Fascinated By Your Mouth

Anyone who has ever played with a pet rat will quickly have found that they have an odd habit of trying to look in or even climb into your mouth. This is normal rat behavior, but it can be a bit disturbing until you know how to handle it. So, let’s look at how that’s done.

Learn why pet rats are fascinated by your mouth: well, it boils down to one thing, really, they are motivated by the desire to eat. They can smell food on your mouth, and they want some.

We can also explain why it’s not curiosity that drives your rat, how to deter a rat from looking in your mouth and why you should never let a rat become your dentist, finally, we will look at the possibility of contracting diseases from a rat in your mouth.

Curiosity Killed The Rat?

There’s a good reason that people say that curiosity kills cats and not rats. Cats are curious, if they see something new, they head straight for it to investigate. Oddly, mice are very similar in this respect and can be tricked into traps because of it.

Rats, on the other hand, suffer from a strange form of anti-curiosity called neophilia. That is they are afraid of new things. This doesn’t make your rat foolish, to the contrary, it is an example of why rats are the big brains of the rodent kingdom.

Cats are big enough predators that their curiosity doesn’t actually cause them many problems plus they can fight their way out of some situations where it does. Mice, on the other hand, are regularly killed by their curiosity because stick a tasty treat in a trap and they just can’t resist it.

Rats evolved to become suspicious precisely to avoid getting caught in traps. Thus, they’re not the most curious of creatures. It takes a long time for a rat to familiarize itself with something before it sees it as less of a threat – so, it’s not curiosity which drives your rat to want to look in your mouth. Rats don’t do curiosity and it’s because they like to stay alive.

Why Does My Pet Rat Want To Get In My Mouth?

Rats are very social creatures and when they’re playing with other rats of their group – there are no boundaries on that play.

So, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that rats will happily wander all over the “big rat” that feeds them (that’s you) and try and play with you.

It’s an unusual rat that won’t try and look in someone’s mouth at some point during their relationship with a human being and it may indicate that you have a very timid rat, indeed.

Why Does My Rat Look In My Mouth?

Rats, like many other creatures, are simple beings and their motivations in life don’t tend to climb high up Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. In fact, most rats have a single objective in life – to get fed and get fed well.

All rat owners will have occasionally allowed their rats to stray to their food bowl a little too often and found themselves the proud owner of an obese rat which spends all its day snoring and then eating and then snoring again.

Because they dedicate their lives to the pursuit of food, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that your rats know that you are the rat god of all food and that you might have access to even better food than the food that you share with them. (We didn’t say that rats were rocket scientists but they’re plenty smart).

So, where might they find a bit of that food that you’ve been eating and keeping back from them? That’s right – in your mouth!

They’ve seen how you eat; they can smell the food on your face and now, they want to go in search of it – in your mouth.

Should I Let My Rat Climb Into My Mouth?

We love our rats dearly and god forbid that anyone tell you how to take care of your rates – but we draw the line at allowing our rats into our mouths. In the same way as we wouldn’t recommend that you let your dog lick your mouth (because dogs eat dog poop for a starter).

Even assuming that your rats are the cleanest rats that ever lived and that you wipe out their living quarters every 15 minutes out of some peculiar obsession with rodent hygiene – your rats can’t wash their paws and they wander through plenty of filth including their own urine all day long.

We can’t advise you to put that in your mouth, who in their right mind would want rat pee in their mouth? However, we can’t stop you – so if you want to ignore this advice, you can go right ahead but you can’t sue us if you get sick, we’ve told you it’s a bad idea, now.

How Can I Stop My Rat From Playing With My Mouth?

OK, assuming that you’ve decided to err on the side of a mouth without rat pee – you may be wondering how to keep the little souls out of your mouth, given that rats can be incredibly creative and persistent?

Well, firstly, it’s a bad idea to play with your rats just after eating a meal. This is the time when you’re going to most smell like a giant free kebab to your rodent chums. In fact, we’d recommend that you give your hands and face a thorough wash before playing with rats and brushing your teeth too (for some reason, rats aren’t keen on the smell of mint).

Secondly, you could try feeding your rats before you get them out of the cage. A full belly provides very little incentive for your rats to go in search of more food. Though, to be fair they may be a little less active and a bit more sluggish in this condition.

Finally, you want to discourage the behavior. That means taking the rat away from your mouth and, perhaps, setting them down elsewhere until they finally get distracted by something else (don’t worry – they’re a rat, a distraction will come along).

Eventually, rats will get the message and stop going for your mouth in the first place but let’s not pretend that your rat is going to win Mastermind, here, it may take several dozen attempts at discouraging them before they finally get the message.

Be calm but be persistent. Training a rodent is simply a question of repetition until their furry little brain gets the message. Don’t shout at or try to physically punish your rat – all you will do is scare and/or hurt it and they aren’t likely to get the message any faster.

Rodentistry: We Wish We Were Joking

We wouldn’t normally put The Sun newspaper down as a reliable source of journalism. In fact, we wouldn’t normally put it under our rat cages. However, they ran a story a while back in 2018 on rodentistry.

Rodentistry is a practice where human beings allow their rodents to clean their teeth for them. We wish this was the usual fiction printed in The Sun but there is evidence in several places online that this is a real practice.

We just can’t recommend this. It’s not that we doubt the sincerity of people who allow their rats to pick bits of food out of their teeth but again, it’s just not sanitary.

We agree with the British Dental Association as quoted in the article, ““To prevent gum disease and tooth decay, there is no substitute for brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste, including last thing at night.”

Am I Risking Disease If My Rat Plays With My Mouth?

This is a trickier question. We think you may be risking contamination from allowing a rat into your mouth. There are bacteria all over the places that your rat will walk during the day plus the fact that they drag their feet through their own urine.

It is unlikely that a pet rat is carrying Weil’s Disease (or leptospirosis) but if they are exposed to the urine of wild rats it is also a possibility. Leptospirosis is a very unpleasant condition which can cause hospitalization and even death.

Given all of this, we have to say that yes, you are risking disease if you allow a rat into your mouth – though how big that risk is, is anybody’s guess. We think that any risk of sickness that you don’t have to face, however, is too much risk. So, we’d advise (again) keeping your rat out of your mouth.


Learn why pet rats are fascinated by your mouth: it’s all about the food, really. Rats aren’t particularly curious, but they do love food and they associate you with food and they can smell the food that you have eaten.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to keep rats away from your mouth and as you’ve seen – you really should keep them away from your mouth because there is a small risk that they could make you sick.

Darren Black

I'm Darren Black, the owner, and author of AnimalKnowhow.com. 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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