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How to Bond With Your Pet Rats: A Beginner's Guide

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Abbey has kept rats for years and enjoys sharing the insights she's gathered as a pet-parent with others.

Rats are social creatures, but warming up to their new humans can take some time.

Rats are social creatures, but warming up to their new humans can take some time.

How to Socialize Your Pet Rat

When you first bring home a pet rat, it is not unusual for your furry friend to hide for the first couple days. Remember, they have just been moved from their home in the pet store to an unfamiliar place. It may take them a week or more to warm up to you. Here are some things you can do to make your rattie friend feel more comfortable.

Dos and Don'ts of Rat Bonding

Loud noises, other pets, and quick movements will all make a rat feel scared. When you first bring a rat home, try to put him in a location where other pets and noises will be at a minimum. Make sure you give the little guy lots of treats, as this will help them realize you mean no harm. Always have your rat take the treat out of your hands. NEVER feed a rat through the cage, as this will cause them to begin snapping at anything that enters the cage. Remember, don't try and force your rats to do something. If your rats still seems shy about taking food from you, leave them alone and try again the next day.

Once your rats are comfortable taking food out of your hand, offer food from your fingers. Once they get that down, hold the food outside of the cage door to try and get them to venture out of their cage to get the treat.

How to Handle Your Rats

Once your ratties have passed the food tests, you can begin hand-taming them. Pick up your rats, remembering to always support their bottoms, and let them sit in your cupped hand, while you gently stroke their backs. While you pet them, it is a good idea to talk to them in a quiet, friendly sounding voice so they know you're not a threat. If your rat begins to seem scared, put them back in the cage and give them a treat. Repeat this process every day until they feel comfortable with you holding them.

Once your rats are comfortable with you holding them, take some time every day to grow the bond between you and your furry companions. If you have more than one rat, be sure to bond with each rat one-on-one, as well as bonding with them as a pair or group. Once your rats become comfortable with you, they will become almost like a cat. They love cuddling and hanging out, especially on your shoulder.

How to Introduce a Pet Rat to Water

Bonding Activities for You and Your Rats

Like all pets, rats love to play. There are many different activities that you can do with your rats that will help you bond with them further.

Tug-of-War

A game that my rats have always loved is tug-of-war. To make a tug of war rope, simply find some yarn and braid a short rope from it. Rats love shiny things, so I have a zipper tied to the end of my rope. To play with your ratties, open the door and wiggle the string around in front of them, and if they're interested, will grab the rope with their hands or teeth and begin pulling. Gently pull the rope back, but be sure to let them win once in a while. They will carry the rope away with their head held high and hide it somewhere in the cage! (Don't let them keep the toy in the cage, though)

Hand Wrestling

Another activity that your ratties will love is hand wrestling. To wrestle with them, stick your hand into the bottom level of the cage, and ran your hand around the floor, being sure to rustle up the bedding so they hear a commotion going on. They will come to check it out, and when they do, pounce your hand on them! They will jump around the cage, eagerly playing and mouthing your hand. Be careful not to get too rough with them!

Water Play

Some rats love water. To find out if yours does, fill a sink or bathtub with a small amount of water, so that they still will be able to touch the bottom. Throw some treats into the water, add your rats, and see if they are fans of swimming!

Consistence and Repetition Are Key

Getting your rats fully used to you will take some time, so don't get frustrated if it doesn't happen right away! Just like when you get to know someone new, it will take your rats some time to adjust to their new surroundings and to get used to their new caregiver: you!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Comments

Ratatouille on August 07, 2020:

Dear Cosma,

You slowly, but persistently, use all the steps here. I think.

Cheers, a 9 year old girl who is getting rats today.

Cosma on July 09, 2020:

I got rats on my last brith day and that was sep 5 ,and when i got them the bite, my mom said she got them at the pet store,so i almost had them for 2 years now, so my question is how do u get them not to bite?

cas on June 17, 2020:

wow, important corrections: “ When you first bring home a pet rat, it is not unusual for your furry friend to hide for the first couple days. Remember, they have just been moved from their home in the pet store to an unfamiliar place.”

don’t buy from pet stores, don’t buy a single rat

get them from a reputable breeder and get at least two same sex

Mackenzie Fox on March 22, 2020:

How come everyone here is asking questions but no one is answering them. Why is there no question page? ☹️

Tired on March 13, 2020:

My husband decided to get a snake and feed live. I work overnight and take care of my father I got home and there was a rat huddled in the corner of the snake home so I scooped him out and set up a tank for him even named him Timmy. My question is he was a feeder rat and now my pet so is it harder to socialize him? I have been hand feeding him treats and he is doing well with that.

Rattie mama on November 12, 2019:

I have two adorable girls,who are very well socialized.However they will not take treats and I think it is because the breeder fed them plates of leftovers.have any tips for me?

Ali on October 30, 2019:

I have 4 female rats when I first got them I didn’t end up starting to handle them until around 4 days into them coming to me 8 weeks old and now it’s been

around 4 weeks and they are still so skittish I feel like I take a step forward and 2 steps back they come out the cage and run around but usually end up stuck behind the cage for hours and I

Can’t get them out I’m worried I’ve missed my window for having them be okay and comfortable with handling and I don’t know if I should be being more aggressive or more passive with handling ( if I should be just picking them up and letting them get used to it that way or if I should be letting them come to me as I have been for the last 4 weeks ) I really do just want them to like me and be comfortable with me but I don’t know how to do it please help

Crazy Rat Lady on May 28, 2019:

Dear Anonymous, you should introduce them to water because every now and then they must take a bath.

Sincerely, A 15 year old that owns to many rats.

bear333 on February 14, 2019:

my rats love to play and i love them

Anonymous on August 11, 2018:

Why should you introduce your pet rats to water?

Rat lover on August 01, 2018:

I have a rat named Fifi, my old rat died a few weeks ago and Fifi has been acting different lately she won't let me hold her any more like she used to, is this because she's sad??

Pandabear on June 20, 2018:

We've got 2 girl babies had them nearly 3 weeks now and am abit unsure if they are ready for me to start picking them up, they both know my voice and smell, will happily take treats from me and look for me if am in the room and don't speak to them. Am a novice regarding having rats, any advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks

susan beiting on April 22, 2018:

Hi. Our rat found us about 20 months ago while my grandson was playing outside. It just showed up from under the house. It was so friendly and loving we knew right away it was a domestic rat. Took a while for me to bond, but now it does my housework with me. I painted my living room with my little rattie rat on my shoulder, up and down the ladder. Her name is Ellie, and I can't imagine a more tame loving rat. She is having some health issues right now, but she has already survived an upper respiratory infection 4 months ago, so she is a fighter. Can't believe I didn't know how wonderful pet rats are.

Hannah Schommer on August 18, 2017:

Dear ale bekka

I agree with The Rat Lover, but I have two baby girls right now and they can be nice as well. they are harder to find but I have had no problems with them and have had four growing up in a house with three little siblings. boys are better but girls can be nice companions too.

,Hannah Schommer

dear ale bekka on March 13, 2017:

Boy rats are calm and easy to handle if you are thinking about getting one a suggest a male because females are a bit harder to handle.

,The Rat Lover

ale bekka on February 27, 2017:

Are girl or boy rats nicer?

REA on December 09, 2015:

Thank you for the tips! Very helpful

womentips on April 11, 2014:

This sounds interesting!It inspired me.

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 10, 2014:

This was a very sweet hub and helpful for people who have pet rats. Voted up and more, plus pinning. If you have a pet rat, you may want to put a personal photo of him/her as the lead photo. That would draw attention. Very nice hub. Welcome to HubPages!

Thomas Byers from East Coast , United States on April 10, 2014:

Pet rats are great. I don't have one right now but I've had many over the years. I really enjoyed this Hub Page. Voted up and shared.