Some people keep them as pets, for others rats can be the worst nightmare. Rats are survival artists. They can chew through concrete and metal, they are smart, they are fast, and yes, they can swim.
As a whole, rats are able to swim. Some rats are able to swim for three days straight and can hold their breath underwater for up to three minutes.
Not every rat likes to swim. Even though they are capable of swimming does not necessarily mean that they enjoy it. Especially pet rats that were bred for decades might be good swimmers but will try to get out of the water as soon as possible.
Some pet rats love to swim.
You can offer them a container with water and with some stones to climb in and out and let them swim and play.
Since rats are able to swim long distances and hold their breaths for several minutes, it is possible for a rat to appear in a toilet. Rats have the ability to fit through small spaces, climb up almost every material, and chew through most material we know of. Therefore climbing up pipes into a toilet is not the most difficult task for them.
It happens rarely, but it happens.
Will Rats Drown in Water?
Rats are great swimmers by nature. They use their back legs to paddle and the tail to navigate, while the front legs are stiff. Rats can swim underwater and hold their breath for up to three minutes. But rats are animals that live on land and not in the water, therefore it is possible for them to drown.
As a whole, yes, rats will eventually drown in water. They are not able to breathe underwater and even though some rats can swim for three days straight, at some point they will be exhausted and drown.
Sometimes rats fall into outdoor pools and have trouble getting out. When rats seek out water, they might come across a garden pool and fall inside when they try to drink. You should always provide some kind of wood or ladder for any animal that falls into a pool. Even though rats can swim around for three days, other animals, such as squirrels, will drown quickly without the possibility to climb out. And no matter if you like animals or not, you should provide them with a way out. Otherwise, you will have a cemetery in your pool and that’s probably not what you want in your garden. And a dead rat will release more parasites in the pool water, than a living rat. Some of these parasites will even survive chlorine.
Can Rats Swim in Pools?
Some pet rats love to swim and enjoy paddling around in the water on a warm day.
Don’t introduce your pet rat to a pool if you don’t know yet if it enjoys swimming or not. Putting a rat that does not like to swim in water can lead to fear or even panicking.
As a whole, rats can swim in pools. As long as the pet rat does not swim in the pool for several hours every day, the chlorine in a pool won’t harm their skin. A pet rat should never swim in a pool unattended. Even though rats are great swimmers, accidents can happen.
If you want to find out if your pet rat likes water, you can build a small pool in a container with some stones to easily get in and out of the pool. Prepare several blankets around the pool to prevent a huge mess around it. If the rats enjoy getting in and out of the pool or even paddling around in the water, you know that they like to swim.
Should You Let Rats Swim?
Rats don’t have to be able to swim to have a happy life. Some pet rats enjoy swimming, others don’t. If you have the possibility to build a small pool for your rat, and your rat likes to swim, it’s a good exercise.
As a whole, it is possible to let the pet rat swim in a container or pool. The rat should always have the possibility to climb out whenever it wants to. It is not necessary for the rats’ health or happiness to let them swim.
If you plan to give your rats the opportunity to swim, you should not just put the rats into deep water. Not every rat likes to swim, and if it’s the first time in the water, some rats will be scared.
You can build a small and safe pool with plenty of possibilities to get out quickly. You can use a container, or the bathtub to create a pool. Let the rats explore the water and don’t rush them. If they want to, they will go into the water by themselves. If they don’t enter the pool it does not necessarily mean, that they don’t like to swim at all. You can try again on a different day, or start with a container with only some water, so that the rats can still stand in the water, simply to get used to that feeling.
If your rats got dirty for some reason and you need to clean them, but they hate to swim, you can also use a damp towel to clean them, instead of putting them in a bathtub.
Can a Rat Breathe Underwater?
Most rats are naturally very good swimmers. They can swim long distances which is one of the reasons why they managed to spread all over the world. They can also dive underwater and pick up food from the ground. But rats are not capable of breathing underwater.
As a whole, rats are rodents and cannot breathe underwater. They are capable of holding their breath for up to three minutes, but they need air to be able to breathe.
Rats can do so many incredible things such as chewing through concrete and metal or climbing up basically any wall. But breathing underwater is not one of their skills, which makes total sense because rats find most of their food on land, and there is no need for them to dive deep underwater.
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂