Even though some people are scared of rodents, rats make great pets. They are social creatures and like to bond with other rats and with their owners. Despite their bad reputation in Western society, they are very clean animals and spend several hours every day cleaning themselves and each other. Rats live in groups and are very communicative. They will tell and show how they feel. As the owner, you will quickly learn to read their body language.
As a whole, a happy rat is relaxed and curious. It might make sounds like bruxing or chirping when other rats or the owner gently strokes it. It won’t be easily startled and will not suddenly bite or attack the owner.
Rats tend to show when they are happy, but they are extremely good at not showing any signs of pain. Pain in the wild is a weakness and makes a rat more vulnerable. Therefore you should regularly check on the health of your rat because your pet will hide any pain for as long as possible.
In the following, we will look into things that make pet rats happy, and how they communicate or show if they are not happy.
What Do Rats Do When They are Happy?
Rats communicate with each other through body language and high-frequency sounds that are just outside of the human sound range. We cannot hear our pets talk, but we can hear some of the sounds and also read the body language.
As a whole, sounds like bruxing, peeping, or chirping, as well as excitedly hopping around, curiously sniffing, and playing with each other are things that rats do when they are happy.
The most important thing is to get to know your pet rats and their usual behavior. Only if you know how a rat usually behaves, you will be able to tell the differences.
There are some signs that show that a rat is happy.
When rats are extremely relaxed, they will grind their teeth together. This sound is called “bruxing” and could be described as the purring sound of a rat. If you have bonded with your rat and gently groom it, your rat might start bruxing.
Other sounds that a happy and relaxed rat makes during the grooming process are chirping and peeping.
Some behaviors such as swishing the tail quickly or squeaking can be signs of either happiness or also anger.
Sometimes rats lick their owners to show that they like them. It could also mean that they like the smell of the owner, or they found something to eat on the skin. In any case, it usually means that the rat is happy and relaxed.
You will know what your pet rats mean, once you got to know them better.
How Do I Know if My Rat is Unhappy?
Rats have a variety of sounds and signs that they will show if they are unhappy.
As a whole, sounds like hissing, high-pitched shrieks, or behaviors like bearing the teeth, arching the back, freezing, and puffing out the fur are signs of anger, fear, or annoyance.
If you hear a rat hissing in the cage, do not get any closer. This rat is furious and will attack anyone who gets too close. Other behaviors such as arching the back, puffing out their hair, or bearing the teeth also show that a rat is pretty angry.
Other signs of anger, fear, or discomfort are attacking and biting the owner, or scratching.
Rats also tend to pee and poop more in stressful situations.
A high-pitched squeak can be a sign of pain. You should check out if everything is ok with your rats. It could mean that a rat was injured.
If a rat suddenly freezes and stops moving at all, it is a sign of fear. The rat is terrified or frightened of something and does not know how to react.
Rats are active, curious, and social animals. If you notice that a rat does not partake in any activities with the other rats, or stops interacting with you, there might be a reason for that changed behavior.
Maybe that rat is being bullied by others or has some health issue. You should keep an eye on that rat to make sure that everything is alright.
How Can I Make My Rat Happy?
Rats are low-maintenance pets that are easy to please. They don’t need a lot of expensive toys and don’t need to be taken on walks. All they need is other rats, healthy, nutritious food, room to move around, places to hide, and things to explore such as new toys, or places.
As a whole, pet rats need company, healthy food, some exercise, hiding places, and things to explore to be happy.
Rats are social animals and need other rats to live with. They love your company and spend time with you, but they also need their rat friends to cuddle with. Even if you spend a lot of time with a pet rat, you will not be able to replace other rats.
The most important thing that will make your rats happy, is to spend time with them. You can cuddle with your rats, talk to them, play with them, let them walk on your body, carry them around on your shoulder, and let them sleep in your pockets.
Feeding healthy food and treats is also something that will tighten your bond and make your rats happy. But be careful not to feed too much. Pet rats tend to become very fat if you feed them too much.
Rats are super curious animals. No matter how old a rat is, it will always love to explore new things. Changing the settings in the cage after cleaning it will entertain your rats for hours.
You can also introduce new toys such as toilet paper rolls with some treats hidden inside, or newspaper (without too much print on them) that they will tear apart and use as bedding.
If you let your rats run around in a certain room, you can also introduce new things in that room such as blankets on the floors or boxes they can hide in.
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 🙂