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How to Pet a Rat

| Updated September 26, 2017

Rats pack a lot of personality in their tiny frames. Socialized rats will often climb on laps, sit on shoulders and even groom their human friends as a sign of affection. A socialized rat can learn tricks, can enjoy playing games and can learn to wrestle with their favorite human's hands. Knowing how to properly pet a rat is the first step to creating a trusting friendship.

Earn Your Rat's Trust

Building a friendship with your rat will take time, especially if you have adopted a rat who has not had positive experiences around humans. He needs to learn that he can trust you not to hurt him. You can begin earning your rat's trust by being proactive.

  • Talk to him in a calm, soft voice. Rats can sense when you're angry, upset or stressed. If you talk to your rat when you're stressed, he is likely to become stressed. Always talk to yourrat when you are calm.

  • Interact with your rat. A well-socialized rat must have daily interaction with people. Talk toyour rat every time you pass his cage, and make sure he has a minimum ofan hour out of his cage to interact with family members each day.

  • Wash your hands. Because of their poor eyesight, rats rely on their other senses to protect themselves and to guide their actions. If you have been petting another animal or have handled food, wash your hands before picking up your rat -- otherwise you risk getting bit if he thinks you're a predatoror are offering a treat.

Know Your Rat's Petting Zones

Once your rat feels comfortable with you, he will likely allow you to pet him. Discover your rat's favorite spots to make the experience enjoyable for him.

  • Rats often love a good ear rub, as long as you're gentle.

  • Gently scratch your rat's shoulders.

  • Pet your rat's back, starting at his neck and running down toward the middle of his back.


  • A happy rat will grind his teeth.

Pet Rat Peeves

Handle your rat in a way that frightens or angers him and he may just nip at you. Rather than risk getting bit, learn how to properly handle your rat before attempting to pick him up.

  • Be careful with your rat's belly. A rat's belly is extremely sensitive. Unless your rat trusts you, avoid touching his belly. Once your rat trusts you, he may roll on his back and eagerly await a belly rub.
  • Do not pick your rat up by the tail. You may cause your rat to lose trust in you, and you may break his tail.

  • Never pull your rat's whiskers backward, which could hurt him. Instead, stroke his face from his nose backward toward his ears.