Basic care

How to Tell If Your Pet Rat Trusts You

Marta Sarasúa
By Marta Sarasúa, Psychologist. January 11, 2022
How to Tell If Your Pet Rat Trusts You

Domestic rats still have a stigma for many, even those who would otherwise consider themselves animal lovers. They are often categorized as vermin and overlooked as pets. When well cared for, rats can make incredible companion animals. Practically speaking, they are small and do not require the same resources as large animals will in the domestic environment. Moreover, they are affectionate, playful and extremely intelligent animals which can develop very strong bonds with their human guardians.

As with any companion animal, the bond a rat has with their caregiver depends on trust. At AnimalWised, we share how you can tell your rat trusts you with these 5 signs. Once trust is established, love will soon follow.

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  1. They have a good quality of life
  2. They want to interact with you
  3. They make sounds of joy
  4. They are able to relax by your side
  5. They allow you to handle them and feel comfortable in your hands

1. They have a good quality of life

For your rat to love you and establish a healthy bond, it is essential to dedicate time and effort. All of their physical and psychological needs should be met. Rats are social, gregarious and intelligent animals. You will need to stimulate them in these areas as part of their responsibility of care. This means spending time with them, interacting appropriately and providing enough environmental enrichment to avoid stress and boredom.

These are some aspects that you should take into account when taking care of your pet rat. They will help make them happy and improve your relationship:

  • Rats are a highly social animal and does not like solitude. It is advisable to have at least two rats. A joint upbringing or an appropriate introduction are the keys for two rats to live together peacefully and enjoy each other's company.
  • You put their health at risk if you feed them inappropriately. Rats need to eat a high-quality, well-balanced, omnivorous diet and have fresh water available at all times. Find out more about a rat's diet in what to feed a pet rat.
  • You must house them in a large, clean cage with access to several dens or places to shelter. Every day you will have to allow them to get out of the cage to explore the outside. Some rats can even be walked or carried outside, but you will need to ensure they are safe when doing so.
  • The rat is a very intelligent mammal, so you will need to provide them with mental stimulation on a daily basis in the form of interactive toys or providing training exercises.

Ensuring that your rat enjoys good health and a state of physical and emotional well-being will always be the first step to achieve a good bond between you. When you see your pet rat respond positively to these basics of care, you will know they are on their way to trusting you.

How to Tell If Your Pet Rat Trusts You - 1. They have a good quality of life

2. They want to interact with you

If your rat is interested in maintaining physical contact with you, it means they love and trust you. You may see them follow you around the house, seek your attention by standing on two legs in front of you, or invite you to play together. They all mean they like to spend time with you.

Rats are very attentive animals. They learn very quickly and respond well to positive reinforcement training. Training your rat and teaching them skills and tricks can both keep them stimulated and strengthen your bond. Carrying out training sessions and avoiding punishment will make them much more predisposed to trusting you. Shouting at them or using any kind of physical violence will do the opposite and prevent a bond of trust being established.

Is your rat constantly avoids you, hides when you approach their cage or shows obvious signs of distress when you try to touch them, you have a problem. While this problem may be due to your treatment or an issue with their care, it is also possible there is a physical health problem. Take them to a veterinarian to rule out this possibility.

How to Tell If Your Pet Rat Trusts You - 2. They want to interact with you

3. They make sounds of joy

When we adopt a companion animal, we need to understand the behaviors and characteristics of their species. We especially need to understand how they communicate their emotions and needs. Rats have a broad language, using both vocalizations and body language signals. Though this non-verbal language, they will alert us if they are scared, playful, angry or, especially important in terms of trust, if they are happy.

As their guardian, we are responsible for their welfare. We need to learn their communication signals and understand what they want to communicate with us. When they show signs of distress, we must not provide negative reinforcement. For example, if they show their teeth, make distressing sounds or even try to bite you, it means they are scared. There may be something you are doing which is frightening them, so you will need to stop. If you don't, you will reinforce the idea that you are a threat, rather than a trusted guardian and point of reference.

On the other hand, when you do respect their boundaries, provide them with appropriate care and enjoy quality time together, you will see the bond of trust strengthen in their actions. These signs a rat trusts you and is happy are diverse, but some of the main signals include:

  • They run to you when they see you.
  • They gently grind their teeth and open their eyes wide.
  • They invite you to play by running, jumping or making small nibbles in your skin (differentiated from biting).
  • They wag their tail gently.
  • They keep their ears pointed forward.

4. They are able to relax by your side

Rats are naturally cautious animals. Due to their size and lifestyle, they are frequent prey for other animals such as cats. It is completely normal they are also somewhat suspicious and vulnerable to a human presence.

Their instincts often cause rats to remain alert when we are around them. They will carefully observe our every move and often try to evade us, especially if they feel threatened. However, if your rat lies down to rest or even sleeps on you, it is a positive sign they trust you. They may calmly eat their food next to you or are able to focus on other activities while with you. In this sense, ignoring you can be a good sign. It means they have total confidence in you and know you will not cause them any hurt.

To do this, we need to do more than meet their practical basic care needs. We must be consistent and patient with their socialization process and always treat them with respect.

How to Tell If Your Pet Rat Trusts You - 4. They are able to relax by your side

5. They allow you to handle them and feel comfortable in your hands

As with any other animal, for your rat to feel comfortable being petted or carried in your arms, you should gradually accustom them to handling. This is preferably done from when the animal is young. Creating positive environments and experiences when handling your rat is important. You need to associate your touch with a positive experience and not to be made to feel under threat. This can be more than simply picking them up and holding them.

With patience, you can teach a rat to stand on your shoulder or jump into your hands. You can get them used to being brushed or even giving the rat a bath from time to time. Of course, you must respect their boundaries and always handle them gently. They are a very small animal and we can easily harm unintentionally. This often happens if we grab their tail or one of their legs accidentally.

Maybe you have built up a solid relationship of trust with your pet rat. If so, please feel free to share any signs your rat shows you they are happy by leaving us a comment.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Tell If Your Pet Rat Trusts You, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.

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1 comment
First time ratty owner, here. He's been with us for a month now, and he's such a sweet boy. We get him out several times a day, and he loves to play. He enjoys being with us (especially me), getting pets, knows his name already, and is starting to come when called. He's always grooming me and is happy to give/get kisses. We'll be attempting to litter train him this week, but he hasn't messed outside of his habitat. I don't think most people know just how smart, loveable, and playful they are. I know I didn't.
Administrador AnimalWised
Thanks for sharing, Mandy! Be sure to let us know how you get on with the training.
From your comment, it sounds like you only adopted one solitary rat. This is very detrimental to their well being. Please consider adopting at least one more rat to keep each other company, as rats are very social animals and they will suffer if they are house in solitude, even if you interact with them daily.
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How to Tell If Your Pet Rat Trusts You