Are Rats Affectionate? (Do They Like to Be Held?)

Rats are some of the best pets you could wish for. They’re smart, curious, and their omnivorous nature means that you can share a lot of food with them! However, one often overlooked aspect of these little rodents is how affectionate they are. You might not believe it, but rats are more affectionate than many other animals that people keep as pets.

Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into rat affection. We’ll discuss whether they like to be held, petted, and how they show their affection towards their owners. Let’s dig in.


How affectionate are rats?

Rats are extremely affectionate animals. When you compare them to some other rodents that humans often keep as pets such as hamsters, chinchillas, or guinea pigs, rats top them all in terms of cuddliness and affection levels, and it’s not even close.

In the wild, rats live in large groups. These groups, called mischiefs, have intricate social structures and the rats that live in these groups regularly show each other affection. In captivity, pet rats consider their owners as part of their group, so they show a lot of affection towards their owners as well. Rats love spending time with their owners and are capable of forming extremely strong bonds with humans which is one of the reasons they’re such great pets.

How do rats show affection?

Rats show affection in a number of different ways. However, one thing to also keep in mind is that all rats show affection in different ways. On top of that, some rats are more affectionate than others and older rats are generally more loving than younger ones.

With that being said, one common way that rats show that they like you is by licking and grooming you. In the wild, rats spend a lot of time grooming each other. Contrary to popular belief, they’re very clean animals. If your rat likes you a lot, you might notice that it’ll lick you. This is a show of affection because they’re essentially grooming you! While they’re grooming you they might also bite you softly. This is called nibbling and is part of the grooming process and thus a show of affection.

Another common way for rats to show affection and contentions is through behaviors called boggling and bruxing. Bruxing means grinding their teeth and is a sign of them being relaxed and content. If they do this near you, it means that they feel relaxed in your presence. Boggling is a bit weird, it’s a rat behavior where they bulge their eyes out. This might look strange at first, but it’s actually a sign that they’re happy and relaxed!

Then there are of course also the common ways of showing affection such as them simply seeming to enjoy being near you or them coming to the bars of their cage when they notice you’re nearby. Oh, and did you know that rats can even give kisses?

Do rats like to be held?

Most rats definitely like to be held. Whereas some rodents, such as hamsters, do not really enjoy being handled all that much, rats love it, especially when they’ve been handled from a young age so that they’re used to it.

Rats absolutely love human interaction and holding them is one of the ways they can get that interaction. These little rodents can even learn to jump into the palm of your hand on command!

Because rats generally enjoy being handled, they do not often bite when you try to hold them. However, one thing that’s important to take into consideration is that they are nocturnal. This means that they sleep during the day and are awake at night.

Because they are nocturnal, some people wake their rats up during the day because they want to hold them. This is not a good idea and can result in a cranky rat that doesn’t feel like being held. I can imagine you would feel the same if someone woke you up in the middle of the night!

The best time to hold your rat is at night when they’re awake naturally. This is when they’re most in the mood for playing and being held.

How to pick up a rat

Picking up a rat to hold them is quite simple, just follow these steps:

How to pick up a rat
  1. Place one hand under their chest
  2. Support their back legs with your other hand
  3. Lift up the rat and hold it close to your body

Alternatively, you can place one hand on either side and gently scoop them up.

When young kids pick up a rat it’s important that they do so close to the floor just in case they drop them.

Do rats like being petted

Yes, rats definitely enjoy being petted and love nothing more than a good scratch behind their ears. No two rats are the same though, and they all have different places where they enjoy being petted. Generally speaking though, good places to pet them include:

Where your rat likes being petted
  • The top of their head
  • Along the back
  • Rubbing their ears
  • Under the chin
  • Cheeks
  • Lower back

If you’d like a video tutorial on how to best pet your rat, this one is excellent:

Do rats like to cuddle?

Rats absolutely love to cuddle. In nature, rats often huddle together during cold months to share their body heat. This helps keep them warm and conserves energy.

In captivity, they don’t really need to conserve energy and it’s often plenty warm enough in your house, but they still enjoy cuddling. Many rat owners can attest to the fact that rats love nothing more than spending an evening on the couch with you, curled up, watching TV. They’re among the cuddliest rodents on the planet.

How to show affection to your rat

source: flickr

Now that we’ve gone over how rats show affection towards humans, you might be curious how you can show your rat that you love them too. One of the easiest ways to do this is by cuddling with them and giving them treats.

Rats love treats, and by extension love the person giving them treats. Rats can eat a wide variety of different foods, but there are also specialized rat treats that you can give them.

Another way to show them affection is by playing with them. Rats are highly intelligent and active creatures. Playtime is very important to them, so taking time out of your day to play with them is a great way to show them that you love them. Playing with rats is a lot of fun because they can learn their name, tricks, and many commands.

Of course, you can also show them affection by making sure that they have a clean cage, fun toys, a healthy diet, and a generally good life!


Final words

Rats are highly affectionate creatures that like to be held, petted, cuddled, and love spending a lot of time with their owners. They’re among the most affectionate animals on earth and are without a doubt the most loving rodents. This makes them great pets for many households.

Jesse A.