Do Rats Play Dead? Everything You Need to Know!

Rats are fascinating creatures that have been a popular choice of pet for many years now. As a rat owner myself, I have come across many questions about their behavior, including whether or not rats play dead.

In this blog post, I will delve into this topic and answer all your questions about this intriguing behavior.

Understanding the behavior of our pets is crucial in ensuring their overall health and well-being. If you own a pet rat, it is essential to know their natural behaviors, including playing dead, and how to identify them.

Additionally, this knowledge can help you determine whether your pet rat is in distress or not.

Research on Rats Playing Dead

Studies conducted on rats playing dead

Researchers have studied rats’ behavior extensively, and playing dead is one of the behaviors that have caught their attention.

Studies have shown that rats play dead to avoid predators or when they feel threatened. Playing dead is a defense mechanism that some animals adopt to avoid being attacked by predators.

Why do rats play dead?

As mentioned earlier, rats play dead to avoid being attacked by predators or when they feel threatened.

Playing dead helps them stay unnoticed and makes them appear less of a threat to predators.

How common is this behavior among rats?

Playing dead is a natural behavior among rats, and it is more common in wild rats than pet rats. However, pet rats can also exhibit this behavior, especially when they feel threatened or stressed.

In captivity, rats don’t often feel like they’re being threatened by predators so this behavior is relatively uncommon.

Identifying When a Rat is Playing Dead

Physical signs of playing dead in rats

When rats play dead, they will lie down on their side, and their body will become stiff. Their breathing will also slow down, and they may appear unresponsive.

However, it is important to note that rats can hold their breath for a few minutes, so it is crucial to observe them for a while before concluding that they are dead.

How to differentiate between a dead rat and a rat playing dead

It can be challenging to differentiate between a dead rat and a rat playing dead, especially for first-time rat owners.

However, there are a few things you can do to determine if your pet rat is playing dead or if they have passed away.

Firstly, observe their breathing patterns, if they are still breathing, even if it is minimal, they are most likely playing dead.

Secondly, check their body temperature. A dead rat’s body will be cold, while a rat playing dead will still be warm.

Thirdly, try to check for a pulse. If their heart is still beating, they are of course alive.

Lastly, try to stimulate them by touching them or making a noise. If they respond, they are playing dead.


In conclusion, rats do play dead, and it is a natural behavior that they exhibit to avoid predators or when they feel threatened.

As a rat owner, it is crucial to know the physical signs of playing dead and how to differentiate between a dead rat and a rat playing dead.

While this behavior is beneficial for rats in the wild, it can be stressful for pet rats, and it is essential to ensure they are not stressed or anxious.

ThePetFaq Team