Bonding with your rat doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it should be the opposite! It should be a fun and engaging experience for both you, and your rats. However, some rat owners struggle with the bonding process. They don’t know how exactly they can form a bond with them or if they can even form a bond in the first place. I’m here to help.
First, I’ll go over some common questions that people have when it comes to bonding with rats, and after that, I will go over my top 5 activities that are great for bonding with these smart rodents.
Let’s dig in!
Do rats bond with humans?
Before we go over the bonding activities, it’s good to discuss this question first. After all, there’s not much point in trying to form a bond with your rat if they’re unable to form connections with humans in the first place.
Rats are highly social animals. They can’t stand living alone and need to live with companions. They form strong bonds with the rats they live with. But it doesn’t stop there. They’re also very capable of bonding with humans. They respond to their voice and whenever they see or smell their human friend, you can clearly see that they’re excited.
In fact, since pet rats are such social animals, they’re capable of bonding with more than 1 human, which makes them an ideal family pet.
How do rats show affection?
Rats show affection by licking their owners, by bruxing, and by boggling their eyes. Also, they might come running to the bars of their cage when they notice that you are nearby. Furthermore, don’t be worried if your rat softly nibbles on you – this is also a sign of affection.
If you’ve formed a strong connection with your pet rats you will notice these kinds of behaviors quite frequently. They’re very affectionate creatures.
How to bond with your rat
Now that these preliminary questions are out of the way, let’s go over the activities that you can engage in that’ll help you bond with your furry friend. These activities are not in order of effectiveness so just pick some that seem fun to you!
One of the best ways to bond with your rat is through playing. There are several toys that you can use for this, but you can also do it without the use of any toys. One fun way to play with them is by using a piece of string and dangling it on the floor in front of them. Most rats will pounce on it and try to attack it, the same way a kitten would.
A way to take this to the next level is by putting a piece of cork on a string. If they manage to take the piece of cork from the string you can let them keep it and they’ll really enjoy chewing on it. It stimulates their natural desire to play, while at the same time satisfying their urge to chew on things.
The way to a rat’s heart is through the stomach. They love eating and treats are a great way to bond with them. Eating treats will make them feel good and they will associate this feeling with the person (you) who gives them the treat.
I’ve written a post that covers a list of the best rat treats available here.
Something else that ties into this is discovering what your rat does and does not like to eat. Rats aren’t known to be particularly picky eaters, but they do all have their own preferences. Finding out together what they like and dislike is very fun!
Rats are incredibly smart and because of that, they can learn many different kinds of tricks. They’re also very flexible and maneuverable making them excel at performing physical tricks, such as zig-zagging, jumping, and crawling through tubes.
Training your rat is not only fun for you, they also enjoy it immensely. You can combine the treats from the previous section in their training for a double whammy. If they complete a trick you’re trying to teach them successfully, give them a treat to reward them for a job well done.
For some neat tricks that you can train them to do, check out this video:
There’s pretty much no limit to what rats can learn as long as you’re dedicated to training them, so go crazy. It’s a great way to get some exercise for your rat, as well as some mental stimulation.
4) Spend time with them
It might sound simple, and it is. However, simply spending a lot of time with them is one of the best ways to bond with your rat. This is especially effective if it is a new rat that’s not completely used to you yet.
If you’re going to watch a movie, read a book, or do some other passive activity, just keep your rat near you. They will enjoy the company and I’m sure you will too. Also, pet them occasionally and give them some attention.
5) Talk to them
This might sound weird because rats obviously do not speak human and you can not directly talk to them. However, they do recognize your voice and if you talk to them a lot you reinforce this. You don’t have to have full blown conversations with them, but saying a few words to them every now and then goes a long way.
How long does it take to bond with a rat?
Bonding with a new rat takes a few weeks. However, the bonding process is not something that you do once and then completely stop. It’s an ongoing process that lasts for the lifetime of your rat.
After all, if you only spend a couple of weeks interacting with them until they develop a bond with you, and then ignore them, the bond goes away. Just as you would with a human, you have to put in the work to maintain it.