Do Rats Like to Cuddle & Be Held? And How to Encourage Cuddle Sessions

Do rats like to cuddle?

Pet rats are known for their intelligence and social nature, which makes them great companions. They form strong bonds with their caregivers and enjoy engaging in various fun activities with them.

For this reason, pet rats have captured the hearts of countless animal lovers. If you’re thinking of adding a few rats to your family, you might be curious if these little rodents enjoy cuddling and being affectionate with their owners. So, do rats like to cuddle and be held?

Do Rats Like to Cuddle?

Rats are affectionate and friendly creatures once they become familiar with their human companions. However, whether they will be cuddly depends largely on their personality, history (such as being mistreated), sex, and level of socialization.

It can go either way—you might end up with cuddly rats, or you might have rats who are always on the move and can’t sit still for a second. Or it could be a mix of both!

Some rats take to cuddling right away, while others may never warm up to it.

Do rats like to cuddle survey @animallama

According to our small survey responded by 150 rat owners, most owners have a mix of rats that like to cuddle and those that don’t! A large percentage of people who responded to our survey has rats that don’t like to cuddle or like to cuddle ‘sometimes’, while a smaller percentage of rats like to cuddle.

Much like toddlers at a playground, rats are often too busy enjoying themselves to settle down for cuddles and pets. They are curious, energetic creatures who revel in exploration and play, sometimes prioritizing these activities over bonding with their human companions. This does not mean they don’t like or love their owners; it’s just that it’s in their nature to focus more on their surroundings and fellow rats.

But some techniques can help encourage cuddling, even in rats who are always on the move. So keep on reading to see what you can do!

Do Rats Like to Be Held?

Many rats enjoy being held by their owners. But as with cuddling, some prefer playing and exploring the area instead of being cooped up in your arms. You can combine those two activities and carry your rat on your shoulders or in your hands while you walk around the room, letting them explore from your hands.

When you first bring your rats home, give them time to adjust to their new environment. Gradually, you can start handling your pets once they seem comfortable and relaxed in their new surroundings.

When picking up your rat, gently scoop them up from underneath with both hands, supporting their body and keeping them secure. Never grab them by the tail, as this can cause pain or even strip the skin off the bone (called “degloving”).

With time, your rats will likely become more comfortable with being held and may even start to show signs of affection, such as grooming you or curling up in your hand. Be consistent with handling your rat, and you’ll develop a strong bond over time.

Do rats like being held?

Of course, individual rat personalities will differ. Some may take more time to get accustomed to being held. Others may naturally be more independent and prefer not being handled too much. Pay close attention to your rat’s behavior and respect their personal boundaries. Forcing an interaction can damage the trust between you and your pet rat.

Are Male or Female Rats More Cuddly? And Does Age Matter?

Generally, females are more active than males and less inclined to cuddle or stay in one place. They are wild in nature and never seem to sit still!

Boys tend to be more laid back and snuggly. So, if cuddling is a priority for you as a rat owner, it’s best to consider adopting males.

Age also plays a big role. Young rats of both genders tend to have higher energy levels, making them more interested in running around and playing than cuddling. As rats grow older, their energy levels decrease, and they become more receptive to cuddling and sleeping next to you.

Where to Adopt if You Want Social Rats

If you want rats with outgoing personalities who crave human attention, it’s best to find an ethical breeder. Rats handled from a young age by their breeder are more likely to enjoy being held and petted in adulthood.

Adopting rats from a pet store is a bit of a gamble in terms of temperament. So if cuddling is important to you, an ethical breeder is a better choice than a pet shop (and not just for that reason).

Let the ethical breeder know what kind of rats you’d like to adopt, and you can even visit them before committing.

While rescues are also a gamble regarding a rat’s temperament, a big benefit of adopting from a rescue is giving a home to an animal in need. In rescues, you can find rats from various backgrounds and with all kinds of personalities, from social butterflies to more introverted ones.

How to Get Your Rats to Cuddle?

Before you can cuddle or hold your rats, it’s important to establish a bond of trust. Rats will not want to cuddle if they don’t know and trust you. So I suggest reading our post on bonding with pet rats if your rats are still uncomfortable around you.

Here are some steps you can take to motivate your rats to join you for some cuddle sessions.

Spend Time With Them Daily

Spending time with rats

Building a friendship with your rats takes time and effort. It can’t be achieved in just a few days, and sometimes it may take weeks or even months. But if you consistently interact with them—saying hello when you pass their cage, sitting with them while they’re out of the cage, and hand-feeding them tasty treats—you’ll build a stronger bond with time.

While you don’t want your entire relationship with the rats to revolve around food and treats, occasionally offering them something delicious will certainly motivate them to spend more time with you.

Have a “Netflix and Chill” Session

Create a safe space where your rats can interact with you for extended periods. Make sure they have hiding spots if they feel scared, but they shouldn’t be able to run far away from you. 

Choose a comfortable spot like a sofa or bed, and let them run around while you watch a movie. Eventually, they’ll start approaching and climbing up on you.

Let Them Tire Themselves Out

It’s a good idea to let them run themselves out of energy a bit before your cuddle sessions.

Take your rats out of the cage and give them room to roam free, allowing them to scurry about and explore their surroundings. This helps with both physical exercise and mental stimulation for your rats.

After a while, you may notice your rats are getting tired and no longer running around like crazy. At this point, they may be more open to the idea of curling up next to you since they’ve run out of energy from their earlier adventures. This is the perfect opportunity to pick them up and let them curl up next to you.

Another way is to catch them when they feel sleepy or relaxed, as they will generally be more receptive to cuddles during these moments. Observe their behavior and look for signs of fatigue or contentment, such as yawning or heavy eyelids.

Create a Cozy Spot for Them

Rat in a shirt

An old dressing gown may not be fashionable for us, but it’s like heaven for a rat. They can burrow in the big sleeves, explore the pockets, and find plenty of hiding spots. It’s dark, enclosed, and safe for them, plus it smells like their owner, so they start associating you with safety.

You can also wear a long shirt tucked in and let the rats wriggle and play inside it while you do your business. This usually helps them become more comfortable with cuddling and handling.

Just as a heads up, don’t be surprised if you feel a warm drizzle sliding down your skin 😬. I recommend wearing an old shirt when you get started with this, as you might have pee enthusiasts!

Avoid Sudden Loud Noises

One important rule for befriending and cuddling rats is to create a quiet and peaceful environment. Sudden loud noises can startle them. If there’s frequent noise, such as a dog barking or other loud noises in your home, it will make it harder for the rats to feel comfortable.

Use a Blanket

Rats under a blanket

Sit down with a big blanket scrunched up in a way that makes it fun for the rats to explore or build nests. In the beginning, let them play in the blanket without trying to cuddle or hold them.

Most rats enjoy hiding and sleeping under a comfy blanket, so this can help them get used to napping near you.

Respect Their Preferences & Boundaries

Not all rats like to be pet the same way. Some might like their shoulders rubbed but dislike belly tickles. Others might prefer having their noses stroked or their backs scratched.

Once you figure out your rats’ likes and dislikes, respect their boundaries and pay close attention to their body language while handling them.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, some rats have natural inclination to explore the world, and there isn’t much you can do about it. So whether you end up with cuddly or non-cuddly rats is mostly a matter of chance.

You can motivate them to spend more time on your lap, but you can’t change their active and curious nature that prefers exploring to cuddling. It’s just part of who they are and something we must accept!

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