Do Pet Rats Understand Kisses?

Love your pet rat and want to give him or her some pecks and kisses? Do they even understand that it’s a kiss, or do they take it as a threat? It’s always critical to best communicate with your pets and share affection appropriately. So, do they understand your kisses and love?

Yes, rats understand kisses and affection. Rats are very intelligent and can learn many behaviors and associate meaning. They are capable of various feelings, including love and affection. The meaning of kisses can be taught and benefit your pet rat.

Teaching your rat affection may seem like a lot of work, but don’t worry! Rats are very intelligent, and with our guide’s help, you will be bonding with your pet rat in no time. So, do they understand kisses?

Associating Positive Affection with Kisses

Rats understand affection, but they may not understand kisses out of context and if it’s the first time. Thankfully, for smart pets like rats, there are numerous ways to associate behavior with good feelings such as affection.

Rats cuddling

First and foremost, rats are very personable and bond firmly to their owners, so showing more affectionate behaviors and associating it with kisses will be one way to teach them and share more love.

For example, associate your kiss with one of their favorite affections: grooming, scratching (behind their ears or chins), and soft petting. You can pair these affections with a gentle kiss.

How do you know if it works? Soon, they will turn and start grooming you, bruxing, and even boggling, which is a very positive sign that they’ve understood your affection and wants to return it!

Keep It Quiet And Gentle

When you kiss your rat, be sure to give him or her a soft and quiet kiss. No smacking! A loud sound such as lips smacking could startle your rat and also put them in distress.

Should You Kiss Your Rat?

Now, down to the ultimate question: Should you kiss your rat? Although rats may be able to understand kisses, should you kiss them? According to Dr. Scott Weese, a public health and infection control expert at the University of Guelph and Ontario Veterinary College, he advises avoiding kissing rats, especially on the mouth.

Although they are our adorable pet rats, diseases can be easily transmitted between pets and humans, such as rat-bite fever. He presented this public announcement after a woman was hospitalized in ICU for rat-bite fever after kissing her rat.

Besides, close contact, such as bringing your face to your pet rat, could startle your rat and increase your chances of being bitten. Startling contact is best to be avoided. This tip applies to most pets, including our common pet dogs and cats, so don’t think we’re singling out our dear rats. It’s always important to stay hygienic.

You can still kiss them on their head and show affection. There are numerous other ways to show love to rats.

8 Other Ways to Show Affection to Rats

Although you may be disappointed since you want to give them kisses and share affection. But don’t be! There are so many ways to show your rats affection and let them know how much you love them. Again, they’re brilliant pets and will appreciate the affection!

Crocheted rats hugging

Here is a list of 8 ways to communicate your love for your pet:

1. Kiss on their Head

As mentioned previously, you can still give them soft kisses on their heads. Always remember to associate this with affectionate behavior and keep the kisses gentle and quiet.

2. Petting

Pet rats love being petted. They love being rubbed behind the ears or scratched on shoulders, ears, and chins. Some will even roll over to expose their tummy!

3. Spend Quality Time

Rats love hanging out with you! They will often beg to leave the cage to play. You should try to spend as much time as possible with your rat, even several times a day.

4. Socialize With People And Other Rats

Rats love to hang out with you and new people! Bringing them out to socialize with your friends will bring them joy. Even better, try to have two rats at a time so they won’t be lonely. They are social animals and love a good companion to spend time together.

To socialize your pet rat, here are 3 tips to help. If your pet rat is reluctant to socialize, try the following:

Start at a Young Age

Whether it’s at a young age or early in your relationship, start socializing sooner than later. In general, after 6 months of age, if rats are not familiar with socializing with people, they will have difficulty accepting people.

Whether it’s at a young age or early in your relationship, start socializing sooner than later. In general, after 6 months of age, if rats are not familiar with socializing with people, they will have difficulty accepting people.

Low Voices

Rats have very sensitive ears; hence, only give them soft kisses. If you want them to respond to your voice, repeat their names in a low soft voice. When you repeat their name, and they respond, give them a treat. Just duplicate and teach them the sound of your voice.

The key is to keep your voice low and quiet. Loud sounds can hurt their ears, and they will be shocked and shy away!

Hold Them Well

Once you get to hold them, holding them correctly and comfortably will be necessary for the rat to enjoy being carried in your hand.  

Pick your rat up gently and keep your hands under his or her belly. Don’t squeeze their tummy in any way. Keep your hands open.  Don’t lay your pet rat on their back. Laying on their bellies, like many other dogs and cats, means giving up dominance. Unless they offer it, do not enforce it on them.

Soon, with enough bonding, they will jump up to your open hands! Even better, they will expose their tummies for a good petting.

5. Give Them a Wheel

Exercise wheel

Along with the games, if your rat has a lot of energy, they may love having an exercise wheel to run in their home! Seem them glee in their rat wheel. Make your rats more comfortable with their environment by giving them large neutral spaces. Clean their homes often and super clean for both of your hygiene and their overall happiness and health.

6. Redecorate Their Homes

It’s essential for rats not to become bored since they are highly intelligent. Adding games or rearranging mazes will help them learn and stay engaged!

7. Healthy Diets

Although this may be obvious, it is crucial to your rat’s happiness and overall affection between you and him or her. How you give them the food is also essential to share the love! Sharing bonding time with food brings us to the following sections.

8. Use Games

Find ways to stimulate their intelligence! Rats love solving puzzles, and helps them stay engaged with their thinking. Some people like to set up food puzzles to help them stay stimulated. You could try treat puzzles such as this interactive puzzle.

Rats also love bird toys! Although they may like rat toys, they are highly engaged with bird toys. Take a visit to the bird toy section in the pet store and try out a stimulating toy!

More Games

Just to give you a few tips on games, this is an additional section for your pet rat! Here are some simple games to play with your rat that you can make for free and bring much joy to you and your pet rat!

Games that you can make at home:

  • Set up a maze
    • Setting up a Maze for Rats with cardboard, toilet tissue rolls, and of course, a reward!
  • Set up a box town
    • Set up the ultimate box town with numerous boxes and bags connected by holes. It’s the ultimate playground for your rat.
  • Shoebox hide-and-seek
    • This one is pretty self-explanatory. Take a shoebox and punch out a small rat-sized hole. Inside the box, place some clean grass and hide snacks underneath. They will jump in for an adventure and scavenger hunt.
  • Dirt box
    • Take another shoebox and fill it with sterile soil. Your rats will love to roam and dig around.
  • Bits of paper
    • Rats love small pieces of paper. Tear some paper and offer it to your rat. He or she will snatch it from you then hide it! He or she will most likely come for more, which also helps to associate good behavior with you.
  • Floating veggies
    • Floating peas, corns, and diced carrot in a bowl of cold water. Use a heavy bowl so they won’t knock it over! They will have fun fishing out the peas and enjoying their small snack.
  • Ball of snacks
    • Use a small cage-like bag to wrap some snacks. Hang this from the roof of the cage for them to tackle and eat during hang out times.

Ways to Earn Your Rat’s Trust

Rat on child's shoulder

To earn your rat’s trust, they first should be comfortable with you and its surroundings. This is especially true for rats that have just been brought into your home, as it will be a big change of environment for them. Once they are comfortable, they will be more open to bonding with you.

There are many ways to earn your rat’s trust. Especially for first-time rat-owners, this is a great guide to gain trust and share bonding time:

Introduce your Scent

When you give your rats a treat, try presenting your hands carefully and slowly in front of your rat. They can get used to your scent and soon associate positive reinforcement (the treat) with your scent.

Introducing your scent and embodying familiarity will take some time but will surely pay off. Eventually, your rat will be comfortable with you handling it, and traveling in your hands.

Giving Food

When giving them food, provide them with food on your hands. After they have settled, they will slowly approach you and trust you.

Extra tip: After giving them food on your hands, give them a soft pet and slowly take them into your hands. Give them a treat after their trip on your hands. Slowly bring them on short walks on your palm to build trust.


As it’s excellent to show affection with games, it’s a great way to earn your rat’s trust by sharing times with multiple games and interactions.

In addition to the fun games listed in the previous section, another fun idea is to play hide-and-seek with your rat. Once you have a fully concealed safe space with your rat, you can hide from your rat, and they will come looking for you! Give them a treat as soon as they find you and go for another round.


To earn trust through a safe space, you will earn your rat’s bonding and trust. When they are out of the cage, place them in a safe space near you. Earning this trust helps your rats recognize that you aren’t a threat.

Once they earn more trust with you, you can give them treats to associate positive reinforcement with your bonding. This can also lead to engaging bonding time, contact time, and going on trips around the room in your palms! 

Neutral Space

Whether you have a single rat or a group, let them out at the same time. Let the doors open but keep them in their associated safe space. Your safe space could be a closed bedroom or a smaller room that you’ve decided as a safe space for them.

The key here is to let them come to you instead of picking them up with your hands.

Signs that your Pet Rat Likes You

There are several ways to tell if your pet rat likes you. They include:

  • Vocalization: Although they have small cute voices, when your rat(s) like you, they will start talking to you. Some chirps, squeaks, clucks will come your way when they love you. You will soon be able to distinguish their happiness and love from pain, anger, or fear.
  • Cuddling: If your rats want to cuddle with you, they are comfortable and happy to be around you! Return a gentle cuddle, and don’t squeeze them in any way.
  • No threat behavior: Along with the previous sign, if your rat is not showing any threatened behavior around you, you have slowly built trust and affection!
  • Pink ears: If your rat’s ears turn pink, that’s a great sign that they are happy about your interaction. Pink ears are a great sign of their happiness around you.
  • Excitement: If your rat is excited and chittering in its cage when you come back into the room, that’s a great sign that he or she is excited to see you! An obvious sign, but a significant one!
  • Brux and boggle: Happy rats make this sound by grinding their teeth, which is called “bruxing.” When they are very excited, this could lead to “boggling” which could look like their eyes are about to pop in and out of their sockets!

Good Pet Hygiene and Safety

Although we love our cute and cuddly pet rats, they can easily carry germs. Hygiene and safety apply to any pet animal. A clean environment is essential in reducing the chances of sickness for both rats and yourself. Rats can carry salmonella, Giardia, and rat-bite fever if infected.

Latex gloves for safety

For safety precautions, the CDC also recommends that if you have children under the age of 5, or have a pregnant family member, it is best to avoid having a pet rat or avoiding touching feces or urine. These practices are guides to prevent the risk of getting sick during a weakened immune system phase.

If you have a pet rat and want to give him or her kisses, it’s essential to be safe and keep proper hygiene. Whether you wish to give him a peck on his head or a soft petting, it’s always smart to approach your pet slowly and even teach them how to accept affection.

Safety Tips

To be safe when handling a rat, make sure to:

  1. Wash your hands after touching, feeding, or after cleaning their homes
  2. Keep pet supplies in a separate room from the kitchen. Avoid contact with where food is prepared, served, or consumed.
  3. Play safe: Don’t kiss or hold rats close to your mouth and face area. 
  4. Wear rubber, vinyl, or latex gloves when cleaning any feces or urine. Wash hands thoroughly afterward
  5. Do not stir up dust (vacuuming or sweeping urine or droppings)
  6. Use disinfectants to keep areas clean, especially after cleaning urine or droppings. Let soak for at least 5 minutes.

Making Disinfectants

If you don’t disinfectants available, you can make your own by using a homemade 10% bleach to water mixture (1 part bleach and 10 parts water). Always throw away the droppings, urine, and gloves immediately. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for 2 birthday songs!

Final Thoughts

If you were disappointed that you couldn’t kiss your rats on their lips, there are so many ways to show love to your pets. Whether it’s by kissing them on their heads, spending quality time with them, or finding fun games for them, your affection and care will translate to your intelligent rats.

Always keep hygiene in mind and enjoy your cuddly friends by bonding and sharing affection with fun and sincerity!

Lee Cameron

When I was younger, I had guinea pigs and hamsters as pets. There was limited information back then as to how to take care of rodents, and indeed information on the various types of rodents that could be kept as pets. In this website, I hope to make it an easy, one-stop information portal on raising rodents!

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