How Long Will It Take For My Pet Rat To Like Me?

Many owners of rats will attest to the strong bond that forms between these rodents and their humans. Though rats are generally very affectionate pets, they do need a period of time to get used to their new home and their new person. How long does it take for rats to warm up to their owners?

It can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks for rats to warm up to and like a new home and a new owner. Rats purchased from busy pet shops tend to need a little bit more time to adjust to their new home than rats bought from independent breeders.

Most pets need a period of acclimation to new environments and situations. For small prey animals like rats, this period can be a bit longer than it would be for pets like cats and dogs.

Rats must learn that they are in a safe and secure environment before they let their guards down and become comfortable with their situation. In this article, we will take a closer look at how rats acclimate and how you can help to make the process easier for both of you.

It Can Take Time For A Rat To Adjust

Most rat owners will tell you that it doesn’t happen overnight. Most likely when you bring a young rat into their new home for the first time, they are going to be a little frightened and anxious. It is very common for rats to want to do nothing more than hide for the first 24 hours in their new home, or for possibly longer.

Fearful Rat

Young rats that are purchased from busy pet shops can have a little bit of a harder time adjusting. They are used to bright lights, constant noise, and a lot of movement around their living area. They might have been handled inappropriately by an excitable kid or too frequently by the employees. This can instill in them a very understandable amount of anxiety, especially when they are suddenly thrust into a new situation.

Though this is commonplace, you needn’t worry too much. Given a nice, safe home and loving attention and care, even the most skittish of rats should warm up to their new home and the people that live there. As prey animals, it is ingrained in them to be extra careful in new situations to survive.

They Need At Least 24 – 48 Hours To Adjust…But Be Patient

Time is Needed
Time is needed for rats to explore and adapt to their new home.

When you first take your rats home you should really only expect to let them explore their new home and get settled in. Most likely they will find a place to hide or bury themselves and lay low until they are sure that the coast is clear.

Anything in the house that is new and unfamiliar can cause more anxiety for them as well. New people, smells and new animals, like dogs and cats, can pose a real threat to new ratties. If there is a cat that likes to keep an eye on the newly introduced pets or a dog that is curious about the new cage in the house, this can cause the rats some added stress in the transition.

If a lot is going on in your home you can expect to add another day or so to your rats’ acclimation period. It could be a couple of days, or it could be a week or two for an especially skittish rat. Luckily for you, there are ways to speed up the process.

How To Make Your Rat More Comfortable

Most rats don’t have that difficult of a time adjusting to their new home. It will most likely be a couple of days before they are really ready to play and spend much time away from the safety of their cage. Here are some things that you can do to help your new pet get used to their new home.

Treats Are Always A Good Choice

Rats are unsurprisingly very food motivated. A simple way for them to get used to you and understand that you mean them no harm is to feed them some delicious snacks.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, cereals, bread, or mealworms can all be enticing ways to show your ratties that you care about them. By introducing snacks by hand, you are showing them that you mean them no harm and that, just maybe, their new home isn’t too bad after all.

Also, it is important that you feed them their snacks in the cage or by hand, never through the bars of their cage. This can lead to them developing a bad habit of snatching at whatever comes close and could lead to a bite.

Give Your Rats Something That Smells Like You

This little trick is simple and can introduce your rats to the scent of you. This way, they learn to equate your scent to safety and fun, and if you followed the previous trick, treats.

Simply place some article of clothing in their cage, like a hat, a sock, or a shirt. Just be aware that they will probably ruin it with nibbles. Rats love to nest and any sort of clothing item will most likely be snatched up and stuffed in a hide or their burrow.

Don’t Try To Force Anything

For the first couple of days, this is especially important. You can absolutely give them treats and something that smells of you, but you should not try to force any sort of play or removal from their cage. Let them go at their speed.

After a couple of days, when they seem as though they aren’t as nervous around you, you can try leaving the cage door open. Introduce some snacks by hand in the cage and try to coax them outside.

Let them crawl around on your hand in the cage, but don’t grab them, not yet. Just let them get used to your hands and your smell and the outside of their cage.

When They Are Relaxed You Can Pick Them Up

Say you’ve been giving them treats for a couple of days, they are used to your smell and they seem generally interested when you come to their cage.

If they’re not too jumpy, you should be able to pick them up. Remember to be gentle and to support their rear end when you lift them. Always lift them in cupped hands so you don’t drop them or they don’t try to jump.

Rat on person's shoulder

An accidental jump or drop can set you back on the path to helping your rats be more at ease around you. Until you are used to them and they are used to you, only hold them and play with them in a safe area, like on your bed or the couch, somewhere where they won’t fall or get into trouble.

Keep Them In A Quiet Room

Even if you intend to have them in a louder, busier part of the house eventually, it would be wise to keep them in a room with a door while they are getting used to the new situation, especially if there are other animals in the house. Once you’ve moved past the stage of being able to handle them, then you might try moving their cage to its permanent spot.

See, it really isn’t too much work to get your rats comfortable in their new home. It only takes patience, time, and a little coaxing with some tasty fruit or dried worms. With attention to care and a little time, you should find yourself developing a great, and impressively strong bond with your little rodent friend.

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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