How To Get Your Pet Rat To Sleep On You

If you just got a pet rat, you might be over-the-top excited for the cuddles and bonding that will come. However, you should not rush things if you want to be able to get your rat to sleep on you. These fascinating and intelligent rodents need time to warm up to you before taking a snooze on your shoulder.

To get your rat to sleep on you, you must first build trust by petting it while it is in the cage and offering small snacks. Once trust is built, take them out and place the rat on your lap. Rub the rat gently on the back while you play music specially made for rats.

If you follow the following guidelines to get your rat comfortable and relaxed with you, it will be sleeping on your shoulder or lap in no time.

How to Get Your Rat to Sleep Near You

Getting your rat to sleep may seem like a daunting task. Rats are not your average furry and cuddly dog or cat that people typically own. They like to run and explore, so they must be trained to sleep on you. Usually, rats will see their chance at freedom outside the cage and think about exploring rather than sleeping.

Rat climbing onto hand

The first thing you will want to do is build a strong bond between you and your ratty friend. This can be done with treats and spending a generous amount of time together. Even being next to the cage and talking gently is a good bonding approach to take. This is especially good for a rat that has just been adopted.

Give Your Rat Time to Adjust

It will generally take a few days for your pet to adjust to the new surroundings. New pet rats will rarely come to the side of the cage, let alone out of the cage willingly, in those first days. Your rat will most likely be hiding from you instead.

Once your rat is used to you and comes around when you are at the cage, you may begin to hand tame it. This is a significant step towards having your rat sleep on you.

Hand Taming Your Rat

To hand tame your rat, offer it treats with your hand in the cage. When you are able to get the rat to take food from your hands without acting skittish, you can begin to hold your pet in your hand. This should still be done in the cage in the case that your rat gets scared and jumps from your hand. A fall from high up can kill or gravely injure a rat.

You have accomplished this not so easy task when you are able to hold your fuzzy pet in your hand and it does not frighten easily and jump away.

Timing & Ambiance is Everything

When you are ready to get your rat to sleep on you, make sure it is around the time they will regularly sleep. If it is not around sleep time, it will be nearly impossible to get your rat to relax or doze off.

Video Credit: National Geographic

Take your rat to a safe place. You can tickle your rat for a few minutes to promote relaxation and also put on pet music at a low volume. Use a soft blanket or cuddle pouch to hold your rat safely. Turn off or dim any bright lights, close any curtains, and lay down next to your rat and cuddle it.

If you continue to do all of these things your rat will eventually begin to fall asleep on you in its pouch or blanket. After a few times of this, the rat will be willing to sleep on you without the accessory.

Rats are also known to favor sweatshirt hoodie pouches. If you are using this for the rat to sleep on you while you wear it, be careful it does not slide out of the pocket sides.

Signs Your Rat is Not Ready to Be Held

The rat bond and trust are important not to destroy. Even if you have made a little progress, any wrong movement or frightening your rat will send you back to square one.

If your rat is scared or unsure of you when you remove it from the cage, it will do one of the following:

  • Bite
  • Tremble
  • Runaway and try to hide
  • Hiss
  • Squeak loudly and quickly
  • Puff up its hair in order to look bigger

If the rat exhibits any of these behaviors, immediately place it back in its home and let it calm down. You will have to try the next day. If you ignore this behavior and insist on holding the rat if it acts in any of those ways, you will only destroy any chance of your pet sleeping on you. It can also make your rat aggressive towards you and any other humans.

Building Trust with Your Rat

Before you even think about your rat sleeping on you, you must have trust with it. When you first get your pet rat or even if you have had it for a while, you will want to build trust with them. This special bond between rat and owner is very significant in order to one day have your rat sleep on your lap or shoulder.

The first thing to do to build trust is to find a tasty treat. A few treats that are good to encourage your rat to trust you are:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • Yogies
  • Sweet potato strips

Once a day, you should offer your rat one of these treats until it will take it from your open hand in the cage.

When you have your pet rat eating from your hand, you should begin trying to gently pick it up and let the rat sit in your hand while in the enclosure. Rats are almost like cats in a way and they love being petted and scratched behind their ears. This helps to begin securing your pet’s trust while it is still in the cage.

Before you know it, you will have your rat running out of its cage to take a treat from your hand and get little back scratches.

Building the Owner-Pet Bond

For your rat to sleep on you, there has to be a bond between you two. If your rat does not feel safe with you, there is little chance it will even think about snuggling in to sleep on you.

When your rat trusts you enough to leave its safe place and take food from you, it is time to strengthen or build that bond between owner and pet. This can be done fairly easily, as long as you have established a trusting relationship with your rat as outlined in the first few sections.

Do not put it on your shoulders for the first few times. This will scare your rat being so high up from the ground. Only do this when they are used to being held in your lap or hands.

If It’s Taking Longer Than You Thought, Try These Tips

You can also use a special soft pet house to place in your lap. Since rodents tend to feel safer hiding, it will give your rat a sense of comfort and encourage it to enjoy these lap times. The soft lap house can also be used when you finally get your rat to sleep on you.

This bonding time may take a little longer than gaining trust to eat from your hand. When a rat is moved from their cage, their natural instinct is to run and explore, or to run and hide. Always be careful your rat does not escape from your lap or hand during bonding. It is very hard to relocate a small, lost rodent. To prevent this from happening, you may want to enclose yourself and your rat in a small area to prevent it from running away.

Rats in enclosure

Female rats are usually more active and curious than male rats. The same goes for its age: the older the rat becomes, the more docile and willing to sleep on you it will be. If you happen to have an active rat, you can bond by setting up an enclosed play area and joining in the fun. Let it crawl over you, and get used to being with and on you.

The more time you spend with your rat, whether sitting or playing, will continue to closen you and your rat’s bond.

Letting Your Rat Run It Off Before Sleep

When you let your rat run around, make sure it is in a safe, enclosed area or a rat playpen.

This method of getting it to sleep on you should be done before sleep time. It is also most effective when music and a soft blanket are provided. Be sure to play for at least a little bit with your rat while it is running around; This time can be used to form your bond further.

When your rat has sufficiently worn itself out, it will lay down. This is when you take the blanket or pouch and put your little, sleepy rat in it. Prepare the area and ambiance like normal and you will have a sound sleeping rat in no time.

Tickling Your Rat to Sleep

Scientists have discovered through extensive research that rats emit an ultrasonic, high pitch sound identical to the one they make when playing with fellow rats. This is only made when they are happy or feel at peace. Scientists found that the same sound we humans can not hear is also produced when a rat is “tickled”.

Pet rat on child's leg

To tickle your rat, you rub the nape of its neck gently but vigorously, like you would do to tickle a human. Observe how your rat acts to the tickling. If he receives it positively, you can also do this on the tummy. Find out where your pet likes being tickled most.

They will enjoy tickling anywhere except for their lower half. Usually, rats attack toward the lower half so this can make your rat think you are attacking it and ruin any progress the two of you have made.

When you decide you want to start using the “tickle therapy”, do it around the time your rat would usually be going to sleep or sleeping already. This will usually be in the early to mid-afternoon depending on your environment.

Doing this around those times will make it easier and have more of a calming effect to send your rat off to dreamland in your arms. This technique may seem strange and a step in the wrong direction but it has been proven really useful.

Music that Will Put Your Rat to Sleep

There have been studies done on pets and sleep-promoting music. Our little rat friends were not left out of this research. After finding out what instruments and noises relax and put the rats to sleep, rat music was created. This music relaxes their brains and bodies, allowing them to calm down and fall asleep.

Video Credit: Pet Tunes

Relaxing music and cuddle pouches or soft beds are one of the easiest ways to get your pet to sleep on you. You can also use zen music instead of pet music. This has been known to work in place of the actual rat music. Try to make sure it has some type of nature sounds, such as light rain, waves, or wind blowing through trees, to help with the rat sleeping.

Using Treats To Promote Sleep

You can also find animal treats that calm and relax your pet with natural ingredients. If you can not find rat treats that do this, it is perfectly fine to use dog treats. There are plenty of sleep-promoting treats for dogs. It is preferable to use small dog treats. If you can not get the smaller ones, be sure to break large treats up into smaller pieces before you give them to your rat.

What Not to Do With Your Rat Sleeping on You

You have finally succeeded in getting your pet rat to sleep on you. This can be a very exciting time. There are a few rules to remember when you have your pet asleep on your lap or shoulder.

  • Do NOT attempt to take your rat from your lap to put it on your shoulder while it is still sleeping. This can cause it to fall off and get hurt.
  • Do NOT let your rat fall asleep on your shoulder and then attempt to walk around. Only let it sleep on your shoulder if you are laying down. This too will cause a fall and a terrible outcome.
  • Do NOT fall asleep with your rat. It can wake up, get down, and run off to a dark place.
  • Do NOT fall asleep with your rat in your bed. They love to urinate to mark their territories. You do not want to wake up wet with rat urine.
  • Do NOT cause loud noises that would startle your rat awake. This can have reverse consequences and send you right back to the beginning of your rat sleeping on you journey.
  • Do NOT rudely wake your rat up. This can cause it to bite or scratch you. If you need to wake your rat up, simply place it in the cage and it will awaken on its own.
  • Do NOT try to tickle your rat while it sleeps.
  • Do NOT carry your sleeping rat around in your hoodie pouch.
  • Do NOT leave your sleeping rat alone outside of its cage.

When It’s Time for Your Rat to Sleep In Its Cage

There are many different things you need to give your pet rat a safe and comfortable environment to live in. Provide proper bedding such as:

  • Strips of cloth
  • Hay or straw pellets
  • Paper pellets

Make sure their home is placed in an area where there will be no loud noises or very bright lights. Bright lights can blind your rat because their eyes are quite sensitive. Loud and sudden noises can literally give your rat a heart attack.

Rats instinctively want to hide when they sleep. When rats are in the wild they have to hide when they are sleeping. This is to prevent being eaten by much larger predators. Be certain you have a hidey-hole in the enclosure for your rat to sleep in.

It is also very important your rat has more than one house. Rats thrive off of variety and can often get sick from stress if they have no choice in sleeping places. Provide plenty of tunnels, space, and shelter.

In Conclusion

It does not matter if you have had your rat for a while or have recently brought it home. If you patiently do all of these things continuously, calmly, and gently, you will get your rat to unwind and ready it for sleeping on you.

Although they are known as one of the sweetest and greatest pets to have, rats only live up to 3 years. It is important to make the best of those years with your little rat friend. Hold it and cuddle it frequently. Give it the best life of sleeping on you that you can offer. The innocence and gentleness of rats make them deserve nothing less.

Do you have any tips and tricks to getting your rat to snooze on your shoulder? We’d love to hear them below in the comments!

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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