Why Does My Pet Rat Chew On Its Cage?

Nibbling, gnawing, chewing, biting – is your rat’s frenzied cage bar chewing driving you crazy? Well, there are a few reasons behind this.

Your rat must chew to file down its forever-growing incisors, but if it has enough chewing options, your pet might be hoping for your attention or a treat.

It is perfectly natural for your rat to chew on its cage, but we offer some solutions for you and your rat below. The first thing to do is stop reinforcing the behavior – do not give your pet treats or attention when they gnaw on their cage. Next, consider more chewing toys or other sneaky ways to keep your rat from biting the bars.

Is it Normal For my Rat to Chew on Its Cage?

Yes. Rats, and all rodents, must gnaw to keep their incisors filed down. According to Michigan State University, rodents’ “incisors don’t have roots, and they never stop growing! To keep these teeth from growing into their brains, rodents grind their teeth against each other.”

Rat Chewing On Cage Bar
Rat chewing on cage bar | Image Credit: u/invisible19_86

Rats are natural gnawers, and they may use their cages for that purpose. Here is what you need to know:

  1. Do not punish a rat for chewing – it’s not a misbehavior.
  2. Give your rat plenty of appropriate toys to chew on.
  3. Try to tune out the noise.

Give your rat plenty of appropriate toys to chew on!

Here’s a list of things your rat might enjoy chewing instead of its cage:

Fill your rat’s cage with plenty of chewing and burrowing toys so they can fulfil their natural instincts and perhaps be less drawn to the cage.

How to Tune Out The Noise of Your Rat Chewing on Its Cage

Since your rat’s cage gnawing is natural, you might choose to ignore it. If the rat is in your bedroom and keeps you up, or the chewing is otherwise disturbing, you need some white noise to drown out the sounds.

Stop the noise!

You could try a regular fan, a stove-top fan, the fan mode on your A/C unit, a bathroom vent, or white noise apps on a device.

Alternatively, you could try some ear plugs or some comfortable headphones to listen to soft music or white noise while falling asleep.

If bedtime is the main issue, be sure to give your rat some attention before bed. Take it out of its cage, play with it, and give it the attention it might be looking for when it is chewing on its cage. Put exciting nighttime toys in the cage and provide plenty of food – hopefully, your rat will be entertained long enough for you to fall into a deep sleep.

When Your Rat Chews on its Cage to Get Your Attention

Your rat may be looking for you to stick your fingers through the cage and give it some attention! If the cage chewing is driving you crazy, do not accidentally reward your pet for doing it.

If you give your rat any attention when they bite their bars – even a flick, spritz of water, or any other disciplinary measure – they learn that they catch your eye by chewing on the cage.

Give your rat positive attention when they are not chewing on their cage. If they have been chewing, let about twenty minutes pass before you stick your finger into the cage. Teach your rat that when they do not chew on their cage, they receive attention occasionally, and when they do chew on the cage, they never receive any attention.

Playing with your rat more often may also improve the behavior. If your rat receives enough attention, they may stop asking for it so frequently.

Help Your Rat Stop Chewing on its Cage by Finding a Rat Friend

That’s right: if your rat is chewing on its cage because it wants your attention, it may do much better with another rat buddy to keep it company.

Another rat will play with your pet when it needs attention. They will playfight, snuggle, and burrow together.

According to Pet Helpful, “rats are social animals and thrive with companions in pairs or groups.” However, if you are not adopting from the same litter, you should follow the following steps.

When introducing a new rat to an existing rat or group of rats:

  1. Keep the new rat in quarantine for 1-2 weeks to ensure they don’t introduce a disease to your pet(s).
  2. Next, place the cages side-by-side so the rats can get used to each other without touching each other yet.
  3. Let the rats play in a neutral territory – not either of the rat’s living cages and somewhere they don’t usually play.
  4. After a few chances in a neutral territory, start trials in the familiar territory, but maybe not the living cage yet – try somewhere your rat plays sometimes, like your bedroom floor or sofa.
  5. If the rats are doing well in a familiar territory, try housing your rats in the same cage.
  6. Remember that not all rats will accept all other rats. If a particular companionship is going badly after a few days, don’t keep pushing it.

Other Tricks to Keep Your Rat From Chewing its Cage

What if your rat has plenty to chew on and burrow into, and you’re not giving it attention when it chews on its cage, but it won’t stop chewing on the bars?

Here are some more tips and tricks to stop your rat from chewing on its cage.

  1. Peppermint: Most rats dislike the smell and taste of peppermint. Buy some peppermint essential oil or peppermint extract and apply to the cage bars. Be careful and use gloves when applying the peppermint or touching its coated cage, because peppermint can irritate the skin.
  2. Rearrange the cage: Mix things up if you think your rat may be bored. Purchase a wheel or other interactive rat toys. Try out a dig box full of threading newspaper and fleece scraps to keep them busy.
  3. Get a bigger cage: Some rat owners claim rats will bite the bars of their cage when it is too small for them. Consider buying a nice big cage with lots of floor space for your rat(s) to run and play, and see if it makes a difference in the gnawing habit.
  4. Lemon or lime: As with peppermint, rats dislike the sour taste of lemon and lime. Alternatively, you could go with a sour apple pet spray or something similar to keep your rat away from the bars. Apply to the cage and watch your rat turn its attention elsewhere!
  5. Bitter cherry spray: As the name suggests, the bitterness can deter your rat(s) from chewing on the bars of the cage (or other items that you want to protect).
  6. Protect the bars: You could also try lining the cage with hardware cloth or another material to make it impossible for your rat to gnaw on the bars.

When it seems like your rat is obsessed with biting its cage, remember that its behavior is perfectly normal. Fill its cage with other things to bite and burrow in, and get some interesting toys (especially for nighttime). Try giving your rat more attention when they are not biting the cage, and taking it out to play more often. Consider buying it a rat companion to help fill its social need. If all else fails, coat the cage bars with peppermint or lemon, then pull out some earplugs and get some much-needed sleep!

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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