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Personalities of Pet Rats

Updated on October 26, 2010

Getting to Know Your Pet Rat

Pet rats have so much personality and can differ greatly from one another if you take the time to get to know them. I have three female rats and they could not be more different. Sometime you get a rat that likes nothing the books tell you they are supposed to like and sometimes they do. Below I have listed some rat personality traits that I have noticed and how to socialize and play with your rat based on their type. How can you use a rats behaviors to figure out their personality?

The Acrobat

Bruce, my female rat appropriately named after Bruce Wayne (as in Batman), is more than normally active especially when it comes to climbing, hanging, flipping, and swinging. Sounds more like a monkey, right? Within the first week of getting her I found her hanging from the roof of the cage from her back legs. She then lifted herself up and crawled down the side of the cage, bounced around, and gave me a look that made me wonder if rats could get ADD. Now I am more than prepared for a superhero rat. What can you do with your off-the-wall ratty?

Signs of a very Active Rat:

  • Hanging or swinging from front and/or hind legs from roof of cage.
  • Jumps higher and further than other rats and uses it as a main method for getting from one place to another.
  • Does not enjoy being held for a long time but DOES enjoy crawling around on and over you.

What they will need:

  • Make sure your cage has height! Rats love to scurry and climb especially these guys. Many pet stores don't carry all the sizes available to small animals and I find that checking out Cages Online first or buying them online makes your options more known and your rats happier.
  • Ladders and ropes. Bird toys work really well.
  • Other ideas for toys and games can be found in the link below.

The Snuggler

Ani was socialized very quickly. Her favourite activity as a baby rat was running into my sleeve or sitting in the hood of my sweater peeking out at the world. She was also very friendly and curious and enjoyed when people picked her up. Perhaps this is why she is so cuddly or perhaps it’s because I found her in a pile of about 10 sleeping rats in the pet shop. Regardless, now she is nothing but a giant softie. She enjoys sleeping in my kap, cuddling against my leg, or being pet on her belly or getting a scratch on her head.

Signs of a Snuggler:

  • Runs towards people when they enter a room.
  • Stands on hind legs when someone they know approaches
  • Will run around for a while but then retreats to a cozy spot ON you.

 What they will need:

  • The cage definitely needs a little house, tissue box, or a ferret hammock.
  • Extra fluff or torn up bits of material for extra comfort
  • Tunnels!! All rats love tunnels and tubes. These guys especially.
  • Reassurance. This might sounds odd but these rats will always run to you when they are scared so reassure them. Talking in a higher register while rubbing them or scratching their bellies when they hang on the side of the cage will make them extra loyal and loveable.

The Oddball

Unpredictable and entertaining but definitely sets plays by their own rules. Crayon is just such a rat. Sometimes she is cuddly and sometimes not at all. Food is her main consideration in whether or not she will participate in a game or even come to greet me. Occasionally she will surprise me with lots of attention and neediness but usually she does her own thing. It all started when she was a baby, and honestly the smallest baby rat of 8 weeks I have ever seen. I introduced her to my already grown twins hoping they wouldn’t bully her too much and soon settle down. Well, I didn’t have to worry about this. She bullied them. Her small size made her the perfect weapon. She would defend herself by jumping on their backs and giving them a nibble if they were in her way. Soon, she became alpha Crayon. Now, they just let her be. Whatever her mood.

Signs of an Oddball:

  • Moody with sudden bursts of energy
  • Enjoys chasing games or simply never enjoys the same game twice
  • Other signs vary.

 What they will need:

  • Interesting objects, toys, and things to climb on. These rats need constant stimulation because they get bored easily or change their minds about what they like constantly.
  • I actually found that these guys are very receptive to learning tricks. Or perhaps it is just because Crayon is such a foodie and will do just about anything for a treat.
  • There are a variety of Tricks you can teach these guys including jumping, mazes, and basketball.

Rats Playing Basketball

The Introvert

Maci, who unfortunately died a few months ago, was more like a cat than a rat. She was super friendly but also had a scowl that would send you cowering. Basically, she made the rules. Often aloof and kind of a loner, she would come to you when she needed attention and would leave when she was done. If I opened the cage, many of the others would hop right onto the cage door but she would open half an eye and scowl at me indicating that now was not a good time for her. She was however, incredibly smart.

Signs of an Introvert:

  • Often sleeps at the bottom of a rat pile
  • Opening the cage door does not consistently excite them
  • Sometimes does not sleep in the rat pile at all
  • Likes exploring and tunnels

What they will need:

  • Tunnels are a great source of fun for these guys. They can hide, play, sleep, ponder life’s meaning all in the comfort of a dark tunnel.
  • Tree house: This one I figured out all on my own to make sure Maci was climbing and getting exercise even those she was a bit lazy. I took a tissue box and cut off the top part then used bull clips to attach it to the top of the cage. I cut a hole in the bottom which forced her to climb up the wall and through the hole to get to the sleeping spot. I could also easily pet her through the cage and give her attention and treats.
  • Places like Pet Mountain often sell things for very cheap or try making homemade versions of some of these things yourself.

Establishing Relationships

Rats have relationships too and have very different dynamics depending on the pairings. Rats love following each other in trains and if you look closely it may even be the same rat always leading. The best way to see which rat is dominant and which are the followers are with food. Who steals from whom? Crayon stole from everyone and they would submit right away and give it to her. Other times, you will notice more of a struggle between two rats with no one submitting any more than the other (this is kind of like sibling rivalry). Wrestling, which rats love to do, is another interesting way to see different dynamics. Maci, for example, hated being wrestled and would sort of brush off the first few attempts and then scamper off but if aggravated too much she would pounce and bite firmly to let the other rat know she wasn’t in the mood.

Rats also socialize each other by following the others behaviors. Resting your hand on the open cage door allows newer rats to see the trust established between you and the older rats and they will soon follow. I had to spend a lot of time with my first rats Ani and Maci to socialize them and get them used to me. Crayon and Bruce, however, almost socialized themselves. When I took them out to play I would just let them explore me and follow the other rats (who were crawling on me and licking me). Soon they did the same.

Showing Affection

  • Belly rubs and scratches
  • Rats love licking! They groom each other so why wouldn’t they groom you. Ani will often hold my finger between her paws and lick away until she falls asleep or gets the munchies.
  • Head petting: very gently. They have sensitive ears and skin so they feel it quite intensely.
  • Tickles: Rats love tickles and actually produce something of a laughing sound which is at a higher frequency than we can hear. 

Rats Love Being Tickled

Leave Me Comments!

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    • profile image


      23 months ago

      Nice Hub, bookmarked.

      My Rat Scabbers is a Actrobat.

      My Rat Templeton is an Oddball.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You should always have at least 2 rats living togather they don,t do very well on there own.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have a male rat his name is Stewie. I only have one. I got him on the 4th of this month. He's about 4 months old. He's learning to trust me slowly he wasn't handled much before I got him so it's all pretty new to him. He lets me pet him and now when I open the cage he comes out but only sits on the doorway. He's not to fond of being held. Any advice on how I can get him to trust me more and get used to being handled? Any time he's out of his cage all he wants to do is go back in.


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