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  5. How should I interact with and handle my rats?

How should I interact with and handle my rats?

Their curious nature and friendly disposition generally make rats relatively easy to handle and their intelligence makes them easy to train. You should only use positive reinforcement (reward-based training using food treats and other things they value) to train them and they must never be punished.

Rats should be given choice about whether they want to interact with you and should not be forced. Most rats who are habituated to human interactions will approach a hand introduced into their enclosure and can be easily picked up. Always treat your rats with patience, kindness, and respect.

Rats not accustomed to being handled or who are frightened may jump and run, but only occasionally do they bite. Rats should be housed in a stable group of familiar rats as they need compatible company to experience good welfare. Rats housed individually may be more apprehensive than those housed in groups.

Rats seldom bite if they have been habituated to positive, predictable human interactions, proper handling, and gentle restraint. Be careful, however, when approaching a nervous or frightened rat.

Children should never handle rats unsupervised, and it may be best if young children do not handle them at all. Unfortunately, not all children are adept enough, or old enough, to safely hold a rat (especially if the rat wriggles). Teach your children how to safely handle your rats, and always closely supervise small children.

Before trying to pick up your rat, let the rat approach and smell your hand if they want to. Avoid picking up a rat who does not choose to approach you and interact. Once they do approach and sniff you calmly, you can then pick them up by placing one hand under their belly and then gently scooping them into your cupped hand.

Once you have the rat in your cupped hand, the palm of your other hand can then be cupped loosely over the rat to keep them safe while keeping your hand and rat close to your body.

Alternatively, you can scoop up the rat with two hands underneath them to lift them up.

Movements over the top of the rat can be stressful for them, so ensure you avoid or minimise these

Do not hold the rat up high, as they could injure themselves if they jump or fall.

Rats should not be lifted by the tail as this can be stressful and may injure them.

Never hold rats by the scruff of the neck. Although they will usually stay still, it’s because they are frozen with fear, and it is really distressing for the animal.

How to hold a rat
Safe technique for holding a rat.
Updated on January 19, 2024
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