Pet rats provide their owners with companionship and excitement since you can always count on your rat being inquisitive and energetic. Like most animals, pet rats have a complex range of emotions when it comes to attachment to their owners, and jealousy is probably one emotion you never thought you would see in a pet rat. The presence of other rats and even other pets can cause a lack of attention to your rat, is it really possible that pet rats can experience jealousy?
So, do pet rats get jealous? Yes, pet rats experience jealousy based on factors concerning the uneven distribution of rewards and a lack of attention from their owners. Rats also experience jealousy if attention is given to other rats or pets based on partiality due to fewer rewards or attention in favor of other pets.
Jealousy in pet rats is a natural emotion that is going to occur from time to time. If your pet rat is one of many pet rats, jealousy will occur very often, and since there are many factors that cause feelings of jealousy in pet rats, this guide will explore these factors and offer ways to prevent a pet rat from becoming jealous. Jealousy is a common emotion in all animals, just as it is in human beings.
Do Pet Rats Have the Same Kind of Jealousy That Humans Do?
Us humans experience jealousy for a multitude of reasons, yet the most common reasons are usually preferential treatment towards others in our social circles and inequality in the acquisition of goods and finances others have that we want. Pet rats are no exception to the emotion of jealousy, and although the reasons are much simpler than what is found in human jealousy, rats do get jealous.
According to Bowling Green State University, animals, including rats, respond strongly to what they perceive as an unfair reward distribution through a process known as inequity aversion. The research conducted showed that rats personify jealousy in much the same ways that humans do. Becoming sullen and uncommunicative, lashing out at other rats who received more attention or more rewards, and ignoring their owners were all found to be true.
The most common reason for jealousy in your pet rat is likely the introduction of other rats to the social circle. Jealousy will likely occur in the pet rat that has experienced sole attention from their owner the longest, creating a complex pattern of social jealousy due mainly to numerous rats now vying for an owner’s attention and rewards (treats, special rewards).
Think about it, when we as humans have our affections set on one person for whatever reason, we naturally experience jealousy if others present the same level of interest in the person we feel close to. The science is not clear on if rats have these same sorts of feelings regarding their owners, but it is clear that jealousy can be observed in pet rats due to more attention to other pet rats.
This lack of attention causing jealousy is very common in animals, and will typically see your pet rat showing displeasure, be it from a lack of attention in general or more attention being given to a fellow rat than the jealous rat. Since we cannot know for sure if one pet rat is jealous of another, humans use a process called anthropomorphism, which is the process of humans relating an emotion like jealousy to behaviors we commonly associate with envy.
These are the main reasons why your pet rat is showing jealousy, which is a completely normal emotion in animals. If your pet rat’s jealousy is becoming frequent and problematic, there are some factors you can take to try and prevent it.
What Ways Can I Prevent My Pet Rat From Getting Jealous?
Jealousy with pet rats is going to happen at some point, yet if one or multiple pet rats are consistently showing jealousy, consider the following factors to ease it.
Factor #1: Jealousy From Other Pet Rats
You will likely notice existing pet rats becoming jealous of any new pet rats, as well as jealousy based on what a jealous rat feels is an unequal distribution of attention or rewards. To ease this, consider giving all your pet rats the same amount of attention each day. Try and bring them all out of the cage at the same time and always give your rats an equal-sized share of treats. This will help prevent certain rats from becoming jealous.
Factor #2: Jealousy Associated With Other Pets
It may seem impossible, but animals become jealous of other animal species just as easily as those within their species. If you have a dog or cat, consider keeping your rats separate from these pets–which is probably a good idea anyway, especially with cats–to prevent rats from feeling as if your other animals are getting in the way of their needs. Keep other animals out of your rat’s sanctuary to ensure your pet rat has your undivided attention.
Factor #3: Jealousy From Lack of Attention
We all live busy lives, which means it is sometimes easy to forget that we have pets who also need a good deal of our attention. Rats like to interact with their owners, so if you find that you are losing track of time and do not devote enough attention to your pet rat, it is certain that your rat will start to feel jealous. Be sure to schedule regular interaction time each day with your pet rat, no matter how short it may be. Pet rats need and expect attention.
Even with all of these suggestions implemented, there is no way to effectively stop a pet rat from feeling jealousy at some point. But these factors can certainly help ease any constant feelings of jealousy in your pet rat. Just be fair and equal if you have multiple pet rats and always make time for your rats at some point during the day or night.
The Verdict: Pet Rats Can Experience Jealousy
Animals experience a range of emotions, much in the same ways that human beings do. Although it may seem odd that your pet rat is exhibiting signs of jealousy, it is a fairly common emotion that rats experience. If your rat is acting out or not as interactive with you as they once were, think about any possible changes or new introductions that may have recently occurred with your pet rat.
Although rats prefer to be social with other rats, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your rat community is always going to be friendly and harmonious with one another. Take the steps necessary to never show partiality to one certain rat over any others. All pet rats should be given the same amount of everything, including attention from their owners. Make each rat feel that they are all equal and special.
Pet rats have a number of different reasons why they get jealous, and each reason has ways that can be resolved. Be sure to keep all other types of pets away from your rat community, which will prevent jealousy from being caused by an outside source. Put in time and effort with your pet to reassure the rat that it is cherished and valued. Time is a precious commodity, but as long as you carve some out for your pet rat, it won’t always feel the need to be jealous.
And remember, rats get jealous just like we do.
- Bowling Green State University: Inequity Aversion: Do Rats Get Jealous?
- LiveScience: Do Animals Get Jealous?
- Animalstudiesrepository.org: Situating the study of jealousy in the context of social relationships
- Oxford Academic: BioScience: Animal Emotions: Exploring Passionate Natures: Current interdisciplinary research provides compelling evidence that many animals experience such emotions as joy, fear, love, despair, and grief—we are not alone
- Wikipedia: Emotions in Animals