Do Pet Rats Like to Swim (Safety)

Do Pet Rats Like to Swim
Do Pet Rats Like to Swim

Most people know that rats are capable of swimming, as there are plenty of videos of rats swimming across bodies of water. But do they actually enjoy the process?

So, do pet rats like to swim?  Maybe. It depends on the rat. Just like with dogs, some rats will enjoy swimming while others will absolutely dread the idea of it.

Rats are natural swimmers, but not all of them enjoy the activity. In this article, we will explore this matter further. We will discuss how you can determine whether your pet rat will enjoy swimming or not. We will also discuss some safety measures to ensure there are no horrible accidents when you decide to take your rat for a swim.


Can rats swim?

Yes! Rats can swim. Like most people, you might have been misled by the phrase “Like A Drowned Rat.” The expression does not necessarily imply that rats drown because they cannot swim. Rats are, in fact, excellent swimmers.

Brown rats, the wild cousins of pet rats, learn to swim naturally at an early age. In their natural habitat, rats are often required to swim to get from one place to another. Some species will even find their food in water.

There are plenty of stories of rats finding their way from the sewers into people’s homes via their toilets. Yes, as terrifying as that sounds, it also demonstrates that rats can be excellent swimmers. Rats have been known to tread water for days, swim for more than a mile, and even swim underwater, holding their breaths for up to three minutes!

So, yes. To summarize, rats can swim. But that still leaves the question about whether they actually enjoy the process of swimming. 

Do rats like to swim?

So since rats are such great swimmers, they must absolutely love to swim, right? 

Well, not quite. It’s a matter of preference, and some rats just aren’t about it. 

Not all animals that can swim, love to do so. Tigers, for instance, not only can swim, but also love to swim. But this isn’t necessarily true for rats.

Pet rats were domesticated from brown rats. And since brown rats are swimmers in their natural habitat, you might come across some pet rats that are inclined to swim. You know, just like you might find a dog that’s just way into its wolf ancestry. But dogs and rats alike, each animal has a different personality.

Some pet rats will love to swim, while others will absolutely dread the idea of it. Others may just enjoy playing in the water while not being that into swimming. As a rule of thumb, rats that have never been around water will be hesitant to swim.

So, as the owner of a pet rat who would very much like to take his/her rat for a swim, you’re still left with an important question.

How can you tell if your pet rat likes to swim?

One of the most important things you have to consider here is that you should never rush your pet rat into this. If your rat is hesitant to jump into water right away, which it mostly will be, you should let it find its own pace.

If you plan on testing your pet rat’s temperament towards swimming, you can start by introducing a plate or bowl of water (large enough for the rat to walk into) into its cage. If your rat is hesitant, it could still just be because it isn’t used to the new apparatus being in the cage. You can try taking your rat out of its cage and placing it over a plate with a thin layer of water. This will give the rat a feel for where you’re planning to take it eventually.

Once you’ve habituated your pet rat to standing over water, slowly introduce it to larger bowls/plates of water. Then move on to a sink, gradually increasing the level of water. Remember not to force any of this into it. 

The only way your pet rat is going to feel okay about this is if it sees this as play. If you’re forcing your rat into the water against its will, it will likely view the scenario as a desperate survival scenario and will try and avoid water at all costs.

So it is absolutely crucial that you keep an eye (and ear) out for any signs of distress. Rats will let out sharp squeals if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. Some rats will resort to playing dead, hoping that you’ll leave it be. This is a sign of absolute distress, and you should maybe start accepting the fact that your rat might not be that into swimming.

On the other hand, if you find your pet rat curiously enjoying this new water play, it might be a good sign. You can gradually introduce it to bigger bodies of water before finally letting it swim in your bathtub. Moving from a bowl to a sink to a bucket is a good progression. 

Safety First

It goes without saying that there are some safety concerns that you need to be mindful of before taking your rat for a swim.

The first one goes without saying. Stay close to your pet. Don’t leave it alone while it’s swimming. While it is unlikely that your rat will suddenly forget how to swim, there are countless factors at play in these scenarios, and you should always be vigilant.

And while your rat may not forget how to swim, it may start feeling uncomfortable. If your rat starts letting out sharp squeals, that’s a sign that it is panicking, and you should probably take it out of the water.

If you’re careful and all goes well, you will have a great time taking your furry little companions for a swim!

Some Swimming Rats FAQ

Can rats tread water?

Yes, they absolutely can. Some have been known to tread water for days!

Can rats swim underwater? How long can they hold their breath?

Yes, rats have been known to dive underwater and can hold their breaths while doing so for as long as three minutes! This is incredible given their relatively small lung size. 

How long can a rat swim?

In the wild, brown rats have been known to swim for as long as a mile. This is an incredible feat for an animal of this size. Pet rats, however, might not last as long.


Brown rats, the ancestors to pet rats, are excellent swimmers. In the wild, they learn to swim when they’re young and are often required to do this in survival scenarios. But pet rats are a bit different. While most will still have the instinctual ability to swim, they may not necessarily enjoy doing so.

Pet rats, like people, have varying personalities. And so, some will love swimming, and others will not. As the owner, you have to make sure you check your rat’s temperament towards water before you take it for a swim. Start by introducing it to small bowls or plates of water, before graduating to bigger bodies, like a sink.

If you do determine that your rat loves swimming, there are still some safety issues that you need to be mindful of. Stay with your rat while it’s in the water, and keep an eye out for any signs of distress.