How and Where to Pet a Rat (Behavior Guide)

How and Where to Pet a Rat
How and Where to Pet a Rat

Rats are adorable little pets who also happen to be very social. Once a rat trusts you, it will be a perfect friend. They love interacting with humans and become sad if they aren’t petted for a while, so owners have to play with them pretty often and need to pet them a lot, as this makes them feel loved.

Wondering how and where to pet a rat? Here’s a quick guide:

  1. Bond with the rat first and make sure it’s comfortable with your touch. 
  2. Start petting by dragging your finger along its spine, starting from the head, and going down to the middle.
  3. You can give occasional shoulder rubs and ear scratches.
  4. Avoid touching the rat’s belly, tail, or feet.

Before you begin petting, you need to know how to properly hold a rat so that you can bond with it. Once the rat is familiarized with your touch, regular petting and playing will follow naturally. 


How to hold a rat

Here’s the best way to hold a rat:

  1. Scoop up the rat gently with your hands by placing a hand on either side of its body and then slowly and steadily bring the hands together, making a sort of cup with your palms and carrying the rat in that cup.
  2. Place a hand under the chest of your rat, just behind its forelegs.
  3. Place the other hand under the hind legs of your rat, providing additional support. You can use this technique when transporting the rat or examining the rat for any cuts, wounds, scars, etc.
  4. To assure the rat and gain its trust, let it climb inside your hands. You can let the rat run up your arms. If the rat’s in a playful mood, extend your arm outward, and the rat will crawl all the way top to your shoulders.
  5. If the rat trusts you more, then it’ll climb up your hand if you put your extended arm inside its cage.
  6. If the rat wants to sit on your shoulder, let it do so. Rats love to sit on shoulders by climbing up the arms of their owners. Be careful when walking around the house with a rat on your shoulder. You can use your smartphone or watch a movie while the rat plays around.

And here are a couple of tips on properly holding the rat:

  • Try not to pick the rat up by its tail as it can cause injury. Neither the tip nor the base of the rat’s tail should be grasped for handling.
  • Make sure when you’re holding the rat that it has enough space to move a little bit and breathe. Strictly avoid squeezing the rat. Hold the rat securely but don’t use too much force. If your rat is squeezed by your hand and faces some difficulty breathing, you might lose its trust.
  • If you’re giving a child (11 years or younger) your rat to hold, then make sure to supervise them. Carefully guide the child on holding a rat and ensure that the child doesn’t squeeze or hurt the rat.

How to bond with a new pet rat

Bonding with your little rodent is a very crucial step. It’s very important for your pet rat to get to know your touch. Otherwise, it wouldn’t allow you to pet it.

Once you’ve bought a new baby rat (or adopted an adult rat), let it adjust to the surroundings. Give it a day or two to explore its cage. It was probably very scared and uneasy when you brought it home, so give it some time to relax. 

After some time has passed and the rat has settled, bring your hand closer to it. Touch your pet rat very gently on the head, and let it sniff your hand. This strengthens the bond between you and the rat. Make sure your hands are free from odor of food or of other rats, as it can alarm the little rodent and cause it much stress. Wash your hands after you touch the rat as well, for hygiene purposes.

The best trick to bond with your pet rat is offering it tasty treats and food. Give it some fresh veggies and fruits like apples, banana, kiwi, strawberry, carrot, broccoli, cucumber, etc. Place a small, coin-sized piece of fruit on the palm of your hand and put your hand inside the cage. Wait for a few minutes, and the rat will come out to eat the treat. 

While eating, the rat will grow familiar to your scent and will positively react when petted. Do this daily to develop a strong bond with your little rat. If a rat doesn’t enjoy the treat, look for an alternate option. If the rat doesn’t eat, try the next day. Don’t force your rat to do anything.

Once your rat has begun warming up to you, start holding them using the method we mentioned earlier. 

In the beginning, hold it for 5 minutes, then gradually increase the time until you hold it for 25 minutes. Let it climb on your arm. If a rat likes being held, it will definitely like being petted. Talk to the rat in a calm voice using its name when holding it.

Never let the rat out by itself if it hasn’t fully adjusted to you. 

How to pet a rat

Once a rat is comfortable around you, it’ll let you pet it. Petting a rat involves learning about its favorite spots to be petted so that the experience is enjoyable and fun for it.

There’s no guarantee on how your pet rat will react to a stroke, but rats usually love a good, gentle ear rub. Don’t be too quick while doing it. You can also try scratching the rat’s shoulders gently. 

Rats also love when you pet them on their back. Stroke their back, starting at their neck and going down a bit. Place your fingers along the rat’s spine. If your rat loves being petted in a certain spot, it’ll tell you by grinding its teeth, which is a sign of happiness.

If a rat does not like to be touched in a certain spot, try your best to respect that. Angering or frightening rats when you’re trying to handle them can result in a painful bite. Always gain the trust of the rat before trying to pick it up.

Avoid touching the rat’s belly right away because it is a very sensitive area, unless you’ve been with the rat for a while and it trusts you completely; otherwise, it’ll bite you. Once you’ve gained enough trust (through back rubs and ear scratches), a rat won’t mind. In fact, some rats even lie down on their backs and wait for their owners to give them a belly rub!

Never try picking a rat up by its tail. Rats get scared that way, and they won’t trust you after that. You might even put the rat at risk by breaking its tail.

Always stroke the face of a rat from the nose towards the ears. Go about this task slowly. Refrain from pulling the whiskers forward or backward. This can cause the rat a sharp pain.


Petting your rat is an important step in becoming friends with the little rodent, but before you do that, you’ll have to bond with it. Don’t start petting the rat as soon as you bring it home! Let it adjust to your surroundings first, then gently touch the rat, and let it grow familiar with your scent. 

Once the rat is comfortable with your touch, try holding it, and you can hold it easily by scooping it up. After this, you can pet your rat. Avoid touching the belly or feet, while petting in long strokes is a good idea. You can also give your rat a massage after petting it.