This Is Why Your Pet Rat Likes to Lick You

This Is Why Your Pet Rat Likes to Lick You
This Is Why Your Pet Rat Likes to Lick You

Rats make great little pets. They are incredibly easy to look after, and they are very clean and intelligent animals. And the people who actually end up owning pet rats soon figure out that these little creatures can be incredibly affectionate.

So, why does your pet rat like to lick you? Pet rats will lick their owners for a number of reasons. The first reason is probably to bond with you. The second possibility is that maybe it likes or dislikes your smell. Finally, it could be because it smells another rat on your hand. 

You’re probably confused, particularly with the last two points. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. In this article, we will explore this topic in-depth, looking into all the reasons why your rat licks you. We will also briefly explore the sanitary aspects of your rat licking you.


Your rat wants to bond with you

One of the most common reasons why pet rats will lick their owners is to bond with them. Licking is one of the most common grooming tools between rats. They do this in order to socialize and bond with one another. So if your rat has been licking you, chances are he/she probably sees you as a giant rat friend. Adorable, right?

Grooming isn’t the only activity rats engage in with one another in order to bond. Rats will also want to play with another. And if you, the giant rat, hasn’t shown enough attention to your pet rat lately, there’s a good chance he/she just wants your attention and wants to play with you. Be a good owner and show your rat some attention, will you?

There are some things you can do as the owner of pet rats in order to show them that you care. Try stroking their back or their head with your fingers. Pet rats absolutely adore this. You can also let your rat take a nap in your lap or your arms. Cuddling is a great bonding exercise for a number of animals, rats included.

Maybe your rat smells something it likes (or doesn’t)

There could be another reason behind your pet rat licking you. If your rat smells something in you that he/she likes (like food) or something he/she doesn’t like (a rat’s notion of filth of some kind), they will proceed to lick you. That surely sounded a bit contradictory, so we will explain it further.

When rats smell something good, they will want a taste of it. Thankfully, it isn’t so with us humans. We don’t just go around licking everything and everyone that smells good. But rats are simple creatures. And if you’ve just finished a bag of snacks or finished a full meal, they will smell the food off of you and will want a share. You will find your rat licking your hand or your mouth. Some rats will even try to open your mouth and enter it! If you would rather your rat stop licking you, you better wash your hands, your mouth and your face clean after you’re done with your meal.

And then there is something quite the opposite. Your rats will also start licking you if they think you don’t smell very good. Your rat probably thinks you’re not living up to their rat standards of cleanliness, and he/she just wants to help. Cleaning each other is another great bonding tool between rats, and once again, your rat just wants to bond with you.

You need to understand that rats are very clean creatures. They like to stay squeaky clean, and they like the other rats they socialize with to stay clean as well. This is very important for rats as in the wild, slacking in this department could lead to parasites or allergies. If your rat has been licking you, it’s probably a good idea to go wash your hands or wherever it is they’re licking you. If they’re licking you all over, best go take a bath!  

Your rat can smell the opposite sex in you

There could be another, more salacious explanation to your rat licking you. If you own both male and female rats, and if you handle one of them before handling the other, then there’s a good chance the latter can smell the former in you. This is especially true for male rats smelling female rats in you, and they are more likely to be the ones licking you.

Female rats tend to leave the scent of their pheromones behind when they’re in the “mood.” And with rats, this can be all year round as they do not have a specific mating season. Female rats, unless they’re pregnant, come into heat every 4 or 5 days. And when they do, they’ll leave their scents everywhere for the boys to find.

So, the next time you find your rat boys licking you right after you handled your rat girls, you’ll know what’s up. One thing you need to keep an eye out for is that male rats usually tend to leave their own scent behind for the females, as a response to the receptive message they left behind earlier. 

If you’re a new owner, you are bound to get puzzled when your rat starts peeing on you. Well, now you know what’s up. If you don’t like being the emissary of love between your rats, wash your hands clean after you’re done handling each of them.   

Is it unhealthy to let your rats lick you?

All this talk of licking is bound to leave you with a question. Is it sanitary to let your rat lick you? A lot of us are okay with letting bigger animals such as dogs or cats licking us. But what about rats? After all, they are known to carry some pretty bad diseases.

Well, not exactly. Domesticated rats, as long as they’re kept clean and healthy, are no different from cats and dogs. In fact, for a well-caged rat, one could argue they’re much cleaner than cats or dogs are, who are known to wander out and eat all sorts of things.

So, as long as you keep your rats clean and healthy, it’s okay for them to lick you every now and then. 

However, just to be safe, make sure you wash wherever they lick you afterward. To properly rid the area of any germs, rub it with soap under hot water for at least 20 seconds. 


Rats make affectionate pets. Most people, new owners included, don’t anticipate this because of all the negative rep these so-called vermin have on the mainstream. As a new owner, you will be pleasantly surprised to find your pet rat licking you every now and then. There are multiple reasons behind this.

The most common explanation to your rat licking you is a desire to bond. Rats are social creatures, and your pet rat probably sees you, its owner, as one of the closest “rats” in his/her life. As such, you rat will occasionally lick you to bond with you. Your rat may also lick you if it smells something bad and wants to lick you clean—another bonding technique.

Finally, rats will also lick you if they smell food or scent left behind by the opposite sex in you. As long as you wash yourself clean after you eat or after you handle a female rat, you should be good.