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Pet Rats/Non-playful rats?


QUESTION: Hello there! I am a first-time rat owner. I acquired my first rat, Madam, about four weeks ago. I got her a friend, Susannah, about one and a half weeks ago. I am not sure of their ages; I got them from someone who was breeding them as snake food and they told me they're more or less a month old. Anyway, they seem to get along, and they have become very comfortable around me and enjoy being out of their cage. I did notice that they never play with each other, or with me (not that I really know how to play with a rat :s). When they're in the cage they're either eating or sleeping, and when they're out they explore a little bit before finding somewhere to go to sleep. Madam
likes to groom my fingers and Susannah likes to explore my clothing... But I never see any behaviour that I'd call 'playful'. From what I've read, rats are supposedly very playful pets, but I don't see it. Should I be concerned or is it normal for some rats to be more chilled out? Another small thing that I've also noticed is that my girls can't seem to decide who's boss. Sometimes Madam tips Susannah over or pees on her, and sometimes its the other way round. Do they first need to settle their differences before they play? Thanks so much!

ANSWER: Hi Angela,
How big are these rats? Has Madam grown a lot since you got her? A 4-week-old rat should be growing pretty quickly. Maybe the reason they aren't playing is because they are older than you were told. The babies are normally very playful, but adults can be much more laid back.

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QUESTION: Hello again.  Thanks for the quick reply.  They're really not that big; I measured approximately 15 to 17 cm from nose to where the tail starts. Madam has grown a little bit but really not much. I think that what you said is probably the answer then. I was just unclear on whether adults are supposed to be playful as well. Thanks again. :)

It depends on the rat's personality. Some adults are still very active and playful, but generally speaking, they get less active the older they get.

Have you tried getting them to play with you? Try making giggling and laughing sounds (rats laugh in ultrasound when they play) and gently pinch and grab the back of their neck, the way another playful rat would. Gently pounce on them with your hand, like your hand was another rat, and then invite them to chase your hand.

They will need to feel relaxed and comfortable before they will be in the mood to play. You'll find more info on my website at on the rat Info page. Good luck!  

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Debbie Ducommun


I can answer any questions about pet rats, but you will probably be able find answers to simple questions more quickly on my website at If you have a life-threatening emergency you can try calling me at 530-899-0605. I am not usually on the computer on the weekend.


I have been "The Rat Lady" since 1985 and am recognized as one of the world's experts on pet rats. I have 3 published books and already answer lots of questions about rats daily.

President of Rat Assistance & Teaching Society

I am a monthly columnist for Pet Business magazine, and my writing has appeared in other magazines. I have 3 published books.

BA in Animal Behavior

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