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Behavior

Each individual rat’s behaviour will vary according to its personality, but generally rats are inquisitive, active, and sociable. Young rats are usually particularly active, and will play with each other much like puppies do. Wrestling, chasing, and play fighting is common and only very rarely ends in any sort of injury. Babies will sometimes play in the same way with their people and will chase and battle with hands. As rats get older they usually calm down. Male rats are usually more cuddly than females and enjoy scratches and snoozing on their owners. Females tend to stay more active, but will often check in with their owners periodically for a quick pat before running off on another adventure.

Common rat behaviors include:

  • Boggling: This is when a rat vibrates its eyes, causing them to bulge in and out rapidly. It looks strange, but usually indicates pleasure or contentment.

  • Bruxing: This behavior is often seen in conjunction with boggling, when a rat is particularly happy. It involves the rat softly grinding its teeth together and creates a rasping sound. Sometimes stressed rats will exhibit this behavior, though it is usually more of a chatter combined with an alert or aggressive pose.

  • Sidling/crab walking: This is when a rat inches sideways with it’s back arched. It is an aggressive or threatening behavior, usually displayed by a dominant rat.

  • Boxing: Boxing rats will stand on their hind legs and paw at each other. This is usually a defensive behavior used to keep an aggressive rat from biting.

  • Food Stashing: Some rats will move food from their bowls and hide it in piles around their cages.

  • Ear Wiggling: Female rats in heat will display distinctive ear vibrations when touched, while holding their bodies tense and still. They often also hop rapidly with pauses in between each jump. Females come into heat every 5 days and will usually remain in heat for up to one day.

  • Head swaying: Pink eyed rats sometimes sway from side to side to compensate for poor vision.

  • Squeaking: Squeaking is usually heard when a rat feels threatened in some way. Most commonly a rat will squeak when a dominant rat is showing aggressive behavior toward it. Some rats will squeak when picked up to indicate displeasure or discomfort.