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New Rat Handling Tips

Allow a new rat to get to know you before picking it up.

By Audrey Pavia

Most tame rats are docile when held and won’t jump out of your hands. If the rat doesn’t know you yet, let it smell your hand and pet it for a few minutes before you attempt to pick the rat up.

To lift the rat, scoop your hand underneath its belly and let the rat rest its front and hind paws on your hand. If your rat is too big for one hand, use both.

When you hold your rat, always use two hands. Use one hand to support the front legs and shoulders, and the other to cradle the hind legs. Snuggle your small pet against your body to help it feel secure.

Never pick up your pet rat by its tail. The tail skin is delicate and can easily tear.

Rats are agile and can be taught to sit on your shoulder. Young rats learn to “shoulder ride” better than older rats. Be sure to wear clothes that protect your skin against the rat’s sharp nails. 

The first few times you put your rat on your shoulder it may climb down your arm and accidentally scratch you. Have your hand ready to steady your pet rat if it tries to climb down.

Posted: April 2, 2008, 5 a.m. EDT

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Reader Comments
Right on!
Erica, Denton, TX
Posted: 4/21/2012 3:19:52 PM
I just got 2 baby rats that are very pretty! but Iv had horses goats chickens hamsters all kinds of birds inside and out! but rats omg so new to me! and they are 5 weeks old grey and white and sweet! do I have ant idea on what to do...... nope! but they sit on my shoulder and know my voice! kisses all the time! never did this but im in love with all my pets just need help with the rats cuz this is so new to me... anyone who can give me tips id be so happy cuz i love them and i think im doing going good? ty
stacey, groton, MA
Posted: 12/30/2011 6:42:20 PM
You should definitely give it almost a week before attempting to handle your new rat. Allow it a day or two of little interaction to adjust to the new environment. You should place you hand in the cage and allow your new pet to smell you and also get used to your presence. After a while your rat will likely climb onto your arm on its own. Wear a hooded sweatshirt, this will prevent scratches and rats like the security of hiding in your hood or pocket!
Vicki, Tonawanda, NY
Posted: 8/20/2011 1:50:50 AM
You shouldn't be trying to pick your rat up yet. You need to bond with it first-

Trust training needs to be done before handling.
Asa, Wisconsin, WI
Posted: 4/11/2010 12:17:26 PM
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