How to Train Your Pet Rat: Tricks and Techniques

by Morgan Mulac

How to Train Your Pet Rat: Tricks and Techniques


Although we’re admittedly biased, we think rats are some of the most intelligent animals you can have as a pet. This intelligence means that training your rats can be an easy, fun, and rewarding experience for both you and your pet!

In this blog, we’re going to give you all the training resources you need to train your pet rat and provide them with the key enrichment they need during their lifespan. Including the foundations of starting the training process, special tricks you can teach them, and mistakes to avoid.

Understanding Your Rat's Nature

Before any part of a successful training session starts, it’s important to understand your rat's nature and behavior. While rats can be very affectionate after they get to know you, don’t be surprised if it takes some time for them to warm up to you.

In the wild, rats are prey creatures, which is why their prey instincts influence how they react to strangers when they are around them. Often, ethical breeders ensure their rats are properly socialized and not as skittish as their owners, but it will take time to build up trust with your rat, which is crucial for teaching them tricks.

In addition to their toys and exercise time, rats are naturally very intelligent and curious creatures, so teaching them tricks can provide them with a source of enrichment that goes beyond playing with what they normally get.

Knowing a rat's natural behaviors can also be helpful in teaching them tricks. For example, a rat's natural instinct to forage can be used to help train them to play fetch, as you can start by throwing a small toy into a foraging box for them to find.

The Foundations of Rat Training

As mentioned above, having a good foundation before you begin training sessions with your rat is essential. Understanding your rat's individual personality traits can also help you choose the right training method for your rat.

Signs of a happy and comfortable rat include a relaxed body posture, explorative behavior, bright eyes, and an overall relaxed demeanor. On the other hand, signs of a stressed or scared rat include a tense body posture, dilated pupils, and avoidance or fear-related behavior. It is important to recognize these signs in order to ensure that your rat is comfortable during the training process.

Making sure you’re consistent in your training sessions is also another essential part of making sure you’re successful during the initial training phases.

As people are encouraged to get rats in pairs, we recommend having a schedule of separate training days for each of your rats so you ensure they’re each getting the specific attention and consistency of training they need.

Building Trust

From the moment you adopt rats, you should begin building their trust. Not only does trust training help you in teaching your rats tricks but can be beneficial in carrying out basic rat care tasks like cleaning their cage or feeding them.

Among these aspects is cage placement, which involves placing your rat cage in an area that is quiet and one that you frequent frequently. As a result of being around you often, your rat will become more comfortable around you. As well as sitting beside your rat's cage and talking to them in a gentle and calming voice.

In order to bond with your rat and gain their trust, you should play with them and handle them gently. Many owners recommend buying cat string toys as this gives you the opportunity to sit directly with your rat and play with them.

To handle your rat, scoop your hand underneath the belly and place the other hand on the lower back. Rats can induce degloving in order to escape danger, so picking them up by their tail is extremely dangerous.

Clicker Training Basics

Clickers can be an effective tool to use when training your rats. It will take some time for your rat to begin to associate the sound with positive behavior, but teaching them this association is relatively easy.

You can start this process by giving your rat a treat alongside a click, so your rat can begin to associate the click with a good thing, this should be done in moderation so as to not overfeed your rat.

Afterward, you can begin rat training with the clicker, which will allow your rat to learn to associate positive behaviors when they hear the clicker, which will make training even easier.

Positive Reinforcement

The key to teaching your rat tricks is to provide them with positive feedback, as this will make them more motivated and willing to learn the tricks you're teaching them.

Positive reinforcement given in the form of treats should either be in moderation, or the only time during the week you give your rats treats, as treats given in access can be unhealthy for your rat.

Toys are one item of positive reinforcement that can be given more often, pumice stones and loofah are especially helpful things you can give your rat as these will also help trim down their nails and teeth.

Two white rats playing

Training Your Rat: Tricks and Techniques

The below tricks are just a few basics you can start during training days. Once your rat has these down, you can begin to train them to do more complex behaviors.

No matter what training method you use, consistency and patience are key. In general, rats learn at their own pace, so in some cases, you may see one of your rats learn a trick after only a few days of training, while other rats may take a little longer. In the long run, your rat will learn the tricks as long as the training phase remains consistent.

Training Your Rat to Respond to Its Name

This is one of the first tricks you should teach your rat. Being able to have your rat respond and come to you when their name is called can have a variety of uses. Such as when they escape and you need to find them fast.

You can start this training by sitting near your rat's cage and calling their name, giving them a food reward when they come towards you.

Once they have the hang of that, you can begin to train them outside of the cage, moving further and further away from them as the training days go on. You can also combine the clicker with food rewards to have your rat come to you when they hear the clicker.

Teaching Your Rat to Follow Your Finger

This is another good starter trick that can serve as the basis for many other tricks you can teach your rat.

To teach your rat to follow your finger, start by holding your finger a short distance from the rat and offering it a food reward when they tap your finger with their nose. Gradually increase the distance and continue to offer food rewards as your rat continues to follow your finger.

After your rat gets used to following your finger, you can start moving it in circles, figure eights, and other shapes. When your rat follows your finger in these bigger shapes, you reward it with a treat.

Training Your Rat to Fetch

For teaching your rat to fetch, we recommend using toys or other rat accessories instead of a food reward, as your rat may not understand that they need to bring the food back to you. Teaching your rat to respond to their name is recommended for this trick.

Start by grabbing one of your rat's favorite small toys and throwing it a short distance while saying “fetch.” When your rat shows interest in the toy, they likely will run towards it, and this is where positive reinforcement in the form of praising them can help.

Once they get the hang of this, you can begin to call their name to have them bring it back, and start the process over again. Eventually, your rat will naturally respond when you throw a toy and you may not even need to use commands!

Teaching Your Rat to Spin

Spinning is a great starter trick to teach your rats, since it is extremely simple and is sure to develop your confidence in the process of training them.

To start teaching your rat this trick, hold a treat in between your fingers and twirl your hand above your rat's head until they begin to follow it. Once they do, you can give them their reward.

After a few days of training with a treat, you can begin to have your rat follow just your finger until they can do the same movement, still giving them a food reward after they complete a circle.

Once they have the hang of following only your finger, you can begin to train them to do this same behavior while only moving your finger in the direction you want them to spin.

Teaching Your Rat to Use The Litter Box

A lot of practical applications can be gained from this training. Training your rat to use a litter box can help you maintain a mostly clean cage, as your rats won’t be soiling their normal bedding.

If you want to start, you can put litter boxes with something that isn’t your rat's bedding material in every corner of your rat's cage, since rats will go to the bathroom in corners regardless. You should praise your rat if you see them using the litter box, as this will cause them to associate using it as a desirable behavior.

You can begin to take away boxes as you notice your rat choosing one box over the others, this way you don’t have to upkeep every litter box in your rat's cage.

Common Training Mistakes to Avoid

There are a few things you should avoid when you’re training your rats, as this can either hinder the process, cause health problems, or cause your rat to lose trust in you.

One of the most common training mistakes owners make has to do with reward sizes. When you’re using food rewards to train your rat, you need to make sure the size of the reward is small enough that it doesn’t contribute to overfeeding them.

Another mistake rat owners may make is losing consistency, while missing one or two days of training over the course of a few weeks won’t hurt, longer stretches where you’re not keeping up on the training process can cause your rat to lose the skills they have. Likewise, making sure you remain consistent in your commands is vital, as differing commands can confuse your rat.

Lastly, rushing the training process before your rat is ready to move on can be stressful to both you and your rat. It is best to wait until your rat can perform the behavior successfully for a few days in a row before moving on to the next step.

Rat peeping through a brown paper

Maintaining Your Rat's Skills and Behavioral Health

Continuing to train and reinforce your rat's behavior with positive reinforcement and food rewards will ensure that they maintain their skills and stay well-trained.

Additionally, it's important to keep your rat's mind stimulated with fun activities such as puzzle toys and games, as this will keep them mentally active and help them stay healthy and happy. Providing mental stimulation can also help to reduce anxiety and boredom in rats, and can help decrease the likelihood of problem behaviors.

Keep Your Rat Happy With Quality Cage

Rat training can be a fun and rewarding experience for you and your pet! As a result of their high intelligence level, rats are capable of learning almost anything. It is important to be patient and give your rat plenty of praise throughout the entire training process.

Looking into owning a rat? Check out some of our other articles on the website to learn more about owning and taking care of rats if you want to know more.


Are rats easy to train?

Although every rat is different, rats are extremely easy to train! Their high intelligence and curiosity lend themselves very well to learning many different behaviors.

What is the best way to train rats?

There are many ways to train your rat, but one of the most reliable and efficient ways is to use a reward incentive. Whether this is in the form of toys, or a food reward.

How do you get a rat to come to you?

You can train your rat to come to you by calling their name at the edge of their cage, and rewarding them when they come to you. Slowly, you can begin to move back and let them come a little further to you.

When should you train rats?

Training rats when their young is the most ideal, as they have high energy and are eager to learn.


Have Questions About Rat Training?

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Author Bio: Morgan Mulac

Morgan Mulac has been working as a freelance writer for five years and has developed a passion for exotic pets. Dedicated to learning about exotic animals from all over the world, she seeks ways to share her knowledge with new owners about how to better care for their animals. If Morgan is not researching or writing about exotic pets, you can find her enjoying a cup of coffee and planning her next adventure.

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