How To Get Your Rat Used To Being Picked Up! (Full Guide)

One of the biggest goals of bonding with your pet rat is to be able to pick them up while they enjoy it! But this is easier said than done, it might take you quite some time to get your pet rat used to being picked up.

As a general rule, to get your pet rat used to being picked up you need to convince them to trust you first. This is done by letting them get used to your scent and touch, and then by gently lifting them up over increasing periods of time.

But what are the exact steps to accomplish this? Keep reading to find out!

Place Your Hand Inside The Cage (And Don’t Move!)

For this step, your pet rat should already be accustomed to your hand.

Not only that, but they should feel comfortable inside their cage.

This way, your pet rats are in what they consider a safe space and feel more confident exploring your hand.

However, if your pet rat is not used to your hand yet, it might take some more time. But this is very easy to fix!

Take some time in your day to feed them some tasty treats. Do not leave them somewhere they can pick up. 

Keep the treat in your hand or the tips of your fingers and let them come to you.

So they can understand and smell better what you’re giving them, get your hand close to the entrance of their cage.

Let them approach, smell, and take the treats. With time, they won’t fear the big hand that approaches them and will instead be happy to see it!

Once that’s done it’s time for the next step: put your hand inside the cage and stand very still.

Now, the point here is not to pick them up just yet, but to let them explore your hand and go on top of it.

Now, the point here is not to pick them up just yet, but to let them explore your hand and go on top of it. Let them smell and climb your hand.

Some more adventuring pet rats might even start climbing your arm.

Don’t be scared and let them have their fun and explore. If you avoid sudden movements, your pet rats will start to feel confident and understand they are safe in your hands.

This will make the whole process of picking them up later much easier. The trick is just a little bit of trust!

Touch Your Pet Rat’s Belly

Once again the goal here is to get them used to your hand, specifically your hand underneath them.

Just like before, let them come to you when your hand is in the cage. You can even add some treats to the palm of your hand to motivate your pet rats into coming to you!

Once they get on top of your hand, touch them lightly on their bellies.

Just a small pet, grazing your fingers through the fur.

If they run away, don’t worry. It just means they’re not feeling brave enough yet and think you’re trying to attack them.

It’s natural to happen since their bellies are their most sensitive spot.

However, don’t give up. If they come back, let them explore your hand again. Let them hop and down your hand at will.

Once you notice they feel comfortable around your hand again, give them another experimental pet on their bellies.

Doing so, while they’re munching on a particularly tasty treat usually makes this step easier, since they tend to be a bit more distracted.

And even if they do notice the pets, the treat is much more important at the moment!

If your pet rats feel a bit anxious with the belly touches, leave them be for the moment. Just let them do the climbing onto your hand routine.

Tomorrow is another day and you can try again!

Lift Your Pet Rat

After some belly touches, it’s time to lift them up. Now, don’t go to this step right after successfully touching their bellies once or twice.

Each step should be repeated a few times, throughout several sessions. Only when you notice they feel 100% comfortable with each interaction should you go for the next step.

Notice that I mentioned lifting them up and not actually picking them up. We are not trying to hold them just yet, but instead getting them used to the movement.

pet rat being held gently
Hold your pet rat with care!

Again, you want to put your hand in their cage as before. At this point, you can even encourage them to meet your hand outside the cage. This way the lifting can be done much easier.

Once they get nice and cozy on top of your hand, lift it for a bit. Do not make a sudden movement. Just lightly move your hand upwards.

Don’t get too far from the floor of their cage either. If they feel the need to leave your hand, they should be able to.

If they do run away from your hand, it’s alright. Even though they can bond with their owners, we are still from a different species. It’s natural for them to not know how to deal with us.

That’s why we’re doing this process, slowly, step by step.

So your pet rats understand they can trust you and feel comfortable with you.

As I said, avoid lifting your hand very high. Instead, let it hover at the beginning.

Session after session and as you notice them getting comfortable in your hovering hand, start increasing the height of your hand.

Move your hand higher, try to move it from one side to the other. All this while paying attention to your pet rat.

If they don’t appear to be anxious or haven’t squeaked yet, you can keep doing this exercise.

Keep lifting them up until they’re comfortable with being carried by your hand.

Now, depending on their personality, this might take a few days. Some pet rats are more adventurous and will get quickly used to being lifted up. They’ll probably even have fun with it!

On the other hand, other pet rats are more timid and nervous. For that reason, this whole process might take longer. Just be patient and enjoy your time with them.

Pick Up Your Pet Rats!

Alright, it’s finally time to pick them up! This is very easy to do and you don’t even need to actually grab them.

Be brave and show confidence. If you’re nervous, your pet rat will feel the same.

Just follow the steps you’ve been practicing so far. Let them go to your hand at will, once that’s done, cup your hand so they can balance themselves better and feel safe.

Feeling the warmth of your hand now will also make them feel comfortable and your pet rat will not stress out too much.

If they give a quick panicked squeak, don’t worry and keep holding them. They’re just giving you a small warning, but as long as they keep still, you’re doing good!

Just slow down your movement a little bit and let them get a better sense of their bearings.

In the case that your pet rat keeps squeaking, take a better look and see if you’re hurting them.

You might hurt them by accident, but even if that isn’t the problem, incessant squeaking means your pet rat is in distress.

So put them back down for a while. Again, some pet rats are braver than others. This means that one of your pet rats might take to being picked up very well, very quickly.

But a shy pet rat will take longer to feel comfortable in the same situation.

After picking them up, be sure to give your pet rat some well-deserved treats.

It’s always a good idea to reward your ratties for being brave and being held. This way they’ll see it as a good thing as well.

Go ahead and treat yourself as well for a job well done!

Do Pet Rats Like Being Picked Up?

Pet rats like to bond with their owners. As they get used to us, they’ll want to participate in the same activities as us or the other way around.

This includes being held and picked up. Of course, this is not a usual bonding activity between them.

The only time pet rats are picked up by others of the same species is when they are babies.

For that reason, they do need some time to understand what’s happening and that it is a fun thing to do with their owners.

But, as I mentioned before, pet rats have different personalities.

Some will love to be picked up.

Maybe even climb up to your shoulders and play with your hair!

And other pet rats might be more reserved and not find being picked up such a fun activity.

Just like us, pet rats have their own individual preferences and fears. So it’s important to respect that as well as understand their personality and mood!

Another thing to take into account is that male pet rats tend to enjoy snuggling more than females.

Females tend to be more energetic and more interested in exploring, while males are more of the napping type.

However, this is not a rule and you might find a more cuddly female or a more energetic male. Some pet rats can be just as happy free-roaming without being picked up, for example!

Their age might also be an important factor here. Generally, younger pet rats have more energy and have no time to stand still and be picked up. While older pet rats will definitely prefer cuddles to playtime.

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