Why Is Your Pet Rat Licking You? Pet Rat Behaviour Explained

One of the many pet rat behaviors you can expect from your rat is hand licking.

But why do pet rats lick you? Pet rats lick you to either show affection (by grooming you) or because you smell and taste like food.

Let’s dive into why pet rats do each of these behaviors, and if it’s good for you and them or not!

Pet Rat Licking Because Of Your Smell

Are you handling your pet rats, right after eating or preparing some food? Then, there’s a good chance the smell lingered in your fingers and your ratties want a taste of that!

It’s no secret that animals, in general, will eat almost everything as long as it smells good. And pet rats aren’t the exception.

If it’s edible and at their reach, then they’ll eat it!

Now, this isn’t necessarily a problem as long as what they’re licking isn’t toxic for them.

Not only that, but even if it’s not dangerous for them, it might not be healthy.

For example, greasy or sugary foods are not good for them in the long run.

Of course, they’re not licking it in big quantities, but remember that they’re smaller animals, so the amount they can ingest before it starts being dangerous for them is much smaller than for us!

I like to be safer than sorry, so I recommend always washing your hands before and after handling your pet rats. This way, there’s no risk nor do you need to constantly check what’s good or bad for your pet rat to lick.

However, if you were just preparing some fruit or veggies for your ratties, then I don’t see why you shouldn’t let them lick your hands.

Go ahead and feed them those tasty treats by hand even!

This can actually be a good chance for you to bond with your pet rats. Nothing says friends than tasty food!

If you’re unsure about what food is safe for your ratties, then I have the perfect articles for you:

Another thing to have into account when handling your pet rats: hand creams and other lotions.

Pet rats tend to lick our hands because of their smell.

So even if hand cream might not have a ‘food’ smell, they’ll most likely investigate it.

If you tend to use any kind of lotion for your hands, it’s good to be sure it’s been fully absorbed by your skin before handling your ratties.

Even if these things are good for us, they’re not to be ingested, not by us, and even less by our pet rats.

Again, they’re smaller, meaning smaller quantities of certain chemicals will be toxic for them.

Constantly licking those products might make them feel sick in the long run, so I’d try to avoid that as well.

To be safe, always wash your hands well before handling your pet rat! This way, you’re sure they won’t ingest anything they shouldn’t.

Pet Rat Licking Because Of Affection

Pet rats groom each other. They do this by mostly licking each other.

This is a form of affection and something they do to both create and strengthen their bonds.

So, if you notice your ratties licking you while you’re handling them, then it might be a sign that they love and trust you!

This is great news. Your pet rat sees you as someone of their pack/family. Pet rats will form bonds with their owners and they’ll show their affection towards you.

They might show it to you by cuddling with you, spending time near you, and by showing interest in joining your activities or you to join theirs.

Grooming and staying clean is a big part of pet rats’ lives, so doing that to you means that they trust you, love you but also that they’ll care for you in their own way.

So if that happens, I’d say it’s a huge win and you have a new friend!

pet rat showing affection towards owner, why is your pet rat licking you

If your ratties aren’t still that comfortable around you, give them time.

They’re animals that scare easily and might take some time in being comfortable at their new place with their new giant friend.

Which really, that’s what we are for them.

Win their trust by spending time close to their home, let them come to you, smell you, climb and explore you.

Use tasty treats to your advantage, so they approach you more easily. You’ll see that with time and patience they’ll welcome you as one of their own!

Is It Safe For Your Pet Rat To Lick You?

In most cases, you don’t have to worry. Let’s say you just ate a snack and right afterward handled your pet rats and they happen to lick you.

There’s no need to panic or worry over that. It will happen. Sometimes you’ll forget to wash your hands and that’s ok.

What matters is that they’re not constantly ingesting something that is bad for them. However, if it happens once or twice, there’s really no risk for them!

Do try to make a habit of washing your hands before handling them, just to be on the safe side.

Now, is it safe for you? Yes!

Your pet rats live in a safe place, so their saliva won’t harm you. There are also few diseases that can spread to you through saliva.

And even so, a house pet rat will most likely not carry any kind of contagious disease.

So, if your ratties are healthy, you have nothing to worry about either! Enjoy some grooming from your rodent friends.

Related Questions

Why is my pet rat licking my other rat? They’re grooming each other! This is good and shows familiarity and a bond between them.

My pet rat squealed while being groomed, are they ok? Sometimes pet rats can be a little rough while grooming. So the pet rat being groomed will let out a quick squeal for them to ease up on the grooming session! As long as it’s not frequent, there’s nothing to worry about.

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