How to Teach Your Pet Rat Tricks?

Pet Training


September 8, 2020

Few animals are as accomplished as rats when it comes to performing tricks. Whether you’re trying to show off to your friends or just wanting to spend some quality time with your pet rat, tricks can be a great way to showcase their talents.

Rat training is actually very simple. Plus, it’s a great way to form a strong bond with your amazing little pet.

The Best Methods for Teaching Your Rat to Perform Tricks

Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but rats are great at learning new skills, regardless of their age. Pet rats can master a wide variety of tricks, from standing on their hind legs to jumping through hoops.

Rats have participated in hundreds of research studies throughout history because of their ability to follow commands and respond to rewards. They’re incredibly smart creatures that quickly catch on to new skills and tricks. Plus, teaching your pet rat tricks can be a lot of fun! 

The Famous Shadow the Rat

Rat training became an internet sensation when Shadow the Rat made her debut on YouTube in 2015. Shadow and Esther, her owner, worked together to showcase Shadow’s tremendous talents.

Since then, Shadow’s YouTube channel has gained massive popularity, reaching over 11 million views and 66,000 subscribers.

Shadow performed hundreds of tricks in multiple different videos, wowing audiences worldwide and bringing rat training into the spotlight. Following Shadow’s example, many other pet owners now film rat tricks and tutorials for YouTube. Although she is no longer alive, Shadow’s legacy lives on.

Just like Shadow the Rat, your furry buddy can learn lots of tricks, too! With dedication and patience, they can become just as talented as Shadow the Rat. By following along with the instructions below, your pet rat will soon become a skilled performer.

Using Treats for Motivating Your Rat 

Rats respond best to positive reinforcement. In other words, receiving a reward after completing a specific behavior. Giving your rat treats is the best way to motivate them.

When deciding what food to use to train your rat, try setting out various foods like small bits of meat, fruit, pasta, or pet food. Take note of which food your rat likes best, then use that food when you start training.

  • Training when rat hungry

It’s best to train your rat when they haven’t eaten in a while. This will make your rat hungrier and more likely to respond well to food motivation. If your pet just had a big meal, they most likely won’t respond well to your training. Also make sure you’re in a quiet, safe space. It’s best not to have any other pets nearby while you’re training.

When you’re teaching your pet rat new tricks, start slowly. For example, you can’t expect a rat to know how to shake your hand automatically. Instead, you have to break down each skill into parts. You might start by just touching a rat’s paw and saying “shake” before giving them a treat.

  • A reward after your pet performs the right behavior

After a few repetitions, the rat will become more familiar with it and start raising their paw to your hand when you say “shake”. Next, you would only give them a treat once they reach out to touch your hand. Eventually, the rat will learn that when you say “shake,” you expect them to reach out to “shake” your hand. 

Remember, when training your rat with treats, it’s essential to offer one right reward after your pet performs the desired behavior. Otherwise, they won’t associate that behavior with the reward!

More Tricks to do With Your Rat

When it comes to doing tricks with your pet rat, the possibilities are endless! Rats respond best when they have to do simple tricks such as coming to you when called, standing up on their back legs, and even jumping through a hoop.

  • Coming When Called by Name

Pet rats can recognize their names, and you can train them to come to you when called by name. If your rat has an extraordinarily long name, you may want to try using a nickname for this trick. Begin by saying your rat’s name and then presenting them with a treat.

Once you’ve repeated this step a couple of times, say your rat’s name and place the treat on the ground in front of them. They will have to move forward to get the treat. Continue to place treats farther and farther away from your rat (and closer to you). Eventually, your pet rat will expect a treat and come directly to you when you call them!

  • Standing Up

Just as you can teach your rat to shake your hand, you can teach them to stand on their back feet, too. Begin by saying “up” while holding the treat a little bit above the rat. They will reach up to grab the treat with their hands. Once your pet has completed this a few times, raise your hand a bit higher.

This time, when you say “up,” the rat will have to reach higher than before. You can repeat this process multiple times, gradually getting higher until the rat is standing on its hind legs. Each time you raise your hand higher, repeat it a couple of times, so your furry friend gets familiar with the behavior.

As time goes on, you can raise your hand higher until the rat is eventually standing up. Now they should stand up every time you say “up” because they expect you to offer a treat. You can experiment with this trick by seeing how long you can make your pet stand on their hind legs before they have to go back down to all fours.

  • Trick Hoops

Another fun rat trick is jumping through a hoop. First, get a small hoop, there are hundreds of options out there. You could use an embroidery hoop, a duct tape roll, or even a hollow frisbee. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s as safe as possible for your rat. The hoop should be smooth on the inside and thick enough that it won’t hurt your pet when they climb through.

You also want to make sure that your hoop isn’t too small. It should have a circumference of about eight inches. If your rat doesn’t fit comfortably through the hoop, look for another one.

You can choose to let your rat jump through a hoop in two different ways. The first method is to put your rat on your floor or table and put the hoop between you and your rat. You can then hold up a treat and wait for the rat to come toward you. To get the treat, the rat will have to go through the hoop.

You can continue this method again and again until your rat gets used to it. Once they consistently come through the hoop for a treat, you can try raising the hoop higher off the ground to make your rat “jump” higher. 

The second method is to hold your hoop far away and place your rat in front of you. You can set the treat on the other side of the hoop. If your rat doesn’t want to go through the hoop, you can gently nudge them towards the treat. This method makes your rat walk away from you rather than toward you.

While this method may be a bit more difficult, it also looks more impressive. As your rat gets more familiar with the trick, you can raise the hoop higher. Eventually, the rat will perform the desired action even without a treat on the other end. 

Regardless of which method you use, you can experiment with placing the hoop at different heights and lengths. Rats can jump up to three feet in the air and can jump four feet horizontally. Remember to give your rat a treat right away after completing the jump, so they associate jumping through the hoop with a reward. 


Ready to give it a shot? You can teach your rat any or all of these tricks and more! While you’re training, remember always to reward your rat after performing a trick successfully. Be sure not to train the rat for too long at once. They can easily get tired after 10 or 15 minutes of rigorous training.

Finally, don’t forget to be patient. Just as humans need time to learn new skills, it can take rats a while, too. Rats respond best to positive reinforcement and rewards, not punishments, so always be patient and kind when training your furry friend.

If you and your rat have mastered all of these tricks, you can develop some new ideas by yourself. Rats have learned to recognize their own names, clap, sit on their owner’s shoulder, spin around, and more. Just keep in mind that rats are best at performing simple tricks, not complex ones.

For example, it might be challenging to teach a rat to roll over, jump through a hoop, and shake your hand in that specific order, but a rat could easily do one of those tricks alone. Be creative! Rats can do a wide variety of tricks. Before you know it, your pet rat will be a superstar!