Why Does Your Rat Squeak?

Pet Care


September 4, 2020

At birth, we communicate in a big way. Usually with a welcoming cry to the world. Body language, cooing, more crying, and eventually smiles express our wants and needs.

When a rat is born, they are deaf and blind. They soon begin utilizing sounds, body language, and smells to express themselves as well. Their curiosity and interest in communicating grow with increased movements and sounds, including squeaks.

Interpreting Rat Noises

Rats usually vocalize when someone or something is interacting with them. Their squeaks, chirps, and even their huffs can be adorable! While you can’t hear all of their engaging sounds because the human hearing range is different than rats, what you can hear is expressive. Whether they’re excited or exasperated, various rat noises indicate what they’re experiencing and what they have to say about it. 

Social Animals

Even when humans aren’t around, rats live in communities and appreciate the company of fellow rats. Because wild and domesticated rats are most active at night and frequently sleep during the day, they will respond better if you interact with them in the morning or evening. If they don’t live with a rat companion, they will especially enjoy having playtime with a rotating group of toys in their cage. 

Most rat owners will expound on the many reasons their rodents make excellent pets. They are mischievous, intelligent, and can learn tricks. Domesticated rats can be affectionate family pets. For someone struggling with depression, they can be excellent therapy animals. You can become an effective caretaker by being attentive to the sounds they make. Like you would with a new friend, get to know your rat better by listening.  

Laughing Rats?

The Muppet Show’s Rizzo the Rat continues to inspire countless laughs, but did you know it’s possible to make your rat laugh? Tummy or back tickles may inspire a burst of short, repeated squeaks. That’s their version of laughter. Rats have been observed seeking out further tickles by chasing hands, so many enjoy it. Scientific studies have repeatedly shown these rodents to have this endearing trait. 

Chattering and brief, high pitched squeaking sounds can signal happiness in rats. While it’s unknown whether they have a sense of humor, they may react like a giggling child would while being tickled.

If you play with your rat while they’re young, they will find such interactions highly amusing. Start petting or softly grooming your rat, and they might reward you with gently closed eyes and a joyful chirp.

Just as rats can be tickled as a reward for behaving well, some will squeal with joy while playing hide and seek. Over a few weeks, some rats can learn to hide and how to seek out their owners. They may be silent while hiding and then excitedly react with short rat squeaks when you find them or celebrate when they find you. 

While humans may grind their teeth when they’re stressed, rats may do this when they’re happy. This is called bruxing,and it’s often paired with boggling. Boggling is when a rat’s eyes bounce and wiggle. It can be a disconcerting sight. They can brux when startled or stressed, but it’s usually like a cat’s purr. If they’re relaxed, bruxing and boggling are trusting, sleepy, or otherwise positive expressions.

What’s With the Attitude?

The epitome of a sarcastic rat attitude is embodied in Charlotte’s Web. While he’s not all bad, Templeton is proof that some characters are inspired by real life. Dramatic sounds and a naughty but funny nature are common for rats. Some like shiny objects and live up to the term “pack rat.” They may protest if you try to reclaim the silverware, jewelry, and coins they’ve stashed under your bed.

If you want to make it clear that you’re annoyed or frustrated, sometimes a big sigh of exasperation says it all. A huff sound is your rat’s way of saying the same thing. Give your pet peace and solitude, and they might be in a better mood when you return. You might help your pet rat’s attitude by providing a space where they can retreat for rest and “alone time.”

Longer squeaks, barks, or squeals often indicate they’re scared or injured. These sounds can occur during interactions with other rats if they’re frightened or feel threatened for other reasons. They might see your hand as an intruder, so give them more time to get used to you. Share a few treats to build trust and a positive association. In time your rat’s curiosity will lead it to interact without aggression. 

Stressed or angry rats might make a disturbing screaming or hissing noise. Use caution if you hear this sound as it can be a sign of imminent hostility toward you, another animal, or anything else that might be causing your pet’s anxiety. While rats usually do well paired with another rat or in a group, younger rats might react this way when their older counterparts bully them.

Concerning Sounds

Does your rat make a sound like popping plastic, wheezing, rattling, sneezing, or loud breathing? These sounds may only be a sign of allergies, but a vet visit would be wise. Are odd sounds your rat makes the only symptom, or have you noticed your pet is hiding more, isn’t eating as much, or is acting lethargic? Your rat might be ill, and a professional should check to make sure.

Rats can develop heart conditions, pneumonia, dermatitis, respiratory disease, or other ailments. Listen for rat popping noises similar to Rice Krispies in milk. Other signs of health issues are congestion, eye or ear discharge, vocalizing when alone, hair loss, or excessive scratching. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your rat b holding them often so you can note if they have a fever or feel colder than usual.

If the vet says there are no signs of disease, consider what has recently changed in your rat’s surroundings. Did you get a new pet, use a carpet cleaner, fragrant candle, or perfume? Did you surprise your rat with a new treat? Rats can develop sensitivities or allergies, just like people. Try eliminating one thing at a time for a few days and observe whether doing so makes a difference. 

Keep your pet’s environment as clean as possible as a first step to keeping them healthy. Extreme temperatures, loud noises, improper litter, a crowded cage, stress, or dull surroundings can contribute to a compromised immune system. It’s essential to keep your furry friend’s mind and body active. As you get to know your rat, you’re more likely to notice an unusual sound paired with a physical or behavior change.

Happy and Healthy Rats

Rats like Scabbers in Harry Potter or those portrayed in Banksy’s artwork are best known for their contrary deeds. According to the Chinese Zodiac, those born in “the year of the rat” are deemed optimistic, energetic, and organized. Whether your rat’s reputation leans toward sneaky and wily or is perkier, rats communicate better than many people expect. Form your own mini “rat pack” by getting to know your little buddy.

Listening to your precious rat companion over the years is sure to bring you joy. Do your best to keep them healthy and happy by being alert to rat popping noises and other concerning sounds. What better way to celebrate this year of the rat than to bond with your pet? Rats are ready to communicate in a variety of ways if you’re ready to listen.