What sound does a rat make, and what do their noises mean to each other?
Despite a long reputation as pests and test animals, domesticated rats are rising in popularity as family pets all around the world.
In fact, rats make intelligent, affectionate, and even therapeutic companion animals, utilizing their love for attention and their ability to learn tricks to earn them a warm, cozy bed and lots of tasty, cheesy treats.
If you’re a rat owner, then you already know how wonderful these sweet pets can be.
If you’re not, learn more about the rat and his role as a household pet here.
Whether you already own a rat or you are interested in acquiring one, chances are you know they squeak.
We see it in movies and cartoons, read about squeaky rodents in books, and listen to them chirp away in pet stores.
What Sound Does A Rat Make?
Rats have been found to make a combination of sounds depending on how they are feeling or what is going on with them.
If you listen carefully, you’ll be able to understand what your pet rat is saying to you.
Let’s learn more about the kinds of sounds rats make and why.
What Do Baby Rats Sound Like?
According to a study published by Jaak Panksepp in the Animal Ethics Reader, baby rats love to play, and they communicate through elaborate, high-pitched squeals and squeaks.
These baby rat sounds are often so high we as humans are unable to hear them!
This is why many people are confused about the answer to, “Do baby rats make noise?”
Just like human children, studies found that baby rats use play vocalizations much more frequently than adult rats, although adult rats do use the same play squeaks from time to time.
And just like adult rats, baby rat noises vary to communicate how they feel.
What Does a Rat Squeak Sound Mean?
A squeaking rat can mean several things.
Short, high pitched squeaks usually mean play.
Long, consistent squeals can mean your rat is in distress or is unhappy about a current situation.
And sometimes, consistent chattering can be a symptom of a serious illness.
What Does a Rat Bruxing Sound Mean?
Bruxing is when your rat is grinding his teeth, thus making something of a vibrating sound that is akin to the purring of a cat.
And just like a cat, when your rat is making this ‘purring’ sound, it means he’s quite content.
Often, bruxing is accompanied by boggling, which is exactly what it sounds like—your rat is boggling his eyes.
In other words, he is happily popping his eyes in and out!
Youtuber Cakes1toDough1 posted a video where you can hear bruxing and see boggling in all its hilarious glory.
Why Do Rats Make Chirping Noises?
Rats make chirping noises during head or body grooming.
Similar to cats, they enjoy being groomed and fawned over.
Gentle grooming feels good to them and is a sign of affection.
What Sound Does A Rat Make When Scared?
Scared rats make a number of noises that can easily be mistaken for play sounds.
Determining which noises mean what should help you to better understand when your rat is in distress.
Long squeaks that are louder and more consistent can mean your rat is fearful or trying to show he is being submissive.
You may hear this sound during your rat’s encounter with another rat or when he feels he is in a stressful situation.
This can also be a sound of protest.
A scared or injured rat may shriek.
This is an unmistakable sound, and you will likely know at once that something is wrong.
This may occur if you have two rats who are fighting or if your rat gets hurt somehow.
He may also shriek if he is very scared and feels he has to earnestly protest something.
Some owners say their rats shriek during vet visits or if they catch their toe on something in their cage.
What Do Happy Rat Noises Sound Like?
Did you know that rats can laugh?
According to National Geographic, a study in 1999 found that rats responded by ‘laughing’ when they were tickled, just like humans!
As previously mentioned, happy rats will also partake in bruxing, which is that purring noise made when they grind their teeth together.
Other happy rat sounds include short, snipped squeaks and chirps.
Rats may even give a happy chattering sound when they see a treat coming their way, such as a slice of cheese.
When Do Rat Noises Become A Concern?
Some pet rats carry a very serious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Mycoplasma pulmonis.
This is an incurable disease passed from mother rats to infant rats during birth.
Some of the most common symptoms of this disease are continuous squeaking and rattling sounds when the rat makes his vocalizations or is simply breathing.
While rats often make noises in response to physical touch, play, food, fear, or pain, a consistently chattering rat may be a sign that something is amiss.
So listen carefully when your rat is ‘talking’ to you.
For the most part, pet rats are silent unless being stimulated in some way.
If your rat is squeaking consistently or breathing loudly, it may be time for a trip to the vet.
How Can I Help Keep My Rat Happy and Healthy?
Pay attention to the sounds your rat is making.
Remember that for the most part, rats are primarily quiet animals, so their sounds almost always mean something.
Whether they are happy or scared, hurt or content, each squeak, chirp, and squeal has its purpose.
Remember, not all sounds are healthy sounds.
What sound does a rat make at your house? Let us know by leaving a comment below!
Jaak Panksepp, Animal Ethics Reader-The Rat Will Play, Chapter 15, Page 102
Jaak Panksepp, Jeff Burgdorf, “Laughing” Rats and the Evolutionary Antecedents of Human Joy? Physiology & Behavior, Volume 79, Issue 3.
Stefan M. Brudzynski, Principles of Rat Communication: Quantitative Parameters of ultrasonic Calls in Rats, Behavior Genetics, Volume 35, Issue 1, Pages 85-92
Jason Bittel, Watch What Happens When Scientists Tickle a Rat, Weird & Wild, National Geographic