Does Your Rat Want To Be Petted?
“Well, she lets me, so she's okay with it, right?”
Hmm, maybe, but maybe not.
Some notes about dogs as a way to approach this . . .
Of course we can pick up our rat and, if the rat is generally handleable - not aggressive or very shy - the rat tolerates it. But does the rat like this?
- What is the rat's body language telling you?
- Does she choose to stay in place and accept your touching, or does she prefer to hop off and go exploring instead?
- Does she voluntarily approach you and want to hang out near your hands, and touch them?
Below are a few of Eileen's videos examining dogs sometimes saying “Yes” and sometimes saying “No”. We can bring our awareness to a rat's behaviors, from moment to moment.
Eileen Anderson has some great clicker and other training videos on eileenanddogs YouTube, and extensive, thoughtful, and thought-provoking articles on positive and problemmatic training methods, on eileenanddogs, her blog.
(Material hosted with permission by Eileen Anderson. Grateful thanks to Eileen for supporting pet rat owners to learn about the science of animal behavior.)
Two dogs, one says Yes, the other says No. Above, Eileen demonstrates a “Consent Test” for petting. "A Consent Test is a way to tell if a dog likes something. It’s very simple. If you cause the activity to stop, does the dog take action to make it start again?"
A Consent Test - what a great idea to use with pet rats.
Above, Eileen strokes Clara, we get to watch Clara's very visible body language indicating she likes to be petted. Except - so interesting! Even though Clara wags her tail near the end, Eileen tells us she is saying "No More". However, Eileen, who calls herself a "stupid human" for not respecting Clara's "No", keeps stroking. Clara gives other body language signals for "No," and then rises up to leave.
What might have happened if Eileen had ceased the petting sooner? Would Clara have rested happily in place?
What I take away from this video that relates to pet rats: Less Might Be More, and, my rat will always give me body language about what she does and does not like. It's up to me to pay attention and respect her Yes and No.
What's special about the Nina video above? I would not just rock a rat in this exact way, but whatever I do, touch-wise, I would watch to see if the rat's body language is telling me she likes my touch, or she does not. If she does not, I'll refrain from that kind of touch and try another form of touch.