If you own a pet rat, then you’ll soon begin to learn and recognize their own unique set of ways and behaviors. But what about peeing? Why do they do this and what does it mean? I decided to do some research on the topic to find out all about it and why they may take to doing so.
So, in answer to your question: “why does my rat pee on me?” Rats pee on people and items for several reasons. Firstly, they pee on things to mark their territory; it is primarily a marking behavior and is more common in male rats at adolescent age. Rats will also pee to familiarize themselves within a new environment. Lastly, they may even pee out of nervousness, stress, or anxiety – this is most likely to occur in young rats or when you first get them.
It’s important to try and identify why your rat may be peeing on you as this can help you to alleviate it going forward.
Questions you can ask to help you identify the cause are: how long have you had your rat? What sex/age is your right? Is your rat young? Do they pee on just you or other people?
Nonetheless, rats, like most rodents, are known to urinate a lot. For this reason, it’s helpful to be prepared in advance; having appropriate towels and items nearby to clean up any mess.
Let us now take a closer look at this behavior, and answer some of the most commonly asked and related questions on the topic.
Causes of Urination In Rats
Rats are known to urinate frequently and often; its atypical and normal behavior. It is in fact a way that they interact with their environment.
There are actually several different causes which we will discuss below:
Perhaps the most common cause of rat urination is marking. A rat may be peeing on you, or other items and things, to place down a scent. This is to communicate to other rats.
A rat’s pee actually contains a considerable amount of information that other rats can detect. This includes their age, sexual maturity, social status, and even stress levels.
Even if you own a single pet rat, this behavior is instinctual and never truly goes away.
For the most part, if a rat is peeing to mark, it will generally be very small amounts and not overly smelly.
Now that we know that rat pee contains a lot of information about the rat that laid it, we can understand another reason why rats partake in this behavior.
On a similar note, both adult male and female rats will leave drops of urine as a way to advertise their sexual availability to other rats.
Urine marks can show how fertile the rat is; both in terms of hormones (testosterone for males, in heat for females) and also the other health issues that can affect reproduction (such as if the rat has tapeworms or another parasitic infection).
Again, it is socially dominant adult males that pee the most to express their sexual availability.
It comes as no surprise to learn that if a female rat is nearby, they are likely to lay pee more often (this is as their testosterone peaks). Equally, this is why neutered rats pee less.
While females are known to pee less than males; they still partake in this behavior. This is usually done the night before they go into heat (every 4 days) and also if they can detect a male rat nearby.
So of course, it could depend on when you hold your rat, and if any other rats are nearby that they pee on you.
Your rat also may pee on you as a way of becoming familiar with you. Rats like their environment to smell like them, and this helps them to become comfortable and confident in their surroundings.
In this way, a rat is likely to pee with each new encounter or be in a location/area for the first time. This is why you may have noticed your rat peeing on new toys or objects that you put in their cage.
Peeing is a way that a rat can understand and help navigate its landscape.
It helps them to learn where they are and where they have been. So, if you were to move an item or object in their cage, they may even re-mark and pee on it all over again.
Rats have a strong sense of smell and are able to detect and follow any odor trails that they may have purposely laid and put down.
The final likely reason that your rat is peeing on you is out of stress or fear. This is likely to occur in a young rat, one that is just brought home or one that is not comfortable in your presence/hands/or the way they are being held.
With this in mind, you should consider your approach around them and how you are currently holding them.
Are you making your rat nervous? Are you approaching them too quickly, holding them inappropriately or too tightly?
Instead, you should let your rat come to you and show you that they are ready to be held, taken out of the cage or that they are comfortable in your presence.
Of course, confidence will build in time but you need to be careful, to begin with.
Placing a small treat in your hand and letting your rat come to you is a good approach in this scenario.
Is Pet Rat Pee Dangerous?
For the most part, urine from a pet rat does not pose a risk as a health hazard.
If your rat is healthy, well taken care of, and cleaned regularly, there is no reason in why your rat’s pee should pose a significant risk to your well-being.
That being said, urine, along with feces, is the most likely way a virus or bacteria can be transmitted to you.
This is only really like to occur if you were to ingest it (take it into the body by swallowing or absorbing it).
While most rat urine will not be contaminated with viruses, you should still be careful and treat it as if it could prove dangerous. Prevention is always better than cure!
In this way, you need to wash your hands as soon as you can after your rat has peed on you.
You should also be sure not to touch your mouth after handling your rat; especially if there is a chance of urine being transferred over to you.
Equally, it is important that you do not cross-contaminate towels and items that may have rat pee on them.
Only use specific towels around your rat and be sure to clean them regularly and thoroughly.
Be sure to clean and wash up after your rat and wherever they may have been.
Beyond this, if you ever suspect illness in your rat, be sure to contact a vet immediately. They will be able to advise the appropriate next course of action.
How Do You Get My Rat To Stop Peeing On Me?
Whether you can stop your rat peeing on you is a topic of much debate among pet rat owners.
Some claim that rats are very receptive to potty training whereas others accept that this is in their nature and there is little you can do outside of being prepared.
Equally some rats may stop peeing on you as they become familiar with you, age or even following neutering.
Nonetheless, there are some things that you can do to help minimize the amount or frequency of your rat peeing on you. These are:
- Do not hold your rat for too long; your rat may need to release themselves after a certain amount of time. They will not hold their bladder, even for you as their loving owner. So, be sure to only hold them for a suitable amount of time before returning them to the cage.
- Hold them at appropriate times; equally, you are going to want to only hold them when they are ready. Approach them slowly, be sure that they want to be held and try not to scare them as you do. Hold them gently. Never attempt to hold them when they are eating, following the consumption of a lot of water, or following a nap.
- Install a Corner Toilet in the cage; is perhaps the best thing you can do. This will help to train your rat to pee in the corner of the cage and not anywhere else. This way, they are likely to pee before you pick them up. Try to keep the cage accessible during playtime (making the use of ladders from the floor to the cage). All you need to buy here is a Litter Pan (this is a great one on Amazon) and some potty training litter (this is the one to buy on Amazon).
Consider that if you let your rats free roam in your home, they are likely to mess all over it! It is recommended that if you are going to let your rats out of their cage to roam you do so in a concealed space, like a particular room.
From there, you can always cover furnishings with fleeces, towels, and bath mats to protect them and enable you to wash them afterward.
Its generally advised to place these in the corners of the room. Keep an eye on your rats while they are out roaming and if they begin to pee, return them to the cage.
Ultimately, there is no way to train a rat to hold its bladder. But, you can manage this behavior and attempt to limit where they go.
Rats, like many other rodents, are known to pee a lot.
Unfortunately, this is just the way it is.
It’s an instinctual purposeful behavior that they do as a way of interacting and navigating their environment and other rats.
That being said, you should always ensure that they are not peeing out of anxiety or stress. This is perhaps the area that you are in the most control of.
Some owners notice that peeing slows down in time; as rats age and become familiar with you. Neutering also has a beneficiary effect.
That being said, many owners resort to using blankets and towels when it comes to picking up and playing with their rats. It is inevitable somewhat.
Never forget to wash your hands after handling, even if they did not directly pee on you.
Lastly, attempt to identify why your rat may be peeing on you – it will give you the highest chance of stopping if not reducing this behavior.
Rats may pee as they walk to create a trail. Rats pee to scent where they have been and this can be used to help them to find new areas/and locate where they have been.
Rats pee on food as a way of finding out what should, can and is safe to eat. This behavior is to prevent the risk of eating toxic or dangerous food. Rats will often eat at sites that other rats have eaten (and peed on) – showing that it is safe to consume.
Rats pee on each other as a way of interaction. Female rats will pee on males to express they are interested in them sexually. They typically urinate on male rats with higher testosterone. Male rates will urinate on all females, regardless of whether they are in heat or not. Dominant males will also pee on subordinates as a way of showing dominance in the social hierarchy
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.