How Do Rats Show Dominance: How Long Does It Last?

Rats have their own different and outstanding personalities, and having them as pets can be a really great experience.

Their personalities change from one rat to another so some rats are laid-back and outgoing, while others try harder to show dominance.

When rats start to establish dominance it might be slightly confusing because it sometimes can look like they’re fighting too aggressively. So if that’s the case, how do rats really show dominance?

A rat will show dominance by shoving, biting, mounting, and having small fights with each other until one rat proves that they are the alpha rat.

When pet rats start to establish dominance it can be for many reasons like if there are changes to their current environment or if more rats are added to their social group.

No matter what their reason is for going through this dominant behavior, the outcome is always the same.

One rat will be at the top once this behavior is over pretty much all the time.

This type of behavior can last for a while too depending on their personalities.

So if you’re a pet rat owner, it’s a great idea to learn how this process works, why they do it, and at what point you should step in if this dominance behavior gets out of hand.

How Do Pet Rats Show Dominance?

When it comes to how pet rats establish dominance, it starts by understanding their positions in these social groups.

In their hierarchy, there is an alpha rat in charge of the entire social group. They can help make things run smoothly and without as much conflict as possible.

Determining dominance in their hierarchy is not always an easy journey though.

When rats meet each other for the first time, especially if there is a new addition of rats, they will have to establish their pecking order.

Which usually means they will have to try to prove who is the alpha. When rats try to establish dominance they will:

  • Have small scuffles.
  • Mount each other.
  • Shove and bite each other.
  • Start grooming one another.

A lot of small fights can happen, and the rats will start to battle it out. If you are a newer pet rat owner, it can seem like they’re trying to breed with each other when they start mounting.

However, it’s just another way of establishing dominance. The fighting rats will shove, bite, and groom each other, and when they do that you’ll usually hear a lot of loud crying or squeaking.

You can notice these types of behavior quickly because most rats will stick out their hair on their coats when this is happening.

Grooming is another typical way for a rat to show dominance over the others.

The rat that is getting groomed will usually make little squeaking noises, struggle, but then they’ll eventually surrender.

Rats that resist some of these advances can be bullied or fought into submission through kicking, biting, and pinning.

This kind of intensity and potential fighting can lead to new bonds and social groups.

When dominance is established, it helps them live together peacefully and happily.

So, you shouldn’t be too concerned if you see these things happening in your pet rat family.

Why Do Pet Rats Try To Show Dominance?

Rats are a fantastic family and establish social groups that set up their hierarchy, and each rat eventually knows their place in that family.

When the hierarchy is stable, it can be very peaceful, but that social structure can change for many reasons.

And your rats can start trying to establish dominance for the first time or all over again.

Some factors that can lead to rats trying to show dominance are:

  • The addition of new rats.
  • Illnesses within the group.
  • New changes to their environment.
  • A surge of hormones.

They thrive well and in harmony when they have mates and have an alpha rat that runs the social group or is at the top position in the hierarchy.

Dominant alpha rats have power and will show what they can do. For example, they will keep some other rats away from things that they like or value the most.

In some cases, they’ll forbid other rats to have access to mating partners and sometimes even food.

These rats will also behave aggressively towards juvenile rats that they feel can overthrow them soon or later on in their lives.

When that happens, the juvenile rats will usually wait for their own dominating moments or age to come.

A good alpha rat can also show dominance by not fighting for food or mating partners, but by settling disputes in the social groups.

The more submissive ones will know that they can’t win, so they will have to eventually give up.

Is Establishing Dominance A Normal Behavior For Pet Rats?

Establishing dominance is a normal behavior seen in a lot of different animals that we keep as pets, and rats are the same way.

This hierarchy leads to the formation of different relationships among social groups, and those in charge have to be respected.

This dominance helps pet rats coexist peacefully with each other in their environment.

Sometimes there can be a lot of fights and threats over the things that are available.

Things like their food, shelter, and even their mates have to be shared within the social group.

So when it comes to those things, the dominant rat can help ensure that their group is moving together in the right way.

Establishing dominance is very important and it helps with the preservation and stability within their social groups.

How Long Does The Fight For Dominance Last Between Rats?

It can sometimes be hard to figure out how long their fight for dominance will last.

Every rat and the current situation that they’re in are different, but usually, the fight for dominance can last anywhere from a few days and in some cases a few weeks.

The fighting starts simply as play fighting when the rats get old enough to begin interacting with their mates or siblings.

These fights can help later when they start trying to establishing dominance.

Some adult rats may continue to play fight and this is more common among sibling groups than in mixed social groups.

However, when it starts to get aggressive, it can sometimes become very bad because it can escalate into serious fights and injuries.

Dominant rats may stay calm and tolerate these types of situations to show they’re still in charge.

But if things get too out of hand, these rats may need to be separated until they can sort out their issues.

Because if these small situations go unresolved it can easily turn into bullying.

So even though it can sometimes be hard to tell if your pet rats are playing or fighting, that should not be confused with actual fights for dominance.

Should You Stop Your Rats From Fighting For Dominance?

If your pet rats keep aggressively fighting, chasing, shoving, or mounting each other without stopping even after they get tired, then something needs to be done.

So if you notice that your pet rats are starting to get aggressive for longer periods of time, it’s a good idea to try to interrupt or distract them until they calm down.

When the more submissive rat doesn’t surrender when they start to face-off a full-blown fight might break out.

However, if the submissive rat allows the dominant one to prove their point, their chasing and conflict will be over without you having to step in.

But if the aggressor is not satisfied and starts to bully the other rat, it’ll be time to intervene.

At that point, you can decide if you want to separate them for a while or try using the split cage method.

Most of these types of situations are just normal behavior and they usually resolve themselves over time.

So if they aren’t being too aggressive and one rat is claiming dominance without much of a problem, then there is really no need for you to intervene.

Once everything is established, pet rats will start to become more affectionate with each other and even their owners as time goes on.

So it’s actually very important to leave them alone and stay away from them when they are trying to establish dominance.

That way their social structure or hierarchy can be set without too many issues.


Hi, I'm Mason, I've kept small animals as pets since I was 8 years old. I love to learn and talk about them basically every day. Over the years I've adopted small pets like hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs.

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