Pet Rats And Swimming: Answering The Common Questions.

If you’ve just brought your pet rats home for the first time or have had them for a while, the thought of somehow taking them for a swim may have crossed your mind at some point.

On one hand, some owners say their pet rats are scared of and hate swimming. On the other hand, there are a lot of videos online showing pet rats having a good time playing and swimming in the water.

So is swimming right for your pet rat?

To clear up any confusion about pet rats and swimming, I did some research and found and answered the most common questions surrounding the topic.

That way you can have an easier time deciding if you want to take your rat swimming.

Do Pet Rats Like Water?

You may want to introduce your pet rat to the joys of playing in water and swimming, but before you do that, you want to know if the rat would even enjoy it.

The truth is, rats, like humans and other types of animals, have different personalities, so it really depends on the rat as to whether or not it likes water.

Some rats will have a lot of fun splashing around and playing in the water, while other rats will get highly stressed, anxious, and upset.

Additionally, all rats get stressed when they are forced into water or forced to stay in it against their will.

An excellent way to tell if your rat is enjoying the water is through its expression. Rats do not show their emotions in their faces like humans, but rather their ears.

According to recent studies, when rats are happy, their ears will often turn pink (or pinker), and their ears will begin to relax and hang loosely at their sides.

If you notice any of these signs, your rat is probably enjoying his or her time in the water.

On the other hand, if your rat seems tense or is showing signs of struggle, you should take them out of the water and give them a rest as they are probably not a water-lover.

Do Pet Rats Like To Swim?

If your rat likes to play in the water, there is a good chance it will want to swim.

To figure this out, you should slowly increase the amount of water your rats have access to and continue to watch them for signs of joy and stress.

As long as your rat keeps looking happy, you can keep increasing water until there is enough depth for it to paddle around. If your rat begins to seem stressed, lower the water level a little bit and give them time to adjust.

If your rat has never been in the water before, they may show signs of stress in the beginning but still eventually be a lover of water.

More than likely, your rat will love to swim, and if they don’t like it in the beginning, they probably will eventually.

Do Pet Rats Naturally Know How to Swim?

Rats are naturally excellent swimmers, some so good that they would rather spend their time in the water than on the ground. There are a few reasons why this is true.

  1. First of all, rats can hold their breath for up to three minutes at a time without any struggle. This ability to comfortably hold their breath takes a lot of the stress out of swimming.
  2. Additionally, they have flexible bodies to allow them to maneuver through the water without any challenge.
  3. Finally, they can move their legs and paws very quickly, which will enable them to paddle quickly throughout any body of water.

Not only can rats hold their breath for up to three minutes, but they can tread water for up to three days. Rats have these skills, naturally, for survival reasons.

If a rat fell into a body of water or had to get from one island to another, they would need these skills to carry on, but because they have these skills, a rat could enjoy swimming for recreation along with survival.

How Do You Introduce A Pet Rat To Water?

When introducing a rat to water, slow and steady wins the race. Your biggest goal when introducing your pet rat to water for the first time should be not to stress them out.

Just suddenly placing your rat into your swimming pool will scare them and possibly traumatize them, instead, slowly introduce them to small amounts of water at a time.

You should start with small amounts of water first, possibly just a spoon full, and allow them to explore the water, sniff the water, and splash the water to their heart’s content.

Then you can move up to a small puddle and add the amount of water slowly until they can fully get into it and splash around.

The most important thing to do in order not to scare your rat is to allow them to approach the water by themselves, get in the water on there own, and let them get out whenever they want.

When your rat feels forced into or stuck in something that they are not used to, they will probably panic and associate the water to a stressful situation.

How Do You Get Your Pet Rat to Swim?

Once you have got your rat to the point where they are comfortable in the water, you can move on to getting your rat to swim.

The good news is, your rat most likely has natural instincts that will kick in when they feel swimming is required for survival.

So you do not need to teach a rat how to swim the same way you have to teach a child how to swim.

Instead, you have to get your rat used to using the skills they already instinctively have: existing in deeper water, treading, and swimming.

As you continue on from introducing your pet rat to water to teaching it how to swim, you should continue on in the same way, slow and steady as to not stress them out.

When your pet is used to splashing around in the water, add a little bit more until they can paddle around.

Give them time to get used to this and then add a little more. As long as you continue to watch for signs of stress and go slowly, eventually, your rat will be zipping around a kiddie pool full of water in no time.

Signs Your Pet Rat Likes Swimming

You need to focus on your rat’s expressions and body language to tell whether or not your pet rat likes to swim.

The main signs that your pet rat likes swimming are in their ears. If their ears turn a pink color and relax down against their sides, your rat is happy.

If your rat is happy in the water, then they’ll most likely like to swim. Beyond the ears, you can watch how they react to the water.

If they swim around happily and play around in the water, they are probably having fun.

For a better chance at them liking it, try putting more than one of your rats in the water together. It will probably make them happier because they are social creatures.

Signs Your Pet Rat Does Not Like Swimming

If your rat gets tense or shows signs of struggle, they’re not enjoying their experience swimming.

If they seem to be trying to get out, but can not manage it because they are too panicked, make sure to help them out.

Animals make connections between strong emotions and experiences, as well as locations. S if they connect the water and swimming with danger and panic, you may never get them back into it.

Additionally, if your rat seems to be merely treading water instead of swimming around and playing, they are most likely not enjoying the swim.

What Can Pet Rats Swim In?

If your pet rat really does like to swim, there are many things you can choose from that they can possibly swim in that they’ll enjoy.

Rats can swim in medium to large bowls, pots, pans, and even sinks. If you feel like they would enjoy an even bigger area to swim in, you can try filling the bathtub up slightly.

When filling the bathtub up, don’t fill it up to high. The reason you want to avoid filling it up all the way is because you want them to have spaces where they can rest outside of the water.

You can even have a folded towel near the edge of the water in the bathtub acting as a shoreline.

In some extreme cases, you can even let them swim in a pool. If you let them swim in the pool make sure to be near them because there are little to no places where they can rest.

Letting them swim in the pool is the least recommended out of all the options though.

Should You Dry Your Pet Rats Off After They Swim?

Rats are smaller mammals that have very thin fur and love to stay clean. So drying is essential to keep them from getting a chill, sick, or even dying from sickness.

When your rat starts their swim, or just before, throw a towel in the dryer so it will be warm when they get out. When your pet rat is done swimming or playing in the water, wrap them in a warm towel.

Just make sure the towel is not too hot because you don’t want to hurt your rat with too much heat.

Keep in mind that you need to do more than simply towel dry your rat as any moisture left on their skin could cause problems.

Until your rat is totally and completely dry, keep them out of the cage and wrapped in a towel, near your body heat, or both.

If you live in a warm area and have a contained place to keep your rat outside, you could even hang out outside with them and allow the sun to naturally dry and warm your rat.

Once you are sure your rat is completely dry, you can feel safe placing them back in their cage.

How Often Can Your Pet Rat Swim?

There are a few factors to consider when trying to figure out how often your rat can swim.

First of all, rats are natural swimmers so they can swim for long periods of time if that is needed for their survival, but that does not mean that is what is best for them.

You don’t want to let them swim to the point of absolute exhaustion because that can harm your rat. It can cause them to be physically exhausted and will make their muscles sore.

You should also consider how long they are swimming. Your rat may be able to swim for a few minutes several times a day, but if they swim for 30+ minutes, you should probably give them a more extended break, especially if they are not used to swimming.

In general, your rat should probably not swim more than once a day, and you should never force your rat to swim when they do not want to.

Rats, like most animals, know their own limits really well. If they want to swim, they probably can, but if they want to rest, it would be best to let them.

Additionally, you should only allow them to swim if you have time to dry your rats off thoroughly when they are done.

What Should The Water Temperature Be?

Rats being the small mammals that they are, can be sensitive to sudden changes in body temperature.

So when it comes to what temperature the water should be in, it’s best to have the water room temperature or at the most lukewarm.

Any water that they swim in that is too hot or too cold can affect them in a negative way.

That can make it harder for them to enjoy swimming if they already like it, so be sure to test the temperature before placing them in any water.

How Far Can A Pet Rat Swim?

Rats in the wild can tread water for three days without drowning and swim for miles before they get tired, and rats native to New Zealand can swim from island to island with ease.

So your pet rat could probably swim for hours and be okay, but your rat will probably get tired faster than rats that grew up swimming in the wild.

As long as your rat has the ability to get out of the water, and knows how to, you can let them swim until they get out because your rat knows their own limits better than anyone else could.

If your rat does not know how to get out on its own, you probably should not let them swim for more than a couple hours if they are a new swimmer.

It’s also best to start swimming at shorter periods of time in the beginning, and you should not leave your rats unattended.

You should watch for signs of exhaustion or stress like:

  • Your rat slowing down a lot.
  • Your rat just treading water slowly.

Either can show that your rat is getting tired, and you should help them out of the water.

Can Pet Rats Tread Water? For How Long?

Rats can actually tread water very well when they want to. It’s apart of their natural instincts to do so.

As I stated before, rats can tread water for up to three days given that they have the energy to do so.

The reason that they are such strong swimmers can be traced back to a time when they used to stowaway on boats as humans migrated from continent to continent.

Rats have a lot of stamina so you won’t have to worry too much about your pet rat running out of energy when you let them swim.

Can Pet Rats Swim Underwater? For How Long?

If your pet rat does enjoy swimming you may see them take a quick dive beneath the water.

Rats can swim underwater and have been known to be able to hold their breath for about three minutes.

The time they can stay under varies with each rat. You have to take how long they’ve been swimming into account and also how much experience they have.

That way you don’t take any chances and can get the most accurate number for your individual rat.

Is It Safe For Pet Rats To Swim?

Yes, it is entirely safe for rats to swim as long as you introduce your rat to swimming in a safe, controlled way. Introduce your rat to water before you allow them to swim in deeper waters.

Your rat should have instinctual skills that will keep them safe even if they don’t like swimming.

Despite this, you should never leave your rat unsupervised, especially in the beginning, because if your rat becomes too panicked, their instinctual skills may not matter.

It is even safe for your rat to swim underwater if they want to for longer then you may be comfortable as rats can hold their breath for a lot longer than you can.

As long as you give your rat a way to get in and out of the water on their own, then it is entirely safe.

The most important thing is making sure your rat is comfortable. You don’t want them to associate water with negativity.

Even if you know they are safe swimming, your rat may not always feel that way if they are stressed, or you force them into the water.

Each Pet Rat Is Going To React Differently To Swimming

All pet rats have different personalities, so whether or not your pet rat likes to swim depends on their preferences.

If you’re introducing them to water for the first time remember to do it slowly and watch for any signs of joy or stress to see if this should be an activity that can be continued.

If your rat likes to swim or is already experienced in swimming, it’s still important to watch over them will they have fun playing in the water.

Also keep in mind that just because wild rats are able to swim for long distances and hold their breath underwater for up to three minutes, that doesn’t necessarily mean your pet rat can do the same.

Keeping safety first in mind while they swim will ensure that your pet rat has a great time swimming, and you’ll also have a fun time watching them.


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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