Pet Rats Burying Their Food: Is There A Reason Why?


Pet rats are quite interesting animals if you think about it and they have a lot of human-like traits.

They love to groom themselves, they need to socially interact with other rats, they love to play, sometimes they need their own space and they love food!

So, do pet rats bury their food? Pet rats will bury their food out of instinct and for certain circumstances like a sudden change in their cage, a change in food level, or old age.

So, do all pet rats bury their food? Why do they bury their food, are they trying to hide it from the other rats in the cage?

Do All Pet Rats Bury Their Food?

They love food so much that sometimes they decide to save a little bit for later. Even if they have never been short on food in their entire life.

Burying their food, which is also known as food hoarding, is completely normal behavior for pet rats. Most rodents engage in food hoarding from time to time.

A lot of people know squirrels and other wild rodents do it during the winter and pet rats are no exception, even if they are domesticated. It’s in their DNA.

You should keep in mind certain pet rats might be hoarders and others simply may not be the same. Not every pet rat likes to bury their food. And other pet rats might do it only under certain conditions.

Some of your pet rats might love to do it, regardless of the scenario they are living in. All pet rats may bury their food, but it’s not a sure thing.

Sometimes they go throughout their entire life without burying a single treat, only to find out they start food hoarding in the later stages of their lives.

There are no sure ways to know whether your pet rat will eventually bury their food, it’s always a possibility.

Why Do Pet Rats Bury Their Food?

There are two sets of reasons as to why pet rats, or rodents in general, might feel the need or the instinctive impulse to bury their food.

The first one is merely evolutionary, it was influenced by thousands of years of rodent behavior. The second is circumstantial, influenced by the things that are going on around them daily.

The First Reason

Even though some rats have become domesticated, they lived in the wild for thousands of years.

If a rat wanted to survive out in the wild, it had to bury any excess food it may have found just to make sure it would have no problem eating later on.

For example, we can witness this type of behavior nowadays in squirrels who bury nuts and recover them after a long time. All rodents do the same, even pet rats.

Your pet rat is not thinking about a food shortage that will happen later on. Something makes their instincts kick in and they feel the need to bury food, so that’s what they do.

The Second Reason

The second set of reasons is not evolutionary, but circumstantial. It’s what makes the pet rats’ instincts kick in to start hoarding food.

It could be for several reasons:

  • Too much food.
  • Too little food.
  • A sudden change in their cages.
  • Stress from worrying about food scarcity.
  • Overpopulation in their cage.
  • Old age.

It could literally be anything that makes your pet rats stressed, even though sometimes it happens for no discernible reason at all.

Simply put, pet rats bury their food because it’s an instinctive response they have. They sometimes do it for no other reason. Other times they do it because they are stressed out.

Are They Trying To Hide Food From Their Cagemates?

So if they instinctively bury their food, does that mean that they’re also trying to hide it from the other rats that they live with?

It may seem like they’re trying to, especially when they cover it up with bedding or bury it away from everyone.

Although it may look like this is what they’re doing, you have to remember that rats are social animals that like to work together to get things done.

It would be very unusual for a pet rat to be this selfish and try to hoard everything for themselves.

It wouldn’t make sense in their minds because that particular action would not help the group they’re with.

So most likely when you see this behavior it’s only because it’s one of their natural impulses, and not because they want to keep it all for themselves for later.

Is It Okay For Pet Rats To Bury Their Food?

Well, it depends. You have to try to figure out why your pet rats are burying food before you decide if it’s a good or a bad thing.

As you already know, pet rats sometimes bury food for no other reason than doing it, they can’t control it. It’s an instinctive response.

But whether pet rats hoard food because of an evolutionary trait or not, you should try to see if your pet rats are burying food because they are stressed out and feel something bad is happening.

Try to recall if there were any sudden changes in your pet rat’s life before they started to bury the food. Ask yourself:

  • Did you change their cage?
  • Did you move the cage around?
  • Did you introduce another pet rat into the cage?
  • Did you change food brands?

Something as little as giving them more or less food can turn them into food hoarding rodents. If something happened that triggered their food burying behavior, try to fix the issue and make things go back to normal.

It’s not about whether your pet rats are burying their food or not, but rather why are they suddenly doing it. Are they stressed out or not.

You should look out for disease or illness when your pet rats are burying food.

If your little rodent friends are hoarding food it means they are eating way less than they’re used to, causing weight loss and increasing the chance of disease.

If your pet rats are burying food because you are giving them a bigger portion than before, reduce the amount of food you give them daily.

If they start to bury food because they are getting less food, try to bring the food levels back to normal unless you are trying to fight off obesity.

Should You Try To Stop Your Pet Rats From Burying Their Food?

Let’s say you wanted to stop your pet rats from burying their food, how would you do it?

It’s impossible to tackle this issue head-on and you have to deal with the problems causing them to bury food.

Keep in mind you should deal with it if your pet rats are being negatively impacted by food hoarding.

Generally, rats can be very cleanOpens in a new tab. so if they stay healthy despite their food hoarding hobby, there’s nothing to worry about.

It shouldn’t be an issue as long as the food that’s buried doesn’t go bad. At that point, it would be a health concern.

You should remove the food when you clean the cage, otherwise, nasty odors can come from the rotting food. The rotting food can also increase the chances of your rats getting sick. 

The bottom line is, pet rats burying their food isn’t necessarily bad. But it can bring bad consequences. Make sure your pet rats are burying their food because they feel like burying food, not because they feel stressed.

If they are feeling stressed out, try to fix any issue they may be encountering.

In the meantime, make sure their cage is clean and try to keep any food from rotting inside of it. Keep a good eye on your pet rats, but remember it’s probably nothing to worry about!

Mason

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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