Are Rats Nocturnal?

By nature, rats are nocturnal animals. In the wild, they tend to be more active at night. While this is also true of domesticated rats, your pet rat may not have exactly the same sleeping patterns as a rat naturally would.

Let’s learn about rats’ sleeping habits, including:

  • If rats come out during the day
  • What rats do at night
  • How much noise rats make at night
  • What attracts undomesticated rats to your home
  • The difference between rats as pests and rats as pets

Do Rats Come Out During the Day?

Wild rats prefer to come out at night, but it’s not impossible to see them during the day. Generally, rats come out of their burrows when there’s less activity – less noise, fewer humans walking around, etc. Nighttime is usually the quietest time of day, so rats wait until then to come out.

Domesticated rats sleep a lot during the day, but they also love playing and being sociable. So if you wake your pet rat up to play or cuddle, it will gladly give up some sleep to pay attention to you! Pet rats also differ from wild rats because they have a lot of energy during twilight hours. Pet rats aren’t as strictly nocturnal as their wild counterparts for this reason. 

What Do Rats Do at Night?

While most rats are nocturnal, some domesticated rats are crepuscular, meaning they’re active during twilight. Because they’re awake for part of the day to play and interact with you, they might sleep during part of the night to make up for it. But even crepuscular pet rats will be awake at some time during the night.

In the wild, rats like to search for food and shelter during the night. They like to eat at dusk and just before dawn, however, rather than coming out in the middle of the night. Rats also have teeth that don’t stop growing, so they’re constantly looking for something to chew on. Rats are social creatures that live in large groups in the wild, where the most dominant members of the group defend their food shelter. This may force some rats to look for food and shelter during less ideal, more active hours, like daytime.

Do Rats Move Around at Night?

Wild and domesticated rats like to move around at night. Even if your pet rat is in its cage, it may still play, chew, climb, eat, or drink in the middle of the night, which can make noise. You don’t have to be awake to keep your pet rat entertained, but it might make enough noise to keep you up if you’re a light sleeper and the cage is in your room.

Does seeing one rat during the day mean there’s large rats populations around?

One myth about pesty rats is that seeing one rat during the daylight hours means there’s a whole group of them nearby. In truth, individual rats may move around during the day, and they’re more visible during the day. But only seeing one isn’t a good indication of a nearby population. What will really help you identify a group of rats is other signs such as burrows, droppings, or damage. 

What Attracts Rats to Your Home?

Many people think that rats are only attracted to dirty or rundown buildings and homes. If you have one or more rats in your home, it’s not a sign of poor sanitation. Rats will live in environments they can find food, including along streams and in sewers. They’ll also find their way inside well-maintained properties if they find a food source such as pet food, birdseed, fruit trees, or gardens. 

In addition to food, rats in the wild are always looking for shelter. They can hide in thick landscaping, such as mulch piles, or in sheds and garages full of clutter. Rats will also look for crawlspaces and under-deck areas.

You can keep rats from making your house or yard their new home by sealing food in containers, cleaning out clutter from outdoor spaces like garages and sheds, and putting outdoor garbage bags in secure metal bins.

Rats: Pests or Pets?

A pair of rats sleeping

Most people consider rats pests – unwelcome visitors and a sign that their home or building is dirty. It’s hard for these people to imagine that rats also make great pets. Rats are intelligent and playful and very good at keeping themselves clean when they live in a clean, bacteria-free environment. As a pet owner, you can also give your pet rat the occasional bath when needed. Undomesticated rats groom themselves like cats, but if they’re hurt or sick they might stop. Wild rats are also more prone to be in areas full of bacteria. 

Another major difference between wild and domesticated rats is that domesticated rats have a nutritious, plentiful diet, whereas wild rats scrounge for food. As a result, wild rats are more willing to eat food that may contain bacteria, and their feces or urine can contaminate shelves, counters, and food products. 

Domesticated rats are usually kept in a home cage and enclosed areas as well. You don’t want a rodent on the loose in your house – wild or domesticated – because it will chew through as much as it can.

Rats can be bothersome pests and if you see an unwelcome rat in your home you should not try to adopt it and make it your pet. You can’t be sure where the rat’s been or what it’s gotten into and it may be carrying illnesses.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a rat for a pet at all. If you’re interested in having a pet rat, you should adopt one from a reputable breeder. Rats from a good breeder will be healthy, plus the breeder can give you tips on caring for your rat.

One thing wild and domesticated rats do have in common is being nocturnal. Although, wild rats may be nocturnal to a greater degree than domesticated rats.

Final Thoughts on Nocturnal Rats

Rats can be considered nocturnal creatures. Whether the rat is domesticated or not, it will tend to be active during nighttime hours. If you want to adopt a pet rat, you should know beforehand that it will be awake for at least part of the night.

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