This is a good question.  The answer is maybe; it depends on your pet rat and whether they like water or not.  

If they like to get in the water, then yes, they can learn to swim.  Try your pet rat to see if it likes water and then you can see if they can swim or not.

Can a Pet Rat Swim?

Some pet rats love water while others do not but they can learn naturally to swim.  It mainly depends on how you introduce your pet rat to water and if they want get in and learn to swim.

Do All Pet Rats Love Water?

When you introduce your pet rat to water, make sure that you introduce them to the water slowly.  Every pet rat has its own personality so it all depends on each particular pet rat whether they like water or not.  If they do not like water, a pet rat will stay far away from it as possible.  They will also show their displeasure for water.  

Introducing Your Pet Rat to Water

Pet rats are built to be excellent swimmers but some will view swimming as a stressful activity.  Introducing them to water is a very slow, patient process.  Pet rats are small so water can seem terrifying for them, especially if it is a huge area of water. 

When starting, make sure that you use a small container with a bit of water.  It could be a plate or a shallow bowl.  Let your pet rat walk around in the shallow water so they can feel how it feels on their paws and get used to it.  Allow them to play in the water and let them take their time.  Do not rush them.

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They might squeal just to make sure we hear it as pet rats can communicate with each other without squealing.  If your pet rat makes a high pitch squeal, it means they are trying to talk to you.  They are also demonstrating that they are stressed about something or their displeasure.

rat in a cup

Some pet rats will give you a phantom bite or go stiff if you try to get them near or in the water.  A phantom bite is where they make a biting motion toward you but they will bite the air and not you.  If they are showing any of these signs, do not force them.  At no time or under any circumstances should you force them into the water.

You can leave a dish of water in their play area, in the cage, or nearby and let them come to the dish of water if they want.  Pet rats are naturally curious so the new object may be interesting to them.  After a time, they may come to the water and you will know if your pet rat enjoys it or not. 

It is important if they signal that they do want to go in the water that you let them discover it and try it themselves when they feel ready.  Some may never come near the water.

If they seem to be enjoying the water, you can play with them by dripping some water on them.  Always pay attention to your pet rat to make sure they are not getting stressed out.  As they get used to being in the water, you can start to move to larger containers.  Give your pet rat someplace where it is dry so they can have a safe place to get away from the water.

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Once they are used to the bigger dish of water, you can find some toys for rats that you can put in the dish of water if there is room.  You can also put a ramp up to the water to make it easier to get in and out of the container.  Take a few frozen peas and put them in the water so they can fish them out.   

rat on a stick

Teaching Your Pet Rat to Swim

If you want to teach your pet rat to swim, one way to do this is to let them fish for peas.  Pet rats enjoy peas.  Start with a small bowl of water that is deep enough so they will have to submerge the front paws and head to fish for the peas from the bowl.  As your pet rat gets used to it, you can move to bigger bowls.  You can use any type of treat that they like that will float around or sink to the bottom of the dish for them to swim for.  It could even be a small ball that when swimming, they can roll around in the water.  Before you get to this step, you have to make sure that they are comfortable being in the water.

Safety First

Once your pet rat has learned to swim, do not leave it alone while it is swimming. Stay close in case it should suddenly forget how to swim or starts to stress out.  You also want to be near to help them out of where they are swimming if there is no way for them to get out on their own.  If your pet rat starts to let out sharp squeals, it is telling you that for some reason it is panicking and you should take it out of the water.  Dry it off and let it relax in its cage to de-stress.

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Conclusion

  • A pet rat does not necessarily need a bath but if they like water, you can fill a basin with water so they can clean themselves.
  • Rats in general are natural swimmers.
  • The wild cousins of your pet rat, the brown rat, learn at an early age to swim naturally.
  • Some rats in the wild even look for their food in the water.
  • When you are teaching your pet rat to like water and learn to swim, let them do it at their own pace.
  • If your pet rats enjoy swimming, fill your tub with enough water to enable them to swim and let them enjoy themselves. 
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