Even between the unlikeliest of species friendships will sometimes form. You might see snapshots of dogs snuggling with cats or ducks snuggling with pigs going viral on the internet. So, what about rats and dogs? Can you have both in the same household? Sure, anything is possible – it really depends on a lot of factors – most of which are not in your hands.
What kind of dog do you have? Remember that many dogs, especially terriers, were bred especially to hunt small critters and rodents. It may be in your dog’s biology to hunt your pet rat. A rat terrier and a rat under the same roof will make for an unhappy household all around. The rat will be constantly anxious as will the dog who (hopefully) cannot catch her prey.
Even if you don’t have a dog that has hunter ancestry in her genes sometimes that hunting instinct gets turned on when a small, wiggly little creature enters the picture. Dogs just like to run after tiny, moving, hairy objects! We often forget because we don’t intend harm how the size of our dogs can be so intimidating to a rat. Even a small dog can be at least five times the size of a rat. This imbalance can make a rat fearful and aggressive, posing a danger to both animals.
Most dogs are highly curious especially when a new animal enters the home. The dog wants to sniff at it, discover what it is, and possibly get in a paw swipe and a lick. This can be terribly confrontational to a poor rat who is just getting adjusted to new surroundings. While rats themselves can be friendly, they can cause serious injuries to an over-curious canine.
How to Introduce Them to Each Other
We’re sure you’ve already thought of this, but it must be said! Under no circumstances should the rat be left unprotected. A rat needs a large cage, preferably one that is built to be elevated off the floor. Keep the rat in this cage and see how your dog reacts to the rat. If the dog is too active and energetic, you will need to move the rat into a closed off room.
Small dogs are more often the vermin hunters but big dogs will be able to knock down the cage. For this reason, it’s best to have a dedicated safe space for the rat. Once your dog gets accustomed to the sight and smell of a rat in the house you can move the cage into the same room. However, it’s best to keep them separated when no one is at home to monitor them.
Don’t Expect Too Much
Sure, there are anomalies to the natural order of things, but it’s best to not desire or expect a comfortable friendship between your rat and dog. It might be even too much to expect an uneasy truce. More than likely, you’ll have to keep the two separated. If you happen to be one of those lucky few who have a rodent-canine love story in the making, you’ll be an immediate Insta and Facebook star!
By Gabrielle Allemeier
PetHelpful: How to Protect Your Pet Rat from Dogs
Dogster: 5 Tips for Helping Dogs and Pet Rats Get Along
About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.