Sometimes, rats are caught as wild specimens. While I do NOT recommend attempting to domesticate a wild animal, it has clearly been done in the past; where else did our domesticated rats come from?
Domesticating a rat can pose a wide array of problems, health issues, and dangers to you, your family, and your home. On the flip side, orphaned or injured animals might die without human intervention. The decision is yours alone to make; however, just remember that there ARE rescues out there who can take in special rescues from the wild. IF you do have a typical wild rat running around in your home, I advise you to trap the rat with a humane trap. Then, you can release the animal safely into the wild; preferably a few miles away from a home, in a park or wildlife area.
Should I Domesticate a Wild Baby or Adult Rat? How Do I Tame a Wild Rat?
As I stated before, I do not recommend domesticating or keeping a wild animal. You can see the dangers outlined in the next section. If you find yourself with an orphaned or injured animal and you CANNOT find a rescue that is able to care for the animal, it is very possible that you may be his or her only hope. In these extreme situations, it might be necessary when taking one’s conscience into consideration.
If the rat is an orphan, feeding the baby every other hour and assisting it to eliminate through stimulation will quickly help in taming the baby rat. He or she will learn your smell, considering you the motherly figure who feeds and bathes it. However, as the rat ages he or she may display traits that every wild animal might show when domesticated including:
- Being timid/shy/jumpy
- Potential aggression as adulthood sets in
- Unpredictable behavior
- Aggression towards other species
- Fear of other “predator” pets (cats and dogs)
If the rat is an adult, he or she may never completely domesticate. It will display a lot of the above behaviors much more strongly. You risk being bit as you attempt to tame the animal; but if the animal eventually tames and considers you as a safe and loving friend, you may find that even the nicest wild rat will retain a lot of its jumpy and fearful nature. You will need to talk to the rat frequently, and offer it treats from your gloved hand (ensure that you rub the glove with your scent so that the rat smells it). As the rat becomes accustomed to you, try handling the rat. Only after all signs of aggression are gone can you attempt to handle the rat. I still do not recommend this without having the rat seen by a veterinarian. You want to ensure the rat does not carry diseases or parasites that might infect you.
What Are the Risks and Dangers of Housing a Wild Rat?
A wild rat comes with many challenges. First, the rat might attack you. Wild animals, even when “tame”, can turn on their owners in stressful situations. This is exceptionally dangerous with children in the home. Wild animals can also carry a wide variety of parasites and diseases, including rat bite fever. You may also find that they are
rather hard to house. Wild rats, like their domestic cousins, are very intelligent. The difference between the two is that wild rats MUST use their intelligence in order to survive the cruel world. This means that a wild rat may destroy a plastic cage in order to get out, he or she may flee the moment the door opens, or might even figure out how to open the door! This becomes exceptionally dangerous if the rat is aggressive and loses its fear of humans while being held captive. This type of escapee could lunge at you or your family after it escapes and breeds (such as a lactating female).
Can a Wild Rat Hurt My Pet Rats? Is It Safe?
In some situations, a wild rat MAY not harm pet rats. However, you must assume a wild rat will. They may attack and kill your rats due to territorial or gender related aggression, they could attack your dogs or cats, and they could pass on diseases and parasites such as lice and mites to your rats. I would never deem it safe to bring a wild rat into a domestic rat’s cage, no matter how good of a rat you believe the wild one to be. It should always be housed separate, preferably in a different room. Wild rats are FAR more likely to carry dangerous diseases that could harm your pets.
If I Find an Injured, Orphaned, or Scared Wild Rat in My House or In My Yard, What Should I Do?
If you find a rat, you should attempt to trap it. While I NEVER advise killing an innocent animal who wanders into your home, I do not condone allowing it to continue to live in your home. This is not the rat’s natural environment and it is not safe for you, your pets, or the rat. Trapping it allows you to release it in a natural environment so that it may live out its life in peace, away from people. If the animal is injured or too young to be released into the wild, it needs to be taken to an experienced rescue who has dealt with the species previously.