If you own a rat, you know how surprisingly difficult it can be to keep it in its cage. You might well think that you can let it out for just a few minutes of playtime, and before you know it you have a fugitive rat on the run.
Even if you try to keep it safe behind its cage, rats are notoriously skilled escape artists. No matter how careful you are, there’s always a chance that it can work its way out again.
When this happens, a rat will typically run loose in your home for a while before suddenly realizing that it is out in the open, exposed to potential predators, and then hide somewhere, which begs the question – how can you find a pet rat that’s hiding?
What do you have to do to make sure it comes back to its cage safe and sound?
1 – Don’t Panic
The worst thing you can do in this situation is start panicking. It won’t help you find your rat, and if anything, the stress will keep you from thinking clearly about where it might have gone.
What’s more, while rats are good at escaping, unless there’s a ready opening to the outside world located close to their cage, it’s rare for them to actually make it all the way outside. Chances are much better that they’re still hiding in your home somewhere.
That said, the first thing you’ll want to do after realizing that your rat is missing is to isolate the area, starting with the space around its cage and moving outward. Close every door, window, and other portal to the outside, and then turn your attention back toward potential rat hiding places.
2 – Where Rats Hide
The three biggest factors that tend to attract rats to a hiding place are shade, shelter, and food.
Favorite rat hiding places include:
- Places outside its cage where you and your rat play, which it may associate with safety
- Dark and damp places, such as bathrooms and sinks
- Dark sheltered spaces beneath furniture
- Basements and lofts
- Kitchens and other places with food
3 – Try Not to Startle it
One big mistake that some rat owners make when trying to recover a rat that’s gone into hiding is to try and scare it out. After all, as long your rat runs free of its hiding place and into your waiting arms, all’s well that ends well, right?
As much as you want to get your rat out of hiding, scaring the rat will only make things worse.
For one thing, a scared rat is a desperate rat, which means it could be a dangerous rat. Remember, as much as your rat may look like a cute and cuddly trained creature, it still has sharp teeth and claws and, when threatened, it will be all too ready to use them.
For another, when flushed out of their hiding space, rats can fly right past your waiting hand.
4 – Minimize Your Rat’s Stress
While you are at it, you’ll want to make sure that any potential cause of stress that may have spooked your rat in the first place is nullified.
It won’t do any good to recapture your rat only to see it escape again because of that cause of stress. You don’t want your rat to be tormented with all manner of loud noises, bright lights, pets hunting them as food, or other things that can make their little tail curl with fear.
Children are another potential cause of rats’ stress. They may think rats are cute, but that doesn’t mean that they always know the best way to treat them.
You should always supervise children when they play with a pet rat or other small mammalian pet. Make sure that they are not doing anything to scare the rat, such as making loud noises or throwing it in the air or otherwise disturbing its equilibrium.
5 – Coax Them Out with Treats
Instead of scaring them and flushing them out of their hiding place, therefore, it’s better to coax them out with the one thing that can persuade rats to leave the safety of their dark hiding place – treats.
The great thing about coaxing out your rat with treats is that it can allow you to be a lot more patient with it. It can be incredibly frustrating, time-consuming, and futile to sit there for hours, waiting for your rat to come out and eat the treat so you can capture it.
Instead, simply leaving some food out in the area in which it is hiding can allow the rat to come out in its own time. Your rat is also bound to be thirsty, so a water dish can also attract it.
Be patient – it’ll be hungry sooner or later, and when it is, it’ll come out to go nibble on the treats, and when that happens, you can catch it.
6 – Try Turning Out the Lights
Remember, some rats are nocturnal, and all rats tend to prefer darker areas to bright ones. If you are struggling to get your rat to come out with the methods above, you might want to consider trying to make your rat even more comfortable by turning off the lights.
That way, there will be less need for your rat to stay in its present hiding space if part of its reason for doing so is because it’s dark.
Once you have finally gotten your rat to come out, the big question becomes how you’re going to catch it. On the one hand, you need to make sure that your rat is captured once and for all, but on the other hand, you don’t want to scare or harm it in the process.
The best way to catch a rat is in your hands. Make sure you don’t “grab” it or press too hard, but rather let the rat come to you and then cup your hands softly around its body.
If your rat is used to you calling it in a “special” way, such as a high-pitched voice, you might try doing that as you coax it toward you and your waiting hands.
Take things slowly, and whatever you do, don’t make any sudden moves that might scare it back to its hiding space.
Prevent Future Escapes
Once you have safely recaptured your rat and returned it to its cage, you’ll want to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again. That means identifying how your rat escaped, addressing the issue, and making sure any other means of escape are sealed off so your rat stays in its cage.
As mentioned, if there are causes of stress that may have caused your rat to try to escape, you’ll want to address that as well.
Eliminating loud noises and other animals that may be worrying your rat is a good first step. You’ll also want to check the bars of the cage to see if there is a hole or weak hinge that let the rat out.
It can be worrying to see that your rat has escaped from its cage, but by following these steps, you can easily recapture it and return it home safe and sound.