Many pet owners have heard of dog zoomies happening after a bath or cat zoomies when the sun goes down. Believe it or not, rats also have a “zoomie” behavior. Rats can get jumpy, start “popcorning”, and sprint around their space. The first time you see a rat jumping around, you might be concerned that something is wrong.
Why is my rat jumping around? Most rats get the zoomies because they are happy or in a playful mood. There are lots of videos of playful rats running in circles while they hand wrestle with their humans. Rat zoomies can also be seen when multiple rats are playing together. They may run together, jump on each other, and participate in social grooming.
Rat Zoomies Explained
The basic reason that your rat is jumping around is that it is experiencing positive emotion. While humans may laugh, clap, or jump in excitement, rats express this positive energy through movement.
What Do Rat Zoomies Look Like?
Rat zoomies usually include the rat sprinting around their enclosure or a room. Sometimes the sprints are done in short loops and sometimes they spend minutes traversing people and furniture. Oftentimes, the rats return to their owner or companion rats for attention in between loops.
Another adorable part of the zoomies is a behavior called popcorning. This is when a rat (or another small mammal) begins jumping or flipping sporadically. This can start in a stationary pose or be included during sprints around the room. Popcorning can look erratic and even concerning.
Along with the running and jumping, you can often hear high-pitched rat squeaks during the zoomies. Sometimes, rat vocalizations are in such a high pitch that humans cannot hear them. Scientists have figured out that rat “laughs” are included in the vocalizations too high for humans to hear without special equipment.
If multiple rats are running around together, they may pause for social grooming or wrestling. Much like kids and dogs like to scuffle and play, rats will do the same. Fast-paced rat zoomies may only pause for a few seconds of grooming before the rats are off to the races again.
Why Is My Rat Jumping Around?
Rat owners have concluded that rat zoomies happen because the rat is happy or excited. The zoomies usually happen during or after a rat interacts with another animal or a human. Sometimes, the rat will begin jumping around to initiate play with their owner or another rat.
Scientists have also found that some rats enjoy being tickled. Owners have seen this behavior first hand. Many rats will run back to their owner’s hand for a few tickles before taking off on a sprint loop. They keep returning for tickles in between the zoomies. The high-pitched squeaks that the rat makes are one of the indications that they are enjoying the interaction.
If you need more proof that your rat is happy during a tickling and zoomie session, take a look at its ears. Scientists have found that a happy rat expression includes upright, pink ears.
Are Rat Zoomies Dangerous?
Rat zoomies are completely normal behaviors. All the running and jumping mimics the behavior of wild rats interacting with their conspecifics. Chasing, playing, and wrestling are essential behaviors for learning how to interact with other rats, especially for juveniles that are growing up.
Some rat owners are concerned the first time that they see a popcorning behavior. Since the behavior appears erratic, it can be mistaken for a symptom of a neurological issue. Thankfully, all the erratic jumping and vocalizing is just a positive expression.
Unfortunately, most people think of rats as dirty animals that carry disease and infest homes. In reality, rats are extremely social and smart animals. They’re also a lot cleaner than most people believe they are.