Rats Are Nocturnal, So Here's How to Manage Your Pet's Sleep Cycle

Pet rats sleep a lot, and they are usually most active at dusk and dawn, but that doesn't mean they're never awake during the day.

Published July 14, 2023
Woman's feet next toher pet rat playing on bed

Getting a pet rat is a very exciting milestone, but these little critters aren't just small cats or dogs. They have a unique diet, habitat, and even special sleeping patterns. When do pet rats sleep anyway, and how much shut-eye do they need? Learn everything you need to know about rat sleep right here, so you can keep your little buddy well-rested and happy.

When Do Pet Rats Sleep?

Rats are nocturnal, which means they're active at night and sleep during the day. But they don't just have one big sleep like we do. Instead, they take short little naps (kind of like "cat naps"). This is called being a polyphasic sleeper. You can expect your pet rat to sleep for a few hours at a time during the day, with short periods of wakefulness in between.

Fast Fact

Do pet rats sleep a lot? Oooh yeah. Rats sleep an average of 12.6 hours each day, which is broken up into short naps.

When Are Rats Most Active?

Because rats are nocturnal, they're most active at night. They'll wake up from their sleep as soon as the sun goes down and scurry around to do their business, find food, and play with their buddies. Then, when the sun starts to come up, they'll head to bed.

Sleeping rats
Need to Know

The best times to play with your rat are at dusk and dawn.

Will Light Help My Rat at Night?

It's natural to wonder, "If my pet rats are awake all night, won't they appreciate some light?" But exposure to artificial lights, when it's not naturally light out, can actually disrupt their sleeping pattern.

Light can prompt them to crawl back into bed and keep sleeping, whereas keeping their room dark during the day could keep them up all day, which isn't healthy either. Aim to stick with a 12-hour light and 12-hour dark schedule (or whatever hours are naturally light and dark in your area during the appropriate time of year).

Do Rats See Well at Night?

Rats don't really rely on their eyes to get around at night. Rats actually don't have the best eyesight. Instead, they use their senses of hearing and smell (which are both super sharp) to find their way around, plus their whiskers come in handy to help with navigation. So don't worry; your rat is perfectly fine in a dark cage at night.

Do Pet Rats Adjust to Your Sleep Schedule?

Yes, many pet rats will adjust their sleeping time around when you're around. They are social creatures, after all, and they love spending time with you. However, while they might wake up to play with you during the day, rats will still sleep frequently, and you should plan to give them time for lots of rest.

Rats Need Healthy Sleep

If your rat has to deal with too many disturbances, their sleep is going to suffer. Just like you, your rat needs consistent sleep. Here's what they need to get good rest:

  • A quiet spot: Your pet rat needs a comfortable place to rest. Their spot should be in a dark location - typically a hide or "cave" - that's warm (but not too warm) with low noise levels.
  • Nesting material: Make sure their cage has plenty of bedding and nesting material in a nest box where they can burrow. You can even get special rat hammocks or fuzzy beds for them.
  • Consistent light: Does your rat live in your bedroom? Try to make sure the light levels are consistent. If you have to work on your computer all night with the lights on, you might disturb your rat.
  • Set routine: It helps if you keep your rat's daily care, play time, and feeding schedule on a set pattern. Just like dogs and cats, rats thrive with consistent daily routines.
  • Few disturbances: It's totally OK to play with your rat. But avoid getting into the habit of waking them up frequently to take them out for some interaction. Keep it regular, and their sleep will improve.

Give your rat the calm, well-ventillated environment they need to rest well, and you'll be rewarded with a rat who's fresh and ready to play. Keeping them feeling safe, loved, and protected will go a long way to helping them adjust their sleep hours with your schedule.

Give Your Rat Get a Good Day's Sleep

Rats are just like us in that they like having designated sleeping spots. It can be a challenge to balance your schedule with their need to sleep for more than 12 hours, but with a little prep - and some consideration for their needs - your rat will get the rest they need.

Trending on LoveToKnow
Rats Are Nocturnal, So Here's How to Manage Your Pet's Sleep Cycle