Despite their reputation as dirty scavengers of decaying food and tormentors of housewives across the country, rats can be kept as pets and learn to appreciate humans rather than fear them. Many rats sold in pet shops have already been tamed so require no extra training to make your relations pleasant. Wild rats, in contrast, are unlikely to be well mannered or willing to be friendly. However, they can be trained with a little patience and application.
Leave your rat in its cage for the first twenty-four hours after acquiring it. This will help them acquaint themselves with their new home and grow familiar with their visible surroundings outside the cage.
Situate the cage in a room of the house where people come and go frequently. Rats are keen observers of things going on around them. Leaving them in a room with a lot of activity will help them grow familiar with the faces and movements of you, your family and general household noises.
Make time for your rat. Like all pets, rats require attention in order for you to gain your trust. It won't grow overnight but it will develop in time if you set aside around twenty minutes a day for bonding time. Rats who have had previous favourable treatment from humans are likely to give you their trust quicker than wild rats.
Select a contained area where your rat can roam, such as a sofa or lounge table. Ensure this area is clear of wires or other important items that can damaged by chewing. Check for holes and apertures in the area too as the rat may opt to escape or hide if it's nervous.
Leave the door open on the rat cage when you are ready to let it explore. Let it come out of its cage on its own rather than under duress. Picking a wild rat up at this early stage may provoke a bad reaction as wild rats are used to being treated unpleasantly by humans.
Talk to your rat. This may seem like a strange one, but pets, like babies, need to familiarise themselves with the sound of your voice if they are going to learn to trust you. It doesn't particularly matter what you say, but avoid raising your voice and try to keep a consistent tone so the rat can grow used to the sound.
Offer food to the rat a few times a day. Rather than feeding it directly, however, leave food near its cage with the door open. The rat will come out when its ready and will eventually being to know its environment and feel confident about leavings its cage and knowing it can return again.
Let your rat sniff your hand and fingers. This will help it get used to your particular odour and feel comfortable around it. Try stroking the rat gently as it sniffs you to make it feel more at ease. Avoid letting the rat sniff your hand when you have recently handled food, as it may try to bite you.