most loving rodent pet
Care Guide

What Are The Most Affectionate Rodent Pets?

We love our pets, so it’s only natural to want some affection in return. Some rodents are more affectionate towards their human caregivers than others.

The most cuddly rodent pet is the rat. Rats can develop strong bonds with their owners, and enjoy being stroked, tickled, and held. Gerbils are also very sociable, but they rarely sit still for cuddles. Instead, they prefer to run up and down their owner’s arms. The least affectionate rodent pets are chinchillas and mice, as they are more timid.

Species isn’t the only factor that determines how affectionate your rodent is. The more time you spend with your pet, taming and socializing it, the more it will trust you. A happy, secure rodent is more likely to enjoy being petted and held than one that is starved of attention and affection.

Are Rodents Affectionate Pets?

Rodents are some of the friendliest and most affectionate animals to keep as pets. This is because, for the most part, rodents are social creatures. They rely on building relationships with other individuals, both in the wild and in captivity.

Take gerbils, for example. Both wild and pet Mongolian gerbils live in groups called clans. Each gerbil within the clan has a unique relationship with every other individual.

Gerbils like to groom each other (licking and nibbling at each other’s fur) as a way of showing affection. It also helps to settle the social hierarchy – to decide which gerbil is in charge. If you have two gerbils, you’ll see them grooming each other regularly, and cuddling up together to sleep.

Most other rodents, such as rats, mice, and guinea pigs, express love for one another in the same ways. They playfully chase each other, groom one another, snuggle and sleep together. Because they’re naturally good at socializing, they can also learn to bond with other animals of different species altogether. This includes humans.

It can take time to build up a bond of trust and love with your pet rodent. Depending on your rodent’s personality, it may take anywhere between a few hours to several months. But once the bond is there, your rodent will treat you with the same affection as its cage-mates.

Can Rodents Show Love to Their Owners?

There are around 1,500 different species of rodents on planet Earth. But not all of them can be kept as pets, and most are naturally frightened of humans. There are seven main rodent species that have been domesticated, and make popular pets around the world. These are rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and degus.

These rodents have been specifically bred for their friendly temperament, and confidence around humans. They’re naturally inclined to form a relationship with their owners, provided you treat them well.

According to Physiology, when animals (including humans) are touched and petted, a neurochemical called oxytocin is released in their brains. Oxytocin is sometimes known as the ‘cuddle hormone’ or the ‘love hormone’.

This means that rodents can feel a sort of primitive love for humans. However, they express it in unique ways, according to their species. You have to learn how to read your pet’s body language.

Not all rodents, for example, enjoy cuddling with their owners. Rats are an example of rodents that like to cuddle, but chinchillas are usually too timid. A chinchilla might show that it loves you by allowing you to sit close by, and hand-feed it treats.

Whatever type of rodent you adopt, you’ll have to work hard to develop a bond with it. After all, rodents are prey animals. They’re naturally wary of large creatures such as humans, and it takes a while for them to trust us.

What Is the Most Loving Rodent Pet?

Rodents are perfect examples of low maintenance pets that like to cuddle. Being mammals, rodents naturally crave physical contact with others, as grooming is beneficial for their fur. And as rodents are quite small, they don’t require as much maintenance as larger animals.

So, what’s the cuddliest rodent? Rats are considered the most loving rodents. They form strong bonds with the humans that look after them, and enjoy being cuddled. Gerbils are a close second, though they won’t sit still as long as a rat will.

Rat:Rats are very cuddly and form strong bonds with their human owners
Gerbil:Gerbils enjoy being held and stroked, once they learn to trust their owner
Hamster:Some hamsters are more affectionate than others; some enjoy being held while others don’t
Guinea Pig:Guinea pigs are naturally wary of humans, but more confident individuals may enjoy being petted
Degu:Degus normally enjoy being stroked, but may not like being held or cuddled
Chinchilla:Chinchillas don’t like to be held, but may tolerate being petted occasionally
Mouse:Most mice don’t like being held or petted, though mice hand-raised from birth may tolerate it


The above table can be used as a general guide. However, it may not apply to every rodent. Each rodent is unique, and has its own distinct personality. Many factors can affect how affectionate a rodent is towards its owner.

For example, the place your rodent came from. Wild-caught rodents will rarely, if ever, tolerate human contact. Pet-store rodents may also find it harder to trust humans, compared to rodents from professional breeders.

Your pet rodent will also become more affectionate as it grows to trust you. This is true no matter what species it is.

Do Rats Love Their Owners?

Many people think of rats as vermin. But in reality, rats are some of the most cuddly rodent pets. They’re often seen as the dogs of the rodent world. Rats form strong bonds with humans, and thoroughly enjoy being petted and stroked. 

Rats are highly social creatures that depend upon forming strong bonds with others. This bond is so strong that it even trumps the desire for food. According to New Scientist, if given a choice between freeing a trapped cage-mate or a tasty treat, most rats will save their friend first.

As well as other rats, pet rats often show love and empathy to their human caregivers. It may take a few days to a few weeks before a new rat learns to trust you. But once it does, you can look forward to lots of affection from your furry friend.

do rats love their owners?

Rats famously enjoy being tickled, stroked, and cuddled. They also love to ride around on their owner’s shoulders, or in the hood of their jacket. It’s not uncommon for a pet rat to want to sit in its owner’s lap and enjoy being petted. Some signs that your rat is enjoying your touch include:

  • Boggling (your rat’s eyes appear to bulge with pleasure)
  • Relaxed ears
  • Bruxing (gentle teeth grinding side to side motion)
  • Hopping up in the air

When tickled gently on the stomach area, rats also emit a high-pitched form of laughter, according to Science. However, this laughter is too high-pitched for humans to hear.

Are Gerbils Cuddly?

Gerbils are one of the most inquisitive and sociable rodent pets. In the wild, gerbils live in large groups and enjoy playing with and grooming each other. They’re naturally curious about humans, and this helps them quickly learn to trust their owners.

Gerbils aren’t cuddly in the traditional sense. They don’t like to sit still and allow you to pet them. However, that’s not because they don’t feel love for their owners. It’s more because they’re energetic, and would rather be on the move, exploring their environment.

are gerbils affectionate?

Once your gerbil trusts you, it will enjoy playing and interacting with you in other ways. For example:

  • Running up to the bars of its cage when it hears you approaching
  • Responding to your voice, and coming to you when you call it
  • Taking food from your hand and sitting in your hand to eat
  • Walking from one of your hands to the other
  • Climbing up and down your arms, and riding on your shoulder

Some gerbils do enjoy sitting still and being petted, but it all depends on your pet’s personality.  

All gerbils need to live in a cage with other gerbils. If your gerbil has a friend of its own kind to play with, it will naturally be happier and more confident. This means it’s more likely to let you touch it. 

Are Hamsters Cuddly Pets?

Hamsters are often compared to gerbils. They’re both small rodents, and look quite similar, other than the tail. Hamsters have a short, stubby tail, while gerbils’ tails are several inches long.

Gerbils and hamsters require similar levels of care, and are both popular with children. However, there are certain differences in the way in which these small rodents interact with their owners.

While gerbils are social creatures, hamsters are not. Most hamster species, including those kept as pets, are solitary animals. They naturally live alone, and defend their territory against intruders. As pets, hamsters should always be housed alone, as they’re prone to attacking other hamsters.

are hamsters cuddly pets?

This doesn’t mean that hamsters can’t show affection to their human caregivers, however. Pet hamsters have been bred in captivity for hundreds of years. They tolerate humans well, and can learn to trust us over time.

It can take several weeks for a hamster to develop a bond with its owner. Once your hamster knows and trusts you, it may:

  • Take food from your hand
  • Sit in your hand or in your lap
  • Ride on your shoulder
  • Enjoy being petted for a short time

Unfortunately, some hamsters never get on well with their owners, and prefer not to be touched. Stressed hamsters are likely to bite, so ensure your pet has a large enclosure and plenty of things to do.

Are Guinea Pigs Affectionate Pets?

Guinea pigs are well known for being docile, friendly pets. That’s why they’re particularly popular among young rodent owners. Their placid temperament, and robustness, make them perfect pets for children.

Being one of the largest and heaviest pet rodents, guinea pigs aren’t as fragile as smaller creatures such as gerbils. Though guinea pigs are fairly wary of humans, they aren’t particularly skittish. Guinea pigs have a tendency to ‘freeze’ when feeling frightened, rather than hiding.

When a guinea pig has developed a bond with its owner, it will usually tolerate being petted. Initially, you may have to bribe it with treats, such as a piece of broccoli. A well-socialized guinea pig can become quite confident around humans. This is why they’re such a popular fixture in petting zoos.

are guinea pigs loving pets?

But being prey animals, guinea pigs aren’t fond of being picked up. When held above the ground, guinea pigs don’t feel secure, and may scrabble to get down. A particularly calm guinea pig may not mind sitting on its owner’s lap.

Just like any other rodent, each guinea pig’s temperament may vary. Some are much more confident than others, and will approach their owner directly for scratches. If you’ve formed a strong bond with your guinea pig, it may follow you around the house, and respond to your voice.   

Are Degus Cuddly?

Most rodents, such as rats and guinea pigs, have been kept in captivity for many centuries. Because of this, they’ve been fully domesticated, and learned to get along well with humans. But degus are a more recent addition to the world of pet rodents.

Degus, related to chinchillas and guinea pigs, were first domesticated in the 1920s. But at first, they were only reared for their fur. Only in the last few decades have we started to keep degus for companionship (as pets). Because of this, they’re not as comfortable with human contact as other kinds of rodents.

To tame a degu, you’ll need to give it lots of attention from a young age. It may take several weeks, or months, for your degu to learn to trust you. When your degu is comfortable in your presence, it will take food out of your hand.

are degus cuddly

Because degus are naturally social creatures, they aren’t always averse to being petted or ‘groomed’. If a degu learns to trust its owner, it may tolerate being touched or scratched behind its ears. Some degus will even groom their owner back, by gently nibbling at their fingers.

However, degus aren’t what you would call a snuggly or cuddly pet. They don’t like to be held, and won’t tolerate sitting still on their owner’s lap.

Like hamsters and guinea pigs, how affectionate your degu is will depend upon its individual personality. If you get a degu, you should be prepared that your pet may never enjoy being touched.

Are Chinchillas Loving Pets?

Chinchillas are highly social creatures, and they are enormously affectionate towards their own kind. Bonded chinchillas will cuddle, sleep, and play together, and become distressed when separated. But do chinchillas love their owners the same way?

Like most rodents, chinchillas are naturally wary of humans. When you adopt a new chinchilla, it will probably run away when you approach. This is due to a chinchilla’s natural instinct to beware large and unfamiliar animals.

The more time you spend around your chinchilla, the more trusting it will become. But with a chinchilla, the bonding process can be quite slow. Chinchillas don’t find it easy to let their guard down.

are chinchillas loving pets?

Eventually, when a pet chinchilla is used to its owner, it will tolerate being petted. It may enjoy being gently scratched around its head, neck, and back. But this is always on the chinchilla’s terms – not the owner’s. Your chinchilla will decide when it does and doesn’t want affection.

Even chinchillas that have strong bonds with their owners rarely tolerate being held. Chinchillas have fragile skeletons, with thin bones that can bend and fracture easily. Because of this, chinchillas exhibit a fear response when picked up.

Despite their thick and plush-looking fur, chinchillas definitely aren’t cuddly pets. They do show some love towards their owners, but not as much as they show to their cage-mates.

Are Mice Affectionate Pets?

Many people believe that mice are just like rats, but smaller. But although they look alike, and have comparable intelligence levels, their personalities are quite different. Most rats enjoy being cuddled and stroked, but mice generally don’t.

Mice can certainly learn to trust their owners with time. While they are naturally scared of humans, mice are intelligent, and learn quickly. The more time you spend around your mouse, the sooner it will learn that you pose no threat.

According to the ILAR Journal, mice can form bonds with humans through the provision of care. In other words, a mouse will bond best with the person who feeds it. However, most mice aren’t physically affectionate. They may love their owners in some way, but they don’t express it through touch.

are mice affectionate pets?

Mice rarely enjoy being held or cuddled by humans. They love to groom and snuggle with other mice, but not their owners. With encouragement (and food rewards), you can teach your mouse to climb into your hand or pocket. But that’s about as affectionate as a mouse gets.

Some mice that have been hand-reared since birth may tolerate, or even enjoy, being stroked and petted. But this is quite rare. Most mice don’t like being touched by humans at all.

Follow your mouse’s lead when it comes to physical affection. If it tries to get away from you when you pet it, it probably isn’t enjoying it. You can show your mouse love in other ways. For example, by feeding it occasional treats, or buying it new toys.

How to Tame a Pet Rodent

When you first get your pet rodent, it will likely be frightened or wary of you. This is particularly likely if it:

  • Came from a pet store, rather than a breeder. Rodents from pet stores are often sourced from commercial ‘rodent mills’, and aren’t well socialized
  • Has experienced trauma in its early life – for example, if your rescued rodent’s previous owners were cruel to it

No matter what species your new pet is, it won’t allow you to cuddle or pet it straight away. You’ll need to build up a relationship with your pet rodent before it will trust you. This is called taming your pet rodent.

Upon bringing your new pet rodent home, leave it alone for a day or two. It’ll need some time to get over the journey, and settle into its new home. It may spend the first couple of days hiding.

When your new pet starts exploring its environment, it may show interest in you as you approach its cage. At this point, you can start spending time sitting next to your pet’s enclosure.

Leave the door open and place your hand inside the cage, allowing your pet to sniff your hand. Offer it a few species-appropriate treats. Once your pet comes to associate you with food, it will start to trust you.

Soon, your pet rodent will tolerate being touched and petted. Eventually, your pet may feel comfortable climbing over your body, riding on your shoulder, or sitting on your knee.

Never try to tame a wild-caught rodent. Wild rodents are not used to human contact, and will always be scared of you. They can also carry diseases and parasites which can be transmitted to humans.