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Why Is My Pet Rat Running In Circles?

Due to a number of viral videos on social media showing just how cute rats can be, we have noticed more and more people adding a pet rat to their family over the last year or two.

This is great to see as rats and other rodents really do have a bad reputation for no real reason and they do make excellent pets.

With there being so many first time rat owners out there, we have seen a spike in the number of questions that people reach out with for advice on relating to their pet rat.

One of the more common questions that we have seen people asking recently is about their pet rat running in circles.

Unfortunately, there are a number of potential reasons that your pet rat may run in circles and it can be difficult to diagnose the specific ones without seeing your rat so we usually recommend our readers book a video call with a vet to have them give their rat the once over.

We are going to be going over some of the more common conditions that can cause your pet rat to run in circles in our article below as well as answering some of the other questions that we see on the topic.

Is It Normal For A Rat To Run Around In Circles?

It is not normal for a rat to constantly run in circles, especially with the rat leaning over on its side as it runs. This usually indicates that there is a serious problem with your pet rat and you should start to seek professional advice from a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Tell tale signs of a more serious problem is the rat leaning on its side when running while remaining silent and being totally oblivious to its surroundings.

You will know your pet rat and its personality better than anyone and some rat can run or skip around in a circle a few times if they are excited.

You can usually tell that your rat is excited by the sounds it will make and it will not be a constant running motion in a circle and your rat should not be on its side trying to run if the cause is just excitement.

If you do notice this in your rat and do just think that your rat is excited then it is usually nothing to worry about.

Some of the more serious conditions that can cause a rat to run in circles can be that the rat will constantly run if left to its own devices.

This can end up in your rat just running in a circle for ten to fifteen minutes without taking a break or even looking at you giving you a good indication that something is wrong.

Why Is My Pet Rat Running In Circles?

The most common issues that can cause a rat to run in circles include brain trauma, various neurological disorders, the ingestion of rat poison, and potentially rabies.

Some rats who are kept in small cages will run in small circles constantly as a way to burn off energy and let out their frustration. If your rat does not seem to have control of its gait when running in a circle then this could be a sign of an ear infection too.

Unfortunately, other than having issues with your rat being in a cage that is too small for it, these really can be difficult for a normal rat owner to correctly diagnose in their pet rat.

This is why we recommend that you book a video call with a veterinarian if you do notice that your pet rat is running in circles for an extended period of time to have them assess your rat’s condition and offer the best possible treatments for it.

They will be able to better advice you on what to do and offer a plan for moving forward and trying to treat your pet rat.

Depending on the condition though, there may not be anything that you are able to do and your rat may need to be euthanized due to having a condition that is not only un-treatable but also dangerous.

How Can You Treat A Rat Running in Circles?

The correct treatment for a rat running in circles will depend on the cause. This can range from getting it a larger cage to give it more space to exercise normally, applying ear drops to deal with an infection, or giving it time to heal from brain trauma.

Depending on the situation though, you may not be able to treat the cause of your rat running in circles and having the rat euthanized may be the only option available.

Unfortunately, this can be common with around half of the conditions that can cause rats to randomly run in circles not being tradable.

There are also conditions such as brain trauma that will depend on the severity of the trauma to the rat as to if it will be able to make a full recovery, partial recovery or need to be euthanized too.

Thankfully, it is rare that a pet rat will run in circles as they are generally protected from the more common serious issues that cause the conditions that wild rats are exposed to on a regular basis.

Still, in some situations a pet rat may end up with an injury that can result in it running around in circles uncontrollably so seeing help from a vet is usually the best path to take if you do notice this happening in your own pet rat.


That brings our article going over how to treat a rat running in circles to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you but in reality, it is not only difficult to identify why your pet rat may be running in circles but it is also difficult or impossible to treat around half of the causes of the behaviour in rats. If you do keep multiple pet rats and do notice one of them running around in circles we would recommend you try to quarantine it away from your other rats incase it is due to something like an ear infection that may be able to infect your other pet rats.