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What does it mean when a rat clicks its teeth?

Rats make a variety of sounds to communicate with each other. One sound that rats sometimes make is a teeth clicking or chattering sound. This sound can have a few different meanings depending on the context. In this article, we’ll explore what teeth clicking means in rats, when they make this sound, and what you can learn about your pet rat based on when and how it clicks its teeth.

What Is Teeth Clicking?

Teeth clicking or chattering in rats refers to when a rat rapidly moves its lower jaw up and down, causing its teeth to click together repeatedly. This creates a distinct chattering or clicking noise. The sound is made as the rat’s lower incisors and molars strike against its upper incisors.

Rats have large incisor teeth that grow continuously throughout their life. The incisors are kept worn down by the act of chewing and gnawing, which keeps them at an appropriate length. When rats chatter their teeth together, it helps to wear down and sharpen the incisors.

The chattering sound can range from very soft and quiet to quite loud and noticeable depending on how energetically the rat is clicking its teeth. Sometimes it may sound like a soft purring noise, other times like a loud machine-like vibration. The rapid teeth clicking may last for just a few seconds or for longer periods of time.

Reasons Rats Chatter Their Teeth

Rats don’t chatter their teeth randomly. This sound is a form of communication that generally conveys one of the following meanings:


One of the most common reasons pet rats will chatter their teeth is when they are feeling happy and content. For example, a rat may start clicking its teeth when being petted or cuddled by its owner, or when enjoying a comfortable rest. This teeth chattering indicates the rat is relaxed and feeling good. It’s similar to a cat purring.

Discomfort or Stress

Rats may also chatter their teeth when they are feeling anxious, threatened, or experiencing discomfort. For example, a rat may click its teeth when being handled roughly, when smelling a potential threat, or when in pain. The chattering indicates the rat is feeling stressed or unhappy.


Some rats will chatter their teeth in situations that stimulate excitement or arousal. For example, they may click their teeth in anticipation of feeding time or when eagerly exploring new surroundings. The chattering suggests an energetic emotional state.

Dominance or Aggression

Male rats in particular may chatter their teeth to show dominance or aggression toward another rat. The teeth clicking in this scenario is often louder and more rapid as a warning sign. It indicates the rat is feeling territorial.

When Do Rats Chatter Their Teeth?

Rats don’t typically chatter their teeth constantly throughout the day. Here are some of the key times and situations when you may notice this behavior:

– When being petted or held – As mentioned, contentment is a common reason for teeth chattering. Rats often click when snuggled or stroked by their owners.

– Grooming themselves or others – Rats chatter while grooming or when grooming another rat, which helps sharpen teeth and shows contentment.

– When approaching food – Excitement and anticipation may cause teeth chattering at feeding time.

– When meeting perceived threats – An anxious or defensive rat may click its teeth when encountering a threat.

– Interacting with other rats – Rats may chatter when fighting, showing dominance, or bonding with other rats.

– Exploring new environments – The excitement of exploring can trigger chattering.

Normal vs. Excessive Teeth Chattering

It’s normal for rats to chatter their teeth from time to time in response to certain situations. However, excessive or continuous teeth clicking and chattering can be a sign of an underlying health issue.

Potential reasons for excessive teeth chattering include:

– Dental pain or malocclusion – Misaligned teeth or tooth roots can cause pain and excessive chattering.

– Respiratory infections – Upper respiratory infections may cause teeth chattering.

– Stress – Constant high stress levels may cause a rat to chatter constantly.

– Neurological issues – Certain neurological conditions could cause repetitive chattering motions.

If your rat has suddenly started chattering its teeth constantly for no clear reason, or the chattering seems excessive compared to normal, consult your veterinarian. Your vet can examine your rat’s mouth, teeth, and overall health to try to determine the cause.

Is Teeth Chattering Good for Rats?

When rats chatter their teeth in moderation, it’s normal and healthy behavior. As mentioned, the act of clicking teeth together helps sharpen and wear down their continuously growing incisors. This is an instinctive behavior that provides the following benefits:

– Keeps incisors trimmed to an appropriate length

– Sharpens incisors for effective gnawing and chewing

– Exercises the jaw muscles

– Spreads natural oils along the tooth surface

So in moderation, teeth chattering is a useful behavior for rats that contributes to good dental hygiene. It’s when the chattering seems excessive or constant that it could signal an underlying problem needing veterinary attention.

How to Interpret Teeth Chattering

When you hear your pet rat chattering its teeth, pay attention to the context of the situation and your rat’s body language for clues to interpret the meaning. Here are some things to look for:


– Relaxed body posture
– Often occurs when being petted or resting


– Tense body posture like hunched back
– Dilated pupils and wide eyes indicating fear
– Occurs when being handled or near perceived threat


– Alert erect posture and rapid movements
– Dilated pupils
– May run around environment


– Loud rapid chattering
– Upright stance and tense posture
– Ears erect
– May orient toward or approach other rats

With experience, you’ll get to know your individual rat’s teeth chattering patterns and what they mean for your pet specifically. Over time, you’ll be able to discern contentment chattering from nervous chattering based on subtle cues.


Teeth chattering or clicking in rats has several potential meanings, depending on the context. In moderation, it’s a normal part of a rat’s communication and dental hygiene routine. Rats may chatter their teeth when content, anxious, excited, or aggressive. Excessive chattering could mean a health problem requires veterinary attention. With sensitivity to your rat’s body language and behavior, you can learn to interpret the meaning behind this unique sound.