Do Rats Play Dead

Do Rats Play Dead? If Yes, Then Why And For How Long?

Do rats and mice play dead? They Do it intentionally or it is a defence mechanism? Well Yes, rats do play dead. This is because they have various predators and they need to save themselves as much as they can. For this, they play dead to let go of bigger predators. 

Cats, snakes, and birds can continue to hunt the rats rather than scavenging on the dead rats. Playing dead gives them an opportunity to survive the danger. They often use “feigning death” and “tonic immobility”.

I know it sounds like Tom & Jerry, however, it actually happens and many individuals have truly witnessed these kinds of incidents. This is very common for rats to hide if they find a threat or when they are in immense pain. 

They will contract their limbs, close their eyes, hold their breath, and seem dead if you see them. This is a very instinctive behaviour which allows them to live when there are predators around. 

Rats developed this behaviour for understanding the threat in their surroundings, and they try to let go of this danger just by playing dead. Many people have seen their feline catch a rat, and after a few minutes when the feline’s attention is somewhere else, the rat runs away quickly to a safe zone.

Do Rats Play Dead

Why do mice play dead?

When rats feel danger, playing dead would be a more effective option than running away. A cat, a hawk, a dog, an owl, or a snake are usually involved in these types of situations.

It’s quite natural for rats to be elusive and know when it’s safe to go where they are because they face constant danger every single day.

They may, however, sometimes get themselves into sticky situations where they believe they’ve been caught red handed. Most mice run away from danger when they sense danger, so these instances are rare. 

A rat, however, cannot run away from a cat in the bathtub if it enters your bathroom through a clogged drain. For example, in the bathtub scenario, rather than running away, only to be chased and finally caught by the cat, the rat’s only chance is to play dead and the cat may eventually lose interest before catching it.

How Long Can Rats Play Dead?

If a rat finds a threat around, however, it can’t go anywhere, it will safely choose to play dead and will continue playing dead till the predator lose its attention. Predators get relaxed after catching their prey. They may continuously see the area around the rat to ensure that no other predators are nearby to snatch their rat. 

In this situation, the rat can take advantage and wait for the predator to look away from it before running away. When the predator is not present, the rat will find a chance to run away. This means that the time for rats playing dead solely depends on the existence of a predator. However, when the predator feels the rat is dead, it rapidly walks away. 

How to Tell if Your Rat Is “Playing Dead”?

To determine if your rat is faking death, follow these step-by-step instructions:

  1. If you find the rat in its cage not moving, see if it goes up and down. This can mean breathing and heart beating is fine. Once a rat enters this state, its eyes remain open in most cases.
  2. Rats do not respond to touch when “playing dead,” therefore do not touch or try to shake the rat. Instead, wait for some time to move. Then, if necessary, gently nudge the rat into a dark, protected area to reduce the rat’s anxiety and bring it out of the trance as quickly as possible.
  3. Check if your rat is afraid. Do rats and mice play dead?” is often associated with fear of danger, making sure there is nothing around that could trigger the fear response that helps induce the frozen state.
  4. Waiting for the end. A rat usually awakens from a tonic trance of immobility after a few minutes. Therefore, be patient and look for limb movements that indicate the end of the “hypnosis.”

If your rats are still not moving after about 30 minutes, take them to the vet and have them checked out, if they do still live.

Do Rats Play Dead With Their Eyes Open?

Rats do not usually play dead with their eyes open. In fact, they close their eyes and act dead to any predator around them. 

Rats will pull the libs in and control their breath as long as the predator is around. This can be 5 minutes ti 30 minutes. Various predators will opt not to scavenge a dead rat and will go hunting for another animal which is alive. 

Is My Mouse Dead or Sleeping?

Sometimes you see your rat as if it’s dead, therefore you don’t know if it’s sleeping or playing dead. You can worry and fear that your rat is actually dead, but more often you’ll find that it’s actually asleep.

Rats only play dead when they’re in danger, and only when you’re in their area, they probably won’t feel threatened at all.

They might be just sleeping, therefore it’s normal for them to look like they’re dead, especially some rats who are weird sleepers, they fall asleep in strange positions.

Next time you see a sleeping rat and think it’s dead, don’t be scared.

The rat is probably asleep, and if it does not move when you nudge it a little, then don’t worry because it probably won’t bother to respond to you because you are not a real threat to them.

How can you tell if a mouse is dying?

You may be wondering if the rat is playing dead, if it’s actually dead, or if it’s sleeping. If you have a pet rat, it will be quite obvious whether the rat is sleeping or slipping away. Rat owners should be aware that rats are nocturnal in nature and sleep for most of the daytime. 

However, if you are worried about their inactivity during the daytime, check them at night. When your rat is alive and well, you’ll hear and see it eating food and drinking water.

A sudden decrease in daily activities during the day and at night, changes in appearance and low diet are some alarming signs that a rat’s health is declining.

If you don’t own a pet rat, but a homeowner is plagued by pesky pet rats, then you may need to understand if your feline or canine has actually killed the rat or if the rat is playing dead.

Don’t you always want to touch a rat with your hands to understand whether it is dead or alive, and I wouldn’t recommend poking it with a stick or something because if the rat is actually alive, it might get up and run away if given the chance.

Therefore, if the feline or canine drags a rat into your room and you find that the rat seems a bit too natural and healthy.

Final words

In conclusion, I would say that when the rat is under pressure in any situation, it is prone to freeze or else become limp. This reflection usually happens when it is threatened or finds it in danger. When a rat is handled roughly with enough pressure, the rat will play dead. 

A rat owner must not get tense if he/she finds the rat in such a situation. Rats have this reflex. Therefore, lifting them will make them limp. But, a rat can experience helplessness and fear. 

I hope you enjoyed the article. I will be back soon with more interesting and informative pieces of writing. Till then, stay connected. Thank you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do mice play dead scared?

When the mice feel threatened, they will play dead until the danger has gone. They can play dead for around 30 minutes. 

How do you tell if a mouse is actually dead?

You can tell if a mouse is actually dead by smelling it. If the smell is foul then you can judge. Decayed odour is the prime sign of a dead animal. However, it would not help you to understand the exact location of the house or backyard. You can find many flies around the dead mouse.

Do mole rats play dead?

No, mole rats do not play dead. Napping more rats usually sleeps on their backs, which means they sleep upside down. Unlike other mammals, they have problems gaining a stable body temperature and will sleep together to get warmth.