A Ratty Vocabulary
If you keep rodents as pets, especially rats, as you study
and research how to best care for your pets you will
probably run into words you don't recognize. Below is a
glossary of some of the most common rat and rodent-related
Agouti: Showy name for the wild-type rat color. Agouti is
actually a nice combination of warm browns and black guard
Allogroom: Term for a social activity of rats in which one
rat grooms the head and possibly the flanks of another rat
in fast little nibbles. The rat being groomed lies
submissively and the groomer may nudge the groomed into
different positions as the activity continues.
Barbering: Excessive grooming that trims the fur down almost
to the skin. Dominant rats may barber other rats, and
nursing mothers often have barbered stomachs, having either
done it themselves or the fur having been nibbled by the
babies once they have teeth.
Brux: Can be a verb or noun - It is the sound that rats make
when they are contented. It sounds similar to the purr of a
cat and is created by the rat rubbing its top and bottom
Bumblefoot: Rats that are forced to stand on wire-bottomed
cages with no padding, rats in dirty or cramped conditions
and sometimes rats that are obese (no matter the flooring)
may develop a painful condition (Ulcerative pododermatitis)
in which the feet swell with infection. It is difficult to
cure, and can result in death if left untreat with
antibiotics and care.
Coprophagy: Rats, rabbits and some other small animals eat
some of their own solid waste to get necessary vitamins
produced by their digestive tracts. This is called
coprophagy. (It may seem a nasty practice to you, but it is
necessary to rats.)
Eye boggle - To boggle is a verb for the way rats sometimes
vibrate their eyeballs rapidly in and out of the socket when
they are happily excited. It is caused by the muscles used
in bruxing (This can be alarming if you never saw it before
and didn't expect it.)
Lordosis: Position the female rat takes when she is ready to
mate. She stands still with her back arched downward, her
rump pushed upward, her tail to the side, and the female rat
rotated for the male to mount. The position is instinctive
and is triggered by a touch from the male rat.
Mischief: Mischief is the word that names a group of rats.
For example, someone might say: "My family room houses a
flock of finches and a mischief of rats, as well as five
pairs of sneakers and two young boys."
Myco: Stands for Mycoplasma pulmonis, which is a common
disease in rats, often passed on at birth by the mother rat.
Some rats are resistant to it, but in other rats it may
surface during times of stress and cause lung and
reproductive damage or other problems. Myco is not
contagious to humans, but very common and deadly among rats.
PEW: Acronym for Pink-Eyed White. This is the color of the
Pica: The seemingly compulsive habit of eating non-food
substances like clay, dirt, or bedding materials. Rats often
exhibit pica when they have eaten something that has upset
their digestive system. Rats cannot vomit, so they are
greatly distressed by nausea.
Porphyrin: If a rat it stressed it may secrete reddish
fluids from its eyes and/or nose. This is not blood, but it
is a sign that you need to change something in the rat's
environment or that the rat is ill.
Raisin: Rat-keepers euphemism for rat droppings. Also a
popular snack for rats if you are talking about the dried
Scent mark or Urine mark: Rats often drop tiny drops of
urine on its walkways by urinating and then dragging the
urine into a trail, or lifting its leg and urinating on an
object. This is believed to be both an announcement of its
presence and a mating attractant, similar to the leg-hiking
activity of male dogs. Rats sometimes even urine-mark each