• Pet Rat Terminology: 8 Words You Need to Know

    Posted on October 8, 2016 by in Behavior, Care, Health

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    “Power grooming”, also referred to as “barbering”, most often takes place around a pet rat’s neck and shoulders and results in fur loss.


    Fur loss caused by a rat’s over-grooming him or herself—or another rat—is called barbering.


    When a rat boggles, their eyeballs appear to pop in and out of their head. Boggling is usually accompanied by bruxing. (See the next term for the definition of bruxing.)


    When grinding their teeth together, pet rats make a sound called “bruxing”. It’s usually a sign of happiness, similar to a cat’s purr. In some instances, also similar to cats’ purring, bruxing can be a sign of stress.


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    The orange-ish colored skin on this unneutered Double Rex rat’s back is called “buck grease”

    Buck Grease

    Patches of yellow or orange skin on the back of a mature, unneutered male pet rat are referred to as buck grease. This discolored skin occurs because of an overproduction of testosterone. The orangey, oily skin is often eliminated when male rats are neutered.


    Usually it’s male rats who dribble urine on surfaces upon which they’re walking. These surfaces can even include other rats as well as human skin and clothing. Occasionally females urine mark as well. Often, neutering will eliminate urine marking in males.

    Parallax Vision

    If you notice your pet rat’s head swaying from side to side or bobbing up and down, your rat is likely to have pink or red eyes. Sometimes a rat who utilizes parallax vision has eyes that look almost black, but they may actually be a very dark red. Rats who move their head from side to side (or up and down) are helping to compensate for their poor eyesight. Their sideways (and/or bobbing up and down) movement allows them to better focus and perceive distances and depth.

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    Porphyrin can be seen around this rat’s nose and eye


    A red discharge, called porphyrin, is usually observed coming from a rat’s eyes or nostrils. It can become dried and crusted when present for any length of time. Porphyrin looks just like blood, but is really a secretion from your rat’s Hardarian glands, located behind each eyeball. The presence of porphyrin is usually a sign your rat is sick and/or stressed.

    Power Grooming

    When one rat grooms another often—and with excessive force—it’s called power grooming. It’s a case of “Kill ‘em with kindness” combined with “I have the AUTHORITY in this house.” Power grooming, similar to barbering, also often results in fur loss.


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40 Responses so far.

  1. Bryn Nowell says:

    Fascinating! Thanks for sharing! Do many pet rat owners neuter their male rats?

    Important note, I often feel like I’m “power grooming” when I’m at a hotel and they don’t have hot water in the shower!

    • You are cracking me up with your power grooming comment. Love it!

      Neutering male rats depends on many factors. Some of the factors include: Will the unneutered male(s) be living with unspayed females? Is he urine marking? Is he aggressive? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then neutering is a helpful option. It’s not always necessary but—when there’s a chance it can help improve a situation–it often really does make a big and very positive difference.

  2. This was a great post! I am trying to learn as much as I can about rats for my 3!

  3. I had no idea about the different terms used with rats.

  4. Sadie says:

    Fascinating! I had fun reading this post and learning all these terms. Thanks

  5. I absolutely loved reading this post and knowing the different terms. A little boy where i live had a pet rat that he absolutely loved i only know too well how much he would have liked to read this post too.

    • Malaika, That’s so sweet that you know a little boy who had a pet rat and would benefit from reading about these terms. Does he no longer have his rat? I hope you’re able to share this information with him if he still has his rat as well as if he gets more rats in the future. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  6. Rats like cats and dogs, need knowledgeable owners and families. I am glad there is specific terminology – althought Power grooming made me laugh – You Will Be Licked because I SAY SO SOl!!!

    • Power grooming is a very funny way of saying “I’m in charge”, isn’t it?! You are so right about the need for animals to have knowledgeable owners and families. Our pets enrich our lives not only through love but also through learning.

  7. Beth says:

    I wasn’t familiar with any of these terms! I am pretty sure that guinea pigs also do something similar to bruxing. It has been such a long time since I had a guinea pig I can’t really remember though.

    • Thanks for your comment, Beth! Guinea pigs sound like they’d be a lot of fun to have as pets. The sounds they make are so fascinating. That’s interesting to know that guinea pigs make a sound similar to bruxing.

  8. Katie Allan says:

    Very interesting! I did not know a lot of these rat terms. Thanks for sharing!

  9. This was interesting. We’ve never met a rat in person and didn’t know these things about them.

  10. Cathy Armato says:

    Wow, this is so interesting! I never thought about rats urinr marking or needing to be neutered! Thanks for sharing.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    • Thanks for your comment, Cathy. You probably wouldn’t think about it until you experienced it yourself, LOL. Not only do most people not think about neutering pet rats, but I find it even more amazing that pet rats CAN actually be spayed since they’re so tiny.

  11. Wow. SO much to know about rats, just like any other pet. Thanks for the great post.

  12. Robin says:

    Very interesting! Rats are so much more complicated than they are given credit for. I never knew there was a word for the sound rats make by grinding their teeth together. I’ve heard them do that before! I’m happy to find out that it means happiness! 🙂

    • You’re so right, Robin, rats are much more complicated than most people would ever guess. I’m glad you’re familiar with bruxing since you’re such a cat person—who knows the value of a purr. 🙂

  13. These are all really important to know as a rat owner! I was absolutely in love with my rats and, unfortunately, absolutely allergic to them 🙁 I’m so glad to hear from another rat lover

  14. Wow – we had no idea! My husband had a pet rat when he was a child and he didn’t know the names, but recognized a few of the actions. It’s amazing how much vet care has expanded – and it is important to share this information. Thanks for penning this article!

    • What astute comments you’ve made, Rebecca. So true that vet care has expanded. It is wonderful to be able to share information about how to best care for our beloved pets. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  15. Jana Rade says:

    Wow, that’s like a whole new language 🙂

  16. I had no idea – thanks for teaching me a few new things about rats.

  17. Ruth Epstein says:

    I am learning so much from your blog about rats, thank you so much

  18. Val Silver says:

    Rats seem like great pets. I’m told I have Paralax vision, not 3d so the rats and I have something in common 🙂

    • Wow, Val, that’s amazing you’ve been told you utilize parallax vision for depth. I’ve actually tried it out for myself when I’m not wearing my contacts or glasses and it’s fun to be able to see how well it works. I’m glad you can use parallax vision so you can see more depth.

  19. I was only familiar with bruxing. There’s a lot to rat care!

  20. I don’t know anything about rats, but I found your article really interesting. None of those terms are familiar to me, so I’ve learned something new.