Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Homemade Rat Harness

Close up of the harness, modeled by Emerson, our Dumbo earred male
I am in the process of socializing our three newest additions- a hairless female baby girl rat (Scarlett No-Hara), a PEW Rex coated baby girl rat (Chelsea), and a rescued beige hooded lady rat (Aniston).

 One of my socialization processes is to get them to ride comfortably (and safely) on one's shoulder. I like the idea of rat harnesses and leads to be used with shoulder riding. Should the rat accidentally fall or purposely jump, the harness and lead will keep them in a safe retrieving range. I always fear newbies like these girl rats will be shoulder riding, get spooked about something and jump then run off before we can catch them. With a rat harness and lead, should they jump, they are on a leash so they can't scamper off.

The problem with most commercial "rat" harnesses is that they really don't exist. The closest things I have found that you can purchase are ferret, guinea pig, rabbit or kitten harnesses- all of which are just too big for a young rat or even a lady rat. They are better suited for full grown adult males, and fat ones at that. So I decided to make my own. I started making the males harness, just because theirs was made up of my three favorite colors, LOL!

I purchased some embroidery floss (thread) used for embroidery and cross stitching at my local JoAnn Fabric and Craft Store in colors that appealed to me- black, white, and blue for the boys and black, white, and pink for the girls. I planned on just braiding them together to make the harness until I looked online at friendship bracelet patterns. I was never one to make friendship bracelets as a young girl and I struggled with the directions I found for a beginners level pattern. While I wasn't able to understand the directions, I did end up teaching myself a very very basic pattern that I was quite pleased with in the end. I was able to make the size I needed.
Emerson testing out the new adult male harness
For the clasp (where the lead would attach to the harness) I used a tiny binder clip that I had purchased in a pack from a office supply store (they were originally intended to hold the fleece/flannel to the rat cages (for more info, see the Rat Bedding link at the top of this blog).

I will need to play around with my design to see if I can make it more adjustable or if I will need to make three sizes (baby, youngster, adult) for each sex of my rats (lady rats obviously being smaller even when full grown). But overall, I am very pleased with the results and found this homemade harness to be better than any I have tried in the past with other rats!



  1. Instead of a friendship bracelet, would a nice soft hair elastic or scrunchie work?

    1. I don't see why not! :)
      The only thing is that with a hairtie, you can't really adjust the size. With the bracelet idea, you can custom the size.
      What a great idea though, I never even thought of it! :)

  2. Can you use only 2 colors or does it require to have 3? I think I would get lost with 3 colors!

    1. Bracelets aren't as hard as you'd think with 3 colors! :D the more colors the wider it is across-ways, so I guess it's your call! C:

  3. Could I ask what size you used for the female ones? I am soon getting 2 female rats and having them on leashes would be a great idea to introduce them to areas where to release them! this would be very cute in a chevron (arrow) pattern c:

  4. hi there
    great work with the harness ive got 2 boys smudge and nibbler i made them a cheap hammock and put photos on my blog have a look and use it http://mike-area23.blogspot.co.uk/
    take care and keep it touch please

  5. Shawna:I am a huge rat person. I taught severely/profoundly mentally/physically challenged children for 26 years and now desire to continue my work with challeneged individuals as a retired special teacher. I am a member of Pet Partners (formally called Delta Society) and am continuing to work with challeneged individuals using rats and cats as my pet partners. I have never found a harness and lead you can buy that actually works on rats. I saw your home made harness and thought it might be the solution to my situation. Pet Partners has certain requirements for harnesses that are as follows:I need a harness that has no metal binder clip or any metal of any kind on it for client safety reasons, it has to fit very snuggly so rats can not get out of it, it has to be adjustable for various sizes of rats (I only use small female rats), it has to be light weight, it has to be an all in one device (I never leave my rats unattended in a harness for fear they might get tangled up in it),the end of the lead needs to be able to be tightened around my wrist so I can have my hands free to help the client handle the rats and it has to be pink for my girls. Please help!!!

    Rat Therapist

  6. I will keep my eyes open for something like this and try to find something that meets all these requirements. I believe there are some aspects that you could probably modify if need be, such as the color. If the ideal harness doesn't come in pink, perhaps bedazzle it with rhinestones or something! So many of the things we rat owners use for our rats have been modified or used in a way they might not have been intended for, so I am sure the ideal harness is no exception! :)

  7. I once made a quick harness for my rabbit out of some rope. Basically, you tie a loop of rope that is long enough fit snugly but comfortably around your pet. Then, take the rope and twist it once to make a figure eight shape and use string or the like to secure the little "x" it makes. Then, just place a front leg in each loop, bring it together behind the shoulder blades, and clip on a lightweight leash, or tie on a length of rope. It looks pretty much like Shawna's picture (In fact, maybe that's her method?). You could use ribbon, colorful rope, or anything that strikes your fancy. Also, it's metal free if you want it to be, and if it's too loose or too tight, you can just make another one.

  8. I was wondering how it fit around the belly of the lady rat