All of us seasoned rat owners have been there. Rats who, without warning, lunge out and savage your hand when you reach out for an innocent pat on the head. Most of these rats do have an excuse, and if you work with them, they’ll be great companions someday. When you purchase a rat from a pet store, you don’t know their history and they may have an aggressive side. This is one of the reasons why (besides pet store cruelty to their animals) I always advocate adopting your pet rats from rescues, so that way, you know a little bit more about the rat’s history and how they’ve been doing in their foster home.
Unfortunately, knowing a rat’s history doesn’t always prevent against aggression. Sometimes a rat can become territorial of his or her cage, lose trust in humans for whatever reason, or, if the rat is a boy, hormones and testosterone may be the issue. This informative article was written to help people (perhaps you!) with rats who bite, leaving bloody scars on the hands of their caretakers. I sincerely hope that this article helps your little friend get on the right side of the tracks again.
Below, I have organized a few common scenarios of when bites happen. Find the scenario that is most like your issue, and read the advice accordingly.
Scenario #1: Little Remy was just an angel when you first adopted him, giving you plenty of kisses and snuggling contentedly on your shoulder. However, now that he’s in his new home, whenever you stick your hand in his cage he runs up and mauls you. When Remy is outside of the cage, he’s just a little darling. What’s going on???
Answer: Seems like Remy has cage aggression. Pet rats who have cage aggression are usually phenomenally sweet when outside the cage, but inside, they feel like they have to protect their territory and do so accordingly. If Remy is a male rat, consider having him neutered, as this may cut down on aggression. Trust training is key if hormones are not the issue- you need to get some handy gloves and show your rat that you’re not an invader of the cage. Treats are a must when it comes to territorial rats.
Scenario #2: You just purchased a cute-as-can-be female rat, who you’ve decided to name Shelly. Whenever you come near the cage, Shelly runs into her box, and whenever you try to handle her, she gives you a tough girl bite to tell you to back off.
Answer: Shelly is more scared than aggressive. You need to try trust training her; spoonfeed her soy yogurt, give her at least an hour of out time a day, let her crawl around inside your hoodie. Trust training is of the utmost importance with a skittish rat and you need to remember that food is what’s going to get you on that rat’s good side.
Scenario #3: You’ve had your rat Harvey for 3 months now, ever since he was a wee little lad. He’s always been the sweetest rat, but lately he’s been puffing up and fiercely biting your hand at the most unknown and random moments. What’s wrong with Harvey???
Answer: Harvey most likely has a hormone problem. This can be easily remedied by neutering him. Remember to always research the veterinarian that you decide to go to, to make sure that he or she is good with rats.
I sincerely hope that this article has helped you and your pet rat.