My rat bites, but his previous owner said he'd never bitten. Why?
Hello. I have posted here about similar problems before, but I've tried various things and the biting won't stop.
I adopted two 1 year old rat brothers 3 weeks ago from a local rescue agency. They're my first rats, but I've had many other pets. One of the rats, Piper, has bitten 4 people in the past 3 weeks and his foster owner said he had never bitten anyone before and she said he was very sweet, but I'm not quite sure how much she handled him because they are both very shy. Piper is a PEW and currently has a URI that he's being treated for. He has NEVER shown any body signals of aggression before biting-- no puffing, hissing, tail twitching, nothing like that.
Here's the situations he has bitten in:
1) He bit my roommate. Granted, this was kind of our fault. He was brand new here and she put her hand in the cage to let him sniff her and he sniffed, then bit down, drew blood.
2) He bit my boyfriend who was wearing gloves repeatedly. He was trying to get them out of the cage because a few people here recommended forced socialization. We didn't manage to get him out.
3) He bit me while I was letting him sniff my finger from outside of the cage. I do not feed them through the bars. Drew blood.
4) He bit the veterinarian today while she was attempting to pick him up. Drew LOTS of blood. He let him pet her for a bit, but as soon as she tried to scoop him up, he bit her hard.
I've scoured the internet in search of answers but I'm starting to wonder if these are simply not the right rats for a first time owner. Why is Piper biting as soon as I adopted him? Is it because he has a URI? I cannot get him out of the cage. His brother comes out and has never bitten me, just nibbled.
Every attempt at trying to socialize Piper leads to someone getting bit. :/ My vet recommended that I try the gloves and forced socialization some more, but I'm starting to fear my own companion animal.
Is it possible he is Blind? it can be harder to see in pink eyed rats but does he have any cataracts? He probably didn't bite his last owner cause he probably could see before he went blind and knew his last owner and surroundings.
You just got him, he is probably freaking out cause he can't see at all, granite rats don't rely a lot on sight in the first place, and is probably just confuse. It would also explain why it is he is skittish. Can you get a picture of his eyes? without flash in natural light (like a window)?
I was thinking he could be blind, yes. I know PEW can't see as well as dark eyed rats, and he does sway his head a lot when trying to look at me. When I am talking to him near the cage he will look at me, but when I move to another side, he will remain staring at the place I was in until I begin speaking to him again, and then he'll whip around to where he hears my voice.
It's night right now, so I'll try to get a picture of his eyes tomorrow. I have looked very closely for cataracts and the vet didn't notice any today, but that would make a lot of sense if he was blind.
Yep sounds like he is blind, that is normal behavior for a rat who is blind.
He might not have cataracts but can have a number of other eye issues that can cause blindness. Oddly enough I've noticed that Dark eyed rats (in my experience) have more eye issues like with cataracts.
I've had pink eyed rats before, and rats with cateracts etc and they've not bitten like this. They may have bitten when startled and they didn't know you were coming, but in most of these cases it appears the rat knew someone was there and was interacting with them in some way. How old is he and is he ever huffy or grumpy with his cagemates, does he fluff up and stomp around at all.
It may be some sort or terratorial or hormonal aggression, in which case neutering may help and lots of firm handeling with gloves too. It's hard to hold a rat that's fighting you, but be firm, get a good grip, talk calmly and stay calm. Easier said than done I know.
Jemma and the gang; Astreaus, Sam, Bean, Tam, Raga and Kazoo
Piper and his brother are both 1 year and 2 months old. Piper is the more dominant one, but he has never ever shown any aggression towards Roscoe, his brother. No mounting, sidling, biting, puffing, nothing. The most I see them do is play wrestle and power groom.
I've noticed that Piper is slightly more territorial of his cage than Roscoe. He's never attacked me or anything while I'm doing a spot clean, though. All the instances of biting have occurred while he was in the cage, however.
All rats are different. I think the main reason he would be biting since he is most likely blind is that He doesn't know you, he has no idea what's going on and is simply stressed out cause he had to change owners and homes. I would give him some time to settle down. Though now you will have to use sound to make sure that he knows where you are.
I'm not totally sold on the blind theory, I mean he probably is but being blind and being mean are not mutually inclusive. Does he display any of the other behaviours associated with hormonal aggression? Sidling, puffing up like a toilet brush?
If it's not hormones, it could simply be fear.
So, options include trust training, and maybe neutering (and try the wearing gloves when interacting with the rat thing too).
Then sometimes rats just take a disliking to certain people/rats. I had a female with me for three months who HATED me and savaged my fingers any chance she got (she also hissed at me whenever I walked past the cage and harrassed me everytime she was free ranging). I gave her back to her previous owner and now she's nice as pie.
If you don't feel ready for the challenge of socialising this rat, might the foster carer take him back? Especially if he was a nice rat there...
I've never met a rat I didn't like.
No, he doesn't display any hormonal behaviors towards me or his brother.
The foster caretaker is not sure as to why he has become a biter, but that if I was feeling overwhelmed that she would take them back. She says that companion animals are supposed to make us happy, not bring us excessive anxiety. I am feeling like I'm in over my head, but I've become so attatched to them-- especially the boy who doesn't bite. They are shy outside of their cage but when I walk by their cage they both come up to the side so say hello and sometimes even brux happily. But I feel like if I can't give them the affection they deserve without fear of being bitten, then a more experienced rat lover than I should take care of them. I'm not sure what to do.
Have you tried wearing gloves when interacting with the nippy one?
I've never met a rat I didn't like.