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This morning my new rat (about 7 months old) bit my boyfriend's finger and drew blood. I think he is a bit stressed because of the new environment but he was not biting out of fear, he was sitting on his lap and then he purposely reached up, pulled his hand down towards him, sniffed him and then chomped on his finger (which was gushing blood).

Background: He is from a rescue litter and has been in the care of a breeder who has been trying to rehome him all summer. The person responsible for breeding him bred a female breeding rat to a random male she had gotten from a feeder bin and then decided she didn't want the babies, so the litter was rescued and raised by a friend of the breeder who had been taking care of him.
He hadn't previously had any issues with aggression towards other rats until he turned 6 months. She has had success introducing him to a couple different groups of rats but has never seen him act aggressive towards people.

I don't know if I want to attempt introducing him to my boys. I'm trying to contact all the vets in my area to see if any treat rats at a price I might be able to afford to get him neutered, but I don't know what to do now. Neither me nor my boyfriend want to handle him because we don't want to get bit again, and as we've only ever owned two rats before, we are not familiar with aggressive behaviors. I can always return him to the breeder but he was so sweet on the way back when we picked him up, he was sleeping on my boyfriends lap and bruxing and boggling the whole way, I don't want to give up on him just yet. phantom.jpg
 

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Your new rat still could've been biting out of fear. He may have smelled something on your boyfriend's finger which scared him. I'm glad you're not ready to give him up just yet. For how long have you had him now? Hearing that he boggled and bruxed and slept in your boyfriend's lap on the way home makes me think he has potential and that something really did scare him causing him to bite. From now on, I would make sure to wash your hands before being with your new rat and I'd call the breeder to get a little more information. She may have advice for you about how to work with him based on her knowledge of his personality. As you mentioned, neutering will probably be a big help, too.
 

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Being he's had a pretty screwed up lifestyle, I don't know if he's ever bonded with humans or if he has how traumatic losing them is for him.

He's a pink eyed white which sometimes means he can't see very well so might be frightened by sudden movements. But it can also be a matter of him establishing his new pack status in his new household. He's just taking charge... If course this kind of behavior is unacceptable and needs to be discouraged immediately.

With a rat that you raised yourself that is starting to challenge you a few loud NO!'s and a few bops (with love in your heart) usually sets them right... But here we don't really know anything about this rat.

So, I'd start by armoring up, just in case and starting with immersion to get things off on the right foot. Before you really want to start correcting your rats behavior you really should get your new rat bonded to you and establish the correct pack order with you at the head of the table.... as alpha...(read alpha to mean parent and teacher and not tyrant). And once you build a relationship based on communication you can see what direction training will take.

So why armor up? I'm not sure how the immersion will go. It might be friendly and playful and he will bond with you and never bite again, or he may have been a high status rat in his former pack and he may decide to challenge you, in which case it will get ugly before it gets better... and you are going to have to defend against and discourage his attacks until he gets that you are his new parents, and it's not acceptable to challenge mom and dad. And oven mitts or welding gloves make the procedure a whole lot safer for you. Of course you aren't going to really hurt him. Once he gets that you are in charge, the rest of the immersion session should be friendly and playful and as comforting and reassuring as any immersion session should be.

I very much understand that folks want to rescue rats and it's a fine and noble thing to do. But when you rescue a rat that hasn't had a good stable home before you are bringing in a rat with baggage and certain challenges are to be expected. For a rat that's been in several different situations he's had to fight for status before and most likely finds himself in the same situation.

Back in College I had a friend that had been in 5 different schools growing up.. he told me the secret to being the new kid is to find the biggest and strongest kid (the alpha) and challenge him. If he won the fight he would be considered the strongest kid and he would be left alone by all of the others, if he lost the fight, he would be the second strongest kid and also be left alone by the other kids, either way it was a win, otherwise he would literally have to fight every kid in the school for status... and that was a lose - lose situation. It may not be a matter of your new rat being aggressive because he's hormonal or angry, he's just establishing pack order. If he wins, he's the boss and if he loses he knows who the leader is and most likely will fall in line. Knowing the humans are in charge should also make it easier to introduce him to the rest of your group.

So see how it goes during immersion and take it from there. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Best luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Being he's had a pretty screwed up lifestyle, I don't know if he's ever bonded with humans or if he has how traumatic losing them is for him.

He's a pink eyed white which sometimes means he can't see very well so might be frightened by sudden movements. But it can also be a matter of him establishing his new pack status in his new household. He's just taking charge... If course this kind of behavior is unacceptable and needs to be discouraged immediately.

With a rat that you raised yourself that is starting to challenge you a few loud NO!'s and a few bops (with love in your heart) usually sets them right... But here we don't really know anything about this rat.

So, I'd start by armoring up, just in case and starting with immersion to get things off on the right foot. Before you really want to start correcting your rats behavior you really should get your new rat bonded to you and establish the correct pack order with you at the head of the table.... as alpha...(read alpha to mean parent and teacher and not tyrant). And once you build a relationship based on communication you can see what direction training will take.

So why armor up? I'm not sure how the immersion will go. It might be friendly and playful and he will bond with you and never bite again, or he may have been a high status rat in his former pack and he may decide to challenge you, in which case it will get ugly before it gets better... and you are going to have to defend against and discourage his attacks until he gets that you are his new parents, and it's not acceptable to challenge mom and dad. And oven mitts or welding gloves make the procedure a whole lot safer for you. Of course you aren't going to really hurt him. Once he gets that you are in charge, the rest of the immersion session should be friendly and playful and as comforting and reassuring as any immersion session should be.

I very much understand that folks want to rescue rats and it's a fine and noble thing to do. But when you rescue a rat that hasn't had a good stable home before you are bringing in a rat with baggage and certain challenges are to be expected. For a rat that's been in several different situations he's had to fight for status before and most likely finds himself in the same situation.

Back in College I had a friend that had been in 5 different schools growing up.. he told me the secret to being the new kid is to find the biggest and strongest kid (the alpha) and challenge him. If he won the fight he would be considered the strongest kid and he would be left alone by all of the others, if he lost the fight, he would be the second strongest kid and also be left alone by the other kids, either way it was a win, otherwise he would literally have to fight every kid in the school for status... and that was a lose - lose situation. It may not be a matter of your new rat being aggressive because he's hormonal or angry, he's just establishing pack order. If he wins, he's the boss and if he loses he knows who the leader is and most likely will fall in line. Knowing the humans are in charge should also make it easier to introduce him to the rest of your group.

So see how it goes during immersion and take it from there. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Best luck.
Thank you both for your replies.
I used your immersion technique for my other two boys, both of whom were terrified when I got them (they were originally from a feeder bin) and they were like completely different rats within 2 days. I am not used to the behaviors Phantom is exhibiting because my two boys which are my first and only rats ever besides Phantom have never showed signs of territorial aggression and they have never bit anyone, even if I put my fingers through the bars they will lick them. I quickly learned not to do that with Phantom, even though he has never been fed through the bars by any of his previous owners.

Do you think there is a point where I can be certain he won't bite again? Immersion went well with the other two boys but I had no reason to fear being bit by either of them. Phantom has bit twice, my boyfriend and the previous people who tried to adopt him and returned him within 3 weeks. He was cared for by Sam (the one who raised the rescue litter) and then by the breeder who took him in to find him a home. I know he was with his siblings originally with Sam, but with the breeder he had been shuffled around with different groups of rats due to her circumstances. Most of her rats don't stay with her for their lifetime and in addition, she is often taking males out and putting them back into different groups in order to breed them. So I would say it has been traumatic for him, but he never once bit the breeder or her boyfriend, even after and incident where he got in a fight with one of his cagemates and her boyfriend pulled him from the cage while he was still puffed.

She said that he chased and bullied his other cagemates for about a week before settling, and all but one of her other boys ran from him and didn't challenge him (both of them ended up with small injuries). He is also about twice the size of my current two boys and both of them seem very submissive to him, so my fear is that my lack of confidence with handling him now that he's bitten and my inexperience with reading their behaviors will result in more injuries, either to another person or one of my rats.

After he bit my boyfriend, Sam said she would take him back if need be and keep him permanently and render him un-adoptable. I know that another change would stress him even more. I only want to make whatever decisions is going to be best for him and for my other rats.
 

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Also I forgot to mention, I figured he couldn't see as well. On the ride home when he was sleeping on my boyfriend's lap, almost every time we reached out to pet him he squeaked and he did it more so when I reached from behind him and he didn't see my hand coming.
 

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You mention that Phantom squeaked every time you pet him during the car ride while bringing him home. Do you think he could've been in pain?

Also, I was thinking about how he didn't try to bite your boyfriend while you were driving him home from picking him up. I think that's because he was in a totally unfamiliar territory which left him no choice but to rely on your boyfriend as his "protector". Since everything was unfamiliar, he was forced to see your boyfriend as his ally. Have you or your boyfriend tried taking him by himself to other unfamiliar territories and seen that he was more trusting? Just a thought.

As you know, nurturing Phantom's behavior can take time. That's interesting that it took a week for him to stop bullying his previous cagemates before he settled in there. Poor guy, he's been through so many changes....it's pretty easy to sympathize with him!

Ultimately you'll have to figure out whether or not you have the time and energy to work with him....that seems to be key to whether or not you can achieve success. Also, thinking through options such as would you be okay with keeping him in separate housing if you find he's not able to get along with your other rats?
 

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I think for now, it's pretty safe to assume he's going to keep biting you... and he's likely to get worse until you take charge of the situation.... Yes I realize sane people don't handle biting rats... but he is at about the perfect age for alpha confusion and not having a human alpha he's going anti-social and hormonal...

Once you have fixed his behavioral issues he won't bite anymore.

Of the options, neutering can be expensive, immersion can be stressful on you, and returning him is cheapest and about the only option that will be guaranteed 100% successful for you. This rat may be more than you bargained for, but lots of folks in your shoes have put the rats well-being ahead of their own and armored up through a difficult immersion or dug deep for the surgery.... on the other hand if you return him, I assume you are going to adopt another rat and give him a good home, so some deserving rat still wins and maybe your problem rat will find a home more suitable for his temperament where he can be helped... this is your call. About the only choice that you shouldn't make is just leave him locked up in a cage by himself...


Best luck with whatever you decide to do.
 

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Thank you both again for your replies. I know I'm not going to leave him in the cage by himself. I have about 3-4 weeks until I get my new rats from the breeder (she has babies but no more rescues right now) and by that time I will need the other half of my DCN for them until they're old enough to do intros. The plan was to see if he'd work out, intro him to by two boys and then intro the babies to those three but I've told her I won't try to introduce him to my other two rats if I can't trust him because I know my boys will pick up on that.
 

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Sorry for the late reply.

I'll be working with him until then, I don't know if I can keep him when I get the babies because I only have the two cages. He is worse now than he was when I posted before. I always handle him with thick gloves but he's started to bite me whenever I try to touch or pet him. He's completely fine if I let him do his own thing otherwise, but when he bites, he bites hard. I'd have been bleeding if I didn't have the gloves on. He's also marking more excessively and has a myco flare-up.
 

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Being sick isn't likely improving his mood, but by now he should be getting that bad things happen when he tries to bite you. I hope you are making it very clear to him that biting is a bad idea, and yes armor up and wear gloves...

Someone once wrote me they didn't like gloves and didn't mind getting bitten by a rat... While he was actually very successful at fixing his rat pretty quickly, I wouldn't endorse that method for most people... Mostly when a rat bites, you withdraw and the rat gets worse having won another battle he is emboldened to do it again.

Sure, when you leave him alone he's OK, when you exert authority he fights back, in his mind he's the big bad alpha, and he won't be handled or pushed around... My big girl won't let me scratch her bum, but I can handle her and pet and skritch her on her terms... Oddly she has a skritching spot, when she is in her skritching spot she loves to be skritched. When she asks to be picked up, she points and wants to go somewhere with the least touching possible. She may not be an alpha, but sees herself as a high status rat and she makes some rules.... up to a point. If I disrespect her she withdraws and sulks and gives me the cold shoulder, actually flips me the tail... but she doesn't bite.

So wear heavy gloves and armor up, don't get bitten again, but get this guy into an immersion area and get down to business... It will get ugly before it gets better. And expect this to take some time... this isn't a quick fix.

Some will argue that neutering is better... but in this case both methods can work. It depends on whether you prefer to invest the time or the money. I might add that locking yourself in a room with a biting rat is no picnic... and it's not for the faint of heart or for someone that can't handle confrontation. But rats aren't stupid and they eventually get the message that you are bigger and stronger and you are in charge, then they usually get with the program and join the community. Extreme immersion requires daily close follow up until the hormone levels return to normal. So it's not a set it and forget it approach...

I also might add that seeing his enemies in the same room with him isn't helping... He sees rats he can't play with or dominate and that will upset him... It's like an enemy that won't withdraw and won't attack... that's pretty unnerving over time. Until rats do intros they regard each other as potential enemies rather than potential friends... Once they survive intros, they establish social structures and social bonds and they become friends... Rats that don't know each other but can see each other are likely to be more stressed than rats being kept completely away from other rats... The constant threat might be raising his hormone levels.... Just a thought.

Best luck.
 

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Sorry to hear it's not going well. Since you're observing respiratory symptoms, have you taken him to the vet? I'm wondering if medicating him for mycoplasma (if this is what he has) could help him bond with you. I've found that when my rats are sick, they can tell I'm helping them heal and are grateful. Neutering does sound like it could help as well.

Do you have a backup plan of finding a new home for him if you're unable to help him? In other words, do you have ideas of who might be able to take him in?
 
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