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Discussion Starter #1
Hello!

I have a new rat that ive added the family. He is a 1 year old male, dumbo and hes also pretty aggressive..towards other rats and towards humans. Apparently, his last owner said that he actually killed his cage mate (which concerns me alot ...how am I ever going to allow him to live with my other two boys? : ( ). I have him in his own tank right now but the plan was to eventually move him into my boy's cage (its a large cage) with my two other boys (they are very sweet and loving). The problem though is his aggression.

When I pet him, he puffs up and huffs at me (although he hasnt made any biting moves yet, but im sure he probably would, especially once i try picking him up).

Im not sure if I should even try any immersion methods on him or...if I should just schedule for a neutering? He is also already a year old and as rats only live 2-3 years is it too late to neuter him? We've only had him a couple days but im not sure if I should invest the time in immersion methods or simply spend the $$ and neuter him : /

What should I do?

PS: also hes much bigger than my boys so im sure that he could harm them pretty easily
 

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Neutering does not always solve the problem. Before resorting to that you might want to try a "forced" immersion so to say. I would get out some gloves/oven mitts, a hoodie or other such thick material and then some sweatpants or other thick pants and pick him up with the gloves and move him to the immersion area. The longer you wait the more your rat is going to feel that he can puff up and be aggressive and make you go away. It's going to be very hard work to fix him if he's this aggressive from what I understand and he may never want to be with other rats. But, before you can even consider introducing your other rats, you need to get this issue with his aggression worked out and secure your role as the alpha. I would read over the Immersion thread and I believe it is option three on the actual immersion directions that you will be working on and fixing. May I ask how long you have had him?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
We have only had him a couple days still. I was letting him settle in his spot for a few days before I really tried anything with him yet, but I was researching online and came up with a lot of neutering answers to these sort of issues. If we did neuter him it wouldnt be for a few weeks so I can save up for it. Bahhhhhhh. Im just concerned most of my other two boys safety..they are big lovable wussies (i raised them as babies) and I dont want them getting hurt!
 

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In that case during the time you're gathering money for a neuter I would start working on immersion. Technically immersion is supposed to be done right when you get them and I did it with my rats and it worked wonders within the first hour. Of course, my rats were fairly friendly to begin with so I don't have any experience with aggressive ratties. I wouldn't even consider putting this male in with your others until you can work with his aggression a lot. That means some really rigorous immersion in which I would almost suggest that you expect to get bitten and you should therefore wear something thick and durable enough to deal with it. He seems like a pretty hard case... :I
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you so much for your input! I will definitely still try it. Yea haha, Im going to most definitely wear some gear lol I know that I probably shouldnt have got him but I just felt drawn to him for some reason, poor guy! He does look sweet, and hes not shy about sniffing me and listening to me when I talk to him (very curious guy!), but as soon as I touch him he haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaates me.
 

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He probably is a very sweet little guy that just happened to have a bad owner in the past that didn't socialize him/abused him. If he's not afraid of you then I would say he's definitely salvageable with some time and effort put in. I wish you the best of luck and please don't be afraid to ask more questions!
 

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Also, just to chime in - it isn't too late to neuter him. At 1 years old he should do absolutely fine with surgery and recovery. If the immersion does not work, I would definitely find a suitable vet to neuter the rat.
 

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Oh, yes. Very sorry, I didn't mean to say that neutering is not an option, I just didn't want you to put all of your hope into curing him that way. :3
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Oh I know what you meant!! Actually I just spent an hour with him. I just decided to try it right now! I burrowed my moms work gloves and got into jeans/sweat shirt and put him on the bed with me (along with a towel). Surprisingly though, He didnt try to bite me at all!! But what concerns me was his SCREAMING.

I would barely touch him (like on his back) and he would SCREAM as if in immense pain. He would roll on his back and I would stroke his belly gently and he would wimper. I picked him up several times (he would scream) I would cuddle him and stroke him (lots of wimpering). I gave him little breaks and he would lay down infront of me and stare at me...but as soon as I would try to reach for him to pet him (screaming).

But through all of this he never even tried to bite. Eventually I took of the gloves and continued the stroking/picking up and tried to calm him and make him see im not hurting him. He isn't screaming in agony as much but definitely squeaking and wimpering. He rolls over and gets on his back (belly up) whenever I stroke his back (much wimpering and little screeches).

No huffing up though...

What.The.Heck.

What does all this mean???? I dont understand. Ive NEVER had an animal that acted like this..I feel so bad for him I want to cry.
 

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I've never heard of that behavior... Is it possible he is expecting pain? If he was abused before then he might feel as if every time someone touches him it hurts and it just sort of became habit to shriek? That definitely seems disturbing and frightening...
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I know im so concerned and so sad for him!! I wonder what he went through to act like this? I messaged his past owner about this behavior and to see what she says. You see I found him at our local pet store, and after I got him I posted about it on my local rat fan club page on facebook. Turns out that his last owner is also on that page and ended up messaging me about him, saying that he was hers. I dont know why she gave him up...she posted a few days ago about adopting out all her rats recently.
 

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Doesn't seem like a very nice owner is they're willing to put their pet in a pet store to be sold as who-knows-what... But, maybe they had a good reason so I can't entirely blame them. It could even be that he had an owner before that person that was abusive. I would definitely say that something happened to him though. :I Can you describe the noise better or maybe try to find a sound track online that is close to it?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Yea I have absolutely no idea! Ok its hard to describe. Just a very loud, very high pitch scream (not a squeek or a squeal but a scream). I found a youtube video that comes pretty close to it. Skip to 12 seconds into video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-arhKPfDrc very similar to this. Every time I attempted to touch/stroke his back. Then he would flip onto his back and expose his belly and try to push my hand away with his paws (i would gently stroke his belly at this point), when I stroked his belly he would wimper.
 

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A quick search brought up "Screaming: When rats are extremely frightened or feel acute pain, they may scream. Stop whatever is happening that is causing the rat to scream." (Found here: http://www.smallanimalchannel.com/rats/rat-behavior/rat-body-language.aspx ) I think this is going to be a tougher case than just aggression... It seems almost like this rat isn't terrified of people but of being touched by a person. I really think this is going to take some real patience and kindness to cure. He may always be phobic of being touched but it may be possible to fix it. Have you tried giving him any treats yet? That may be a good place to start. I would scatter a few around for the first session and just let him find a few he likes and keep tabs of them. The next session you take him out you could try only allowing him to have treats if he takes them from your hand (You may have to try handing it and laying it on your palm and seeing which he might take to better). This way, he isnhaving a good experience without you directly doing anything to him.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Oh thats a pretty good site! Yea I say that he started to get used to it towards the end of our session, he wasn't as ear pierce screaming as he was at the start (more just squeaks and wimpering towards the end). I think the treat idea is definitely good! I will try this! And just keep loving on him and doing what I can. My poor fella. I feel so so bad for him, but Im going to love him as much as I can so he will have a good life for now on :)
 

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I definitely have to applaud you for willing to put all this effort into this boy. I'm sure many would have given up on him and left him alone for the rest of his life or gotten him euthanized. Thank you for seeing the chance this boy has and striving towards it. Please keep us updated on him and don't be afraid to ask more questions! :3
 

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Discussion Starter #17
awww thank you!! I just really want him to be happy! Every life deserves happiness!! I will for sure too! Thank you for talking with me, I do appreciate it! :)
 

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No problem at all! I hope I've been of some help at least. I just got my first pair yesterday so I don't have much experience yet, just knowledge from my prior research. XD And I'm glad to see that you think so. :3
 

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When folks adopt older rats that have had prior homes they have to realize that these rats come with baggage. And although some folks will disagree here, there was usually something wrong with their previous relationship. That's not to say it was the rat's fault. Adopting a rats that's already being rehomed is a whole lot like buying a $1.00 used car. I know, I've bought a few in my time. You usually start by pushing or towing it and then you move up to fixing it... on the up side I've had my first $1.00 used car for over 30 years now.

When you browse certain other sites that don't have immersion as an option, it's pretty much a Rat Forum exclusive, you will read a whole lot about neutering. Immersion fixes screwed up rats, trust training and PRO don't. Sites that still promote the older socialization methods also recommend neutering for screwed up rats.

I'm glad to hear your first extreme immersion session wasn't as extreme as some have been. Your rat has been severely mistreated to be this screwed up. If he's rolling over on his back he's expressing submission and if he's screaming when you rub his belly he's expecting pain. I've seen this kind of behavior with abused dogs more than rats.

Keep engaging him, be firm if he starts getting pushy or aggressive and don't back down, but if he's being submissive and not attacking you it's all about building communication, trust and friendship. Stay with him, keep engaging him gently and with lots of kindness, treats and soft tones. This particular issue is not a classically screwed up rat, it's more a tangle of problems. Humans may have neglected him and he may have gotten alpha confused and then they may have beaten him into this state, so when you start untangling him you might find multiple issues that might express themselves before you can properly bond and before he can live with your other rats.

Immersion and it's extreme variant have fixed lots of screwed up rats, it requires commitment on your part and it's followed by training and lots of hands on daily interaction to solidify your relationship after immersion, it's even worked with neutered rats that still had aggression issues. I've never had to neuter a rat and I think immersion can fix most issues and build a stronger relationship at the same time, but I don't ever throw away a tool. Like my monster sledge hammer, and my 6 foot pipe wrench, some tools are right for certain jobs, but might not be your best go to tools for most situations.

Personally it sounds like you are already starting to make progress, stick with it for a little while and get to know your new rat before you schedule a surgery. Once you've worked out your relationship, then we can take another look at how he's doing and see how to go about doing intros as safely as possible. But that's another problem for another day. Fix one problem at a time and then move on to the next.

Best luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I just want to update a little bit! I have the new ratty with me on the couch and hes exploring the blanket, having some fun! When I took him out of the cage he didnt scream like before, but he still complained with some squeaks! I believe hubby and I are renaming him to "Odo" (the shape shifter from star trek Lol) He just suits that name I think,his given name Sebastian was just too long LOL. I think I will work on getting Odo a better cage in the mean time. Hes in a big tank right now (thats what we had on hand) and I want to put him in a wire cage so I can sit him next to the other boys so they can smell eachother without being close enough to hurt eachother for now (eek) Im still worried about how Im going to introduce him to my boys, I don't want him to be alone but Im scared for my other boys health!! *stresss* Lol. Do you think theres no hope for him to have a cage buddy since he apparently killed his last one? Do you think that once he becomes friendly with me (no more complaining about being held, taking treats from me etc) he'll be ready to meet the boys? How do you know if they will never get along? Id hate to think that they were ok and then later one of them ends up killed : /
 
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