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I got a new rat last week to keep Cato company. She was from a person who breeds them for his snakes. I got her for free. She was born and raised in a tiny, little, crowded bin... somehow, she warmed up to us within days and now that she realizes people do more than just glance at her occasionally, ALL she wants to do is be out... which is cool!! Don't get me wrong! I can have fun with my rats for hours a day and never grow tired of them, but sometimes they need to be in the cage. If I'm cleaning or eating or whatever... if I'm doing ANYTHING and she's not involved, she's gnawing crazily at the bars of the cage. It. Is. SO. Loud. Milosh used to do this around feeding time or if I didn't go right over to say hello in the morning/after work.. but it never went on forever and it was never this loud.

The first time it happened, my boyfriend went to pet her. I asked him to just totally ignore it so it stops. He obliged. We don't even look at her when she does it... it's been a week and it doesn't stop. (As I typed that sentence she stopped.... but seriously). This is driving me NUTS! She has plenty of toys and space, she's not hungry, her teeth are a healthy length and she has plenty to chew on... I don't get it.

Any ideas to curb the behavior? A coworker suggested shaking a can of coins to make an unpleasant noise, but I don't want to do anything to startle her. Can I use bitter apple spray for rats and is it effective?
 

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I would try bitter apple or bitter cherry, both of which should be available at almost any pet store and maybe even Walmart.
 

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I actually think, you are getting the message, your rat is telling you she wants out of the cage. This is a form of communication and she wants you to open the cage door... Usually I just open the door and let my rats free range... Sometimes I tell my rats they can't come out and they get that too, sometimes they still insist... They understand bed time, but otherwise they don't much like being locked in their cage.

Communication is important between humans and rats as is understanding... sometimes rats tell you stuff you don't want to hear, but that doesn't make it any less communication. Rats don't chew the bars to sharpen their teeth because they like to.... they want out or they want to be with you... How you communicate to them that they can't always come out is up to you.... be creative or get used to your rat hanging out with you.

Overall your rat wanting to be with you and communicating to you is a great thing.

Best luck.
 

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What kind of cage do you have? My rats used to chew on the cage bars on my old cage, the rat starter kit. But they stopped once I moved them to a double critter nation. I think mine were telling me they needed out, or needed more space. They're much happier now and never chew the bars. When they want out they just come wait at the door.
 

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I like Rat Daddy's answer, it addresses this problem from the rat's point of view.

I'm not able to free range my rats due to owning 4 cats in a small apartment. I solve the problem by having a "play cage" set on top of the Rat Manor, and I keep all the cage doors open during the day. This allows them to feel somewhat free and make choices about where they want to hang out. Maybe that idea will give you some options.
 

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It is a good thought that rat daddy has, and works well for him because he is able to allow his rats to free range his rats most of the time throughout the house. But for those that is not the case and there is a set time of day that gets to happen, and you are giving your rats enough free range time as you said but you need to get things done as well and can't have your rats out during that time so therefore even though the rat may think that is unfair and communicating the desire to come out of the cage I think you have the right idea by ignoring it to discourage the behavior. cuz if you let him out when he does that or talk to him, etc. he will learn that is what he gets by chewing on the bars. I make the mistake of talking to my boy when he does that cuz i tell him to stop and such but he's probably just thinking 'oh, she'll talk to me if I do this..." but it's not as loud and annoying on my cage as it must be on yours. Eventually he will give up even though he is stubborn and it is taking a while. but i would definitely try the bitter apple spray on the bars to discourage it as well cuz most likely he won't do it then. but definitely don't ever give him attention or take him out when he is doing it and it should stop eventually.
 

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I find it hard to ignore any rat's behavior, although I do discourage some actively... It's hard to convince a rat that you understand him or her... and ignoring them might be taken as you not understanding their communication... When my rats want out, I usually take them out for a minute and then tell them I can't let them roam about and put them back in the cage to let them know I got the message and their request was declined... It doesn't happen often, but sometimes I do have to lock up the rats... (rat allergic guests for example) or bed time.

When you ignore your rat, I have to suppose your rat is wondering, why doesn't mom see me? or why doesn't mom understand me? Whereas "no you can't come out now" at least is some response to your rats request. I suppose if you were working with kids, would you ignore them or what would a good mom do if their kids wanted something? I'm a dad and a pushover at that, maybe there are some moms here that could give some good advise... Rats are a lot like kids.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
lol I ignore incessant demands of children when I babysit... they learn pretty fast. This rat though... MY GOD. I think Rat Daddy is right (as usual!) I have to try some kind of communication because ignoring her isn't working. I've even tried leaving the room and she just chews louder. WHY are they so **** smart?? It's half the reason I love them so much but sometimes I swear they're smarter than we are. Brats...
 

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Part of how I got to understand rats so well was because we had a rat that simply wouldn't give up on trying to communicate or get her way. At first, I didn't get it, she was just an oddly misbehaving animal, but she kept up being persistent and annoying until I finally had to stop what I was doing and notice her, then she would try one behavior after another until I finally understood what she wanted.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that she was actually trying to communicate to me! Your rats know they can't chew through the bars, but they are basically pantomiming their message that they want out by trying to show you what they want. Max would poke at my mouth when she was hungry... she wasn't much of a rat dentist and wasn't into preening my lips or teeth, but when she wanted food she poked my mouth.... as in "Mouth=Food; can't you understand stupid human? Fuzzy Rat tapped scratched and pushed the back of my neck when I walked past a door as in "Open the door and go through!" This was when she wanted to go downstairs or outside or back inside or she wanted me to open the car door... I took me a while to realize that rats were so capable of communicating with us. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, I have had dogs in the past and they would ask to go outside by scratching the door or if they wanted food by bringing me the bowl... Still, somehow it didn't translate to rats in my mind.

And as I am typing this Cloud climbed up onto my foot to be picked up, She lay in my hand while I skritched her for a minute then poked my mouth and I gave her a piece of grape fruit... she headed to the floor, but I put her and her fruit back in the cage instead.... she knew I wasn't going to let her take the grapefruit into the furniture and as soon as I stood up she pointed her nose at the cage instead... I realize it's pretty basic, but we just had a conversation.

I know rat communication might be persistent and annoying, but in all reality it means that your rats think of you as another intelligent being capable of understanding them. This is a critical part of bonding and it's the reason we have rats in the first place. It's actually a very good thing and its a sign that you have a relationship with your rat.

So when your rat is bugging you, or annoying you or hounding you around the house, don't get upset... you should feel flattered that your rats thinks of you as someone who cares about them and will help them. Now teaching a rat 'no' is also communication... but just like human children, rats don't listen well when they don't want to hear something.

Best luck.
 

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She is definitely attempting to communicate, but I suspect there’s a bit of anxiety there too. She’s come from a background where she was pretty much ignored and has gone to a place where suddenly she is an important part of the family. When she sees you she wants confirmation that that’s still the case and to be with you. She hasn’t yet learned that just because you are part of the family and get exciting wonderful time out of the cage doesn’t mean that you can always get that all the time, nor does not having it mean you’re not going to have it again.

For me the important thing would be to try and get her comfy and happy in her cage, not constantly wanting you or out of it, ultimately whilst it would be lovely to free range permanently its not practical for most people and at minimum most rats will need to be caged at some point so its important for them to see there cage as home and a good thing.

Rats tend to do best with elements of routine in their life, it gives them stability and expectations. Its why they end up moving there awake times to fit in with our routines. I would suggest setting up a more formal routine for her and sticking to it as much as possible for at least the next few months before relaxing a bit.

Decide what time of the day they are going to come out, this can be more than once. Pick a phase or something that will let them know it’s coming, such as “Play time girls” or that kind of thing. Don’t get them out unless its prefaced with that. Alongside that you can still visit them, give them a stroke and say hello etc., but the key thing is that out time comes at set times and has a key phases/sound associated with it. Try and keep the length roughly the same and end it with something they enjoy, be it a cuddle or by feeding them at that time of the day. This will tell them that whilst out time is good, so is in the cage time. Limiting the amount of food they have so they don’t have it available all the time will help with this. Giving them access back to their cage whilst they are out can also help if its practical, being able to run in and out of it whilst exploring is very natural and makes the cage an extension of the free range area.

Then with your bar chewer I would treat her normally when she’s chewing, not necessarily ignoring her but making a point of not going out of your normal behaviour to visit her. However if you’re in the room and she isn’t chewing the bars just waiting for you I would go over and tell her well done, give her a treat or some attention and fuss. Positive reinforcement tends to work quite well in cases where the rats clearly been a bit neglected in the past.
 
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