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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I finally brought home my ratties on Nov. 15. It was love at first sight! Three bucks...a 5 wk old hairless named Squiggy, a 2 mth old Dumbo Rex Dalmation named Opie, and a 3 mth old Dumbo Hooded Mink named Andy. Handsome and sweet!

Recently I have noticed Andy seems a bit more aggressive than the others. I took that as he was the Alpha and probably more hormonal. What I didn't realize is that he was looking at me...or my hands as being another rat to contend with. I was careful not to just reach in and grab them unless I had to. I was aware little nips were not aggressive signs. And I understood they might wrestle with my hand to play with.

Andy however started 'pursuing' my hands every time I put them in the cage to clean up poops or move things around. He would wrestle or tug at my paper towel. I took it as playing. But the last few times he started putting his teeth into my hand a little harder and just hold it there. I thought he was just rough housing me so I just tried not to encourage him.

Then last night I took him out for some playtime on the couch. It had been several days since I had taken him out on the couch. We usually interact in front of the open cage with the boys running in and out and around my arms. So he was pretty pumped up about exploring. Lots of teeth chattering and wanting to go places he shouldn't. I kept putting him back or blocking him with my hand. When he would come up next to me I would pet him but then he would start grabbing me with his teeth again and I would squeak to let him know to stop. And he wouldn't do so right away. After about 5 minutes of this kind of activity I was again petting him when he grabbed my hand and chomped down hard and deep while grabbing my hand and kicking it with his back legs. I was stunned at first and didn't even realize he had bit me because it was so sharp and deep. Instead of flinging or slapping him I kept my control and grabbed him by the scruff of his neck to take him off my hand and to keep him from biting me. then I quickly put him back in his cage and tried not to show aggression towards him.

My hand bled like crazy. My poor 12 yr old son was sitting next to me the whole time and was just shocked. I tried to keep calm for him meanwhile my hand was just pouring out blood. My husband was also pretty shocked. After a minute or so of bleeding I poured some hydrogen peroxide on it and then triple antibiotic ointment. But I was more worried about what to do next with Andy. I went back to the cage later and he wasn't aggressive with me, In fact, he looked a little sheepish as if he knew he did something wrong...but maybe I'm reading into it.

This morning he was the same...but he was terribly curious about the smell coming from my hand and the bandage. I must admit I felt tense around him. I petted him and spoke softly to him and let him sniff me and climb on my arm but I was cautious. So I think I will be relinquishing him back to his breeder. Though I could neuter him, I'm not sure that will solve his attitude towards me that he is my Alpha. Plus now I worry he may get too aggressive towards my hairless or even my kids. He may be better adopted out with another male closer to his size and age. My breeder knows about the incident and is trying to help me as well.

I think I may fair better with socializing the two smaller ones, Squiggy and Opie. I have been giving Opie some meds for some soft poops and even though he doesn't like it and struggles with me he has not tried to bite me. As a sidenote...I did see a remarkable change in his poop once I started given him some special rat food mix I bought online. even my vet said it must have good fiber in it and is helping firm him poop up. But he will still need his meds for another week but at least we are seeing an improvement. Another interesting tidbit about Opie is I originally brought him to the vet when I heard this funky sneezing he was doing. Almost like a cough-sneeze or a spasm. It was at this visit we noticed he was also having soft poops. So his lungs were fine but he had high bacteria levels in his gut. I recorded the sneeze and showed it to my vet who said she had seen that in some other animals and it was more like an allergy reaction or a backwards sneeze. He hasn't done it since the vet visit so perhaps he is adjusting to the new smells etc in his environment. Any suggestions on controlling odor of bucks aside from the obvious...I use fleece bedding and a litter pan and have a room air filter. But thought someone else might have another suggestion.

I would appreciate any advice, similar situations etc on Andy's aggression...for I am torn about returning him but I am also nervous of more aggressive behavior. My hand appears to be ok. It isn't bleeding anymore and feels sore but not painful. Doesn't have any pus or swelling. I had a tetanus shot within the last 10 years. So I am not sure if there is anything else I should be concerned about or watch for with my bite. Any advice on that too would be helpful.

Thanks in advance for any insight!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Well my choices on what do about Andy's biting have narrowed down to 3 things: 1) work with him on creating better trust 2) get him neutered 3) have him euthanized.

I will start working on #1 first. #3 will be the last resort.
 

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I thought the breeder would take him back as a last resort?

Anyways, I'm not an expert by any means for a biting rat, not having dealt with it. However, reading your story sounds to me a lot like a how to not be the dominant rat in the relationship. If I am checking on my rats, I pick them up and look them over. I don't really ever worry if they are not in the mood, whether they are in or out of the cage. I know a lot of folks squeak at them if they bite. I generally don't, I just pick them up firmly and tell them no. If they are playing too rough with me I use it as an opportunity to check out their ears, nails and such. I figure it puts me in charge and gives me a chance to do a little health check. Plus since I have an abundance of agouti's I need to check belly markings to be clear who I've got. They get a lot of picked up and at least a tummy check regularly. I want to know who is being naughty and who is doing something cute. Some of the markings are really faint so I usually have to lay them on their backs and really look at chest markings and such. :)

I think animals know if you are nervous, so I would do whatever it takes to make yourself comfortable. If that means putting on gloves, long sleeves ect-I would do it. I would not want them to believe I'm in the least timid, fearful, aggressive ect. I want them to know I'm confident and comfortable with them.

I have 8 boys that will be coming of age, my plan if any of them show aggression that is not outgrown within a reasonable time frame is neutering. I want them to get along with their brothers (or if neutered their sisters) and the humans in the house.

I don't forsee any issues as of yet. But in a worse case scenario and I had a really aggressive rat with both humans and other rats even after neutering I would probably end up caging them alone. That would be my last resort. As long as they seemed reasonably happy under the circumstances, I figure they really don't have that long of a life span in the scheme of things so we would make due with what we had for the time they had.

This is not intended to make you feel that you should do any of the same things as myself, but I figured I'd share my long term plans if such a thing came up in case it helps you any.

I hope it works out with Andy. He's roughly the same age as my baby rats, Andy is just about a week younger I think.
 

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Neutering might help but I agree that a bold rat needs firm regular handling to feel secure. I am not sure it is as clear cut as "dominance" versus just wanting to have their own way versus knowing it is not negotiable. I personally also always break off play or treats and walk away for at least 5 minutes if there is any tooth-on-skin contact even though with my lot it is more treat-hopefullness than anything else. If they do it during cleaning they get removed and put in the carry cage until I am done.
 

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With most animals even if you're not establishing a sense of dominance handling them with confidence is a must. I've trained horses since I was young, and if you act timid and scared it's jut ten times harder to work with them. They also run all over timid handlers.

It's like one of those sayings "when you get bucked off you have to get back on." Don't let him scare you. Read up on some of the threads on the forums and the immersion sticky thread. Try again an handle him firmly and with confidence. If he chomps down you need to let him know that isn't ok. I think you're handling him too gently, and he is taking advantage.

I'm sure others will have better advice. I think just don't give up too early. All animals have different personalities and ven the sweet ones will take advantage if they know you'll let them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks everyone! I certainly don't want to be timid around Andy. I will look at some of the other posts you suggested. Right now I am more concerned with my bite wound. It has gotten infected and I am on antibiotics. A small red line started today. If it starts to spread I will be going to the ER for IV meds.
 

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I don't think that euthanasia should even be an option. He needs to be worked with and it will take time but he can be taught right from wrong. You need to be patient but firm with him. If you haven't read Rat Daddy's immersion thread yet I urge you to asap. Euthanasia isn't the way to go. If you can't sort him out then I would find a rescue who knows how to handle and care for him. Most rescues have permanent residents who're aggressive and can't be adopted out. So there's more options out there, pts shouldn't be one.
 

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Do not get him euthanized! Not to diminish someone else's opinion because I respect everything people say on here but that sounds very harsh for the poor little guy who's adjusting to a whole new world. It is understandable to be very concerned for the safety of your rats and especially your human family. But this is my advice to you, and I hope you are getting other helpful advice as well, I skipped a few of the posts above. When I got my 2 boys they came from a petstore so of course they were very scared and not used to being handled at all. I went through a time at the beginning where my one boy, daisy (yes he has a girl name, weird I know lol), was showing signs of aggression towards me. It was probably out of fear because everything was new to him, even though he didn't seem that scared after the first few days of hiding in his little hut. I had the exact same situation happen to me where he was out playing with me just fine, then he climbed up on my arm and just bit me...for seemingly no reason. He drew blood. I had no idea why he did it and was very put off by it, but one thing that is important is to never show fear with them. It's hard because you are naturally going to be very wary around him afterwards, and i was with daisy but I made myself be as calm as possible and put off energy that said I am the mom, and i am the alpha. You need to put energy off that says you are in charge, but also that says you love him and will care for and protect him. They can sense the tension and you don't want him to take advantage of that so always know that you are the alpha and try not to be scared of him, but still be smart about how you handle him so you can feel it out and see if he is going to act the same way again.

What I really want to stress though is that he is in a new environment and doesn't know what to do. You are probably right about him being the alpha, my daisy is the alpha of my pack too. Maybe your boy is testing the boundaries a little to see if he can be the alpha over you but he also probably just got scared and thought what is this big hand and arm doing? I don't know about this petting thing? And he freaked out a little because he's still learning about you. They learn very quick though. When Daisy bit me i called the store and thought about returning him but i was sad and conflicted cuz I loved him the most for his markings. and the store said that all new rats bite at first cuz of fear. I ended up not bringing him back and he never ever bit me again. And actually he made a complete turn around and he is my baby boy. He's my true shoulder rat who needs lots of love and cuddles every day. I can't imagine having gave him up. He was just scared and also needed to learn his place a little bit. I think you reacted in a good way of taking charge and removing him. I know you were shocked so you may not have thought to do this too, or maybe you did do this but you should also make a high pitched noise or say ow loudly and when you remove him put him to face level and tell him no. Putting him in the cage was good in my opinion. Then later it is good to show him love so he knows that even though you are alpha and need to discipline you still love and care for him.

I would encourage you to work with him for another week or 2 and see if he comes around, because trust me, in those first few weeks personalities don't truly come out. They change so much. The outgoing one ends up being the shy one in the end and vice versa cuz it's so scary for them at first that they don't show their true colors or act how they normally would. Like I said, my daisy ended up being the love of my life, he's my baby and he's actually a rat that is so lucky to come across. Your boy could end up being such a good boy once he learns what's what. Be cautious but don't show him fear. If the behavior continues of him trying to bite you, by all means you don't have to put up with it and you can give him back to the breeder but he may be like daisy and never do it again. Just so you know though, daisy was a little overly hormonal, and after about a month I decided to get both of my boys neutered, so you could get him neutered if you notice he is really bossy with the other rats. For me, it wasn't a necessity, cuz there was no actual fights happening but it was something I prefer with boys because it takes care of marking, dominance fighting, aggression, I also heard it is good for health concerns in the future, and I now house a girl with them. Hope this super long post helps you lol and I really hope you are able to work out your issues with your boy without having to get rid of him, and that his personality becomes super sweet like my daisy.
 

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I'm working with my first pair of rats, they are boys. One is doing great and would be happy to live his life on my shoulder , the other one is starting to bite and is nervous . Males behavior changes when they "come to age " ?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you New Rattie Mom! That was very encouraging. I did start working with him the night he bit me and again yesterday and this morning. In fact, this morning we made a significant break through. He has been tending to pursue my hands whenever I clean up. Now that I know this is a sign of his dominance over the cage, I made a few changes on how I clean. I waited till he was not in the area I was cleaning. When he heard me shuffling around he immediately flew down the ramps to see what was happening. I ignored him and continued to clean. Then he started the pursuing and tried to get the paper towel out of my hand. I immediately stopped, balled my fist up tightly, held it in front of his face and said very firmly NO. And he stopped, and walked away. We did this about three more times and each time he stopped and walked away. That was a major victory for me and gave me added confidence around him. Then I let him wonder outside the cage and I would pick him up in the correct way and hold him to my face and coo at him. Then place him back in the cage. one time he squeaked at me and I had a flash of uh-oh he is going to bite me. But I adjusted by grip and stroked his head and place him back. He even got on my shoulders a few times and I petted him, cooed, and kissed him. But I am going to definitely read the immersion sticky right now too! And I am calling the vet today to see about neutering him.

Again, thank you all for the helpful tips and advice. I am not going to euthanize him. He is a sweet and handsome boy who needs training...as I do.
 

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That's great news! It took my boys a couple weeks to get on my shoulder. It sounds like he is going to have a great personality. Sometimes I think the more dominant personality tend to be the sweetest ones with the human because they tend to be more outgoing. Don't worry, it's a learning process as much for the human as it is for the rats. I didn't know anything about rats when I got mine, except that my friend had one that was sweet as could be. I went through that whole beginning process completely off of my instincts and what I thought was best for my rats and they turned out just fine. I didn't find this website until a few weeks later when i was looking into neutering them. So I use this website as a tool all the time to help me with different problems but it's not an exact science raising rats lol it helps having advice from people but we have natural instincts on how to best help them adjust and bond with us. The method I chose ended up matching exactly to the method this website calls trust training. I believe that's what it's called anyways. It's where you feed them treats and slowly encourage them to come out of the cage and interact with you instead of doing immersion where you full on force them to have all sorts of handling brought on them right away even though it stresses them out. Both methods work and now that I know about both methods I tend to like using a mixture of both. Your Andy seems like he's doing great and sounds like he's going to be a really sweet boy. One thing about the paper towel is that he may not actually be protecting his cage when he tries to get the paper towel from you. Rats love those things as nesting materials that they can play with and destroy and he probably just wants to take it and hoard it lol. My boys do the same and it's so annoying. Just continue telling him no like you are and he will probably back off.
 
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