Rat Forum banner

1 - 11 of 11 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
307 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Justin bit my daughter this morning, quite deep and it bled quite abit. My daughter was in tears. Every night she has her play time with the Justin and Rascal. And every morning before school she says bye to them. We've had the boys for 4 weeks now and they 10 weeks old. Justin has given a few little nips to my boyfriend, but not to me or anyone else at home. Justin has only nipped when his in his cage, not outside his cage. I've picked up that when his sleepy or woken up he is abit moody. He was in his fleecy tunnel when my daughter stuck her finger in to give a goodbye cuddle. It's was quite a bad bite. I'm not too sure what to think of this and what to do? Does my daughter need to bond more with Justin? Trust issues? Pin him down? Any advise would be great.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
955 Posts
Could have gotten a surprise if she didn't announce herself before she put her hand in there. They are still quite new and learning.
The important thing to remember when a rat bites or nips is to not let them away with it. If the rat is biting because he doesn't like you in his space, and then you withdraw (to tend your wounds) then he learns that biting gets you to leave him alone! So he will do it again as he knows that it works. He thinks he is the boss of you and your little one and he is thinking he can boss you about and tell you when he doesn't want petted or touched in his cage. This is undesirable. You are the parent and the rat is the child in this relationship, you should call the shots, not him!
Of course this is easier said than done when it is a bad bite and you or to your child is bleeding! Hopefully if he nips again it won't be as severe and you will have the opportunity to tell him it's not on. Pick him up, and tell him No! In a firm voice - (think strict teacher rather than shouting) and maybe a tap on the nose to make sure he is paying attention. (not hard enough to hurt.)
Rats respond well to firm confident handling and are intelligent enough to know that something they are doing is unacceptable if you teach them so.

If your daughter is worried about touching him again get her some thick gardening gloves so that she can feel confident and in charge around him.

Best of luck!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
307 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thank you so much Kitterpus. It makes complete sense. I think he was startled too. I need to teach my daughter to announce her presence before sticking her hand in his 'space'. She's 7 years old so she did get quite a fright! I'll offer gloves and supervise her time with Justin. Tomorrow is weekend for us, so we will have decent time to work on her confidence in handling Justin again.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
955 Posts
Aaw your poor daughter, I hope she doesn't become afraid of him now - must have been a shock for her.

Babies can be a bit nippy in general, as they like to test everything out with their teeth (bit like a puppy) which may explain his previous behavioral with your boyfriend. Hopefully the bad bite was an isolated incident brought on by being startled. I found when mine were very young, all sorts of things could freak them out - something as simple as a new hand wash might have made your daughter seem like a strange threat.
Another possibility is that he thought he was getting food and took a bite - some rats are snatchers! Again, announcing your presence will help here. Rats have very sensitive teeth though, and should be able to recognise the difference between a finger and a yogurt drop much the same way our fingers can sense if we are touching a rock or an egg.
Sometimes they do get territorial over their cage, and if it seems like he is starting to doing this, then I would work with him inside the cage - pair of gloves on if needed, move things about, move him about, pet him in there, offer treats etc. Get him used to the fact that it is your cage as much as his and he will hopefully stop defending it.

Hope things go well over the weekend! Let us know :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
How old is your daughter? It's very normal for children to not be able to read an animal's body language. Lots of kids just play with the animal and think everything is fine, when it isn't. She might have scared Justin and not realized it, prior to this bite, in a pattern over time. If we override an animals fear, it's normal for the animal to react with, "can you hear me yet? no? can you hear me yet? no? BITE. Now can you hear me?".

Or, when a rat is sound asleep and gets startled, an abrupt reflexive, defensive bite, is normal. Except, a well-socialized rat usually does an astoundingly good job of not drawing blood, even in those circumstances. Barring a history of abusive handling, or bad genetics, a normal pet rat has good bite inhibition that gets better as he becomes more attached to his humans.

If possible, spend some time (all family members), watching Justin's body language to see if you can identify 'feeling friendly' versus 'leave me alone' or 'worried over here'. Every time you all start to interact with him, encourage him to come to you first, instead of going for him or just picking him up. If he accepts treats, feed him one when you arrive. Do something neutral around his cage, watching to see him be interested in relating to you.

This is somewhat diagnostic. If Justin stays in his hut or hammock, instead of hopping out and racing to the door to say hi and accept a treat, I might assess that as scared more than happy.

If he's not willingly/voluntarily hopping to the cage door, I would work to change his mind about that by giving him reasons to like me. Using positive reinforcement is the best method for this. I'm not sure if there's a resource for that method on this forum, but here's my take on it: http://www.joinrats.com/ModifyBehavior/PositiveReinforcement/Method.

If you sense he is reluctant to come out, or his boy language is not friendly, you could also teach him to use a small transport box, that way you don't have to bodily force him to do anything, and you can manage cage cleaning and other chores.

Using a transport box can also help the family members feel better. It's scary to be bitten by a rat and not know what it means or whether it's going to happen again. So mysterious and so painful. Here's the method for a transport box: http://www.joinrats.com/EarningTrust/Transportbox.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
320 Posts
How old is your daughter? It's very normal for children to not be able to read an animal's body language. Lots of kids just play with the animal and think everything is fine, when it isn't. She might have scared Justin and not realized it, prior to this bite, in a pattern over time. If we override an animals fear, it's normal for the animal to react with, "can you hear me yet? no? can you hear me yet? no? BITE. Now can you hear me?".

Or, when a rat is sound asleep and gets startled, an abrupt reflexive, defensive bite, is normal. Except, a well-socialized rat usually does an astoundingly good job of not drawing blood, even in those circumstances. Barring a history of abusive handling, or bad genetics, a normal pet rat has good bite inhibition that gets better as he becomes more attached to his humans.

If possible, spend some time (all family members), watching Justin's body language to see if you can identify 'feeling friendly' versus 'leave me alone' or 'worried over here'. Every time you all start to interact with him, encourage him to come to you first, instead of going for him or just picking him up. If he accepts treats, feed him one when you arrive. Do something neutral around his cage, watching to see him be interested in relating to you.

This is somewhat diagnostic. If Justin stays in his hut or hammock, instead of hopping out and racing to the door to say hi and accept a treat, I might assess that as scared more than happy.

If he's not willingly/voluntarily hopping to the cage door, I would work to change his mind about that by giving him reasons to like me. Using positive reinforcement is the best method for this. I'm not sure if there's a resource for that method on this forum, but here's my take on it: http://www.joinrats.com/ModifyBehavior/PositiveReinforcement/Method.

If you sense he is reluctant to come out, or his boy language is not friendly, you could also teach him to use a small transport box, that way you don't have to bodily force him to do anything, and you can manage cage cleaning and other chores.

Using a transport box can also help the family members feel better. It's scary to be bitten by a rat and not know what it means or whether it's going to happen again. So mysterious and so painful. Here's the method for a transport box: http://www.joinrats.com/EarningTrust/Transportbox.
Disclaimer: I'm a rat newb, so my input is going to be more child-focused, and also relate to my background in positive training of other species.

I think the most important thing to begin with is to help your daughter to process this experience in a positive and productive way.

It's really hard not to take a painful injury personally, even for most adults, so a good calm talk with her about how she feels now might work wonders. I imagine you've already thought of this, but never hurts to throw some ideas around, I suppose.

One way I've had success in approaching things with kids who've had a frightening/startling experience with a pet is to tell them we are going to start an investigation into why the accident happened. We are going to figure out why Justin made a mistake, and bit her.

We're going to--as a family--figure out how to help Justin not mess up and make that same mistake again.

Make it clear all throughout this conversation that she's not in trouble, she's free to choose how much she wants to participate in all this, and you are behind her, guiding and protecting her all the way.

Rebuilding trust between her and Justin will likely go best if it's in small steps, using some of the great suggestions in the above post and ones prior to that. Set everyone up for success, in other words.

I hope it all works out well for you, and that your daughter's bite heals well, and without infection or complications.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Disclaimer: I'm a rat newb, so my input is going to be more child-focused, and also relate to my background in positive training of other species.

I think the most important thing to begin with is to help your daughter to process this experience in a positive and productive way.

It's really hard not to take a painful injury personally, even for most adults, so a good calm talk with her about how she feels now might work wonders. I imagine you've already thought of this, but never hurts to throw some ideas around, I suppose.

One way I've had success in approaching things with kids who've had a frightening/startling experience with a pet is to tell them we are going to start an investigation into why the accident happened. We are going to figure out why Justin made a mistake, and bit her.

We're going to--as a family--figure out how to help Justin not mess up and make that same mistake again.

Make it clear all throughout this conversation that she's not in trouble, she's free to choose how much she wants to participate in all this, and you are behind her, guiding and protecting her all the way.

Rebuilding trust between her and Justin will likely go best if it's in small steps, using some of the great suggestions in the above post and ones prior to that. Set everyone up for success, in other words.

I hope it all works out well for you, and that your daughter's bite heals well, and without infection or complications.
I LOVE these suggestions. Just love them.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
307 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Thank you Ratpax and Gwen. My daughter is 7 yrs old. It happened a second time. She was bitten again over the weekend. Outside of his cage while he was free ranging. She bled terribly again. I picked him up, tapped him on the nose and said 'no'! I'm a newbie rat owner, so I'm trying to also figure out why Justin is biting her. He nips my boyfriend aswell, but doesn't draw blood. He has never done it to me and I am the one that spends more time with my boys. Both times he bit her or nipped my boyfriend he was awake. I think he hasn't done this to me because I usually only pick him up when he comes to me first as I am abit weary of him. I take my hat off to my daughter as she is so fond of the boys and this has not stopped her from picking Justin up. I've taught her to make her presence known to Justin before picking him up. But the second time he was well aware of her presence. It's going to be difficult to teach her how to read his body language because of her age, but I need to give it a try. I will suggest watching Justin's body language as a family. For now, I think it's Justin saying 'leave me alone'. With abit of sacredness. I don't know if something happened between her and Justin. From the day the boys came home, which was 5 weeks ago, my daughter has been very involved in handling them, cuddling, feeding, kissing and loving them. We have lots to learn still, but I really hope I can overcome Justin biting her.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
307 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
To add to the above, thought I'd mention that Justin picks on Rascal (his brother) quite abit. With play fighting, Justin bites and pins Rascal down. A few squeaks, but nothing serious. I guess this would make Justin the alpha male? His bigger than Rascal. If I had to describe Justin. I would put him under the cheeky category. When the free range he doesn't come to us, always on his own mission, stubborn and determined! When we try hold him to cuddle, he squirms out of our hands. Rascal likes being on us licking and kissing, not Justin. Justin is more 'leave me, I'll come to you when I want to'.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Instead of picking up Justin, have Justin climb onto you (or daughter).
In other words, you want to see "like" and "want to" in his behavior, which would be the case if he's the one to choose. This can be for all forms of interacting with you and does not involve you exerting any pressure or force:

This is the method to encourage good behavior: http://www.joinrats.com/ModifyBehavior/PositiveReinforcement/Method/

It can take some work to do the method correctly - maybe your family could make it a project? Justin might be someone distant or aloof, but positive reinforcement can turn him around in a huge way. He'll be racing to be with you and maybe you won't be able to get him off you. :)

I suggest wearing gloves for awhile.

I suggest also, don't tap him on the nose. Rats do not tolerate well this kind of handling. In fact recently my vet asked me to help a family whose 11-year old child had been bitten badly by one of their rats. In fact both parents were also bitten, and the mother reported doing exactly what you did, which got her another bite. (Oh - and one thing that helped the child during the work was that she wore gloves. Helped her with her confidence.)

There is a rare circumstance where aggression/biting are genetic, in which case you wouldn't be able to affect the rat's behavior, but there's a lot of room right now for seeing if good behavior modification will help. So I wouldn't assume there are genetics. However, if you purposely or inadvertently mishandle him or subject him to aversive experiences, his biting may not lessen as a result.

Between the 2 rats, that sounds like normal play behavior for babies. Here's some info on triaging that might help:
http://www.joinrats.com/ModifyBehavior/Tworats/

I also don't think rats engage in a behavior that can be termed "alpha" where the goal is that the "alpha" rat is trying to control or boss the other one around. Here are some videos and some information that might inform your thinking:
http://www.joinrats.com/ModifyBehavior/SubmissionDominance/

And more videos to see if you can pinpoint the nature of the 2 rats' interactions, there is a set of links in a box on the right just down a bit on this page:http://www.joinrats.com/ModifyBehavior/Nobloodnofoul/
 
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
Top