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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I don't really have a specific question, but I wanted to share this, partly because I'm interested in hearing experiences or insights from others and also for any future wild rat/R rattus owners who might browse the forums for info and anecdotes.

The other night I had a friend over and I was showing him my rats (and taking the opportunity to exchange their old food for new stuff). Claudia is very friendly, even towards strangers, and so I had her out. I let my friend hold her, and she climbed back and forth between the two of us for a couple times. I noticed as she crawled on him she was fluffing up her fur, but I didn't really think much about it. Sometimes she does that, it didn't seem too weird, although looking back it might've been a sign she wasn't feeling 100% comfortable. She was on his arm, and I turned around to do something in the cage when he said "Hey, she's biting me."
I turned around and she was REALLY biting him. It was not a nip, she had clamped down on his forearm (and even adjusted to get a better grip). Fortunately he didn't freak out and stayed very calm. I calmly and gently tried to pick her up (but I did not grab her), but she wouldn't let go. I gently stroked her back and did the whole "Shhh, it's ok" and after what seemed like forever but was really only maybe a few seconds she let go and immediately jumped onto me.

I was really surprised that this happened! I asked him if he noticed anything before she bit, and he said it seemed like she was going to jump onto my arm, but I moved it away when I reached into the cage and that's when she bit him. Perhaps she felt trapped.

She has never bitten me, but has bit once before- I was out of town and had a friend come by to feed her and put daily enrichment in her cage, as she was my only rat and this was my first time being away. On one of the last days, she bit him as he was reaching into the cage. It was a quick nip, but it did draw blood. I chalked it up to stress from being alone, and possibly being startled. I was very surprised when it happened, as she had never bitten anyone before, but I guess I understood it a little more because it was a quick nip. I guess this is more shocking to me because of the way she bit him, and also because this is the first time I've seen her bite (as I wasn't present for the first one).

Everything is fine now. She has been behaving normally since then and he was very good natured and understanding about it. She is a wild animal, even if she was hand raised and is tame and used to people, so it's to be expected. I mean heck, even domestic animals will bite. It was just very unexpected and caught me off guard.
 

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This is a little off topic, but I'm so curious - this isn't the first post I've seen about wild or part wild rats. Where on earth do you get them? I don't understand. Do you literally find them wild outside?
 

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Perhaps since Claudia is a wild rat she has a greater urge to protect her mischief from intruders? The puffed fur was probably a warning sign to your friend, the "intruder", to back off and when that didn't work she attacked him. Did you notice any other odd behavior besides the puffed fur, like sidling?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
This is a little off topic, but I'm so curious - this isn't the first post I've seen about wild or part wild rats. Where on earth do you get them? I don't understand. Do you literally find them wild outside?
I don't know about anyone else, but I volunteer at a wildlife refuge and all three of my rats have come from there. I've actually never had a domestic rat!
We don't normally make pets out of the animals we rescue, but because roof rats/R. rattus are considered invasive and aren't *supposed* to be rehabbed/released anyway (it still happens though) they are OK to keep. Claudia came in alone at 2wks old, and without other rats to interact with became too imprinted on humans to be a good candidate for release. I got my second roof rat, Paula, from a litter another rehabber gave me. She was the runt, and I kept her so Claudia could have a buddy. My third rat, Gus, is a male woodrat (Neotoma floridana). The rest of his litter was returned to the wild, but he has neurological issues that makes him nonreleasable. When they offered to let me take him, it was understood it was either that or he'd be put to sleep. So obviously I had to take him, lol.

Perhaps since Claudia is a wild rat she has a greater urge to protect her mischief from intruders? The puffed fur was probably a warning sign to your friend, the "intruder", to back off and when that didn't work she attacked him. Did you notice any other odd behavior besides the puffed fur, like sidling?
You could be right! I didn't notice anything else, but I wasn't really paying attention, and then my back was turned. I was thinking along the same lines, though. The puffed fur was like "Hey buddy, I'm not so sure about you" and then maybe when she tried to leave his arm and climb back on me and couldn't she decided that was enough.
 

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First, I got my part wild right out of a feeder bin, she had been brought in by a customer... It later turns out that certain breeders brought in their culls too, so I can't say if she was someone's mistake or some breeder's experiment with outbreeding. In any event she was quite a surprise.

I might add that she was also a one family rat and tore up my neighbor's hand when he tried to grab her. If I did a proper introduction, let her hear someone, then sniff them, then she would lower her head and let other people pet her... no I wouldn't ever put her on anyone else, my insurance wouldn't cover that kind of risk even though she could be very calm and friendly.... But my daughter actually used to squish that rat into doll clothes... If I had to guess the same pack mentality applies with wild rats and their humans vs other humans as it would one rat pack vs another. I mean rats don't just like every rat they meet. Some rats and people become packmates and others are outsiders.

R. rattus is generally considered meeker than R. novegicus but I've read from folks that have owned them that they can get territorial or protective and attack other pets. In any case I tend to caution folks with wild rats or part wild rats to be very careful when introducing them to strangers... Your wild rat may absolutely love you, but that doesn't mean it's going to like anyone else.

As to the Neotoma floridana... that's a pretty uncommon rat in a domestic situation... I'd love to hear how social Gus is and how he gets along with the black rats... American "rat like" rodents in general aren't commonly kept in family situations and there are certain beliefs that they aren't social animals, which makes me wonder what's doable with them.


 

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Last thought for anyone who wants to adopt a wild brown rat... you want babies and you attach yourself to them 24x7 and bottle feed them. It's not that adult wild rats can't be socialized, it's just they are fast and bite fiercely and this isn't a challenge any one in their right mind wants to undertake...

I would raise another wild rat pup, but after what I've seen my part wild do to my neighbor and the nasty bite she "accidentally" laid on me once I would never mess with an adult wild brown rat. Wild eepers or fuzzies can sometimes be gotten through local exterminators if it's really something you are into.
 

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I'm thinking she probably was threatening him the entire time. Since you work with animals, I know you can think of examples (as I am guilty of this myself). My thoughts are that she was probably singing a lovely war song that we woefully are incapable of hearing, and she probably was going to be all fluff and no bite but then her plan of being rough and retreating to mom didn't work out and she flipped.
 
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