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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone,

I've dreamed of having pet rats since I was a kid, and a year and a half ago it finally happened. I've read about how to take care of them and watched videos of people playing with their pets for a while, so while I am not experienced I know that what I'm experiencing is not what I thought would happen.

My pets have a large cage with lots of toys. They also have their own room that I've set up with cardboard box mazes for them to run around and play on. I sit with them for about an hour a day, and when they come close I talk to them and try to pet them gently. One, Alfred, is just not friendly. He rarely comes close to me and sort of slinks away every time I try to touch him. I have been working for this whole time to find a good balance between respecting his feelings but getting him acclimated to me. He just plain avoids me and squeaks whenever I pick him up, which I sometimes have to do to get him back in his cage for the evening. The other one, Vincent, occasionally comes to see me. It's never for very long though, and mostly he seems to be climbing on me to get to the window sill so he can look out. He doesn't mind being petted and is usually okay being picked up. Unfortunately, he also tends to bite. He freaks out around feet - I have to wear old shoes around them because if I am barefoot he will bite and draw blood. Today he bit my finger, also hard enough to draw blood. I wasn't doing anything unusual and I think I pick them up gently. I've handled lots of other small pets of others before and I've never had animals react badly - I don't think it's that I "lack confidence" or approach them in a way that normally freaks them out or anything. And it's not like Vincent bites me every day - it is just more frequent than seems to be normal, based on all my research on domesticated rats.

Then there's their dynamic. They sometimes hang out fine, but most nights they have a fight where they are standing up and boxing each other with bared teeth. I honestly think that's why Vincent bites me when he does - he's sometimes still riled up from fighting with Alfred. I thought at first they were just rambunctious youngsters, and figuring it out, because they are brothers who were socialized together and the breeder didn't say anything about them having problems. But it has been a year and a half of working on socializing them and they still fight.

As I said, I got them from an amateur breeder. They are both agouti type, as were all of their brothers. I'm not aware of any past behavioral issues. I did have a roommate who used to hang out with them, so after he left I wondered if he had secretly been an asshole... maybe he kicked them once and that made Vincent scared of feet? But he left over a year ago now and the boys both just seem... wild?

Is it possible that their owner adopted a wild rat and hybridized, or bred from a rescue rat who had gotten pregnant from a wild rat, or something like that? These two just don't behave like the cuddly, playful pet rats that I always saw portrayed in other peoples videos. I love them a lot but I worry that they were just not meant to be pets and they were cooped up and stressed, because I can't think of any other reason why they would act this way.
 

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Wow. What a tail...forgive me. I've never experienced anything like you have. I don't think you have wild rats though. I would just be as gentle as possible with them. Don't expect too much too soon. When they stop biting you will know you're making progress.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Wow. What a tail...forgive me. I've never experienced anything like you have. I don't think you have wild rats though. I would just be as gentle as possible with them. Don't expect too much too soon. When they stop biting you will know you're making progress.
It's a year and six months... do you think I should re-home them to someone who might be more experienced? I can't keep doing this. I feel trapped for an hour every night while I just watch them fight and nobody can tell me what to do.
 

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Ruben and Charlie (K9s-Mutts) and various large South American cichlids
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Hi... I dont think you have wild rats (although it is not impossible), and I dont want to blame the breeder but it could be that friendliness was not a priority when they were being bred... It is difficult if these are your first rats, and they are not meeting your expectation of them as pets. I have had several rats that fall into their category, but this was during the course of also having several (most) that were very sweet, cuddly and friendly. If the not-so-friendly ones had been my first and only I likely would feel the same way. I know you sit with them to spend time with them daily, which is good, but I always brought my grumpy/bitey rats onto the sofa with me just to watch TV and relax (as long as there are no predators lurking about like cats and dogs and the room is safe should they jump off). Im not sure if it is the TV that relaxes the human, and then the rats are more relaxed, but they seemed to come around faster and eventually want to sit on my lap or shoulder. There seemed to be less stress if we are just watching movies (which sounds dumb...but....). As for their cage, it sounds nice and big but you might want to provide separate water bottles, food bowls, hammocks, hidey spots etc. Just so they can completely get away from one another if they want to and not have to share a food bowl or water bottle unless they are so inclined..... I hope you dont get discouraged if these 2 turn out to be not the most cuddly. Sometimes that is just their personality but it can be manageable. Im not sure that a more experienced owner, if you were to find one, would be able to do anything differently than you have already done. As for feet, mine are also fascinated by feet! I always hide my toes from them. I suspect they may not quite associate my feet and toes as being part of the actual human? Because yes, they do like to grab them!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hi... I dont think you have wild rats (although it is not impossible), and I dont want to blame the breeder but it could be that friendliness was not a priority when they were being bred... It is difficult if these are your first rats, and they are not meeting your expectation of them as pets. I have had several rats that fall into their category, but this was during the course of also having several (most) that were very sweet, cuddly and friendly. If the not-so-friendly ones had been my first and only I likely would feel the same way. I know you sit with them to spend time with them daily, which is good, but I always brought my grumpy/bitey rats onto the sofa with me just to watch TV and relax (as long as there are no predators lurking about like cats and dogs and the room is safe should they jump off). Im not sure if it is the TV that relaxes the human, and then the rats are more relaxed, but they seemed to come around faster and eventually want to sit on my lap or shoulder. There seemed to be less stress if we are just watching movies (which sounds dumb...but....). As for their cage, it sounds nice and big but you might want to provide separate water bottles, food bowls, hammocks, hidey spots etc. Just so they can completely get away from one another if they want to and not have to share a food bowl or water bottle unless they are so inclined..... I hope you dont get discouraged if these 2 turn out to be not the most cuddly. Sometimes that is just their personality but it can be manageable. Im not sure that a more experienced owner, if you were to find one, would be able to do anything differently than you have already done. As for feet, mine are also fascinated by feet! I always hide my toes from them. I suspect they may not quite associate my feet and toes as being part of the actual human? Because yes, they do like to grab them!
Thanks, this is good to know. I am already trying a lot of that. One of the first things I did was buy a second water bottle and rearrange their setup and hides so they have an easier time getting space from each other. Obviously it didn't stop the fighting entirely but there was an improvement. I also typically bring a tablet to play some music or background noise to help calm me down and give me something to do, and I was wondering if that was wrong somehow, so it's good to know you do that and find it helpful. If you think of anything else, I'd love to know.
 

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You've got something there with music, methinks. I always played enjoyable music-baroque, classical, ragtime, swing-for my Rats, and for me also!! Our musical environment makes a big difference, imho!
 

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Oliver Bean, Phyllis, Waffle, Taco, Atlas, Cirrus, Orion
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I agree with the others, they are probably not wild or part wild. I know this because I have a wild rat, and he is the sweetest thing, just not cuddly and always looking to hide from predators. Your rats have been in this situation since birth because they are brothers from the same litter, right? So, where they are now in socializing has more to do with their dynamics and less with what wonderful environment you are providing. A willful rat will seek out confrontation if that is what they want. I also presume they are not neutered, which means it's the natural order for them to argue over who is the boss. If their hormones are keeping them busy with who is alpha, they can have a more difficult time attaching to humans. And I always have a podcast playing when they are out in the evening, mostly true crime so they are educated in the disposal of bodies if I need that skill lol.
 
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Hello!
This probably won't be very helpful, but my rats used to fight A LOT, CONSTANTLY. Like it was months and months on end of fighting. They were young and going through hormones, and needed to figure out who was boss. I TOTALLY understand the stress of watching your rats attack each other constantly and have no clue what to do. Something that helped me a little was the saying: no blood, no harm.
If they don't draw blood a bunch of times from each other, then there isn't anything to worry about. It's only when there is actual injuring violence you should worry. Rats fight, just let them work it out.
How long has this been happening tho? The fighting.
How old are they?
 

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Your rats don't seem to enjoy human company, and you aren't enjoying the time you spend with them. Doesn't sound like there has been any real injuries, just a lot of boxing and squabbling which is perfectly normal, but if it upsets you, then it's okay to let them free roam on their own without you. This has been going on probably since maturity at 6 months. They are getting close to 2 years old (1.5 years plus 2 months), so they are not likely to change their behavior. It would be difficult to rehome them due to their age, unless you can find a rescue who could take them in. They would likely stay in twilight care...that means they stay with the rescue forever and aren't adopted out.

If you are really unhappy with your boys, please look for a rescue who can help. Best of luck to you. You have tried hard for a long time, and it's okay to decide keeping rats isn't for you.
 
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