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I posted a thread a couple of weeks ago about a new rat that I acquired who had some biting issues. I got some very good advice, and looked intensively at the trust training threads, but things have seemed to have gotten worse lately. Lucifer gets along extremely well with my other three male rats (they've all been sharing the same cage for about a week now, and there haven't been any fights, save for play ones). Even when he was still in a quarantine cage however, he was seeming all-too-eager to bite me. I took some advice and let him sniff my hand, hoping that he might just want to nibble, or test my hand as my other boys had done. And he bit me. I've tried picking him up while wearing thick gardening gloves whenever I wold have to move him to clean out his cage, and he doesn't seem to mind; its when my hands are out and visible that he seems to feel the need to attack them.
Just now, for example. I had just finished cleaning the cage for my boys, and had put them all back. I was putting a hammock back inside that had just come out of the dryer. Lucifer was on the top level of the cage, and I was putting the hammock on the bottom level. He saw my hand through the mesh in the middle and ran down and lept at me. I pulled my hand back but he still got a good bite in on my finger.

I just don't understand this aggression. He is never like this with my other boys; I got him from the same store I got my first three from, so it wasn't as if he was a rescue, and he wasn't being sold as a feeder either. I've tried so many things with trust training, being patient, working with him slowly every day, but its as if my hands enrage him lately or something. I've been bitten numerous times, and I'm starting to feel hopeless with him. I just don't know what to do anymore.
 

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From the sounds of it, he's being territorial? I'm no expert, especially on boy rats, but if he is charging you from another part of the cage, then it sounds to me like he is protecting his domain.

From what little I read, I suspect that neutering might be a good option. I've read some threads on here about males getting all feisty with so much testosterone bouncing around in there.
 

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I have a mischief of 8 boys, none of them are neutered.
I really think castration should be used as a last option, as it can potentially be harmful and it's costly. (Here it is anyway.)

I think you and your bud need some more one on one time, first of all.
Rat daddy's immersion Thread would be really good to look into.

I'd bring him into a bathroom and have a really long sit down with him.
Treat overload, too. You might even want to clean/wash the cage entirely while your boys are not in it. Maybe move the cage in a separate location or maybe on the other side of your room and slowly put your hands in the cage for a while. You pretty much need to start over again with introducing your hand to your rat whilst it's in the cage. You need to associate your hand with some thing good, not threatening. HAve a lot of treats at hand when you like his behavior whilst your hand is in the cage.

My rats all live in the same cage, I can have any body part inside the cage and they'll just sniff and lick me. Sometimes I'll pull the double CN up to my bed and have my feet in there for hours while I watch TV or something. So, I must be doing some thing right. D:

Best of luck! Keep us updated.
 

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You've got to properly teach him; reinforce proper behavior and punish bad behavior. So, get treats a plenty. Just fatten him up - so long as he isn't biting. Use treats he can take and run at first then use something like yogurt and try to pet him. If he tries to bite, remove the treats. Tell him No firmly. With territorial rats, this is usually where I remove them from the cage and go interact somewhere alone.
 

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Trust training has a long and venerable past... and it tends to work best with "normal" friendly rats. It's somewhat of a take your time and make friends slowly approach. And it works pretty well, when it doesn't go terribly wrong.

Some rats come into your home with histories of abuse, and some normal rats can actually get aggressive while you are taking it slow with them.

For the most part biting breaks down into thee categories. The first is a social dysfunction which is usually more common in males around puberty. This is when a male rat wants to become the alpha... and read this use of the word alpha to mean leader or boss. All rat communities as all human communities have a leader. This alpha confusion can create a rat that is defending his cage or his rat family from you or worse yet, it can see you as a subordinate and it's going to exercise it's authority on you and show you who's boss. In the extreme this kind of rat can become very aggressive towards his roommates too. Terms I use here are alpha aggression or alpha confusion or social status disorder. You may have bought a rat that already had this problem or you may have caused it by being overly timid in your introductions... either way, it looks like your rat is attacking you.

The second kind of biting is fear biting... Usually this is a rat that's afraid of you and it will show all of the normal signs of fear. It will run away from you until it's cornered and then it will attack. Wild rats attack when frightened. The best defense is a good offense. But while an alpha confused rat will stand it's ground, square up and charge you the fear biter will prefer to back away until it can't anymore and then it bites in self defense.

Lastly, there are certain rats with health issues like brain tumors that can become very aggressive. These rats often attack and kill their roommates too. These rats need medical attention, there isn't much you can do and all too often not much a vet can do either.

It can be difficult to separate the first group of rat from the second in the cage. Depending on the size of the cage there may not be a whole lot of room for a fearful rat to run away. In the much larger immersion area you can get a better idea of what's going on, consider this diagnostics. If your rat challenges you and attacks you in the immersion area you have a rat with social status disorder. If your rat backs itself into the far corner and snaps at you when you approach, you have an overly fearful rat.

If your rat is overly fearful... the process involves working patiently with him and drawing him out with patience, treats and lots of coaxing... This can take a long time depending on how terrified he is... Long sessions, low lights, lots of treats and patience, patience and more patience are required.

If your rat is alpha aggressive... then it gets really ugly, but it usually actually moves along faster than with a fearful rat. The general term is "extreme immersion". This is ONLY used with alpha aggressive rats! This process is combative and it has you down on the floor with a rat that's trying to bite you, which is never a good place to be. You really don't attack your rat, but rather defend yourself assertively. Basically when he communicates that he's in charge, you respond with "NO!, I'm in charge!" Rats are really pretty smart, first he's going to get more aggressive to prove his point, but then he will understand that he can't push you around and he will back down. It's like facing down a schoolyard bully. No, you don't want to hurt your rat, but you want him to fit into your family... you become his alpha.... Now here I mean alpha to read parent not overlord.

Once you correct the social status dysfunction everything else will fall into place and normal bonding will take place and you can become the very best of friends. Several people have reported that at some point during extreme immersion their aggressive rat suddenly stops attacking and crawls up and falls asleep on them or rolls over and want's his belly scratched... usually right after a vicious attack... The rat gave it his best effort and gave up... You let him nap on you for as long as he wants or skritch the heck out of his belly to show him you accept his submission and accept him into your pack... read as family. And things usually get very much better from this point forward.

How extreme an extreme immersion gets depends on how screwed up and perhaps hormonal the rat is. Some rats back down in a matter of minutes, some can fight on for hours or even a few days... it can range from unpleasant to downright ugly until you reach the turnaround point.

I actually developed immersion for normal rats, but I initially introduced the extreme variant first because of urgent situations like yours. Normal immersion is intended to be fun and friendly while extreme immersion is intended to diagnose and fix a rat with an aggression problem. Both approaches are based on communication, they are two edges of the same sword. If your rat tells you he's afraid, you reassure him, if he tells you he's in charge, you correct him... You aren't beating him into submission or punishing your confused rat, you are just straightening him out.

Moms and dad's who have raised toddlers or teenagers are going to tell you about certain phases their kids go through where they challenge their parents authority, and it's never pleasant and no parent ever wants to be a disciplinarian, but to some degree order has to be maintained in the household. There is a fine but clearly defined line between being a good parent and an overlord. You are looking for respect not fear... but to some degree respect and fear overlap.

I can very clearly remember when I was a little kid, my dad sat me down and told me that if he heard that I shot out a neighbor's window or killed someone's pet, he'd take my gun away and beat me to death with it... And he wasn't joking! Now some folks might think that was overly strict, but then a lot of dads these days don't let their little kids carry guns. So... no I never shot out anybody's windows, nor killed anyone's pets and I obviously never got beaten to death... Whether I had cause to fear for my life or not wasn't the issue... I respected my dad and everything worked out for everyone. Likewise, you set the rules and the limits... you can let your rats be rats without letting them bite you. And it's perfectly fine for your rats to learn that their actions have consequences.

I'm not going to lie and say my dad and I always got along... in fact we disagreed on lots of things, but there were limits, not many, but overall enough to keep things working as a family. Likewise, our rats free range the house and do mostly as they please, Max lived completely free range and out of her cage 24 X 7 just about all of her life, (she didn't chew wires or cause destruction) but our rats never bite... that's not tolerated, never or ever. Some of my friends accuse me of actually letting our rats run the household, but they will also tell you that our rats are splendidly well behaved and that's because I set rules and our rats follow those rules and life is better for everyone for it.

For more information about immersion take a look at the guide at the top of the rat behavior section. Then if you want to try it, armor up and good luck. Always remember you are working with a small animal that's just a little bit fragile but don't forget it's got really sharp teeth too... so be careful for both of you.
 

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Just a footnote... In some cases certain rats can become overly aggressive due to out of control hormones... In most cases the rats hormone levels will return to normal once they are removed from the alpha role. Aggressive behavior causes higher hormone levels which in turn creates more aggressive behavior which in turn raised the rats hormone levels again... and so on. It's a causal circle... There are two ways to break it, either by stopping the behavior to reduce the hormones or to reduce the hormones by neutering to reduce the aggressive behavior...

If the rat is biting because it's fearful, dragging him to the vet and chopping a couple bits off isn't going to make him any less frightened of you.

If the problem isn't hormonal, neutering usually won't help and can make things worse. I've seen people neuter their whole mischief as one rat after the other went antisocial due to bad human parenting, but for the right rat, neutering can be the right fix.

Not so long ago, castration was offered to certain violent sex offenders, it wound up in the courts debated as cruel and unusual, but the science, especially the rat studies really didn't support it... Violence in humans and rats can have many causes, not just one and there are very few places in the world where castration is still practiced as a treatment for human violent behavior... One would think, if it always worked, it would be common practice and our streets would be safer and our prisons would be emptier.

So while I'm not entirely opposed to neutering in the right circumstances, I don't like it as a quick fix-all approach.
 

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If he's only aggressive in the cage, try cleaning the cage completely and rearranging everything so it's like a brand new cage. That may help a bit, but like Rat Daddy said, you'll have to assert your alpha-ness or it's just going to cycle.
 

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I had a cage aggressive rat, and he eventually damaged my hand so badly that I have permanent nerve damage. I tried immersion sessions with him to no avail, since he only bit me when I was in "his space" in the cage. During immersion, he would just look scared, poo, and try to hide in my lap.

I would put him in my hoodie for hours, and if I dared reach in to pet him, he would use his paws to push my hand out. (Which I actually appreciated, heh, since it was communication and it wasn't teeth!)

Eventually, he started biting me outside the cage, and he started biting his cagemate, and we took him to the vet. As we took him out of the cage that last time, he almost bit through the leather gloves my husband wore. He would have taken off a thumb!

Turns out he had a brain tumor.

Poor biter. We had him put down. It was kinda awful.

If immersion therapy doesn't work (and it didn't for me the three times I tried it...at least, it never worked for long) get your ratty to the vet, and see what they say.
Edited to add: I did have an acquaintance that fixed two bitey rats with timely neuters, and they turned into sweet cuddly eunuchs. It is extreme, but it might save your lil guy's life.
 

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As mojo experienced, any really aggressive animal I've had I check for health problems first. Many of the animals I've had in the best that were bad biters had something medically wrong with them.

How is he with other people, do you know? Can it be something you have on your? They are very sensitive to smell, so a soap or perfume you use that could be setting him off?
 

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Sorry to hear what happened Mojo... I always hate to bring up the health option, but brain tumors do happen as do certain other health issues.... it's so rare, almost not worth scaring people, but yes, it happened to someone I know, or rather their rat... and it was very traumatic. She hasn't owned rats since.
 

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Health issues causing biting are not always something as serious as a tumor. It can be an abscess somewhere painful, even a broken toe. Different animals behave differently when in pain.
 

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Absolutely true... brain tumors and such are very rare... They are something to be aware of but not necessarily afraid of.
 
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