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Hey there! My rat Iris has recently started biting my siblings, to the point where she's drawn blood. I was never there to see any of the incidents. I sort of just assumed that it was aggression or crankiness, but I never had her try to bite me at all. I've also never had issues with her biting other rats. She power grooms everyone else a lot but that's pretty much it. I've been a lot more careful around her since then, and every time she starts 'reaching' for my finger I make a noise and pull back.

I'm starting to think now that she might just think that fingers are food. She's really possessive over her food even with the other rats in the cage (she's become the boss rat... I have to be careful when I hand out treats), and today I actually let her bite my finger. She sort of held onto it for a second and then let go and started licking my hand. I asked the siblings who've been bitten and both of them said they'd pulled their hand back when she grabbed their fingers.

Could Iris just be super possessive over her food? The bites did draw blood but they weren't super bad, so I'm thinking that maybe in her mind fingers are food and when we pull back it's another rat trying to snatch her food away.
 

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If Iris is your pet, can you make it a rule that they only play with her when you are there to supervise? In my experience when rats are testing or tasting fingers they are really gentle about it, but sometimes mistakes happen when they are trying to snatch food, but they don't usually actually mistake fingers for food. Since you haven't witnessed the events it is impossible to speculate, but it could be that your siblings play rougher than you, or that they don't recognize your siblings as having higher social status than your rats. If possible, it could just be better if you are around when your pets are out.
 

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If Iris is your pet, can you make it a rule that they only play with her when you are there to supervise? In my experience when rats are testing or tasting fingers they are really gentle about it, but sometimes mistakes happen when they are trying to snatch food, but they don't usually actually mistake fingers for food. Since you haven't witnessed the events it is impossible to speculate, but it could be that your siblings play rougher than you, or that they don't recognize your siblings as having higher social status than your rats. If possible, it could just be better if you are around when your pets are out.
That's a pretty good idea actually. The youngest is seven and she's not really supposed to touch anyone's rat but her own and even then only with permission and supervision, but she doesn't always follow the rules. I'll probably start keeping my door locked.

Thank you so much for your advice!
 

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Maybe she is just a one rat person. Also you may want your siblings to do immersion with your rats. When you supervise of course.
 

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We had a one owner rat, she was part wild and lived outdoors for 5 months... she adored my daughter and loved me... only bit me once... but she tore up anyone else that tried to pick her up or grab her... I mean bloody wild rat attack tore up mess. If we were there to supervise she could be touched and sometimes even held by someone new... but it was a process to carefully introduce her to strangers. That doesn't sound like what you have.

On the other hand when a rat nibbles or mock bites you, you don't bleed. Rats are really good at regulating the pressure they use to communicate with you.. and they don't usually confuse your fingers with food.

MY best guess is that Iris is pretty much taken charge of the rat pack and as such she's the boss and won't let herself be handled or pushed around by her subordinates, which include your siblings... she still loves and respects you so I suppose you are still in charge in her eyes, she she's not likely to bite you... yet.

This can be worked on, by you reintroducing your siblings and managing the intros during an immersion session.. it could go sideways though, but what you are trying to communicate to her is that she shouldn't push your siblings around... Humans are in charge... or at least not subordinate to her in the pecking order... Otherwise a rat that bites is a dangerous pet...

Like I said, we had a very dangerous rat once... because she was part wild, she had a right to be who and what she was... but a domestic rat that bites is something that can be and should be fixed before someone gets really hurt.

Best luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Update: she drew blood yesterday but I accidentally tapped her on the head when I was reaching into the cage so I'm not sure if I startled her or if it was aggression. It's a really tiny bite, but it's definitely a bite. I really want to believe she's just timid. :(

The issue is that we can't tell the difference between her and the other albino rat except through behavior :\ I'm glad to hear that even your part wild rat got better with biting, though. That gives me hope. We have no local breeders so she's a Petco rat and didn't have much socialization.

I'll definitely try the immersion. She still lets us pick her up sometimes, so it's definitely a possibility. Once she wakes up later I'll try to handle her outside of the cage. Thank you so much for your advice!
 

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Maybe you can daub a small mark on her tail to tell them apart.
 

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Actually our part wild girl was always wonderful, to us... she was just vicious to other humans and that never changed. Defending herself by attacking people and larger animals that she didn't know and killing little animals was her thing. But that's who and what she was. My daughter liked to squish her into doll clothing and play bouncy rat and she was happy to play along. For the most part, domestic rats don't have the same killer instincts so you shouldn't have to deal with biting.

You brought up that your rats have pink eyes, some pink eyed rats are functionally blind so they snap at anything that approaches them fast or touches them. When we wanted to introduce our part wild rat to a stranger (always a risky business) we would have the person talk, then she would stop and look at them directly... then the new person could put their fingers near her nose. Then she would lower her head, and the person could pet or skritch her safely. Through the process of hearing the person and sniffing the person, she would let herself be touched... naturally we only did it while we held her.

But if your rat is blind, this might work for you too. Let her hear you, then sniff you and gauge her response, if she gets all wound up, it's likely dominance based aggression, if she becomes submissive, it's poor eyesight. Blind rats are a problem, but one you can work with. Aggressive rats can be fixed by immersion or in some cases extreme immersion... Aggressive behavior tends to get worse over time if not corrected.

Best luck.
 

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One of my first rats, Aphrodite was a pink-eyed Himalayan. If I touched her when she was sleeping, or before she was wide awake, she would snap at me. She had wonderful reflexes,though, and never actually bit me. She would stop just before actual contact. Her attitude was always that this was my fault, she never made any apologetic move afterward. I learned to always announce myself and be sure she was awake and aware before reaching for her. Although she wasn't my only pink-eyed rat, she was the only one with this drastic a reaction.
 
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