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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Sorry if this post is long. But let me give a quick background before I get into the main story. BACKGROUND: Ok so I have owned rats in the past and have never had problems with aggression. So I decided to get a new baby about a month ago after not owning rats for a couple years. My plan was to get two but they only had one boy left. I could not just leave after I saw him so of course i got him. His name is Roger and he is an Albino. About two weeks later, they finally got more rats ready to be taken home so I went to get a new friend for Roger. They only had 3 rats. Two of which were in one cage and the other by himself. I could never separate the two who were defiantly liter mates so I chose the one by himself, which I named Derp. Derp is much larger than Roger or any other rat that is supposedly 6 months old. He is the biggest rat I have ever owned, which made me feel like he might have been older than claimed..but who knows..anyways.. Roger and Derp got along instantly. Roger is very laid back were as Derp is very brave and hyper. They compliment each other...I could tell Roger was much happier with him. So all has been well, I take them out daily and have been making great progress with trust training etc. I was never bitten and they stopped leaving droppings when I took them out. .. Watching Derp run around made me want to expand their home. So I built a two level topper. Instantly Derp ran up the ramp and loved it!! I was so happy. Roger however did not even try to go up there which I figured maybe he was scared. Well the other day he finally went up there and then everything went south. My boys didn't fight but Derp started running up and down from the bottom all the way to the top...which was making Roger scared..too scared to move and get back down to the bottom level. I took Roger out and cuddled him for a bit and put him in his favorite tube. I thought all Was well since Derp had calmed. Few hours later I went into the cage to change the water and clean the liter pan when Derp came running and nipped my finger, not hard though. Okay I thought...he had never done that before. I finished cleaning and went to pick up Derp for our nightly out of cage bonding..well he bit me..hard and broke the skin. Shocked and upset I closed the door and went to wash the wound. I came back and he's stuffing fluff infront of the door almost like he does not want me to go in. I let him be for a little while thinking maybe I startled him when I tried to pick him up. Well I had an almond for me and put my hand back in the cage. He smelt the treat and then violently bit my finger, purposely!. At that point I went back and washed off the wound. I came back to him running around between the two levels of the topper when Roger decides to go sit on the lower ramp. Derp charges at him and mounts him. Violently. Roger was so scared he wouldn't move! Now I can't even open the cage door or else Derp will try and attack. I cant get to Roger and I can't clean the cage or anything. He has not attacked Roger only mounted him. But he no longer cuddles him. I have no clue what to do. I have never seen this happen before. I am very worried as It might cause Rogers myco to flare up if he's stressed. This is the first night i have not been able to touch them, take them out, and clean the cage. I'm guessing its a territorial thing going on. Probably hormones acting on it too ( both are not neutered). I cant even take the topper off without having to go in the cage...but he is right by the door waiting anyways. I have also noticed Derp: Drinking alot which may be from him running and jumping around, excessive sniffing when I'm near, and not giving Roger any attention..he rather sleep on the top floor of the cage topper then cuddle with Roger in their tube. What can I do! ? I don't want to return him. I'm not sure were around me will neuter a rat and how much that would even cost. Thank you so much for any help!!!!!
 

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I would get some thick gloves on and pull Derp out and take him to somewhere small without hiding spots (blocked off hallway, bathroom, tub, closet) and see how he does. If he bites, firmly tell him "NO" and gently bop his nose and continue handling him.

If the aggressive behavior stops when he is out of the cage, I would pull the other rat out and put him in a carrier of some kind temporarily and work with Derp in the cage with gloves on.

More can be read at the Immersion Theory sticky under rat behavior.

Just a side note, you mention a topper. You aren't using a tank are you? Aquariums are not really good housing for rats for a multitude of reasons.
 

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You might try the "new cage" method, basically, scrub everything down, change everything- bedding blankies etc- then bath both of them and put them back in.. see if maybe his territory issues calm down? or is this old info? Also, if Derp is such a large male he may have a=extra testosterone. If it keeps up, you might think about neutering him. That can help with long term aggression.
 

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Immersion is mostly a process of opening a dialogue between humans and their new rats. It's a happy time where new friends get to introduce themselves and understand each other. But there is also the extreme variant covered in the guide that pertains to fixing aggressive rats by correcting their understanding of the social structure and group dynamics of your relationship. It involves armoring up and aggressively defending yourself until your rat gets that you are in charge and resumes his proper role in your mixed rat and human family structure with you as the parent. It has fixed a lot of rats with major attitude problems, but don't fool yourself into thinking it's fun or easy... your locking yourself into a small space for hours with a fast and agile animal that's literally attacking you... you really have to love your rat to make this kind of commitment.

I do have one additional concern, aggression tends to build up over time... days or more commonly weeks. Sudden aggression can be a sign of a health issue like a brain tumor. If Derp is showing other signs of disorientation or unusual behavior, this may not be the kind of problem that can be fixed with immersion or neutering.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
No tank, well not really. I built it years ago. It was a glass tank but I removed the glass siding and turned it to a metal cage with the same plastic piece along the top. So its like a tank in the sense that I can only get to the rats through the top but its not glass. Anyways, yes he is still aggressive, but I can get my hand in there but not near him though. As I said he was not like this before. He is not acting disoriented but he gets extremely hyper bursts where he starts running around like nuts. Tonight he went to the bottom of the cage and started to "destroy" everything. He turned over the food bowl, litter pan, and was digging like crazy. Besides that..no sneezing, no sign of myco or anything...I've never had a rat with a tumor so what are other signs of that?

Derp is pretty chunky, I got him like this. He is starting to get very defensive with his food. They both have plenty of food. Its concerning. None of the rats i've had, had an appetite like him. Oh and to add.. I was cleaning up the mess he made..picking up droppings with a little scooper I have when I accidentally dropped it, then he proceeded to attack it..
 

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About the best first hand account of a brain tumor I've heard was from a petsmart employee. One of her rats just freaked out and murdered and shredded it's roommate overnight and attacked her the next day when she put her hand in. It pretty much dropped dead within two weeks. Her vet explained that it had been an aggressive brain tumor. I didn't insist on too many details... but rather shared my condolences. The other first hand account in involved less aggression and more disorientation. This is actually a very rare condition. Lots of people get brain tumors but few climb clock towers and start picking off college students with high power rifles. It actually has happened, but brain tumor isn't your first go to when rats fight or grandpa wakes up in a grumpy mood.

The somewhat more common "hormonal aggression" is a normal phenomenon. When a wild rat becomes alpha or leader of it's pack, it's brain starts to release extra male hormones, which in turn build muscle and size and increase the rats energy level so it can more effectively do it's job. Like steroids in human athletes the extra hormones will also promote higher aggression levels. These hormone levels will return to normal once the rat is dethroned and the aggression also usually subsides. In nature an alpha rat has lots of ways to burn off the excess energy and use it's enhanced strength without beating up it's packmates. In a cage, it's all revved up with no place to go... and things can go badly for everyone around him.

Full blown hormonal aggression can look a lot like what you describe, but it's not usually something that just suddenly starts overnight. Sometimes people notice it overnight, but in retrospect they can usually recall signs of the rat becoming anti-social before it became outright aggressive. That's not to say it can't happen, just that it isn't typical.

With hormonal aggression, the cycle of aggression and hormonal reinforcement can be broken through neutering or extreme immersion or both. Extreme immersion focuses on correcting the rats perception of it's social status so it's hormones return to normal while neutering knocks down the hormone levels surgically. Remember this is a feedback loop... dominance increases hormone levels which foster more aggression which leads to more dominance which increases hormones... and so on.

Lastly there is also trauma induced aggression. A previous owner either neglected or abused a rat and it's become aggressive as a first strike defense tactic or as a way of getting attention. Neutering doesn't help this kind of rat. This is strictly a maladaptive learned behavior that needs to be unlearned through re-socialization.

Best luck.
 

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Can you post a picture of Derp next to a common place item so we can check his age? Hormonal aggression generally occurs well before 9 months of age, usually is onset around 6 months.

I do think it is important to pull Derp out of that environment into a temporary cage (bin cage, tank, anything you have) and sort this out with some gloves in a space you can maneuver with him. This is important for the other rat too, because the more bullying that happens the higher tensions ride which can lead inevitably to a fight. This also will help rule out "territorial" versus something specific about the topper versus plain aggression.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I will take some pictures right now. Roger had made his was to the top of the cage so Derp is beginning to calm a tad. I managed to take him out to work on him but he still is nippy. I'm going to keep working on him but I think a neuter might be in his future. He does get an attitude.
 

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Just remember, a neuter only helps if you are dealing with hormonal aggression... I'm not convinced that's what it is... I'd invest in the heavy gloves or oven mitts and work with him a bit in an immersion space to see if you can better diagnose his problems... as well as keep a very close eye on him. To be honest, he does look about a year old but he also looks like a bred for meat rat so he will age more quickly than a rat bred for show.

My best and brightest rats have been bred for meat rats, but they can be stubborn and pushy. Is there any chance Derp was a customer return or donation? This could explain his emotional issues.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Well the girl at PETsMART said "oh he is only 5 months old. We just got him" I didn't believe her. Maybe he was a return, could explain it. Its just he was so nice at first..oh well I don't mind working with him. The only thing is, with immersion. I didn't quite understand your thread. I take him out and do what exactly? I dont want to do anything wrong...at this point, he is not bothering Roger any more and that was my main concern. Getting bit sucks but having your other rat tormented is much worse.
 

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Rats at petsmart never get over 5 months old no longer when they were born or how long they have been there. It's practically corporate policy. People don't want to buy older rats... so for rats at petsmart time pretty much stops at 5 months.

Immersion is a process of working with your rat to build a bond and to communicate, for normal rats it's a fun process of getting to know each other through interaction and play. With aggressive rats they might attack you and immersion can be combative. Here the object of the exercise becomes restoring proper social order with you the human in charge... Typically an aggressive alpha confused rat will attack you and you need to aggressively defend yourself until your rat gets that you and not him are the parent or alpha... Once social order is restored the confused rat usually returns to a friendly member of your family.

Keeping an aggressive biting rat is a very bad idea... someone is eventually going to get hurt and it could cost you big bucks if your rat blinds a neighbor's child. Rats are agile and great escape artists and have very large and sharp teeth.. sooner or later someone will get hurt. We kept a part wild rat, and it was actually a very sweet animal, but it did get out and when my neighbor tried to catch it, it tore his hand to pieces. He was special forces just back from Iraq.. and too tough to go to the emergency room even though I offered to take him, but that visit alone could have set someone back the price of a half-decent used car...

Keeping wild or part wild rats involves special risks and certain special rewards like keeping pet wolves, but there's no excuse to keep screwed up domestic rats in your home. They don't get the quality of life they deserve and you are courting trouble you don't need... Immersion or neutering or both should be able to fix your rat.
 

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I'm not going into the whole procedure from soup to nuts... just a very brief nickel tour as to how to do an extreme immersion.

First, for the sake of expedience, all terms to follow are to be defined as done with care, love and consideration for the size of the animal you are working with. "Smack' or 'bop' for example means with love in your heart and with only sufficient force to get your rats attention... Not like you might smack a horse or an elephant or a human... should you ever be so inclined. You need to maintain control of your behavior and keep in mind you are working to communicate not punish or cause any real physical harm.... Ever.

Every immersion starts out about the same; you bring yourself, some treats and a positive attitude into the immersion area.. if you suspect things might get extreme you also bring a bath towel, jacket, blanket and oven mitts or welding gloves. You really want to do a play and encounter session, to bond and make friends and to better understand each other.

Then things tend to start going sideways when your rat turns and attacks you. I'm not talking about hiding in a corner biting to defend himself, I mean attacking you! Don't panic, you are prepared, put on your jacket or blanket gloves and get your towel ready and rebuff his attacks bop, smack and flip him back as necessary to repulse his aggressive attacks. It's fine to shout "NO BITING" or wave your finger or whatever body language you feel useful to communicate that you are not happy with his aggressive behavior....

This is an aggressive defense.. you aren't attacking him and you aren't trying to beat him into submission. And you are definitely not trying to hurt your rat.

Some aggressive rats back down really fast when they realize they are outmatched, others can keep attacking you for hours. A lot has to do with how long they have been getting away with their bad behavior and how hormonal they are... Then your rat will start withdrawing more and preening more and may attack a bit less often... when he backs off try and talk sweetly and be encouraging... It's fine to keep the engagement going by trying to skritch him or talk to him or scoop him up and handle him in a non hostile or threatening way.

Sometimes this will break the attacking behavior, sometimes the rat will attack more and more fiercely as he gets frustrated that his tactics aren't working and sometimes a rat will make a terribly fierce final assault before giving up....

Then usually like switching a light off, your rat will stop attacking you, many will roll over onto their backs or sides for belly rubs.... This is rat communication for "I submit... your the boss". To this you ALWAYS patiently skritch and rub his belly! Don't rush, this is a very big deal for a rat and he expects his alpha to reward him extensively. If you don't acknowledge him you blow your opportunity to bond and to accept his loyalty. The fight is over and by skritching his belly you are welcoming him into YOUR pack.

Some rats will crawl up on you and appear to fall asleep on you rather than roll over for skritches... again skritch him and pet him and settle in for a nap with him... be reassuring and friendly... offer your treats but most of all don't rush this phase of the session... This is what you worked for, this is where the real bonding begins so don't get distracted and forget to cross the finish line.

By this point you should be able to work bare handed with your rat and try a little play and encounter... try to have a little fun, but reasonable caution might still be advised until you are certain he's completely over his aggression issues.

If your rat is hormonal follow up the extreme immersion session with more play sessions; at least one long one every day as his hormones recede. This can take a few weeks.

Remember, extreme immersion is done in a long session, short combats that break up makes your rat think he won the encounter and only encourages him to be more stubborn and determined the next time you face off.

In nature a strong young rat faces off against the pack alpha.. they have a pretty nasty fight, the loser rolls over and submits and the winner acknowledges the submission by preening the looser's belly then everyone goes on with normal pack life, no hard feelings. Real rat fights are way more savage, and therefore shorter... In extreme immersion you are less savage and things take a bit longer... but it's about the same process as what rats have been doing since the beginning of time. You are fixing pack order in your rat family... you are the alpha and your rats are your pack...

Lastly think of alpha as being a fair parent, not some over the top dictator. You always want to be encouraging and lead your family not push your rats around.

Extreme immersion can get nasty. There are some risks to you, it should only be done by adults or under adult supervision.. and you are on your own in a room with a biting rat... and you take your chances. Wear protective clothing and eye-wear if you have it... This is most likely the only rat bonding technique that comes with a full liability disclaimer... We may have told you how to do it, but you took it on yourself to lock yourself into a small space with a aggressive, biting rat and if you get bitten, it's at your own pain and cost.

Before you begin... if you are still going to give it a try... clear your schedule this can take a long time. And you don't want to stop until you make real progress. Some folks have successfully split up extreme immersion into several shorter (2 hour+) sessions but overall it can take a lot longer to do it in stages.

Lastly... extreme immersion is a very special procedure ONLY to be used for aggressively biting rats! It's not for fearful or frightened rats or normal rats. Normally patience and treats and rewards work with rats under normal circumstances. Bullying a fearful or normal rat will only make things worse. This is an ugly fix for a serious problem. As aggressively biting rats should not be kept as pets this can save a rat's life. I might add that once you regain parental or alpha status the rat on rat aggression in your pack usually diminishes too, but keep in mind as pack alpha or parent your continued daily involvement will be required to keep order and peace. Rats that have gone alpha aggressive in the past are more likely to do it again if you neglect your group.


Best luck and be careful
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Wow thank you so much! Really cleared things up for me! I'm going to see how things go in a few days and might give this a go. Thank you everyone for all the help.I really appreciate it
 
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