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Hi everyone!

I feel awkward introducing myself, but here it goes anywho...

I'm a total dog lover but sadly lost my baby bear this past September. About a week ago, our neighbours randomly showed up on our doorstep with two rats asking if we wanted them. Having read up on them in the past and hearing all of the comparisons to dogs, we went with it. They got the two boys, Blue & Olaf, about 6 months back from a rescue but could no longer keep them. The boys are both about 1.5 old, and absolutely adorable. I have been having some troubles with them though and I'm hoping you guys could help me.

When they came to my fiance and I, there wasn't much going on in the cage except for two igloos. We immediately redecorated, keeping the one igloo and adding a swinging basket which they absolutely adore and are currently snuggled in, climbing ropes, paper they love shredding and dragging into their igloo, and some cardboard toy treats. They always have fresh water and lab blocks available to them, and twice a day I give them a big bowl of fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs which they gladly gobble up.

Olaf is very skittish, and won't come out of his cage until after Blue has been out for some time. He does come up to you at the cage though and is such a sweetheart. Both Olaf and Blue I can pet through the cage without them mistaking my fingers for food.

Blue seems like he wants to be out of the cage 24/7. Anywhere I am, he is right at that spot of the cage sticking his face out. I usually take him out or open the door and he'll come up for pets and such. The downside is that when I try to do this with Olaf, Blue steps all over him and pushes him out of the way. Between that, and Olaf's general hesitation to come out of the cage for free range time means that Olaf gets less time out of the cage and less contact with me and my fiance. I feel really bad about this, and any attempts to take Olaf out for one-on-one time have failed.

My major issue relates to the above. For the past 3 days in a row, Blue has bit me and drawn blood during free range time. The first was in our bedroom right as I was about to put him back in the cage, so I figured I just scared him with the way I picked him up. (Normally I try to wait until they both go back into their cage on their own to end free range time, but I had to go out). With the second incident, I brought their cage to the bathroom and had some toys and hideaways on the floor of the bathroom to keep them entertained. Well, all was going well but about 45 minutes in, Blue ran up my leg (I was just sitting still watching them), bit my finger so I squeaked and then he ran right to my toes and bit down haaard and just kept going at it. Now tonight I had just Blue on my bed. I laid perfectly still and just watched him run around and explore. Next thing I know, he bit my finger and kept trying to attack me. I had just showered, and everything is unscented, so I just can't see why this is happening. As soon as I put him back in his cage he kept trying to get out and come to me again. He still comes when I call him and lets me pet him too.

Sorry for the long post. I'm a typer D: Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
 

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I had a very similar problem with bella. When you first got them, did you leave them along in their cage for at least 48 hours? If not, this could be a factor.
Also, when a rat bites you, it's because they are extremely scared or feel threatened. Try taking Blue out by himself in a closed off room. Put on gloves or mittens and long socks.This way, if he bites you it wont hurt as bad. When he does bite you, make a soft high pitched "Ouch!" this will let him know to be more gentle next time.
I also advise you watch these videos: they will help you in your situation.
https://youtu.be/DreJqKSVMQ4

https://youtu.be/_Dc5XPLxzDkh
 

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I had a very similar problem with bella. When you first got them, did you leave them along in their cage for at least 48 hours? If not, this could be a factor.<br>Also, when a rat bites you, it's because they are extremely scared or feel threatened. Try taking Blue out by himself in a closed off room. Put on gloves or mittens and long socks.This way, if he bites you it wont hurt as bad. When he does bite you, make a soft high pitched "Ouch!" this will let him know to be more gentle next time.<br>I also advise you watch these videos: they will help you in your situation.

https://youtu.be/_Dc5XPLxzDk

https://youtu.be/eNPPW81gcxM
 

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Theres often a lot more to bites than just fear or feeling threatened. It sounds to me like Blue is attacking with minimal to no warning (a wanring would be fluffing up, head lowered and kind of stomping around), this can happen in situations where a buck decides that they are going to be the boss of you. It is fixable and theres 2 main ways to do this. The first is to take back the boss status, this comes easier to some people than others, its all about firm or dominant handling (by dominant I don't mean hurting or scaring them, its more about dictating whats going to happen). Dominant bucks need this kind of handling to feel safe and secure, it lets them relax when they know they don't have to be alpha with you as well as in the cage. I would typically approach a boy like this by saying hello, making sure they've noticed me then picking them up quickly but firmly around there shoulders. Then I stroke down there whole body (if you've ever held / stroked a ferret its like this). This is partially to do a health check (great for spotting lumps and bumps) but is also quite a dominant way of handling as you have your hands all over them. This doesn't need to be for long, I usually do a few firm strokes then give them a cuddle. Rather than stroking I also scratch firmly around the shoulders against the fur (which usually causes them to melt and lick me), gentle strokes tend to either annoy them or get ignored. You then repeat this kind of behaviour when they are out and about, again not for long, a quick pick up, stroke and scratch then back down. If at any point they get fluffed up, start to stomp or look annoyed then pick them up immediately and try the firm stroke down (I call it defluffing) then put them down, if they continue then straight back up, firm stroke and into a carrier or cage. This acts as time out and lets them calm down, when fluffed up and stompy they are feeling tense and wound up and getting ready to bite to show whose boss or defend there territory. If he gets far enough to bite then its a case of pick him straight up, up to eye level and a firm no (I've never seen much point in squeaking as I don't speak rat, they know this and are capable for judging fromt he tone of my voice and actions). Id also go straight to time out. Id give this approach a good few weeks and see how its going, if he's relaxing and no longer getting bitey, fluffy or stompy (look out for shuffling his paws on the ground or rubbing against stuff too) then your sorted.

If not then I would seriously think about neutering him, whilst he seems old rats can get hormonal surges quite late on in life, especially if they've gone through some major changes (moving house counts), it is likely that this will really help him and if he's fit and well, and the vet knows what he's doing, its a relatively minor operation.

In terms of Olaf, its a cade of making one on one time for him, so Blue sounds like he is being pushy and monopolising your time which means you need to take Olaf out and away from the cage, leaving blue in it (he will sulk but it may also help with the fact her sounds like he firmly believes he's the centre of the world lol). Sit on a small chair / sofa with Olaf and just you and/or your partner and no Blue. Make sure he stas on there with you for a good 20-30 mins just to get used to being around you and being stroked and handled. He may not love it all the time, but build up slowly, little touches, short pick ups and so on. He's probably always going to be the shyer of the two but he can still build a loving relationship with you and it will help his confidence cominging out.
 

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I agree with Isamurat. Blue is testing his limits as alpha and by you being passive he's getting more pushy. I'd give him a shout and a bop but the rough handling thing likely works just as well.

Rats are social animals, they live in societies where one needs to be the boss or the alpha. In a human household the alpha needs to be the human. Don't worry about him hating you, once he learns to respect you you can show him all of the love in the world and build a friendship on a healthy relationship. But before you can build a relationship you have to establish the proper social order... try to look at your role in the family as a parent.

As as dog owner I think you likely get it... you can still love your dog without letting him do anything he pleases. Rats need to learn the rules of your house and NO BITING is rule #1.

I know rats look like small animals, but really they are big animals in compact packages, I had a part wild rat that chased away all of the feral cats from our yard. Rats don't see being small as much of a handicap... I know you are way bigger than they are, but they don't necessarily see it that way, sometimes in order to be the leader you have to step up and take charge.... I you seem passive and docile, they will try to take charge and be your boss... if you let them things can get really bad.

As to leaving rats alone for 24 or 48 hours or even three weeks in a new cage or home... this is a myth. Rats bond with other rats and humans not with cages or rooms. In fact they appreciate you comforting them in a strange new home. Rats aren't goldfish that need time to acclimate to a new aquarium. For the most part 48 hours isn't going to do any irreparable harm, but it's actually counter productive. When your rats feel alone and are disoriented is a good time to be there as their new friend and comfort them. By waiting you lose this opportunity. Still this myth has been around for a long time and is likely to die hard...
 
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