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Tesla, Ruby, Cloud, and Poe
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Tesla is a 3+ month old hairless (double rex). She was starved as a baby and was rescued together with her sister, Ruby. Then she almost died again from mycoplasma right after I got her. She recovered with antibiotics and syringe feeding, but she hated it and would shake and fear-poop every time I had to get her out. As soon as she recovered, she became territorial over her cage and would bite me every time I tried to put my hands in there. At first it was relatively shallow bites and I thought she would get over it after getting comfortable and more trusting (since I played with her and hand fed lots of treats). Then, she bit my son during free roam time. Then, she bit two of my other children and drew blood. I thought she had stopped when I got them a new cage. However, she's back to her old bad habit of biting whoever puts their fingers on or in the cage. I contacted the breeder/rescuer who I got them from, and she isn't sure why she's biting, whether it's from her rough start in life, a temperament or territorial issue, or hormonal aggression. I can't afford to spay her (it's $300 and not sure it would help anyway) and I don't know if I am willing to keep trying to get her to trust myself and all 4 of my human kids, because I don't want anyone to get bitten ever again. Anyway, I am thinking of rehoming her, but not without her sister Ruby, who happens to be pretty awesome. My kids and I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, we are attached to the hairless sisters, but on the other hand, we don't want to be bitten ever again. Any thoughts or advice? We are in central PA FYI.
 

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When I got Suzie, she was a lot older than I had been told and very territorial and aggressive. I have no idea what the first 2 years of her life entailed (I got her from a rescue)
The first weekend with her, she bit me multiple times - drawing blood on at least 3 bites.
Unlike your Tesla, she couldn't (and still isn't) be in a cage with another rat. So she has her own cage.

But, here's how I worked with her.
Anytime I put my hand in the cage, I call her by name and talk to her - so she isn't startled.
When I put my hand in the cage, it's palm down, fingers together and curled under - so she's basically sniffing my knuckles.
If she bites, I withdraw my hand and squeak loudly. I close the cage door, say "don't bite" and walk away for a while.
I try again a little later - repeating the whole process.
If she doesn't bite - she gets a "special treat" (True Confession: M&M mini's are great for this).
And I talked to her quite a bit between times.

So it's now 2 months later.
She comes to the cage door when she hears/sees me.
While she will sometimes, mistakenly think my hand has a treat, that's just a nibble and a simple "don't bite" makes her pull back, she basically doesn't bite like she use to.
However, if she's pissed off about something - she will try. And I just repeat the entire process again.
She can go from happily hanging out on my shoulder - to trying to bite me for putting her back in the cage. She rarely makes contact with the bites though.

So try, before you re-home them both - training Tesla to not bite. It can take a couple of weeks, but once she realizes she gets treats for not biting .... she'll be more cooperative (hopefully).

Good luck.
 

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Tesla, Ruby, Cloud, and Poe
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Discussion Starter #3
When I got Suzie, she was a lot older than I had been told and very territorial and aggressive. I have no idea what the first 2 years of her life entailed (I got her from a rescue)
The first weekend with her, she bit me multiple times - drawing blood on at least 3 bites.
Unlike your Tesla, she couldn't (and still isn't) be in a cage with another rat. So she has her own cage.

But, here's how I worked with her.
Anytime I put my hand in the cage, I call her by name and talk to her - so she isn't startled.
When I put my hand in the cage, it's palm down, fingers together and curled under - so she's basically sniffing my knuckles.
If she bites, I withdraw my hand and squeak loudly. I close the cage door, say "don't bite" and walk away for a while.
I try again a little later - repeating the whole process.
If she doesn't bite - she gets a "special treat" (True Confession: M&M mini's are great for this).
And I talked to her quite a bit between times.

So it's now 2 months later.
She comes to the cage door when she hears/sees me.
While she will sometimes, mistakenly think my hand has a treat, that's just a nibble and a simple "don't bite" makes her pull back, she basically doesn't bite like she use to.
However, if she's pissed off about something - she will try. And I just repeat the entire process again.
She can go from happily hanging out on my shoulder - to trying to bite me for putting her back in the cage. She rarely makes contact with the bites though.

So try, before you re-home them both - training Tesla to not bite. It can take a couple of weeks, but once she realizes she gets treats for not biting .... she'll be more cooperative (hopefully).

Good luck.
Thank you for the detailed story and advice. If I spend the two weeks training her to not bite me, do you think she would also not bite my kids? I'm more concerned about her biting them. It would have been much easier for me to manage the biting situation on my own, but with the little kids it's hard to get them to not touch the cage.
 

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Thank you for the detailed story and advice. If I spend the two weeks training her to not bite me, do you think she would also not bite my kids? I'm more concerned about her biting them. It would have been much easier for me to manage the biting situation on my own, but with the little kids it's hard to get them to not touch the cage.

I think once you work with her and get her to stop biting, you should introduce the kids, with you having control of the situation and see how it goes. I would recommend that the kids can talk to her, whine she's in the cage and maybe start handing her treats under your supervision.
You have to give her time to learn to trust them, just like with you.

You don't mention how old your kids are, but keep in mind - kids tend to be on the noisey side and they tend to move fast and suddenly. That can make almost any rat twitch. So as much as Tesla needs to trust you and not bite - the kids also need to learn how to approach Tesla and help her "make friends" with them.
 

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Tesla, Ruby, Cloud, and Poe
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Discussion Starter #5
They're 12, 10, 6, and 2... They are really good with our other 3 rats. It just seems like a lot of time and patience involved... And an uncertain outcome... And still the risk of biting. I'm just not sure if I want to put everyone through this. Thanks for your help. I don't want to make a hasty decision if there is hope.
I think once you work with her and get her to stop biting, you should introduce the kids, with you having control of the situation and see how it goes. I would recommend that the kids can talk to her, whine she's in the cage and maybe start handing her treats under your supervision.
You have to give her time to learn to trust them, just like with you.

You don't mention how old your kids are, but keep in mind - kids tend to be on the noisey side and they tend to move fast and suddenly. That can make almost any rat twitch. So as much as Tesla needs to trust you and not bite - the kids also need to learn how to approach Tesla and help her "make friends" with them.
 

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They're 12, 10, 6, and 2... They are really good with our other 3 rats. It just seems like a lot of time and patience involved... And an uncertain outcome... And still the risk of biting. I'm just not sure if I want to put everyone through this. Thanks for your help. I don't want to make a hasty decision if there is hope.

Yes, dealing with an animal that has been abused in the past, can take a lot of time and patience.
It's not for everyone.

If you decide to give her up - I urge you to try and find a rescue to take her and be honest about her issues. They will most likely be able to work with her to help her find a suitable home.
That would be better than just "re-homing" her and not really know how she'll be treated.
 

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Tesla, Ruby, Cloud, and Poe
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Discussion Starter #7
Yes, dealing with an animal that has been abused in the past, can take a lot of time and patience.
It's not for everyone.

If you decide to give her up - I urge you to try and find a rescue to take her and be honest about her issues. They will most likely be able to work with her to help her find a suitable home.
That would be better than just "re-homing" her and not really know how she'll be treated.
Agreed. Actually the rescue I got her from is looking for someone already.
 

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I had a rat who would draw blood 100% of the time I stuck my hand in. She was bred to be a feeder and the guy would handle all of them roughly, practically throwing them back into their bins if they escaped, picked them up by their tails with a quick jerk, and overall gave them a bad living experience. I still have her and she doesn't bite me on purpose anymore.
What I did was sit with her for long periods of time. I would put a saucy treat in front of the cage door and keep my hand near the door, not in the cage. Once she was more interested in the food rather than me I opened up the door and kept my hand close to it, again not in because she would feel threatened.
I was trying to give her a good experience with me. Soon I was able to keep my hand inside the cage while she ate. It took me only a month, but all rats are different. This could be genetic.
She doesn't like to be held, touched, or even looked at. But I'm now able to move her a short distance to clean her cage. She doesn't try to fight her cage mates anymore(forgot to mention she would attack all the other rats, had to keep her separated).
She still bites me, but it's when she thinks I have a treat. She immediately let's go once she realizes she's trying to drag my hand with her(at least I hope it's accidental bites, they feel less aggressive than when I first got her). Sometimes these bites draw blood because of the excitement of getting a treat that isn't there.

Anyway, I went on a little long. I'm sure I meant to have a point after a lot of that, but I've forgotten. 😅
 

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Tesla, Ruby, Cloud, and Poe
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Discussion Starter #9
I had a rat who would draw blood 100% of the time I stuck my hand in. She was bred to be a feeder and the guy would handle all of them roughly, practically throwing them back into their bins if they escaped, picked them up by their tails with a quick jerk, and overall gave them a bad living experience. I still have her and she doesn't bite me on purpose anymore.
What I did was sit with her for long periods of time. I would put a saucy treat in front of the cage door and keep my hand near the door, not in the cage. Once she was more interested in the food rather than me I opened up the door and kept my hand close to it, again not in because she would feel threatened.
I was trying to give her a good experience with me. Soon I was able to keep my hand inside the cage while she ate. It took me only a month, but all rats are different. This could be genetic.
She doesn't like to be held, touched, or even looked at. But I'm now able to move her a short distance to clean her cage. She doesn't try to fight her cage mates anymore(forgot to mention she would attack all the other rats, had to keep her separated).
She still bites me, but it's when she thinks I have a treat. She immediately let's go once she realizes she's trying to drag my hand with her(at least I hope it's accidental bites, they feel less aggressive than when I first got her). Sometimes these bites draw blood because of the excitement of getting a treat that isn't there.

Anyway, I went on a little long. I'm sure I meant to have a point after a lot of that, but I've forgotten. 😅
Thanks for sharing. It sounds like some rats never get over the biting 100%. If it was just me taking care of the rats, I think I could accept that. However, it's not fair to my kids to subject them to the risk and fear of being bitten. I'm afraid that even with trust training, she may still occasionally nip like you described. And it would suck to invest all that time and emotional energy in the process only to see another bite. It's just so sad because she's otherwise getting along with her cage mates and I can handle her outside of the cage, although she's not a big fan. So I feel really torn.
 

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Rex, Penny, Sugar, Latte
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I agree with both @_dizzy_ and @lfraser06, if you do decide to put in the time to train and bond, you would want to show your rat that 1. being with you is good (cue the treats in your presence) and 2. biting is bad (cue the squeak or metal spoon method). It would take time and patience and could mean that your kids might not be able to handle her. If you think they can't respect her space then it might make sense for her to be given to someone who can give that to her, whatever you think is in her best interest.
 

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Tesla, Ruby, Cloud, and Poe
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Discussion Starter #11
I had a rat who would draw blood 100% of the time I stuck my hand in. She was bred to be a feeder and the guy would handle all of them roughly, practically throwing them back into their bins if they escaped, picked them up by their tails with a quick jerk, and overall gave them a bad living experience. I still have her and she doesn't bite me on purpose anymore.
What I did was sit with her for long periods of time. I would put a saucy treat in front of the cage door and keep my hand near the door, not in the cage. Once she was more interested in the food rather than me I opened up the door and kept my hand close to it, again not in because she would feel threatened.
I was trying to give her a good experience with me. Soon I was able to keep my hand inside the cage while she ate. It took me only a month, but all rats are different. This could be genetic.
She doesn't like to be held, touched, or even looked at. But I'm now able to move her a short distance to clean her cage. She doesn't try to fight her cage mates anymore(forgot to mention she would attack all the other rats, had to keep her separated).
She still bites me, but it's when she thinks I have a treat. She immediately let's go once she realizes she's trying to drag my hand with her(at least I hope it's accidental bites, they feel less aggressive than when I first got her). Sometimes these bites draw blood because of the excitement of getting a treat that isn't there.

Anyway, I went on a little long. I'm sure I meant to have a point after a lot of that, but I've forgotten. 😅
Thanks for the story. After giving this whole situation a few days to marinate, I decided I am going to try to work with Tesla for a while longer. We are attached to both her and her sister Ruby and would be sad to give them up. It's easier to teach my human kids not to stick their fingers in the cage than it is to get Tesla to not bite intruders. However, I want to work on bonding with Tesla and rewarding her for not biting as per everyone's suggestions.
 
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