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I posted before about the unfortunate incident I had with Ratty last week (she bit me causing me to require medical attention and a course of antibiotics - http://www.ratforum.com/Forums/viewtopic/t=437.html )

Since then, she has come on leaps and bounds with me. She is still wary, but she's been very gentle with me - I don't know how long they remember, but it's almost like she feels sorry for what she did.

Last night, however, she bit my husband. Because I get hives when handling her, my husband has traditionally been the one to play with her and handle her (I feed her, clean her out and pet her in her cage), so it's not like she isn't used to him. He wasn't even handling her at the time; he had just let her come out of the cage and she took 3 chomps at his foot. They weren't frantic chomps, but they were harder than a test nibble.

I'm beginning to think that she just doesn't trust us fully and I'm wondering if there are any good exercises we can do with her to slowly build up her trust, with minimal risk of being bitten? We really do love Ratty and we want her to be happy and have fun. We also want to make sure she is stable before we try to introduce her again to the new rat.
 

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did she draw blood? was he lying down at the time? there's this strange thing with rats and feet, they like to chew them. every rat i've ever had has taken nibbles at my toes, some harder then others. none have drawn blood and no one did it to be mean. they just like toes. i had one that would chase my foot all over the bed and sometimes when i was walking too. then she'd grab hold of the sock and let me drag her around a bit before letting go. i think it was a game to her. sometimes she bit harder then i would like and then i reprimanded her with a loud squeak (rat language to get her to let go and ease up) and a a firm no (to tell her i wasn't happy with her behaviour). she was careful to be gentle the next time.

as for a rat's memory, i don't have any emperical evidence but from my experience a rat's memory is at least as good as ours. i had rescued a heavily abused rat from a neaighbor's kid and after a while she came around. becoming one of the most outgoing and inquizative rats i've ever had. she would hardly sit still when home. but everytime i went over there (i was friends with the kid's dad. he even helped me make cages for the baby rats i had to raise) she would go still and very very quiet. she would hide with her body pressed tight to my neck and not move unless i picked her up, then she would stay still in my hands. she remembered the place, i'm sure of it. once i realized what was going i stopped taking her over with me and she didn't really seem to mind. the only time she acted so differently was when she went over there with me. otherwise she was her normal active little ball of trouble jumping from my bookcase and kicking the air. anyway the point of my long ramble is to say that they remember just fine and she may in fact be trying to say she's sorry she bit you. and perhaps she's more confident with you as you didn't strike her when you were bit so badly and she understands now that you really won't hurt her. but this is all speculation until we discover better what goes on in a ratty mind and their language.
 

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He was sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of her cage. She didn't draw blood, this time, but after what happened to me last week, I think he was ready to get out of the way quickly, should she attack. She went for the inside of his foot, just below where the ankle bone is.

I don't suppose you have any ideas on what we can do to build up her trust and get her better socialized, do you? She's probably about 15 months old, so whilst I say she's an old rat, she's not old old... she still has a lot of play in her.
 

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the only difference between an old rat and a young baby rat when training trust is the time it takes. older ones tend to take longer cause they remember the bad times they've had with humans where as the younger ones hopefully don't have as many experiences with mean humans.

i've found that showering with the rat helps by leaps and bounds. someone suggested this was because of the steam making the lungs clearer and the warmth being soothing. but whatever reason i know it works. what i do is just take the rat in with me when i take my shower in the morning. i shower in fairly warm water and i take anywhere from 20 mintues or more to shower. i also take the opprotunity to bath the rat as well if she needs bathing. by the time i'm done washing my hair the rat is certainly calmer and much easier to bath then just doing it in the sink. not nearly as much squeaking or struggling (i'm referring to my Iedani. she absolutely hates baths and is very vocal about anything she doesn't like). anyway, a shower will help. other then that you can try forced socailization. its when you hold or keep them with you for at least 20 mins at a time at least once a day but perferably more. i found sitting in a chair that they're not going to jump from and eating a snack or meal you don't mind sharing also helps. keeping them on you in a hoodie as you go about your daily business also helps. and you want her to associate you firmly with treats/food. everytime you take her out of the cage give her a treat. there was someone on here saying to give her the treat when she goes in but i would think that would inforce the goodness of the cage on not so much you. however if she's nervous and won't take treats outside of her cage then offer the treat just before she goes back in as well, if she doesn't take then put her back then give her the treat. if again she doesn't take it then put it in her food dish for her. eventually she'll catch on and start taking treats outside of the cage. eating outside of the cage is a very good sign that she's at least starting to trust you as well.

i've just had a thought though. how big is her cage? if its too small or she's not getting out enough she could get cranky and be more likely to bite or nibble. it may even be that she's bored with her toys and they need changing around. the foster rat i have went through a significant temperment change just from changing into a cage that was larger and better suited for a rat then the preivous cage she was in.

but the "attack" on your husband sounds like part a rat's strange desire of feet and part his nervousness making her a little nervous as well. she probably wouldn't have bitten as hard had she been more secure and wasn't sensing his nerves. having said that i know how hard it is to control your nerves after being bitten or seeing someone bitten but hard or not you have to overcome it if you want to progress with her. make yourself hold her and play with her no matter how nervous you are. if it makes you feel better wear gloves or shoes to prevent any possible bite. and just like the rat that can't stay scared after 20 mintues with time neither will you. jsut keep in mind she didn't bite to be mean, she was just confused as to who you were, it was only a mistake. get your husband to remember that as well and do the things listed above and she should come round
 

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..one trick that worked well for me was taking a old shirt i didnt care about anymore and wear it on a day your not leaving home...let yourself sweat and what not a little...then cut it up into peices and put one in the cage in her box or whatever she uses for a nest......this way she is surrounded by your smell in a place she feels safe and so begins to associate you with safety (change it every few days)
then you can take it from there!!!
hope everything works out for you!!
 

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I don't think a shower is a possibility with this rat. I'm sitting here crying right now after she has just bitten me, again. :cry: I just don't know what to do. Just 10 minutes earlier I had fed her and she had eaten some watermelon out of my hand, rather than taking it from me. This is great, I thought, she's not snatching it and running off with it, she's actually preferring to eat it out of my hand. Then I picked a pumpkinseed out of the mix (her favourite) and gave her that and she took it so gently. I let her be for a while, as I always do at feeding time. I came back 10 minutes later and she was looking for attention. I had just washed my hands, so I know I didn't smell of food, and I have stopped handling the new rat until after I'm done with Ratty in the mornings (Ratty sleeps until the evenings). I reached in to pet her, let her sniff briefly at my hand before I touched her (as I always do) and she took a chomp.

She doesn't look ill, she hasn't lost weight, she's acting the same as normal with regard to eating and sleeping patterns, her ears, nose, eyes and butt look ok... I just don't know what's going on.

She has never been mistreated by humans, she just wasn't socialized young enough.

Her cage is 3ft wide x 3 feet high x 1 foot deep, 3 levels. I even gave her a new chew toy last night, after your suggestion that she might be bored with her toys.

I found an old t-shirt out, too, pieopah, and slept in it last night. I'll do the same tonight and then put pieces in her bed, as you suggest.

I'll also make a conscious effort to put her in her ball more often, see if getting out of the cage a bit more brightens her up. We can't just let her loose because there are too many hiding holes and wires and such in our house - it's pretty open plan so we can't close off the room for her. If we could trust her to come back when we called, or that she wouldn't rip our hands off when we tried to pick her up to return her to the cage, then maybe I would risk it, but we just can't trust her.

It's looking like we're going to have to have two solitary rats, after all. There's no way I'm letting her anyway near the new rat while she's this changeable. The new rat is the perfect pet and is very happy, I can't risk Ratty ruining that. :cry:
 

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was she ever like this before the new rat came? if not maybe she's just jealous? without seeing her and assessing her myself i'm starting to come to a loss. i firmly believe there are no bad rats and all that any rat needs is love and patience but this is confusing me. she should be responding well. here's a thought though. how old is she? has she always been a lone rat since you got her? perhaps she doesn't full y realize how sensitive your human skin is and doesn't think she is biting hard at all. if that is the case then you need to teach her the strength of her bite is too much. use the rat's own language and squeak high pitched and sharply any time her bite is too hard, just like other rats do when play gets too rough. is there a smell of predators around? that could certainly make a nervous rat tense. if it is the stream that helps in the shower as rcropper suggested perhaps hotboxing the shower to build up a bunch of steam then just sitting there with her for a bit would help just as much as the shower would. pet her and give her treats in there, perhaps even rub her down with a towel as if you were drying her (this seems to be their favorite part anyway). if you really can't trust her at first wear thick gloves or put her in the tub where she'll have mobility and lots of open space, or even put her in her ball if she's most comfortable with that and work your way up.

as for ratty ruining the other rat, i don't think that is really possible. the other rat's personality towards you wouldn't change. what i would be worried about would be the introduction process. it sounds like its going to take a long time to get them used to each other and you may want to invest in gloves to separate fights as they seem like they might get out of hand. though i find yelling at them in the "mom is NOT pleased" tone and waving my hand just above their heads breaks up most fights. dabbing them with a bit of vanilla wouldn't hurt to make them smell the same. and bathing them together (after you're sure they won't be fighting too much) in the tub would help. in fact it'll break up a fight too,now that i coe to think about it. run the waterin the tub and give them a quick little splash and that'll get them thinking about something else other then fighting quick and keep you and them out of harms way.

i wish you the best of luck and keep us updated.
 
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