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Discussion Starter #1
Okay, so to start off, yes, I'm looking to have a rat who doesn't bite, draw blood and crack my fingernail. But I understand that that's not the end goal. I want her to trust me and we are not communicating properly. She is scared of me. I know that's what I need to fix.

Anyway I'll tell the full story as short as possible. I had a girl, Lapis, for about a month and went to a rescue on the 12th to bring home two more rat girls for her to be friends with. The twins, as I call them, were held from birth and socialized pretty well. We got along pretty well at first, though I could tell they don't quite trust me yet. That's fine, since I'm a new big awkward human in their lives. So far, everything's okay.

Fast forward to last friday when my mom notified me that she got off of work for the weekend, somehow, and really wanted me to come up. Since the two new girls were so new I really didn't want to just leave them in a cage for the entire weekend so I decided to bring them up with me. I also purchased a new cage at my mom's house for them because they were escaping the old one and the petstore at my mom's is bigger than mine. All three girls went straight from the carrier to the new cage and seemed to enjoy the extra space a lot.

However, one of the twins started getting nippy with me. I usually stick my fingers in the cage so I can rub their chins, give treats, etc, but one of the twins started taking that chance to bite me. Not hard enough to draw blood, but she was doing it. i was concerned so I got her and her sister out of the cage for some quality time. Her sister fell asleep on me, let me rub under her chin, etc. It was great. However the rat who was biting was running around, didn't really want me to touch her, but she wasn't biting me. So I thought that was good, right?

Guess not, because last night she bit my finger pretty hard, hard enough to draw blood and split my fingernail in half.

She obviously doesn't trust me, but why she doesn't I'm not quite sure. Maybe I scared her with too much moving around, too many scenery changes, and she's just overwhelmed... I'm not really sure. I guess she just has a different personality than her sister, who seems to be warming up to me pretty quickly.

Any suggestions would be great. I think I wanted to rant a bit because I'm very disappointed in myself but I also know there are tons of people on this forum who are more experienced with ratties than me.

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Sorry that you got bit! :(

From what your saying it sounds like they must have been pretty overwhelmed with the moving around. You might be at square one with her again and need to try re-bonding with her. Also, I'd suggest not putting your fingers in the cage if you can help it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yeah, I was worried about that happening, but I made a choice and now I gotta live with the consequences.

I'll def be more careful with my fingers. It mostly happened because the twins look so much alike and I thought I was offering my finger to the twin that wasn't biting. So I'll just have to refrain from doing that. She is only biting when my hand is in the new cage, maybe she's feeling a bit territorial too...?
 

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Fear biting is different from aggressive biting. A terribly frightened unsocialized rat bites when you corner it and it has no other escape route. An aggressive rat comes at you and bites as in lunges to bite. It's making a point and communicating with it's teeth. This is entirely not acceptable. Wear gloves or oven mitts, but shout NO BITING! and give the aggressive rat a bop or a swat (with love in your heart) to make it clear that biting is not allowed... never and not ever.

Biting rats are dangerous and this behavior needs to be fixed immediately... the trust thing can wait, because you can't properly bond with a biting rat.

Now on the other hand if your rat is biting because you are cornering it and causing it to panic, then still wear gloves, but take it slow and build up a relationship teaching your rat you are not scary. This is covered in my immersion thread. Aggressive and defensive biting are two different things and need to be treated differently. But either way the biting is issue number one.

Best luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I just assumed she was afraid, but yeah, I guess this is more aggressive? I'm putting myself in her territory and she's telling me she doesn't want me there by biting me.

Which is totally unacceptable... but I didn't want to do anything aggressive because I assumed I would scare her more. I wasn't reading her properly, I think...
 

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At the very least use a good firm "NO". Do not "teach" your rat that by biting you will return it to the cage or give any other "rewards" that might make biting seem like a good idea. I really like immersion and the theory behind it. It's one of the stickied threads. You might want to take a look at it.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I've read a lot there when I got my first girl, I'm pretty familiar with it.

I think I may have accidentally taught her that biting means she gets to be left alone... so i'll need to break that habit right away. I plan on getting some heavy duty gloves and working on this with her.
 

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When I first introduced extreme immersion, some folks thought I was encouraging people to abuse their rats... In fact the real problem as I saw it was that the owners were being too nice and too passive. Rats may be small, but they are for the most part assertive animals with big personalities. And they are big on getting their way and taking advantage of their humans. Our rats walk all over me, in more ways than one. And as I teach them to be competent, for the most part I let them get away with it.... but I do set limits... They aren't allowed to destroy stuff or bite people.

So when I encourage passive people to be more assertive, I'm not encouraging aggressive people into rat abuse, but rather encouraging people who are being pushed around to stand up for themselves and take charge... in other words to be the parent or pack leader.

Some years ago, I took Fuzzy Rat to the circus, we got to meet the elephant and horse trainers, and we received complements on how well Fuzzy Rat behaved... in fact one of the horse trainers pitched in and gave us a hand when Fuzzy Rat decided to disregard the fence and meet the pony's a little too up close and personally.... These guys were real pros and I felt quite flattered by their complements, but if you watch them work with large dangerous animals you can feel the confidence and in charge attitude they project. They don't abuse their animals, I mean no one in their right mind abuses an elephant! But it's their up beat attitude that has their animals trusting and following their leads.

Sure you want your rats to be your friends, sure you want to be nice and accommodating, but just like with kids... you have to be their parent before you can be their friends.

I talk a lot about teaching competence in your rats, and it's not too hard because rats are smart. They can learn the rules of your house and become house pets just like dogs or cats. And they will take real pride in the freedoms they earn. By learning the rules they improve their own lives as well as yours. It is a process and sometimes things go pear shaped, but if you don't give up your rats will get it and in the end they are happier for your good parenting skills. When you fail, you wind up with a biting rat trapped alone in a cage, sad and angry and that's only if you are nuts enough to keep a biting rat in your home, when you succeed you wind up with a little family member, confident and to some degree independent who loves you and loves his or her life in your shared home.

Immersion is based in part on the amazing life story of Fuzzy Rat, who proved that there was almost nothing a rat couldn't learn or do. It's about building understanding through communication and trust through respect. It's not just about getting a small animal to do tricks, but it's about building a real relationship with a tiny sentient being that has so much potential to be way more than most people would ever imagine. Sometimes that means being firm, sometimes it means letting rats be rats, sometimes your the best friend and sometimes you have to be the teacher or the cop. Mostly you reward good behaviors, but sometimes you have to discourage bad ones. But if you check out the philosophies of the best rat parents, they treat their rats with respect, but they are hands on and take charge, they all communicate and are understood by their rats and they understand their rats and none of them ever let their rats push them around because they set limits that their rats know not to cross.

You always want to be the loving and caring human, but sometimes you have to be a little bit firm in order to be kind.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
@RatDaddy

No, I totally get what you're saying. This is my fault for being too passive, there's no way around that, but I do think it's something that can be fixed! I know you aren't advocating rat abuse. Thank you always for your kind words and your great stories.

@Kelsbels

Thank you so much. I'm heading back home in a few hours so the real test begins there. Yesterday I did take out miss biting for some cuddle times, didn't get bit, and she cuddled under a blanket with me. Which is good, but that doesn't mean she hasn't unlearned how to bite.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Moving them back home went okay. I wanted to do some things to their cage this morning so I went ahead and did so. My hand managed to get close to Fubuki, the biting girl, and she bit me a few times. Each time I firmly said NO BITING and one time I said LET GO when she didn't want to release my finger. I didn't give up and kept doing what I needed to do.

Fubuki eventually realized that I wasn't going away just because she bit, and she went to do something else in the cage.

Me: 1
Fubuki: 1
 

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Wow, that's a very polite form of biting, My part wild girl would sink her teeth to the bone, spin her body tearing out a piece of flesh and then repeat like the Tasmanian devil in the cartoons. In a split second your hand was squirting blood like a milk bottle hit by buckshot. Staying calm and using a firm voice wasn't much of an option with her.

But if the firm voice does the trick with Fubuki then by all means go that way.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Different things work for different rats, I think! They all have their individual personalities so I try to think of it like that, just like all of my human roommates have different personalities. This girl has been held from birth and is not part wild, so I decided to try a firm voice first just from knowing that about her.
 
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