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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I've noticed that each of our boys will sometimes force his way underneath the other; typically underneath the jaw. Nibbles seems to do it more often than Jesse; if Jesse is near a corner, Nibbles will squeeze underneath his head and then sit alongside him or walk away. It's obviously a very deliberate behavior but I find it baffling. Jesse does the same thing, but also sometimes stops under Nibbles in a way that I think is requesting grooming.

Right now Jesse is squeaking because Nibbles is trying to crawl under him in the play tube but it's not big enough so they're stuck until Nibbles backs out. This happens in the tube quite often; I was thinking about removing it but I imagine if it was seriously hurting either of them they'd stop going in the tube.

Why would a rat crawl under another rat's head if they weren't stopping for a grooming? Is it a sign of submission? Aggression? Affection?

edit: Ah, this particular time in the tube Nibbles was trying to use Jesse as a blanket. I just checked on him again and he was asleep in the tube. Jesse took the opportunity to aggressively groom him and then try to squish him...
 

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Rabbits will do this, and it's a form of dominance. It's them basically being aggressive about demanding the "lesser" rabbit to groom them since they are insisiting that they are the boss rabbit and can demand when they want to be groomed. So the boss rabbit will shove their head under the lesser rabbit's face, and the lesser rabbit will groom them.

I have no idea if rats do this, but if you were describing rabbits, it sounds like dominant behavior. Do your boys ever have little squabbles or fights? For rats, I imagine they could just be trying to get the warmest, most cuddly spot by snuggling their way under each other and relaxing.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
"Do your boys ever have little squabbles or fights?" Huh? Are there other things they're supposed to do? ;)

They squabble all the time. When Nibbles squeezes under Jesse he does it pretty quickly and then moves out of the way; I don't think he's requesting grooming. Jesse used to sometimes park himself under Nibbles' nose, which I think was insisting on a grooming, although Nibbles recently acquired his black-belt in grooming and I think Jesse is tired of handing his *** handed to him.
 

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Hahah well it may be a dominance thing then if they're both still trying to figure out who the boss rat is and are having arguments frequently. Maybe the "I demand to be groomed" behavior means something totally different in rat language vs rabbit language. Maybe it could be trying to show submission and a willingness to cuddle?

I know there are quite a few things I've seen my rats do that I wonder about, and when I try to look up what it might mean online, I can't find a single thing!

I hope someone here can help you better than I can, I'm curious now what it could mean in rat language!
 

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It's definitely a dominance thing with rats too. My girl Anya does that to Pooka all the time. Even though she's a third his size (at most), she is clearly the boss and what she says goes. "Groom me, lesser being!" lol.
 
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