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Discussion Starter #1
I had some nipping problems with my BEW Mola, but that ended about a week ago. She stopped nipping and I thought it was a breakthrough and it was over.

I don't know what happened today, but I was petting her while she was in the lixit critter space pod, which is where all her past incidents have been. I've been making it a point to pet her while she's in there. She's let me skritch her belly while in there as well. After I cleaned the fleece (my hands probably still smelled like the cleaners I use), I went to pet everyone. She was in the pod and the entire time that I was petting her in the pod, she was fine. Then, when I pulled my hand back because Denna was making an escape, she half-followed my hand and bit me. When I pushed my hand towards her like normal she kept biting. I finally bopped her on the nose, I think as it may have just been on the side of her face, she stopped. Then, she came out of the pod and I went to pick her up skritch her belly while holding her (I do this all the time with no complaints, she bit me again. I pinned her down/groomed her belly while pinning her and she was fine with it. And as she walked around the cage, I kept petting her and she kept mouthing me. I'd bop her on the nose and say "no biting/nipping" and pin her to exert dominance and she was fine. Lastly, I offered to everyone, but she got her treats last and only after I'd pet her.

She's about 5 months old. I don't think she's trying to be dominant since she lets me pin her and she offers her belly to me while in the pod. Anyway, I have about 5 bleeding bite marks on both hands and I'm honestly terrified of her now. A large part of me wants to give her back to the breeder who said she was very sweet (all my rats come from her; the rest are very sweet) and try for a more submissive rat or to someone more knowledgeable about this. However, she is usually sweet most of the other time (she can be a bit standoff-ish) and I don't want to give up on her. Right now, the part that wants to give her up is winning though.

Please don't judge me for this, I am completely scared of her and I don't think I can handle an immersion with her if she starts biting me again. I don't really know what's going on and I'm not sure I can even handle what is going on. I don't know why she's biting me, she doesn't seem fearful when I pet her. She tends to lean away and seems like she is uncomfortable with being pet, but is perfectly fine to offer up her belly if I start skritching towards it. The breeder said she is a complete sweetheart, and she can be, but I'm utterly terrified of her.
 

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Sorry, I don't have any suggestions on what could help, but I just want to say... Don't feel badly if you feel you should give her back to the breeder. Sometimes things just aren't meant to work out. Now, I'm not saying give up just yet. I'm sure more people will post with good suggestions, but if all fails and you truly can't handle it anymore, it is not wrong to give her back to the breeder. Don't put yourself in a situation where you have a pet you're afraid of long term. It may be that she and you just aren't meant to be, but she might fit perfectly with someone else.

So... yeah. /two cents
 

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Make sure you disinfect any wounds caused by her teeth. Other then doing an immersion course with the rat, I don't know what else could help. Only once did I have a girl who liked to bite. That girl became my favorite after I put her in her place. I think your rat will come around. Just don't put up with any biting. It has to be dealth withright away and sternly. I wonder if she has any vision issues?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I haven't put up with any biting from the start and she stopped nipping for a while... And then she exploded today. I honestly have no idea what set her off and that's what scares me. If I knew what happened, I could do something to fix it; but I don't.

My parents are uncomfortable with me handling her since this isn't the first time she's put her teeth to me. They want me to return her to the breeder in exchange for another rat who will be easier to handle tomorrow. I'm kind of in agreement with them. I went to interact with all my rats tonight, and the entire time all I could do was watch Mola and look for signs that she was going to bite again. She was her normal sweet self, but now I'm just afraid around her. I'm scared to do an immersion because I'm pretty certain that it will end in me getting bit a lot and her getting frustrated. Also, she honestly just doesn't seem to be all that happy with me. The breeder described her as a sweetie and a lovebug, and I really do think she would be happier back where she was with the rats she knew.
 

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Being perfectly honest and speaking from experience... If you're afraid of her, nothing is going to get better. In order for immersion to work, you have to be able to assert yourself and get over that fear. I've gone through that with three and a half rats. Two of my first rats would nip me and finally one gave me a deep bite. I was a newbie and I'm sure my initial fear of them (just anxiety over handling rats for the first time) didn't help their innate fear of me (coming from a petstore), which resulted in me getting bit and thereby being afraid to handle them again. Then there was a hormally aggressive rat that nipped but never drew blood on me, but nearly killed my favorite rat (tore off part of his face). I tried working with him after that, but my fear that he would turn on me made it impossible. Then the "half" was a semi hormonally aggressive rat who was fearful of everything, but overall very sweet. He was only aggressive towards other rats and LOVED people. He was never once aggressive towards me, but I went to pick him up once and didn't notice his toe was hurt... so when I picked him up, he felt pain and latched on to my hand. Despite what the doctor said, I'm still not convinced that muscle or bone wasn't damaged at least a little. He was a sweetie, but after that, I hesitated every time I went to touch him and I know that fear of him actually caused him to nip me at least once after that.

If you think you can work past that fear of your girl and approach her with confidence, try to work with her. But trying to work with her and approaching her with fear and hesitation will do more harm than good. Being afraid of getting bit, in my personal opinion, is the #1 way to get bit.
 

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Some years ago we had a part wild girl rat, she was sweet and never aggressive, but she had a short fuse and a vicious streak that went clear to the bone, both hers and anyone she bit. My daughter could squish her into doll clothes and flip her around like a rag doll, and I could easily handle her, but not to that extent, for me it was always, speak softly and put my hand down in front of her and let her climb on me... To her credit and to my benefit, she was always the first rat to come when called, and she always came up on hand. She was two sides of a rather exotic coin... Sweet, compliant and loving and stone cold vicious. Without her gentle side she would have been complexly unmanageable aside from being inherently dangerous. I've never seen this in a completely domestic rat, but I can't say for sure it can't happen.

Knowing she was special, we developed rules about how she was handled, except for my daughter who got away with anything usually as I gritted my teeth and cringed. We even developed a way to introduce her to strangers... People absolutely needed to talk to her first, then let her sniff their fingers, then she would lower her head and let herself be petted and skritched quite patiently.

I'm not saying this is the kind of rat you have, but it sounds vaguely familiar to me. Our girl lived outdoors for months, then she turned up in my neighbor's house, living in his walls and robbing food from his pit bull terriers. He tried to grab her and he wound up with his hand and arm wrapped in a blood soaked bath towel... When his wife called me, our little wild child came out of the wall to me and napped on my lap for the rest of the afternoon. She really could be a great rat, but she was also a major insurance liability. I once dragged her out of a stack of towels and she exploded into a ball of fangs and claws and once, when I got my hand in between her and a mouse she was intent on killing she took a chunk out of my palm...

An immersion session with her would not have turned into a fight, in fact it would have been rather lovely, she wasn't aggressive or dominant, she just had a hair trigger and wild rat skills to do lots of damage fast. Which just might explain how you can have a sweet rat that bites. To be very clear, there were rules about how we handled our wild child and as long as we gave her proper respect, we were completely safe. She didn't attack at random or freak out for no reason. That would have made her impossible to keep as a pet. Likewise if your rat isn't predictable or manageable, she can't be a pet for you even with special treatment. This becomes your call whether to try special treatment or not.

Luckily domestic rats tend to bite once where wild rats start snapping and tearing flesh... but still you are going to get hurt if your rat has a problem temper and can't be handled.

Some rats can also be unpredictable and aggressive because they have brain tumors or other neurological problems. You can't fix these rats.

If you decide that this might a more typically aggressive rat you can try an immersion session with thick gloves, if she's friendly and interactive and docile don't pick a fight, fighting won't improve your situation, she is't biting you because she's aggressive of challenging you for alpha status. If she does challenge you and attack you, then an extreme immersion might correct the social dynamics and the biting problem.

It's great to have a one size fits all solution, but in truth there is no such thing. The different types of immersion work with just about all rats, but sometimes the problem isn't socialization and can't be fixed by a socialization method... And yes, our part wild rat was wonderfully socialized and bonded, she had to be. But that didn't mean she ever lost any of her quick to kill anything that attacked her instincts either. Our rat wasn't broken so she couldn't be fixed, she was what she was and we were able to live with both her special abilities and her nasty little issues.

Some rats just aren't right for some people. I don't think our wild child would ever have been safe for any other children aside from my daughter who bonded with her as a tiny pup or me who raised her. Some folks might even raise pet wolves, but that doesn't make a wolf a good pet for a chicken farmer or a shepherd.

It's your call to determine if your rat can be fixed, or managed or if you are better off taking her back to her breeder where she might be better off.

I know this is a hard call, and one I can't make for you at a distance. I wish I could be more helpful.

Best luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I was debating doing immersion for a long while, but then Mola seemed to get better. Now I'm afraid that I'm to scared to do one with her. I took so long because I don't have the space I used to for doing such a long process.
As to Mola, she used to only nip one. But yesterday she but me several times and was actually holding onto my hand with her pious do that she could keep biting. It was honestly terrifying. I still don't know why she but me as I was taking my hand away to go do Denna's escape. Mola was actually half dragged out her place, biting me hand twice in that blink of an eye, before I understood what was happening. When I went to bop get on the nose, she bit me again. When I actually bopped her nose, she stopped, but there was still tension. I really don't think she is happy with me and that it wasn't meant to be. I think she really wood be better off with the breeder, with whom she was a complete sweetheart.
 

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I am turning in my big boy tomorrow for the same reason. : ( I know how much is sucks--I tried immersion session--hours and hours--and we had reset the "bite clock" to two weeks when he just viciously attacked my hand tonight, doing serious damage. One minute he was bruxing and boggling, then he was lashing out. I actually heard the "crunch" sound as he sunk his teeth deep into my finger, and the bleeding didn't stop for about ten minutes. I have a numbness and tingling all the way to the fingertip--I may have some nerve damage.

He was a pet store find, and his cagemate is an absolute doll, but clearly we were not making the progress I thought we were. I can honestly say, if you've tried everything, find a happier home for your pet. You'll both be happier.

I know it may feel like failure--I know I feel like a failure now after two months of trying with my boy--but the fact is that if the pet is unhappy, and you are unhappy, what is the point?
 

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When doing immersion with any aggressive or biting rat, it's best to prepare for an extreme immersion and hope it doesn't happen. This is not the normal kind of friendly and playful experience 99% of immersions are. It can involve your rat actually attacking you. Oven mitts, welding gloves and thick clothes are a must to protect yourself.

No you aren't trying to upset or torment your rat, and you certainly don't attack it, but certain rats have to work through their aggression before they can calm down and properly bond with you. There's nothing "normal" about this kind of procedure and it's not a pleasant experience to start with. After the rat learns that it can't just bite you it settles down and starts to interact in a more responsible and rational way. From there the immersion usually takes it's natural course and winds up in a very pleasant bonding session.

It's important to understand what extreme immersion can and can't fix... It can fix learned behavior as in when a rat learns that biting gets it what it wants. It can fix "social aggression" as when a rat gets confused into thinking it's in charge and it's pushing you and it's cage mates around or it takes up defending itself, it's cage and it's rat family from you. It can help with so called hormonal aggression because once a rat gets backed down into it's proper place in the normal social order of it's family it's hormones usually return to normal. Immersion can't fix biting due to health related issues (brain tumors, painful conditions etc.) and it isn't going to change the personality of a wild type rat that flips out and bites as a self defense mechanism which is pretty much hardwired in some (actually very few) domestic rats or recent wild crosses. This is pretty much why wild rats usually have to be raised by humans from very young pups. It's not that they won't bite when they flip out, it's just that they know you and are bonded with you so they don't flip out. In other words, you can't remove the switch, you just don't trigger it.

In immersion, it's not too hard to tell rather quickly what you are working with if you are paying attention and listening to your rat. Our part wild rat was a sweetheart. Immersion would have been very playful and fun with her. Nothing in the session would have triggered an aggressive response. Like I said you aren't attacking you rat in a bonding session or induce a conflict, you're trying to engage it in a friendly manner and to that she would have responded playfully... Grab her from behind, and your next stop would be the emergency room... And that wasn't fixable.

Rats with brain tumors get erratic as well as aggressive and those in constant pain tend to act withdrawn and react strongly when you touch the sore spot... A vet or someone with lots of rat experience can help you diagnose this kind of an issue.

When you bring your rat into the immersion session and you try to engage it playfully, if it puffs up and gets aggressive, you are usually dealing with maladaptive social behavior where it's trying to impose it's authority over you or learned behavior where it's trying to get its way through violence. What is learned, can be unlearned and rats aren't stupid, they will pretty much get that you are bigger and stronger then them and will stop attacking you. Once bully rats realize that they aren't the big bad anymore they usually fall in line and are more than happy to let you protect them and to bond with you. So after the ugly, things get pretty good and sometimes pretty wonderful. With rats that have been socially (alpha) aggressive for a while, their hormones have already built up and it will take several daily follow up "play and training" sessions to reinforce proper social structure. You can't just do an extreme immersion, go on vacation and come back to expect your progress is still there. Hormones take a while to return to normal and daily play reinforces good social skills and a healthy pack order with you at the top while the hormonal load returns to normal.

Extreme immersion really isn't for everyone, and certainly as I've covered, not for every rat. Even with thick gloves and clothes there are certain risks to the human involved. You have to be willing to lock yourself into a rather small space with an agile animal with very sharp teeth and claws that's trying to hurt you... It's a procedure best avoided by adopting the right rats and not neglecting them so they don't get socially confused.

To be perfectly clear, you don't go into any immersion trying to pick a fight, you always hope and try for a normal immersion. It's the rat that attacks you and you defend yourself and assert your status to correct your rats status confusion or learned biting behavior. It's still a socialization technique and a bonding exercise and it's not a punishment. It's a very special exception to all of the normal rules and it's only done with rats that have special aggression issues that can't be handled normally. It saves rats that can't be fixed otherwise... but no one in their right mind should go out and adopt a screwed up biting rat with the goal of doing an extreme immersion to fix him. Nor should this procedure be confused with normal immersion, which never involved aggressive conflict or combat.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I brought Mola back to the breeder. As soon as the breeder took her out of the carrier, she melted into a squishy, boggling ball of sweetness. She was definitely a lot happier to be back.

If I knew what set her off, I'd be willing to work with her. But I still have no idea. I think she was just plotting against me to get back to her breeder, lol. Also, I had no time for hours-long immersion sessions. I work full time, and my morning commute is an hour; the commute back home is an hour and a half. And on weekends, I have to get all my errands and other things done. In addition, the space where I first did immersion with my first 3 rats is now unavailable. I think it was just something that was not meant to be.
 

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I'm so glad Mola seems happier now. <3 Definitely sounds like you made the right decision for both Mola and yourself.
 

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No second owner was ever going to keep our part wild girl... she was bonded to my daughter and to myself and she otherwise never trusted anyone else. I'm sure your problem child was happy to be home. That said different rats need different levels of attention. Fuzzy Rat went to the playground every afternoon with my daughter when she was small and napped on my desk next to me every day as I worked, while we could go days without even seeing Amelia. If we neglected Fuzzy Rat she slashed all of the wires in the house and generally trashed the place... Amelia came from a neglectful home and most of the time we didn't even know she was there. I'm not saying that was a good thing, but she would have been a much better pet for someone with a busy schedule. Fuzzy Rat was 12 hours a day hands on every day, while Amelia may have been two hours a month, if that. Not every rat is right for every human. Having the option to take her back to the breeder most likely was the best call for everyone concerned.
 

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I had some nipping problems with my BEW Mola, but that ended about a week ago. She stopped nipping and I thought it was a breakthrough and it was over.

I don't know what happened today, but I was petting her while she was in the lixit critter space pod, which is where all her past incidents have been. I've been making it a point to pet her while she's in there. She's let me skritch her belly while in there as well. After I cleaned the fleece (my hands probably still smelled like the cleaners I use), I went to pet everyone. She was in the pod and the entire time that I was petting her in the pod, she was fine. Then, when I pulled my hand back because Denna was making an escape, she half-followed my hand and bit me. When I pushed my hand towards her like normal she kept biting. I finally bopped her on the nose, I think as it may have just been on the side of her face, she stopped. Then, she came out of the pod and I went to pick her up skritch her belly while holding her (I do this all the time with no complaints, she bit me again. I pinned her down/groomed her belly while pinning her and she was fine with it. And as she walked around the cage, I kept petting her and she kept mouthing me. I'd bop her on the nose and say "no biting/nipping" and pin her to exert dominance and she was fine. Lastly, I offered to everyone, but she got her treats last and only after I'd pet her.

She's about 5 months old. I don't think she's trying to be dominant since she lets me pin her and she offers her belly to me while in the pod. Anyway, I have about 5 bleeding bite marks on both hands and I'm honestly terrified of her now. A large part of me wants to give her back to the breeder who said she was very sweet (all my rats come from her; the rest are very sweet) and try for a more submissive rat or to someone more knowledgeable about this. However, she is usually sweet most of the other time (she can be a bit standoff-ish) and I don't want to give up on her. Right now, the part that wants to give her up is winning though.

Please don't judge me for this, I am completely scared of her and I don't think I can handle an immersion with her if she starts biting me again. I don't really know what's going on and I'm not sure I can even handle what is going on. I don't know why she's biting me, she doesn't seem fearful when I pet her. She tends to lean away and seems like she is uncomfortable with being pet, but is perfectly fine to offer up her belly if I start skritching towards it. The breeder said she is a complete sweetheart, and she can be, but I'm utterly terrified of her.
Okay, first, I'm really, really sorry you've been injured, and the relationship between you and your girl has been so badly damaged.

I'm a pretty up-front person, in real life and on the interwebs, so I'll just come out with this--it is no judgement at all against you, but rather against a sort of phenomenon that occurs (as far as I know) only on this particular rat board.

This is the "immersion" deal.

I would like you to know that this does not seem to be any sort of scientifically accurate way to work with any species, as a whole system.

While not every single concept in this "immersion" is wrong, much of it is inaccurate, misinterpreted, misguided, and frankly, unfair to the rats, IMO.

Let me just assure you there ARE other ways to work with rats, and they don't have as high a risk of stress and injury to either rat or human.

Here is my take on what likely happened with this girl.

You inadvertently "trained" the softer, warning bites and nips out of her.

You did nothing to address her state-of-mind. You only, thru using the "immersion" philosophy, suppressed the bites/nips, and therefore your rat looked calmer and more comfortable/well-behaved, to the casual observer, and to you.

Inwardly, though, she was still just as uncomfortable, unhappy, or tense or whatever. She just was more hesitant to express that to you.

So, The Big Human Hand continued to stress her, to the point she finally became so uncomfortable she lashed out, hard.

As soon as she went over her threshold, and bit hard, you then continued to aggress towards her (I do absolutely know this was NOT your intention, but this is how her mind saw this), and in fact you increased your aggression.

She had to have been thoroughly baffled and terrified, at that point.

And, while she was thus terrified, she was forced into a hugely vulnerable position--you rolled her onto her back. Her natural instinct would lead her to assume she might die at that point. Really. That was likely her level of fear.

You say she "was fine with" being pinned, but clearly she was not, based on results. How many more bites did you receive, following that?

I'm truly, truly NOT fussing you. I fault the humans who promote this type of bogus "training," or "bonding" or whatever the coined term du jour is for that crap.

Please, I know all of this comes from being misguided, not from evil intent, but please see if there's any way you can work with an actual, talented, certified BEHAVIORIST, if you choose to keep this little girl.

She deserves to feel safe, and be safe, and so do you.
 

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I brought Mola back to the breeder. As soon as the breeder took her out of the carrier, she melted into a squishy, boggling ball of sweetness. She was definitely a lot happier to be back.

If I knew what set her off, I'd be willing to work with her. But I still have no idea. I think she was just plotting against me to get back to her breeder, lol. Also, I had no time for hours-long immersion sessions. I work full time, and my morning commute is an hour; the commute back home is an hour and a half. And on weekends, I have to get all my errands and other things done. In addition, the space where I first did immersion with my first 3 rats is now unavailable. I think it was just something that was not meant to be.

Clearly the page did not load correctly for me--I think I'm having browser issues.

So, I replied without seeing your report of returning her to her breeder.

I stand by my thoughts, and will leave them there, for those lurkers and other readers who wish to learn behavioral science. That post might lead them to really research the matter--there are whole libraries out there, much of the wisdom to be had for free, to help folks.

But, I'm sorry it didn't work out, glad you had that option with the breeder, and hope all ends well for everyone involved.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
She was fine being pinned. I was never bitten while pinning her... Only when petting her. She calmed down and even licked me while pinned.

I never really did an immersion session with her. When I got my first 3 females, I was not yet working. By the time I adopted Fela and Mola, I was working full-time with long commutes. I did trust training with Mola, and she was only every uncomfortable while she was in that pod. However, she seemed unhappy in general. She gave me licks and came when called, took food from my hands and groomed me, even climbed all over me... But she didn't seem happy.

I will point out that Mola is my only girl who goes into heat, despite being about the same age as my original three. No one else goes into heat. I'm not sure if this is because they were removed from males at an early age (meaning no contact, not in the same room) or whatnot, but it was a difference between her and the other 4.
 

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She was fine being pinned. I was never bitten while pinning her... Only when petting her. She calmed down and even licked me while pinned.

I never really did an immersion session with her. When I got my first 3 females, I was not yet working. By the time I adopted Fela and Mola, I was working full-time with long commutes. I did trust training with Mola, and she was only every uncomfortable while she was in that pod. However, she seemed unhappy in general. She gave me licks and came when called, took food from my hands and groomed me, even climbed all over me... But she didn't seem happy.

I will point out that Mola is my only girl who goes into heat, despite being about the same age as my original three. No one else goes into heat. I'm not sure if this is because they were removed from males at an early age (meaning no contact, not in the same room) or whatnot, but it was a difference between her and the other 4.
Okay, well, I really have never once observed any mammal "being fine" with being pinned, but okeydokie.

(Edit to add--licking is an appeasement behavior--a request for you to cease what you are doing, that is making her uncomfortable./edit)

Just to clarify, I don't believe I stated you were bitten while you were actually pinning her and forcing her down--I mentioned you received bites *following* that action on your part.

I do applaud you, however, on recognizing she wasn't thriving at your home and that it wasn't a good fit--in those instances I truly believe everyone is better off with a rehome.

As for your girls going into estrus or not, I suppose I'd wonder about a health issue or hormonal issue, rather than it having anything to do with being removed from males. Plenty of female animals never come in any contact with male animals, yet they continue to cycle in and out of estrus, according to their species.
 

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That's actually an interesting commentary about Mola going into heat. Actually supposedly all rats go into heat, but when my part wild child went into heat, her eyes boggled and her ears vibrated if she was barely touched.... It was extremely obvious she was in heat and she could spend the whole afternoon on my lap soliciting rump skritches. My daughter used to love to watch her ears vibrate and eyes boggle... Fuzzy Rat also boggled when in heat, but none of my other girls boggle, or vibrate or show any signs... ever. I have to wonder if visually going into heat might be related to other more wild like behaviors like being short tempered.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Mola was the oldest, but only slightly, and the only one who visually showed states of estrus.

As for being pinned, I always released her when she licked. Then she'd be fine. The day she bit me, she was fine for about 30 seconds - went to the litterbox, and bit me when I petted her (not immediately after I pinned her).
 

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Mola sounds like a pretty tricky personality. It's unfortunate, but there are plenty of predictable, non-bloodying ratties in the world who would be happy to be your pet. And always be suspicious of anyone on the internet who thinks they know exactly what is going on based on a short written description! We are the peanut gallery, and often we have biases and beliefs that shape our perceptions.
 

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The vet said my poor biter boy had a brain tumor. I hope it isn't commonly passed down, as his (unintentional, mis-sexed) mate will be having his pups soon. We had to put him down. It was hard. : (
 
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