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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone, I'm new to the forum and a new rat owner. (I've owned gerbils, guinea pigs, mice, hamsters, etc, etc, but never rats) I recently adopted two female rats (Panda and Puppy) from someone who no longer wanted them, and they have never been socialized. I built them an amazing three story cage with lots of toys, and I try to give them fruits and veggies daily for treats. Today when I put my finger through the bars to let Panda smell it she bit me really hard- it drew blood and is still bleeding ten minutes later. There was no mistaking that it was a very aggressive bite, and it HURT!!! 8O Anyway, I'm feeling a little discouraged and could really use some advice on how to win them over. They are less than a year old, and fully grown.
 

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Hi there, welcome to the forums.

The first thing I would say is that sticking your fingers through the cage of a rat is definitely not a good idea... especially with a rat that doesn't know you too well. I do sympathise with you with the bite, though - I had a nasty one myself that needed medical treatment and a course of antibiotics.

I think the big question is, how long have you had them? If it is less than a couple of weeks, I would just leave them be a bit and let them settle in. Talk to them, offer them treats (carefully!) and do as much as you can without pushing them or making them anxious.

After that, build it up slowly. Encourage them to come to you, pet them while they are in their cage etc.

As for the biting, always be careful that your finger doesn't smell like food - a good tip for handling rats is to always wash your hands before and after. When you pet them, be careful not to let them feel cornered. Keep away from their rear end - when rats fight they go for the rear end, as opposed to the neck when they are play fighting.

Watch for their body language. If they appear tense, proceed with caution. Try to be consistent and confident when dealing with your rats. If you are scared or nervous they can sense that. If you are confident and consistent, this will help their confidence to no end.

Rats usually bite for a few reasons - they are scared, mistake you as food or are being territorial.
 

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It's possible she's been fed through the bars in the past and thought you were food... I can't skritch my boys through the bars for that reason. They won't draw blood, they've gotten to understand that they have to be gentle, but when they were new they'd snatch and grab and yank, afraid the treat would go away.
 

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ditto on all that. the best way to let them sniff you through bars is just to put your finger up to the bars, but not through them, especially if they've been fed through bars in the past. i'm sure that with some time and some tlc, your rats will come around though. all animals love attention and care!
 

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Most rats are territorial thru the bars of their cage. If you have 2 groups of rats and a rat climbs on the outside of the cage they usually get their toes bitten, no questions asked. :p

Always be careful with new rats, be very aware of their body language and go slow. My sweet socialized rats often grab my finger when I put it thru the bars of the FN, but then start to lick them, whereas a new and unsure rat might just bite to hurt.

I have a little fear biter here myself I am working with. I open the cage door, and offer her the back of my hand (harder to bite) but I don't shove it in her face. I offer it near her, then she slowly leans forward to sniff my hand..."Ahhh its you again...". Then I can touch her and talk to her without fear of being bitten.
 

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Yeah, stupid me I used to play tug-o-war with carrots, now when I poke my fingers in to open they cage they go, oooo carrot! and go for my finger.. of course they realize this carrot has nails and don't chomp down too hard. But yeah... thats kind of my fault for feeding them carrots that were in the shape of fingers and for teasing them with em.

And for some reason one of my rats likes to steal food OUT of my mouth. *******...
 

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One thing that I found helps a lot with ratties who haven't been socialized very well is reading to them. If you sit right next to the cage with the door open, preferably in a position that will let them climb onto you as soon as they try to get out of the cage, and read it seems to calm them down and get them used to your voice. I did this with a little girl who had lived her whole live in a plastic bin about the size of a large shoebox with 5 other girls with almost no human contact and it took her a few weeks to be comfortable. She learned a lot about philosophy and I got a better grade than I was expecting on the next test :D
Don't be discouraged this early into it. As everyone else has said, putting your fingers in any rat cage usually ends in getting bit. Don't worry, your new ratties aren't plotting against you. I promise they will be much more friendly with you as time goes on and you spend more time with them.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately I don't have much information about how they were handled before- my roommate heard someone at school talking about giving them up and knew I wanted to have rats, so she offered to take them to me. School is out now and I don't have her number, and I wish I knew more about their history. I will never put my hand in the cage like that again, that's for sure! I still have a really deep puncture wound on my finger.
I have had them for about a week and I moved them into the new cage a couple days after I got them so they are still pretty scared- Puppy hides on the bottom floor all day and Panda (who is more inquisitive) stays on the top floor. I have been bringing them fruits and veggies every day then talking to them sweetly while they eat them. I don't mind waiting for them to come around, it took me six months for my guinea pigs to come around and now they LOVE me and run right up to me! They never bite, though, so I just wasn't prepared for that experience. I would like to post some photos of their cage here or on guineapigcages.com (where I got the guidelines for making the cage)- it is build from silver mesh cubes and coroplast and is three stories tall with lots of bird toys, ropes, hammocks, igloos, bells, etc. I will let you know how things work out!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Oh yeah, one more thing... I have a German shepherd and three cats who are very interested in the rats and often sit next to or on top of the cage and watch. They mostly just sit there and stare (don't worry, the cage is mesh so they can't reach in). Do you think I should keep them out of that room so the rats feel more comfortable? Panda always comes out to try to sniff them through the cage, and Puppy always hides.
 

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envisionary333 said:
Oh yeah, one more thing... I have a German shepherd and three cats who are very interested in the rats and often sit next to or on top of the cage and watch. They mostly just sit there and stare (don't worry, the cage is mesh so they can't reach in). Do you think I should keep them out of that room so the rats feel more comfortable? Panda always comes out to try to sniff them through the cage, and Puppy always hides.
I would keep them out of the room until the rats have their confidence. I would also keep any other animals from getting on top of their cage - for the rats benefit and theirs. Apart from the staring thing being intimidating to the rats, you stand a chance of your cats or dog getting bitten, too.
 

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i totally agree with DonnaK. on top of having a new home, dealing with other animals on top of their cage could be extremely stressful.

on another note, i had guinea pigs before too and always LOVED the cage ideas on guineapigcages.com. =)
 

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envisionary333 said:
I tried out the rat "cage calculator" and it said my cage could hold 40 rats!!! :D
Goodness me, is your cage the size of your living room?! :lol:
 

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envisionary333 said:
I tried out the rat "cage calculator" and it said my cage could hold 40 rats!!! :D
Holy beezuzus. I don't know if my KITCHEN could hold 40 rats 8O
 
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