Rat Forum banner

1 - 20 of 25 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi everyone, brand new rat owner here. I recently adopted two male rats, brothers about 6mo old, from a foster on the other side of the province. It took about 2 months to go through with the adoption and transport process, but finally I had my boys shipped across the province and had them in hand. I was so excited to finally have some cute little friends; I had heard nothing but amazing things about rat ownership and have plenty of seasoned rat owners around to help out and encourage me, so I was confident I'd be able to handle them. Boy was I wrong...

Right from the first day, they've been nothing but teeth and claws. I haven't even brought myself to name them yet as they're so mean to me. On the first night, I let them come out of their travel cage and explore me and my bed, to get to know me, and they seemed nice, but would immediately bite my hand if I brought it near them (I've never tried to hold them or pet them, I only present my hand to let them smell me or take treats from me). I chalked it up to nerves from moving and their new home, I mean they had just spent all day traveling 350km to me so I didn't blame them. I let them into their cage and gave them a few days to adjust, which they seemed to do just fine. The love all their toys and boxes and hammocks, and seem generally cheery and playful at all times in there. I can say with confidence that they like their cage.

Anyways, in the days after bringing them home, they began to show more and more aggression to me. From the start, whenever I bring my hand near the cage, they both run over and try and pounce at the cage walls or reach through the cage with their claws/teeth to get at me, even getting in semi-violent fights with each other to get to me (this is the ONLY time they get in fights, is to get to the closest inch of cage wall to where I am. The cage is in my room where I spend all my time due to lockdown, so this is a majority of their behavior...), which I don't like one bit, but I can't separate them because if I open the cage to get in there, they both violently attack my hand with all they've got. I never feed them through the cage, and the foster said they were perfect angels before they left, so I have no clue where they're getting this from.

Their biting is not only in the cage as well, if I manage to get the door open (they HATE me opening the cage, all of the worst bites were when opening the cage door, when my fingers have to be close enough to the bars for their teeth) and let them come out, they come straight at my hand with their jaws open. And yes, they BITE. I've actually watched them rip off a chunk of skin and ingest it. Very scary. In about a month of having these rats, I've been bit at least 20 times, and in the last few weeks, 100% of our interactions ends with a bite or an attempted bite. I squeek whenever they chomp down, but they don't seem to care.

I've sent videos of their behavior to rat behavioral specialists and was told they seem to be extremely dominant over me, but the facts don't line up. I've gotten them neutered, they shouldn't be acting dominant to a human, and they don't act scared of me in any way. It really does feel like these rats just get a kick out of hurting me, and its breaking my heart...

Has anyone else had aggressive rats like this? Every resource I've read online seems to completely not apply to me as they show ZERO fear of me. I cant even hand feed them treats anymore, last night they ignored a yogurt chip in my hand to instead bite my inner thumb, which was literally past the treat... I dont know what to do and I feel wayyy in over my head. I dont want to be afraid of my pets. I haven't even named them yet...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
129 Posts
If someone neutered them it's indicative that someone was trying to quell aggression in them. But sometimes, neutering doesn't stop aggression.

Can you contact whoever you got them from and discuss possibly returning them to the rescue/foster? Because I don't think either your nor the rats are very happy. And honestly, they should have told you about this aggression. Especially since they were already neutered which means someone KNEW they were acting this way.

I'd suggest looking into getting young, baby rats from a breeder. Rescuing 6 month old rats isn't quite like rescuing a young dog or cat of the same age.

This shouldn't have had to be your problem to deal with. I'm sorry you're going through this :(
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Hi Enne, sorry for the confusion. I was the one who got them neutered about two weeks ago, upon suggestion by the foster. The rats were not from a breeder, they came from an reputable rat rescue that owned both the parents and claimed they were fully hand trained. Their aggression only started after the move apparently. The foster even had photos of her holding the rats, something I've never been able to do.
EDIT: And the foster has agreed to take the rats back if they can find another transport, which is difficult due to covid, but a nice sentiment. I just don't really want to give up on my first rats so early!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
508 Posts
I had a rat who would draw blood 100% of the time I stuck my hand in. She also began to attack her cage mates shortly after I got her so I had to separate her. She was bred to be a feeder and the guy would handle all of them roughly, practically throwing them back into their bins if they escaped, picked them up by their tails with a quick jerk, and overall gave them a bad living experience. I still have her and she doesn't bite me on purpose anymore.



What I did was sit with her for long periods of time. I would put a saucy treat in front of the cage door and keep my hand near the door, not in the cage. Once she was more interested in the food rather than me I opened up the door and kept my hand close to it, again not inside because she would feel threatened.



I was trying to give her a good experience with me. Soon I was able to keep my hand inside the cage while she ate. It took me only a month, but all rats are different. This could be genetic.

She doesn't like to be held, touched, or even looked at. But I'm now able to move her a short distance to clean her cage. She doesn't try to fight her cage mates anymore.



She still bites me hard when she thinks I have a treat(like once every two weeks or so because she's red eyed), but she never draws blood.

Please keep in mind that this may not help your rat because all rats are different. But it's worth trying.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Hi Dizzy, thanks for the insight, but I'm not sure how well your advice applies to me. Like I've said, my rats are far more interested in me and my hand than food or treats at this point. I've tried distracting them with treats to be able to pet them to no avail, they will put down a yogurt treat to engage my hand. I'm afraid to have them out of the cage as there's no bars to stop their biting. If they have access to skin, they seem to bite.

I've had people suggest using peanut butter on a spoon to block my hand, but that just means I'm using two spoons to block two rats from getting near me. Doesn't really feel like training and also isn't super effective at preventing bites, they've nipped my knuckles before. I've tried treat reinforcing, but at this point I'm unsure what types of actions to reinforce, as any time I get near the cage its straight to huffing and puffing, pushing at the bars and swiping at me with their claws. I can easily get them into their travel cage by tempting them with my hand for cleaning, so I can move them pretty easily. But I cannot have them free out of the cage yet.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
508 Posts
Okay, for a full 8 hours have no food in their cage, then put a sauce treat by the door. Sit with them and keep your hand down. They'll be hungry and want to eat. If they want to bite you more than they want to eat, just sit and wait for them to tire out. By moving away or avoiding them when they show bad behavior it teaches them that this behavior leads to what they potentially want. Just sit and wait for them to tire out and eat. Don't give them solid food during this so that they can't just walk away with the food.
At night time give them pellets, but on days you can sit with them don't feed them.
It's a lot of trouble to go through and I get it if you don't want to. But having them associate you with eating something good is good.
I've never had to do this, but I got this tip when I met a very aggressive bird.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
471 Posts
You have to earn their trust. The older they are when you start, the longer it takes.

Start by stop sticking your hand in the cage for a couple of days. Spend that time near the cage, taking to them and calling them by name (that's a hint - name them). Then when they seem a bit less afraid of you, use the spoon method. This will help them realize that you putting your hand into their home, is not a threat. Once they seem comfortable with that, try handing them treats. If they bite, pull your hand back and squeak loudly to them, this tell them they hurt you. Work with this stage for as long as it take; rewarding desired behavior with a "special" treat is a great way to encourage that behavior. Eventually, you should be able to entice them to your hand, without biting.

It takes time and patience. Lots and lots of both.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Okay, for a full 8 hours have no food in their cage, then put a sauce treat by the door. Sit with them and keep your hand down. They'll be hungry and want to eat. If they want to bite you more than they want to eat, just sit and wait for them to tire out. By moving away or avoiding them when they show bad behavior it teaches them that this behavior leads to what they potentially want. Just sit and wait for them to tire out and eat. Don't give them solid food during this so that they can't just walk away with the food.
At night time give them pellets, but on days you can sit with them don't feed them.
It's a lot of trouble to go through and I get it if you don't want to. But having them associate you with eating something good is good.
I've never had to do this, but I got this tip when I met a very aggressive bird.
This seems like it could be viable. Their cage is on a table so the only thing they can access if I open the cage is me, but I can try doing this at the cage door with peanut butter I suppose. Not feeding them feels a little mean and I was told never to punish, only reinforce, but at this point I'll give it a shot. I'll let you know how it goes after a few sessions.

You have to earn their trust. The older they are when you start, the longer it takes.

Start by stop sticking your hand in the cage for a couple of days. Spend that time near the cage, taking to them and calling them by name (that's a hint - name them). Then when they seem a bit less afraid of you, use the spoon method. This will help them realize that you putting your hand into their home, is not a threat. Once they seem comfortable with that, try handing them treats. If they bite, pull your hand back and squeak loudly to them, this tell them they hurt you. Work with this stage for as long as it take; rewarding desired behavior with a "special" treat is a great way to encourage that behavior. Eventually, you should be able to entice them to your hand, without biting.

It takes time and patience. Lots and lots of both.
Once again I'm not sure how well this applies to me. They definitely are NOT afraid of me. I've looked into rat fear responses and behaviors and they demonstrate none of the signs. Also I never stick my hand into the cage anymore, I distract them or remove them from the cage when I need to go in. I spend 90% of my day near the cage, often trying to calmly talk to them and give treats. They're always pressed as close as they can be to me and swiping through the bars. They never cower. But I do of course understand what you are saying about time and patience, I'm willing to give as much of that as I can...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
471 Posts
Once again I'm not sure how well this applies to me. They definitely are NOT afraid of me. I've looked into rat fear responses and behaviors and they demonstrate none of the signs. Also I never stick my hand into the cage anymore, I distract them or remove them from the cage when I need to go in. I spend 90% of my day near the cage, often trying to calmly talk to them and give treats. They're always pressed as close as they can be to me and swiping through the bars. They never cower. But I do of course understand what you are saying about time and patience, I'm willing to give as much of that as I can...
Ok . ...... you are new to owning rats. You asked or help from rat owners - and that's what you've received. What you do with it - is up to you.

Good luck.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Ok . ...... you are new to owning rats. You asked or help from rat owners - and that's what you've received. What you do with it - is up to you.

Good luck.
Im sorry, I didn't mean to come off as dismissive, I do appreciate your input. I just only see me getting bit in that situation... I came asking for help because the fear-reducing tactics I've been trying so far from other posts don't seem to be working at all and their behavior doesn't match with what I'm being told.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Forget reading about behaviours. This is your rat and you need to get to know them. Slowly and consistently. Repeat repeat repeat...
This make take you 4 weeks or longer.
1. Place baby food on a METAL spoon.
(Dont worry if they bite it )
2. Hold it still until they've finished eating .
(Doing this tells them that you're not takig food away)
3. Do this for several days .
Keep watching their behaviour . Youre encouraging them to lick . Not bite.
4. After your comfortable that they're being less aggressive. Place baby food onto your knuckle (this way if they bite it doesnt hurt at much ) .
Place the spoon to the bars and keep swapping knuckle spoon .knuckle spoon. So eventually they realise this hand wont hurt me.
Move onto using your fingers. Only after repetition , will they learn . You're ok and wont hurt them.
Xx
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
Well, I tried dizzy's strategy of not feeding them and presenting wet food on a spoon (don't have baby food so I'm using peanut butter) and they once again take a few bites of the food, notice my hand, and go to attack. I ended up leaving the spoon jammed in the bars for them as they seemed sooooo hungry and I felt bad, but I'll try again tomorrow with gloves on.

As for Hazels tactic above, I'll give that a whirl if this tactic gets nowhere, as it seems rather contrasting to what I'm currently doing and I don't want them to be confused.
 

·
Registered
Rex, Penny, Sugar, Latte
Joined
·
819 Posts
Their biting is not only in the cage as well, if I manage to get the door open (they HATE me opening the cage, all of the worst bites were when opening the cage door, when my fingers have to be close enough to the bars for their teeth) and let them come out, they come straight at my hand with their jaws open. And yes, they BITE. I've actually watched them rip off a chunk of skin and ingest it.
To me it seems like your rats are territorial. If they attack whenever you reach in the cage then the biting may be a learned fear response to you invading their safe space.

Along with taking the other's wonderful advice you can try Joinrat's methods:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Well, I tried dizzy's strategy of not feeding them and presenting wet food on a spoon (don't have baby food so I'm using peanut butter) and they once again take a few bites of the food, notice my hand, and go to attack. I ended up leaving the spoon jammed in the bars for them as they seemed sooooo hungry and I felt bad, but I'll try again tomorrow with gloves on.

As for Hazels tactic above, I'll give that a whirl if this tactic gets nowhere, as it seems rather contrasting to what I'm currently doing and I don't want them to be confused.

I have one rat who's skitty and cage agressive... and 1 who is nursing 5 day old babies who is food aggressive .
So I totally understand.
So from my experience given it only be a week.
So what's worked for me is not outtingmy hand in their cage (only safe space) .
And mine have ONLY just started coming out the cage and running about.
They still dont feel like they want to be with us or in is. Which is progress but obv they arent happy with us totally yet.
The spoon method is working slowly. Though the cage bars.
It could take you weeks for them to completely trust them.
I dont see any harm in getting them out for a week. As long as you are spoon feeding and sitting next to the cage frequently.
Good luck.. and patience my sweet x .
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
298 Posts
Well, this has been an interesting read. I will add my two cents worth (not that you need more advice, but I can't help it)
I'm a foster and work with a local rescue. I have had rats of different ages and from different situations. I understand what you are going through.

You have come to a good place. Everyone is very helpful and the advice here is all very good. Pick and choose and try what sounds good to you. But it will take a long time.

Your rats have established dominance over you for reasons you will never know. As long as you are in fear of them, they will continue their attacks and aggression. I believe you when you say they want to hurt you, and are truly coming after your hands to attack. Rats can hold a grudge. They do it very well. And it sounds like these two had a traumatic experience during the relocation.

So now it becomes a matter of you not being afraid. Hard to do when the little brutes are terrorizing you. But they are still young, and can learn that you are a friend.

And now here's my advice:

Don't put your hands into the cage anymore. When you feed them, do it quickly and shut the door. Take away the object which is causing them to be aggressive.
Do sit and talk to them. Put your face near the cage and let them smell your breath and your hair. I know, sounds scary, but your face isn't coming into the cage, just close to it. There's more to you than your hands, and animals get to know each other by smelling body parts. Dogs sniff butts. Horses blow into nostrils. Rats will know you by your scent rather than the sight of you. And a big human face isn't very threatening, just something new.
Don't get upset with them, and understand they must have a reason for their behavior. They are just two young boys who have learned bad habits. Think of them as naughty teenagers. They are bullies and you don't have to be their victim.
Do bring a phone and play a podcast or something with human voices. They like routine and constant sounds. When you leave the room and come back, call to them like you're in charge. I start calling "Puppies!!! Where are my Puppies!!" from down the hall when I'm coming to their cage with breakfast or dinner.
Do put the second cage next to theirs and spend all your time messing around in it, moving things and cleaning and just being busy. They are curious and will want to know what you are up to that apparently isn't involving them.
Do give them their delicious soft food in a bowl and allow them to eat without your hands near them or their food. Keep your face close and talk to them. Make the experience of food a wonderful and stress free event.

Try this for two week. Bring their food and talk and be busy with the other cage. Play a podcast and tell them all about what's happening. When they figure out you aren't going to bother them or touch them or try to pick them up, they will relax. They need to relax and you need to gain confidence. Time is on your side.

Best of luck to you and don't give up! These boys can be your success story, and your new friends.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
298 Posts
It occurred to me, last night as I lay awake thinking about rats, that there could be something else. The foster is a woman, and I believe you are a man, could it be these boys experienced something very unpleasant by a male person? That would explain the foster being able to handle them, as she said they were hand trained. I could be off here, but animals do remember who mistreated them. I've known other animals to hold a grudge against people of a certain sex.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
It occurred to me, last night as I lay awake thinking about rats, that there could be something else. The foster is a woman, and I believe you are a man, could it be these boys experienced something very unpleasant by a male person? That would explain the foster being able to handle them, as she said they were hand trained. I could be off here, but animals do remember who mistreated them. I've known other animals to hold a grudge against people of a certain sex.
Yes this is something that was brought up by the foster when I first mentioned the biting. I am definitely the first man that they have encountered, and they act sweet as sugar with every woman thats handled them (including the vet that neutered them, she was shocked to hear that they had been biting, they even took several photos with them being held to my amazement). This is one of the reasons that led to me believing it was hormonal aggression, but seeing as the neutering has had little effect I wasn't so sure.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
298 Posts
If it's only been two weeks since being neutered, it may take another two weeks to see the change you are hoping for. The hormones can leave their system rather slowly. In the meantime, keep your hands away from their very sharp teeth (I sport a deep scar on my left hand, thank you Fettucine) and let them settle down some more.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
Well, to anyone who may have been following this or to future readers, I'll say that today I had to make the tough call to return these rats to the foster. Its been over a month now since the neuter and they still come at me with their teeth every time. They seem to have had zero change in the way they treat me, at this point it feels like its a game to try and bite me as fast as possible. After 25-30 bites and many scars, I'm realizing at some point you have to just call it and realize that these animals may not he the right pick for you. Its very sad that it has come to this, but it is very clear that all 3 of us aren't super thrilled with our arrangement. Thank you all for the support, I might try getting new rats from somewhere else but I'm not sure yet.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
298 Posts
You tried your best, probably longer than most would have. It's easy to give up, much more difficult to concede after trying so hard. Thank you for letting us know, I've been thinking about you and your ratties a lot. Hopefully you will have another opportunity to try rat ownership. Check around and maybe you can find someone closer where you can meet and greet before deciding. Good luck my friend
 
1 - 20 of 25 Posts
Top