General Rat Behavior Questions

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by ViciousCurse, Apr 14, 2019.

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  1. Apr 14, 2019 #1

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

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    I'm posting this thread for various questions I have. All of which are behavioral. I didn't want to post two or three threads, so I was going to make a master post.

    New Rescues:
    Background: I've had a pair of (presumably) brothers who turned a year old in December and are in great health. They drink, eat, and sleep normally during the day. I got them back in August because I had just lost my heart rat and wanted to redirect my grief into helping homeless rats. These two were free on Craigslist, because the ad said the rats caused a severe allergic reaction. However, when I went to pick them up, the guy didn't seem even remotely upset that he was rehoming them and didn't give me much information. I mean, he gave me the box they were in, a extremely brief chat about them, and drove off and left. Not even a look back to us. From their behavior, I'm positive they were either abused and/or severely neglected because they were terrified of my hands and have bitten me on multiple occasions. They were in good health, but this man may have left them completely alone for up to four or five months, assuming he got them when they were babies, touched them once, and then never did again.

    1. They are timid angels during the day. Come night, for whatever reason, they refuse to cuddle up and sleep with any of the other rats and instead relentlessly pick on my other rats, save for Grumpy (because he doesn't take their crap at all and will immediately rear up if someone looks at him wrong). During cage cleaning time, I've noticed bites and scratch marks (deep/wide ones, not indicative of accidental scratching during play time) on every other rat, but never these two. They have woken me up at night because the rat they're picking on is so vocal (and I've caught them inches away from the rat who was squealing). The cage is also next to my bed, so they're not that far away from my head. Upon these discoveries, I get my temporary cage out and put them in there for the night.
    What sort of bothers me is Owen would do this, then stopped. There was a lull with absolutely zero issues. Now, it's Peter picking on everyone. My current rats have never picked on them relentlessly and have always been extremely accepting of them. I spend most of my time in my room, so I usually have a pretty good understanding on my rats' daily lives.
    I know the first suggestion is to separate them and neuter them. I've separating them. I'm looking into a better rat vet local to me for a neuter. For now, I'm just looking for theories as to why they've made this change so that I can avoid it in the future.

    2. Owen bit me extremely hard. Like, it almost wouldn't stop bleeding and there's about an inch-long, deep cut in my right index finger. His top teeth got my knuckle and I'm sure he must have hit bone because it hurts like... well. He's bitten me before, but he and I had worked together very well and haven't had issues since when I first brought him home. I'm pretty sure it's because I stuck my hand into the hide and startled him (I was saying hello to the rat I could see and wasn't aware that he was in there). But, I know I've done this one or twice before and have never gotten bitten. I don't try to.

    3. Owen and Peter are now picking on the babies I've had for about three-ish months. I waited until the babies were at least ten weeks to intro them and intros went fabulously. No one blinked an eye or even cared there was babies among them. Sure, they did the typical thing of sniffing the babies and flipping them, but that went fine with no aggression. Now, all of the sudden, the pair are hounding the babies and making them scream at night. My black rat, Luci (male), is now quite large, but he's a softie. He's a little timid as well, but he doesn't have a mean bone in him. Arthur on the other hand, is still smaller than Luci, but he is growing. He seems to be picked on the most. I think my babies are scared of them because they'll squeal at the sight of Owen and Peter, unfortunately. As mentioned before, Owen and Peter have been removed from the main cage into a temporary one.

    4. As mentioned before, I've been bitten on numerous occasions. A couple are Owen and Peter straight up walking up to my hand and biting it, completely unprovoked. I was maybe moving poo into a litterbox, readjusting fleece, filling their food bowls, etc. Maybe my hand resembled a scary monster, but I was deliberately careful not to go over them, near them, or anything unless absolutely necessary. I'll gently ask them to move if I have to, but that's never provoked a bite.


    I guess the sum of all of these questions is... Why the sudden change? I find myself to be fairly good at reading situations and analyzing why I got bit or why my rats have done something they did, however Owen and Peter stump me. My grandmother has seen the bites I've gotten from these two and is very adamant on rehoming them, but I refuse to. At this point, I may buy a single-level critter nation and make a home for those two. I just don't want to stress out my babies and stress out my nearly two-year-old rats. Do I continue to handle and interact with them, even though another bite is pretty much guaranteed? I don't want to neglect them, but with how much they bite me, I'm honestly a little timid to interact with them. Out of cage time would still be a thing, but I don't know that I'll be so hands-on, especially if I can receive unpredictable bites.
    I refuse to rehome them because I want my home to be their forever home and I don't want someone else encountering this same behavior. They may not be as "okay" with getting bit or unprovoked behavior. I'm not okay with getting bit, but I can and will tolerate it. I have birds, so I'm used to having my hands having holes in the them.
     
  2. Apr 15, 2019 #2

    jorats

    jorats

    jorats

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    It sounds like Owen and Peter are stressed by the changes in their lives. Their new behaviour is not really new, it's suppressed until they start to feel their new surroundings is now their real home. When that happens, stressed rats can be a challenge. They can fight with the current crew and even bite their humans. For me, when they start to bite humans, it's hands down a must for a neuter. But if a neuter is not possible, having them in a separate cage from your crew is a must. And you can never put your hands inside their cage, they will bite because they see you as an intruder. These poor boys are extremely stressed. If you want to pull them out of the cage, I would offer them a box for them to climb into in order and then transport them to their out time area if you have one. When you need to clean the cage, they should not be in there. If you need to add food, have a yummy treat, offer them each one before you go into the cage. If you can have them climb out of the cage and cuddle with you on your bed or anywhere several times a day with yummy treats, that will help to gain their trust. There's a website with fantastic tips: joinrats.com
     
  3. Apr 15, 2019 #3

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

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    Thank you so much for the help and advice. I've been afraid to ask because I feel like a bad rat dad for them.
    As I said before, I've had them for almost a year. What could cause the stress to sort of "catch up" to them? I was careful not to intro the babies until I felt that Owen and Peter had settled in. Was it something I did? I haven't moved houses nor has their cage gone through a major change in the time I've had them. Was the trauma from their past sort of "catching up" as well? I know in humans there are people who can experience delayed emotional reaction (ie grieving over a loved one a long time after they passed)
    Sometimes Owen and Peter don't mind me coming in, but again, I don't interact with them too much because it's stressful for both parties. I use puffs because those are very highly valued treats for all my rats and Owen and Peter will take some hesitantly and then come out and beg for more as more puffs are persuading them.
    Thank you again for the advice. It's been very stressful for me and I try not to let my emotions rub off on them, but I'm sure it subconsciously does in a way.
     
  4. Apr 16, 2019 #4

    jorats

    jorats

    jorats

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    It most likely is the new rats coming in. If that's the case, they might settle down at some point. How old are the babies now and how long have you had them?
    It is definitely extremely stressful on us when dealing with complex rats. If only we can talk their talk. So in the meantime, the best thing to do is respect their space, lots of soothing talk with them and treats. How many other rats do you have in the communal cage?
     
  5. Apr 18, 2019 #5

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

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    I've had the babies since the beginning of to mid-January, however I didn't introduce them until February. My babies are about four and five months old.
    As of now, not including Owen and Peter, I have five unaltered male rats. The three eldest are all about to turn two years old, and then there's the two babies.

    If I could talk Rat, I'd probably never interact with people ever again :p But it is very stressful dealing with stressed and scared rats, especially since there's this shift in their behavior.
     
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  6. Apr 18, 2019 #6

    jorats

    jorats

    jorats

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    So what probably is happening is the babies are now becoming adults and are being more assertive and Peter and Owen are trying to show them who's boss and it's stressing everyone out. They might very well settle down if the older teenagers become adults and submissive. Also, if one of the babies become a well balanced adult, he might actually help Peter and Owen manage their stress better. Hang in there! No matter what, just remember you are still their best home.
     
  7. Apr 20, 2019 #7

    Dena

    Dena

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    I totally wish we could speak rat! I'd love to know what goes through their crazy little minds! I would imagine mouse could be a little different, more squeaky, nervous dialect. LMAO and yeah....rats are definitely better than most humans! Haha!
     
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  8. Apr 20, 2019 #8

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

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    I hate putting this here but I have a sad update on the Owen and Peter situation. I'm not looking for pity or anything, just sort of giving an update on the situation so that we can evaluate future behavior and avoid awkwardness.

    Peter passed away in my arms tonight.
    I was trying to clean his and Owen's cage and I had put them in a separate bin. He got out and when I was trying to get him, an accident happened. I feel terrible and I feel so bad for letting that happen to him. Thankfully, he passed away quickly, so he didn't suffer. I just feel awful because I felt like the new cage and the advice was helping him and I at least make baby steps. He'd now take food from my hand with a little less reluctance. Baby steps, but we were heading in a good direction.

    Owen is fine, for now, but I don't think it's settled in yet for him. I moved him back into the main cage so he wouldn't be lonely. I don't know if this is the best decision, but I just don't want him to be alone.
    I hate even thinking about getting another pair of baby rats (or rescues if there are any local to me) so soon because I feel like I'm "replacing" Peter, but I'm just trying to think ahead and want to be prepared for Owen. If back in the main cage doesn't work and he needs to go back to the other cage, I should obviously think about getting a pair of rats for him so he isn't lonely. I'm just worried about him treating those rats the same as the rats I currently have. Obviously, this is a few steps out in the future and may not happen, but I just want and need to be prepared. Any advice?

    Thanks for listening to my ramble. I just feel awful and I spent so long trying to type this up.
     
  9. Apr 20, 2019 #9

    Dena

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    So sorry for your loss.... Accidents happen. That's why they are called accidents. At least you held him and loved him while he went. And at least you were trying to help him by putting him in a separate cage. Hopefully things with owen will get better, and he won't have to be in a different cage again.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2019
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  10. May 3, 2019 #10

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

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    UPDATE: I got Owen to give me kisses today! Albeit, I had applesauce on my finger, but he did give me kisses!

    As for an update on how Owen is handling Peter's death, I see signs of depression. Thankfully, he is eating, drinking, and moving around occasionally. I've noticed he's sleeping more and a little more reserved than usual. However, what is a little weird to me is that he's less fearful and is now approaching me. Perhaps he's decided that without Peter, he wants my company? He does live peacefully with the rest of my group, thankfully. He just has a habit of pushing my most vocal rat, Ni, around. Ni squeaks when someone looks at him wrong.
    He loves to get into a plastic castle igloo and cuddle up with Grumpy and Arthur. Sometimes Luci will be in there too, but it's usually Grumpy and Arthur sleeping side-by-side. I'm pretty sure Grumpy adores Arthur and Luci.
    I'm fairly positive Owen and Peter were littermates. They clung to each other like glue and were always gentle to one another. It reminded me of my original rex pair, Amun and Maddox. They were littermates and they treated each other more gently and carefully than they did to Gideon. Amun could groom Gideon, but I would see Amun and Maddox grooming each other, switch places and then groom some more. When Amun passed, Maddox started seeking my attention out. Maddox was very upset and lonely when Amun passed away.

    I fully believe rats can go through depression when they lose another rat. I've seen rats show signs of depression and even seek me out, when they usually wouldn't before (as mentioned above).
     
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