Little biters

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ksigrist

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I previously posted about needing to rehome 3 young rats that I got after a friend couldn't handle them. Well, 6 weeks later and I guess I'm a rat mom! They're currently in a double CN cage with a ton of enrichment that is ever changing. But I was not prepared for this and I am stuggling with handling/bonding with them.

The girls are about 4 months old. They are playful and active and incredibly curious about me. I give them treats out of my hand and spend loads of time talking to them, but the second it's just my hand there they bite...hard. almost always drawing blood. They dont leave after, just investigate more. They dont seem nervous...wherever I am they press their faces against the cage waiting til I come back to talk to them or give them a blueberry or 2. I am just so discouraged and want to be able to bond with them to give them a good life and make them as happy as possible. I spoon feed them mashed fruits regularly and they are completely calm during that. What can I do?
 
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ksigrist

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I know they're not huge fans of being touched so I generally dont force that. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with movement. They're fine with my hand moving around the cage to clean/move stuff around. They bite when they come over to see my hand when it's just laying flat, no movement. It's just getting so hard so try to interact with them. Even getting them out to their play area is a stressful and discouraging ordeal.
 

Big Schpog

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Custard. I know this sounds silly but you have to stimulate their licking response so their first instinct is not biting, but licking. Now I make no guarantees but I think you need to retrain their first response to your hand and the only way to do that is by licking food off your hand. I know, it's stressful! But don't worry. You're doing everything a good rat mom should do. I've seen this in other rodents, namely mice, where they get territorial and bite.

So make something that is so delicious, like homemade custard, and smear it lightly on your hand so they have to lick it off. THey're still young so you are working with good material.
 

ksigrist

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Came home and whipped up some custard first thing. Now to muster up the courage to give them my hand 😅
 

Dena

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Make sure your hands are clean, and don't smell like any type of food before you stuck it in their cage. That may help as well.
 

lilspaz68

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Offer the custard on the back of your hand (harder to bite down onto) and use your voice to tell them when they are doing things right. I lower my voice and make it disapproving (not loud) when they are nibbling and when they lick I lighten it and make it high and happy and tell them they are good babies. Rats are smart beasties.
 

Dena

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I agree with lilspaz. They are super smart, and learn fast. I taught my little biters to do a simple trick, spin. That gave them confidence, and something to focus their energy on. It has worked for 3 of them now. And my super shy rats as well. I have two baby boys that have been difficult to bring out of their shell, and simple tricks did wonders! After they learned spin, I started on give paws (or high five, well 4 for them I guess), and now they won't stay off me and play in their play area. They stay right on me, or groom me and wait for the treats and tricks to start. Rats are AMAZING pets!
 

ksigrist

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You guys rock. I've been trying the custard. Obviously they're OBSESSED! Only licks, no bites so far. They're still snappy when my hands don't have delicious food on them, but I think this is a start. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous to test the waters with my girls but it's been really fun to interact with them sans the bites.
 

Pepper_rat

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I had this happen with my new baby girls. Not to the extent that you did but the same thing where they’d bite my hands for no reason. I use banana baby food and they LOVE it. No more biting and they are getting used to handling (I pet them while they’re eating so associate handling with good food). I hope it works out! Sounds like you’re a great rat parent 👍🏼
 

Dena

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You should try leading them in a tight circle while you have custard on your finger, and telling them spin. Then little by little, reduce the circle you make with your hand, and do it higher above their head, and in just a few min (or in some cases, a couple of days) they will get the point and do it on command. It's so fun to watch them learn. Glad yall are making good strides!
 

Big Schpog

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You guys rock. I've been trying the custard. Obviously they're OBSESSED! Only licks, no bites so far. They're still snappy when my hands don't have delicious food on them, but I think this is a start. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous to test the waters with my girls but it's been really fun to interact with them sans the bites.
Custard is the THING that rats love. I've made homemade custard for ALL my rats. Now I never faced a problem like yours with a few bitey rats but I know the wonders of custard. I made some one day and I always let my rats try new food. Well, their response to the custard put an ace up my sleeve. I knew that anything I wanted from them, I could get with custard.

I am so glad it's working out for you. Custard is like magic for a rat. They'll learn that hands bring good things and won't bite. The licking is stimulated and now you've got interested, happy rats.

You can manipulate them now when they're licking. Petting them, talking to them and telling them what good rats they are. Bonding.

I dunno, I'm an Italian Jewish woman and all my life the most important comfort in my family was food in social settings. I think rats understand this too.
 
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