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Male Rat is Super aggressive while handling.

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SamanthaB

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Nov 7, 2020
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Alright, so I have a male rat, (Fancy rat, common hooded black) with a extreme temper when handling, hes VERY passive while in his cage, sometimes giving little happy nips and licks to the fingers, He seems "Afraid" In a sense? like if you go to pick him up, he "Jumps" to the side and bites you, also, he has a mite problem, so I noticed it, and went to hold him down slightly to check the bites and scabs, and he reached over and did a full blown bite, almost ripping a chunk of my skin off (Hes done this on multiple occasions). We've never had a rat act like this before, and we are wondering if theres ANY way to train him or coach him from that behavior (We do not wish for the alternative way of dealing with aggressive rats, hes too sweet while in the cage to be put down, and we've had a rat put down before because she had a cancerous tumor on her side).
 

Big Schpog

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He doesn't need to be put down but it's possible those bites are a result of him being extremely uncomfortable due to the mites. Rats RARELY bite so you have to eliminate all the potential causes of this. Once you get him healthy , and he's still behaving the same way, then you can think it's territorial or hormonal or some kind of psychological issue. Did you have him since weaning?

First get him healthy.
 

Dena

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Nov 13, 2018
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Texas
I'd start with a trip to the vet. Treat mites with revolution, and see about getting a neuter. How old is he? What do you notice about his body language, stance, fur puffy, and so on. How is he with his cagemates?
 

SamanthaB

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We had to separate him from his Cagemate, because of aggression, and He's 6 Months old, and yes, his fur gets puffy, and he stands up, while tilting backwards and to the side slightly, and he squeaks when I approach him. I also do not have enough money to neuter him, but for small vet visits, yes. We are currently treating him with liquid Mite medicine to the nap of the neck.

Also, we have had him since weaning, and handled him carefully, But we got him from a Pet Store. (They overbreed and interbreed sadly)
 
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Dena

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Nov 13, 2018
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218
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Texas
You can have him from birth, and personally hand feed him, and it won't guarantee he won't be hormonal. He's at the prime age for this to happen. I have had 7 boys, and only the last two (who I had from probably before they should have been weaned), started getting hormonal. Fortunately, to get them neutered was cheaper than a normal sick visit. I was in the position that I could afford it, since it was completely necessary, and got it done. Not everyone can do this. So you have a couple of options. First being, talk to the vet, tell them your situation, and see if they can work with you. Or, give it time. Sometimes hormonal boys can settle down a bit with age (like in a few months, since they peak in maturity, and boys slow way down usually with age). In the meantime, you can try a few tricks to make his life a little bit better. You can use a towel over him to pick him up when necessary, or use a transport box (they usually readily jump in one, or you can set it in his cage with a yummy snack, then when he goes in, move the box carefully to where you need him). Don't rub their butt or over their heads, since this can trigger them. Try to pay attention to his body language when you are near him, and if he puffs up, or comes at you sideways, or body bumps you, beware. But really for you, him and cagemates, the best option is the snip. It'll totally be worth every penny. They usually calm down within a couple of weeks, and can be introed back to their cagemates. The sooner the better. Or, if need be, give him to someone more accustomed to dealing with the issue. Euthanasia is not a necessary thing. Have patience, and understand its not his fault.
 

Camelidae4

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Nov 16, 2020
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14
Location
United States
Alright, so I have a male rat, (Fancy rat, common hooded black) with a extreme temper when handling, hes VERY passive while in his cage, sometimes giving little happy nips and licks to the fingers, He seems "Afraid" In a sense? like if you go to pick him up, he "Jumps" to the side and bites you, also, he has a mite problem, so I noticed it, and went to hold him down slightly to check the bites and scabs, and he reached over and did a full blown bite, almost ripping a chunk of my skin off (Hes done this on multiple occasions). We've never had a rat act like this before, and we are wondering if theres ANY way to train him or coach him from that behavior (We do not wish for the alternative way of dealing with aggressive rats, hes too sweet while in the cage to be put down, and we've had a rat put down before because she had a cancerous tumor on her side).
Take what I say with a grain of salt because my rat experience is much less than other species. But the first thing I would do is take him to a vet to be treated for or rule out any medical causes. Next I would work on your relationship. You can do this by listening to his communication and by counter conditioning yourself. Make sure to watch plenty of videos and read up on rat behavior. It is so important that humans learn how animals communicate discomfort because quite often (not always) the animals that jump to biting so quickly do so because their lower levels of communication are ignored. It's possible he may not be showing any signs prior to biting but if you do see or hear something then immediately respect his space and back off. Also, counter condition approximations of you reaching for him. Find a favorite treat of his and buy a plastic baby spoon. Make sure to only give him the treats off of the spoon to keep some distance between your hands and him. Use one hand to slightly reach for him and then immediately feed right after and make sure to pull that hand back. Slowly reach for him a little bit closer each time (it may take weeks or months to work up to getting super close to him). The end goal can be to just touch him or pick him up, but keep your approximations small and dont try to get to the end goal too quickly. Another thing that I do with one of my rats that is terrified of people is to operantly condition her jumping into people's hands. I like this one because it gives her choice in deciding if she wants to be held which has improved my relationship with her. I bought a soft clicker made for small mammals but they are super hard to find. I've seen people even use a jar lid as a marker. Rats have very sensitive ears and a dog clicker can be aversive to them. Go research marker based training if needed. It's important to have a bridge because rats move super faster. You can look up videos of training rats to jump into hands if needed. Since hes already nervous about contact, keep in mind you may have to go slower with the steps and use smaller approximations. Once again feed treats using the plastic baby spoon. I recommend free shaping this behavior. Another thing that I did with a rat that hates hates hates people is to train her to go back into her cage when I cue it. This one took a lot of work though because it's more rewarding to stay outside the cage. However, with all these methods my female has not bitten anyone for a long time and will use other signals to communicate when she needs to be put down and I make sure to quickly put her back into her cage, on the floor, or let her go on my shoulder instead of being held.

Hope this helps! Again, take what I say softly. My experience is with other species of animals, but I had success with these techniques with my own female. It's okay to just accept that some animals may never be okay with certain things and it's best to work on a compromise. I also use dish gloves when my rats need more invasive medical care. I had some boys who got URIs and one got pneumonia and they needed medication through a syringe for a long time. The thick dish gloves helped a ton!
 
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