mean rat?

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by sweetcherrykai, Sep 20, 2019.

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  1. Sep 20, 2019 #1

    sweetcherrykai

    sweetcherrykai

    sweetcherrykai

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    Okay so i’ve had my two girls for about 3 months. i got them both from a rattery bc i hate rat mills and pet store conditions but also bc they’d be bred for temperament. anyway my one girl barbara is literally the sweetest little baby ever. she’s super cuddly, always wants to be around me, or come with me on walks. however, the other rat, alley just seems mean? i know rats have different personalities and i always try to give her the benefit of the doubt but it’s becoming a problem. it’s weird bc she isn’t shy or anything? like she always comes out of her cage onto my bed but if i pick her up or pet her she only sometimes seems to want the attention in a nice way. however she’ll come into my bed, get under my covers and bite me, hard sometimes too. tonight she lunged at me and bit my eyelid hard enough to bleed for the third time. i even caught it on video. it’s not just me she doesn’t like. she continuously bullies barbara. i know rats dominance groom but she seems to chase barbara around for lengths of time and just pick on her. she’ll steal her food, knock her out of the wheel and pin her in corners. and barbara squeals in distress the whole time. when they’re on my bed and alley is bullying her she’ll even run to me for protection. it’s to the point where it seems barbara doesn’t wanna be around alley sometimes and will sit outside their little plastic house or in a corner of the cage on the hard plastic instead of snuggling with her sister in front of the heater and hidden in her home. but she likes the house bc when alley isn’t in it she happily is. or she’ll suck it up occasionally and sleep with alley. they woke me up in the middle of the night tonight bc alley was bothering barbara. and it looked like barbara finally really defended herself and they scuffle got so bad i felt the need to separate them. I dunno, alley is just having a lot of behavioral problems? she seemed much more docile about a month ago and was less aggressive towards barbara too. she
    doesn’t seem anxious or scared and she’s been handled from a young age. so i don’t know why she’s so mean?? i almost don’t want her out of the cage sometimes bc she’s just randomly comes up to me and lunged at me or bit me. but i don’t want to lock her in the cage bc i feel like it’d make her even worse. can anyone offer some advice?? i really don’t want to give her up but if she keeps being so vicious I might not have a choice, her and her sister are supposed to be emotional support animals, but obviously she’s causing more stress than not. i’m just not sure what to do and it breaks my heart that she seems to hate me and her sister.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2019
  2. Sep 21, 2019 #2

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

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    Just FYI, this is a rescue rat forum. But we aren't going to tear you apart for getting babies instead of rescuing, but we always recommend rescuing/adopting before buying. As seen with Alley, just because the rat comes from a rattery does not guarantee temperament. Same goes for feeder bin rats, for pet store rats, for rescues, etc. Plenty of people on this forum can attest to feeder bin rats or rescues being absolute sweethearts. I took two rescues in and they turned out to be absolute sweethearts. They were rats I got off of Craigslist because someone wound up with them when their friend just left the rats behind. Before that, I had two rescues who were terribly undersocialized, fearful, and did bite me out of fear-based aggression, but turned around and actually sought out my affection. I've had rats from breeders bite me. I've had rats from breeders who are cuddlebugs. Moral of the story is the rat's origin does not define them. Adult rats can be just as cute as baby rats. Personally, I prefer adults since they are more likely to calm down and relax in your lap than babies. Of course, there are exceptions.


    Okay, I digress. Rats bite for only a couple reasons; fear, hormones, pain, learned behaviors, and unintentional bites (such as sticking you hand through the bars, in between a rat fight, etc.)

    Are your two girls spayed? I've heard of hormonal behavior in male rats, but I'm not quite sure about females. If there's only one food bowl and one water bottle and one water dish, there may be competition between the two to get those resources. Same for hides, cuddling materials, etc. Make sure there is more than enough of each resource for each girl to minimize competition. What size cage do you have? If the cage is too small, they may be getting on each other's nerves.

    If everything is appropriate, Alley may just be terrified. If you're sure that Alley does not have any injuries, then it may be from fear. Just because an animal is bred to be someone's pet for temperament and personality doesn't mean the breeder actually interacted with the rats. Socialization is far more complex than "I held the baby every day when I would give them food and water." And socialization is so much more than touching and holding the rat. Multiple people need to interact with the rat so that the rat can become brave on their own terms. Forcing them out of their own comfort level is not always beneficial. In fact, more often than not, pushing them out of their comfort zone will make them more timid and fearful.

    Depending on how you handle Alley, she may be biting only out of fear, or perceiving you as a threat. How are you picking her up? How are you acting around her? Rats watch us, because they don't know who or what we are until they trust us. They are prey animals. If you've been loud and scary around Alley, she will perceive you as loud and scary and attempt to defend herself. And if she figures out that biting you makes you go away, she will make the association and bite you whenever she wants you to go away. It sounds painful, but when she bites, do not jerk your hand away. I've been bitten and I know how incredibly painful it is, but pulling your hand away only strengthens the association of "If I bite, the big scary thing goes away."

    Obviously, this doesn't account for her going after your eyelid. For now, I recommend not holding her, putting your face near her, etc. If she wants to be held, let her come out on her own terms. Start the entire process over with her. If Barbara is willing, let Barbara come out and let Alley watch you interact with her sister. Rats watch us interact with other rats. They will make judgement on us based by how we treat other rats. Let Barbara be held and pet as much as she would like, but stay very quiet and very slow with Alley.



    Also, when I am talking biting, I actually mean biting. Nipping or putting their teeth on you doesn't always mean biting. Some rats mistake our fingers and nails for food and chomp down. They'll figure out pretty quickly that your finger is not food. If you don't wash your hands in between eating food and then touching your rats, they may mistake your fingers for food. Rats have terrible eyesight, especially if they're red/ruby/pink eyed. They rely on their noses and whiskers to learn about the world around them.


    And if you do plan on rehoming Alley, please give her to a rescue or someone experienced with rats and behavioral problems. If you do rehome her, it's ideal that you have some other rats for Barbara, so that she isn't lonely. Lonely and depressed rats can turn into aggressive rats. Rats are highly social and we can't just take away friends willy nilly. Nor can we add them willy nilly.
     
  3. Sep 21, 2019 #3

    Dena

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    If it wasn't already mentioned, you might want to check for mites. Wet her head and neck down, and see if you see little scabs. If she has mites, it can alter her personality. They are itchy, and very uncomfortable, and can lash out. I had one, Brother, one of my heart rats, who was MEAN to me. Acted like he wanted my attention, but then if I tried to pet his head and neck, he'd flip out, and roll and squeak. It was so odd. Until one day I put two and two together, and decided to try to treat for mites (he did have scabs). It was a challenge to get him to let me put the drop of revolution on his neck, but after about two days, I had a completely different rat. He now runs to me for kisses, gives me kisses, and loves to be pet and scratched on his head. He would lung at me if he thought I was going to touch him before. Once the itch stopped, he did a 180. Just a thought....
     
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  4. Sep 21, 2019 #4

    ViciousCurse

    ViciousCurse

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    Totally forgot to mention that, thanks Dena!
     
  5. Sep 21, 2019 #5

    jorats

    jorats

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    Hi! it's hard to determine if Alley is being a bully or if the girls are just playing. Some rat play really looks like fighting. I once rescued two brothers. One of the brothers was always screaming while the other one was on top pinning him. I decided to neuter the "bully". That still didn't work, the pinning and fighting continued. One day, when I heard Vincent screaming again, I decided to hide and watch to see what was happening. I saw Vincent climb up the latter to the second shelf and throw himself on the Pascal the bully. Pascal would then turn around and jump on Vincent and pin him and hold him there while Vincent screamed. Then, Vincent would get up and run up the ladder and jump on Pascal again. See... they were just playing. If Barbara is really being bullied, she would never choose to sleep with Alley, she would stay in a corner and never come out, she would start to lose weight because she wouldn't want to come out of her corner to eat. As for Alley biting you, or nipping, some rats are obsessed with body parts and just jump to nip at them. I had a couple of girls like that. All I could do was make sure I had socks on and made sure they never went near my face. Also, your girls depending on age might just be coming into their hormones. The chasing gets intense when they go into heat. And I also agree about doing a mite treatment. Mites can't be seen and can make really grumpy rats.
     
  6. Sep 21, 2019 #6

    sweetcherrykai

    sweetcherrykai

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    I’m so sorry, I didn’t know this was a rescue rat forum. I’m happy to delete it that helps. I wasn’t allowed rodents as a kid and these are my first ever pets outside of dogs. I decided to get from a breeder because I was too afraid of making mistakes with a rescue. Of course, I intend for all others to be rescues (as are my dogs). I really do think Alley’s biting is hormonal. Neither of them are spayed because I was told it was risky to put rats under. However I’ve recently done some research and I’ve read it has a lot heath benefits for female rats? I have two water sources and two hides. (although one is highly preferred as I set up a mini heater in front of it). I have a Kaytee My First Home Multi-Level Habitat, it’s 30.5 x 18 x 30. I did a bit of research and plenty of people said it’d be big enough for two rats so I hope it is. I genuinely don’t think Alley is scared, she’s a little skittish if I move to fast but her personality is much too bold to be terrified. She’s never bit me when I stick my hand in the cage (aside from te one time I stuck a finger through the bars) she always pops out of her house for head scratches when I open the cage. She’s much different from when I first got her, she was timid and didn’t want to come out to play and hid in her home. Now she’s very rambunctious and mischievous. I always try to scoop her up unless she’s getting into something (like lotion or makeup) and I snatch her up to stop her from scarfing it down. They’re cage is on a desk right next to my bed, meaning she can climb from her cage onto my bed and thus to me on her own. I simply open the cage and let them come out on their own. It took Alley a month but now she’ll wait at the door for it to be opened so she can come out. She loves to crawl under the covers and run up an down my legs. However, sometimes she nips (sometimes quite harder than others) at my thighs and butt. My first thought is that she needs something but usually she’s got water food and bedding. Then I try to give her attention but usually she doesn’t seem too keen on wanting to be held or cuddled. She enjoys training sessions sometimes though.


    Her lunging at my eyelids is of course the most concerning behavior. At first i thought maybe she mistook it for a bug or something but the last two times she got close, sniffed and then backed up and lunged.


    I hope she’s just playing with Barbara, it seems like normal power grooming, and there’s no blood. It just seems excessive, like she’s just messing with barbara all the time just because. I definitely don’t want to take barbara away from her sister. Especially because occasionally she seems to get on real well with her.


    I really really really really don’t want to rehome her. Of course if i did, I’d do it with the upmost responsibility and I’d never leave Barbara alone. But I’m going try a multitude of different things before I relent. I just keep thinking maybe she’s unhappy with me :(
     
  7. Sep 21, 2019 #7

    sweetcherrykai

    sweetcherrykai

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    I’ll make sure to check! it could explain her sudden biting
     
  8. Sep 21, 2019 #8

    sweetcherrykai

    sweetcherrykai

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    Hopefully she’s playing. she doesn’t seem to be actually trying to hurt barbara, just like she’s picking on her. only she does it a lot. I was thinking of spaying because she does seem to have a lot of pent up aggression and energy
     

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