Why is my Pet Rat attacking sick Rat?

ShockWolf

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Oct 13, 2019
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Palm Beach County, FL
I have two pet rats. Daisy and Charmander. On November 26, 2018 Daisy gave birth to Charmander and they have been best friends ever since. Daisy is a year and 4 months old and Charmander is a 11 month old neutered Male.
Recently Daisy was diagnosed by the Vet with an inner ear infection. She has the head tilt, falling off shelves and running in circles. She has been on antibiotics for 4 days and we have seen a lot of improvement. She is on 2 antibiotics and and 1 anti-inflammatory all administered orally by syringe. Charmander has been very protective of her and has stayed by her side the whole time even bringing her food up to the top shelf at times. He knows she is sick.
This morning after I administered Daisy's medicine I put her back in her cage. 5 minutes or so later I witnessed Daisy climbing to the top shelf and when she got there she fell backwards off the shelf. Charmander was by the ledge and bit her entire snout as she was falling and was holding her over the edge. Half of Daisy's head was in Charmanders mouth. I immediately grabbed her out of his mouth. At first I thought he was saving her from falling but as soon as I put her back in the cage he went right back to her face as if he was going to bite her again. Why is this happening? Charmander is the nicest rat ever and has always been friendly with everyone and comforting Daisy as she was sick. Is it because of the antibiotics she he smells in her mouth? Why would he bite his mother who he has always has an amazing relationship with? I have owned rats for 10 years and have never seen aggression come out of the middle of nowhere with close bonded rats like this. The only thing I can think of is the antibiotics Charmander smells is messing with him. Any advice or input would be greatly appreciated. What is happening??? Thank you guys.
 

Kye

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Feb 1, 2019
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Maine
I have two pet rats. Daisy and Charmander. On November 26, 2018 Daisy gave birth to Charmander and they have been best friends ever since. Daisy is a year and 4 months old and Charmander is a 11 month old neutered Male.
Recently Daisy was diagnosed by the Vet with an inner ear infection. She has the head tilt, falling off shelves and running in circles. She has been on antibiotics for 4 days and we have seen a lot of improvement. She is on 2 antibiotics and and 1 anti-inflammatory all administered orally by syringe. Charmander has been very protective of her and has stayed by her side the whole time even bringing her food up to the top shelf at times. He knows she is sick.
This morning after I administered Daisy's medicine I put her back in her cage. 5 minutes or so later I witnessed Daisy climbing to the top shelf and when she got there she fell backwards off the shelf. Charmander was by the ledge and bit her entire snout as she was falling and was holding her over the edge. Half of Daisy's head was in Charmanders mouth. I immediately grabbed her out of his mouth. At first I thought he was saving her from falling but as soon as I put her back in the cage he went right back to her face as if he was going to bite her again. Why is this happening? Charmander is the nicest rat ever and has always been friendly with everyone and comforting Daisy as she was sick. Is it because of the antibiotics she he smells in her mouth? Why would he bite his mother who he has always has an amazing relationship with? I have owned rats for 10 years and have never seen aggression come out of the middle of nowhere with close bonded rats like this. The only thing I can think of is the antibiotics Charmander smells is messing with him. Any advice or input would be greatly appreciated. What is happening??? Thank you guys.
I'm not entirely sure but he could think she's getting a treat and he's missing out on it so he attacked her in jealousy.? You could try giving him some baby food or something a like after medicating her..?
 

Rocket99

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Jun 16, 2018
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Massachusetts
I'm not sure either but from what I understand, rats will turn on a sickly, dying rat if it is perceived as a liability. If a sick rat can no longer effectively hide his or her illness or injury, it then becomes a threat to the safety and security of the mischief. Predators can much more easily sniff out a sick or injured rat, therefore putting the whole mischief at risk. So, if the best way to go about this problem is to remove the liability, the sick rat is, well, removed. First they kill him, then, and this is much less likely in captivity, they will dispose of the remains the only way they know how to, which is a normal behavior in rat society, lol. They eat them. That said, I'm not sure if your rats are exhibiting this behavior, but it's possible.
 

ViciousCurse

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Jan 28, 2019
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Minnesota, USA
I'd like to add that I have never once seen rats turn on each other for perceived liability. Granted, my experience with rats is only four years, but if anything, I've seen more helpful than harmful behaviors from other rats. Increased grooming (licking and gently grooming, no forced grooming or barbering), allowing the sick/elderly get food, and even more cuddling than usual. I've even seen my more dominant male rats gingerly care for an elderly or sick rat and then turn around and flip another rat and force groom them. You even see the rare video of other rats attempting to drag a sick rat into their hide.

I have heard of rats eating the dead if the body is left in the cage, although I've had a rat pass away during the night when I was sleeping, and then wake up to find the deceased rat untouched. Sounds morbid and gross, I understand, but I don't want people thinking that rats will jump on the chance to eat their dead, unless the surviving rats are starving or if the body has been left in there for too long. I've even brought home recently euthanized rats to my surviving rats to allow them to say goodbye in their own way. I've witnessed rats sniffing the deceased rat's nose and mouth, their eyes, and then licking their head and shoulders before then reaching for me.


Anyways, got sidetracked. Aside from all of that, as Kye mentioned, Charmander (adorable name!!! One of my fav Pokemon :) ) may have been jealous of what Daisy was getting and went after her. Rats watch us and how we interact with other rats, so Charmander may see you feeding Daisy and want what Daisy's getting. Dogs do this. If one gets a treat and the others don't, they'll try to steal from each other.

When it's time for Daisy's medication, give Charmander a high-value treat, or handle him too so he doesn't feel left out. If one of my rats is getting special treatment (medication or a reward for doing a behavior) and others are around, they get some just for being nearby and to avoid them from attempting to steal.

However, that anthropomorphizing part of my brain likes to think that when Daisy fell, Charmander went to catch her, and when you saved her, he went to apologize her afterwards. Although, I wasn't there and didn't see the body language, so.
 
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