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Wild rattie girl Mimi looks a bit dubious about this whole pet rat thing.

Wild rattie girl Mimi looks a bit dubious about this whole pet rat thing.

Today I couldn’t resist: I had to touch her.

What was supposed to be a gentle touch turned more into a poke, but she didn’t flinch or move. She just sits still like a statue.

As I moved on to stroke her back, she let it go until all of a sudden she turned, lifted her head and nipped me. It was not a bite, just a very well measured squeeze. It didn’t hurt, but it gave a good idea of the power behind it: Rats teeth are so sharp, they can grind through flesh in a flash.

Instead she chose to tell me when enough is enough. I just hadn’t regarded the warning signs.

A rat bite should not draw blood. They have such sensitive incisors they can feel when their teeth split skin and should stop beforehand.

Rats learn how to control their jaws as babies:
Bite inhibition is typically learned as part of juvenile play behaviors, when the animal is still in the company of its mother and siblings: by biting each other during play, the young animals learn that biting a companion too strongly leads to the abrupt termination of play activities.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bite_inhibition)
In case of rats, this is accompanied by a high pitched eek! of pain.

My experience is that the rat bite intensity increases according to the amount of times you disregard the warning signs.

But in general, pet rats should not bite. If they do, it can be an accident as in mistaking your finger for food or during play when it gets a bit rough or because of a slip of their teeth while grooming you.

You should then experience a rat’s natural bite inhibition as described on JoinRats
(http://www.joinrats.com/EarningTrust/RatsUsingTeeth/15630450_hH8bsw):
Chomp-stop-checks: This is my term for when the rat accidentally begins to bite human skin for some reason, and then suddenly, in mid-chomp, realizes that she was mistaken and didn’t mean to bite, and is able to stop in mid-Chomp. The “Stop” seems to be instinctual, as if she stops before she even has time to think about why, and then afterward Checks out the situation. This amazing skill shows just how much micro-level control pet rats have over their teeth pressure. Chomp-Stop-Checks can also be described as accidental teeth activity, “Oops, sorry, I didn’t realize it was you.” “Hey, I thought you were a green bean. Sorry! And by the way, could I have a green bean now?”

If you do encounter a rat that is biting, you can try to train them bite inhibition. But if that doesn’t take effect, such biting behaviour renders the rat unmanageable. Separation might then be the only option.

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