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Rat girl Mimi in the sock

Mimi in the sock – it makes her more comfortable and thus less snappy.

Rats don’t bite, I used to say. None of my ratties ever have, but I have witnessed pet rats that did bite. In general I’d be very consequent about this: Once the bite inhibition has broken, the pet becomes unpredictable and thus a potential danger.

To be bitten by a rat is not fun: their razor sharp incisors cut through anything like it’s butter. They can even grind through concrete, as their teeth never stop growing.

However, it is possible to teach your rat not to bite. Should biting occur you need to take immediate action:

Be prepared:

See the signs:

Observe:

Is the rat biting out of fear or out of anger? Was it a once-off event? Does the rat bite other rats, too or only humans? Was the rat trapped and could not run away? Was the attack provoked or out of the blue with no warning signs?

You need to understand why your rat is biting in order to determine the right approach to stop this behaviour.

Rats that bite out of fear are the easiest to improve, as all you need to do is to gain their trust. Some rats might not be aware that they are hurting you, then you need to train them bite inhibition. Sometimes it can be a territorial thing, where you have to establish you’re the boss. Or it can just be sheer craziness, where separation is the last resort.

Train your rat:

–       Trick them: Hold something that they can bite into

If you know your rat well, you can do this without gloves, as whatever you’re holding will be subject to the biting attack. Just like a lion tamer extends their arm with a whip, you can extend your finger with an object. Make sure it is sturdy enough to withhold rat bites. You can either hold something
– that rats don’t like: so they get repelled from biting you, or
– that rats do like: so they experience kindness which should stop their aggression.

–       Seduce them: The peanut method

Rats love food. This works with their favourite food, which can differ from rat to rat. Peanuts are a safe bet: Most rats can’t resist. While chewing the nut, stroking is allowed. The chewing speeds up a little, but it is as if rats always have to finish their treat first, before attending to defending themselves.

–       Surprise them: The sock method

Don’t try to grab a biting rat with your bare hands. Already a cloth can help protect you from their sharp teeth. If you need to pick up a biting rat, a sock can help: With your hand in the sock, grab the rat, then pull the sock over the rat so it sits inside it. While in the sock, carrying around is allowed. It is as if the sock guarantees enough security for the rat not having to bite.

–       Teach them: Some rats might not know their strength

Rats naturally have bite inhibition. As pups they learn to measure the strength of their jaws. If they nip you a bit too hard during play fight or grooming, tell them this hurts with a loud and high-pitched eek! This is rattie language for ouch!

–       Dominate them: Show the rat who is boss

Rats have a clear hierarchy in their clan. Ensure they always regard you as their boss. If they disobey or challenge you, punish them: Throw them on their back into the subordinate position and hold them steadily until they stop fighting back. If you want to lighten up the fight at the end, you can tickle or groom your rat, as this is the winner’s reward.

In case you do get bitten:

Read this first aid tip: how to best attend to a rat bite.

 

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