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Ouch! My Pet Rat Bites!

By: Bruce Stutz

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Does your pet rat bite the hand that feeds him? There are several reasons why this sometimes occurs. One reason might be that the little animal is scared. If you've just brought your little critter home and haven't allowed him enough time to adjust to his new surroundings, his first reaction might be to bite – especially when he sees a large hand coming toward him and has no means of escape.

The way to stop this kind of biting is to give your rat some quiet and solitude while he adapts to his new home. When you approach his cage for the first time, come bearing a treat. Open the cage door slowly, call your pet's name and hold out the treat. Let him take it, and then remove your hand and leave him alone. Your rat is a smart, social animal and he will bond with you . Keep this routine up for a few days until he comes to the cage door when you call. Soon your pet will hear you coming before you get there and be at the door waiting.

If you plan to take your rat out of the cage, either to play (which should be a daily part of its routine) or to clean the cage, again gradually acclimate your pet to your touch and smell. Never pick a rat up by the tail, just as you wouldn't pick a dog up by the ears. Gently wrap your fingers around the animal's abdomen, holding it firmly without squeezing it. Bring it out of the cage and set it in your other hand where, ideally, you will have a treat waiting. Soon you'll have no problems.

Aggression in Rats

Other forms of aggression in rats can be more difficult to curb, if they can be curbed at all. Single rats often become aggressive toward new arrivals in their cage. Introducing a newcomer after one rat has had the cage to himself is asking for trouble. Rats can be aggressive enough to kill what they consider an interloper on their territory And adding a rat to an established situation is bad policy all around. It makes the other rats jumpy and they may even consider your fingers as much a disruption as a new cage mate. If you want more than one rat, you should keep them in pairs of the same sex.

Another form of aggression can occur when males become mature. Their personalities sometimes undergo a significant change, and biting can be one of the results. If biting persists consult a veterinarian who treats rats. He may recommend that you have your pet neutered. Female rats occasionally become restless and nippy when pregnant or after bearing their newborn young, but this is rare.

Most important in finding a rat with a good temperament is getting an animal from a good breeder. Aggressive rats tend to breed aggressive young, so check with the breeder with regard to the animal's temperament.

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