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changes in my rats behaviour

marmite_madness
December 7th, 2007, 07:04 AM
hi,
i have two female rats, from the same litter, and approx 8months old (2 months old when i bought them)

when i bought them from the pet shop, they hadnt really been handled too much, so when the woman got the out of the cage, she picked them up by the base of their tails (i wasnt happy about this and made a complaint)
when i got them home, i gave them 3 days to get used to their new house and then i picked them up, they were a bit nervous, but ok.

they have been generally still nervous, even though i get them out everyday, its becoming a real struggle. they cling on to the bars of their cage when i try to get them out. they run off from me and hide in their bed and have now started biting.

it has got 100 times worse since i went on holiday for a week and gave my mum strict instructions to handle them for one hour a day (which she did, with great struggle to get them out)

since iv been back from holiday (it was the the end of october) they have been biting me as soon as i touch them, they kind of scream when i pick them up, and they bite me and scratch my hands to bits.

pinky was the more scatty one of the two, and she used to urinate on me when i tried to pick her up, that soon stopped, but is now happening again.
as soon as my hand enters the cage, she runs off, urinating all over the cage.

i have no idea why this is happening, any ideas?

MyBirdIsEvil
December 7th, 2007, 12:29 PM
Do you ever give them treats or talk to them? Do you ever just hand feed them while they're in their cage? These kind of interactions should be first and foremost before actual handling happens. Once the rat trusts you a bit more handling won't be so bad for them.
I noticed the mention of you making a complaint for the employee grabbing them by the base of the tail. This actually isn't an inhuman way to capture an untame rat. As long as it's the base of the tail you are not going to injure them. The TIP of the tail is the sensitive part and can actually break. In some cases it may be better to pick up a struggling rat or a rat that is trying to bite by the base of the tail to prevent yourself from squeezing their body too hard. It is MORE stressful for the animal to grip their body tightly and try and get them out of the cage than to just grab them quickly at the base of the tail and take them out. In the first case the animal feels trapped and in danger, in the second case the ordeal is over quickly.

It sounds like you're making handling a very bad experience for them. You said you FORCE them out of their cage for handling. That's not exactly going to make handling something they look foward to. What do you do once they're out of the cage? How long are the handling sessions and what kind of activities do they consist of?
I've only had a couple of rats bite me in my life, and even untame ones are generally pretty friendly after few minutes of non-stressful interaction, so the fact that both your rats are biting kind of indicates you're going about handling them in a way that is causing them stress.

glitterless
December 8th, 2007, 02:04 AM
When I had a shy rat, I would usually put the cage in a safe spot, like on the floor, open it up, and let them come out and investigate on their own. Sit nearby or busy yourself with something quietly and wait for them to come out.

Remember that any sudden movements may startle them, but at the same time you don't want to tiptoe around them, because that'll only terrify them when you do make noise or move around a lot.

Older animals generally have a more difficult time adjusting to people than younger animals. If your rats are adults, they may never be cuddly lap-rats, but they will come around in time.

Be patient, like MBIE said, use food rewards, and make sure that you're inviting. A lot of ratties like to hide in hoodie sweater pockets, under blankets on a bed or couch, and so on. Imagine being a teeny, tiny little animal being picked up by a huge human and going from your little cage to a big room. The sights, smells, and sounds must be terrifying enough. Now imagine being manhandled out of a cage.

Also, make sure to have a little house for your rats to hide in inside their cage. Make it big enough for them to curl up comfortably, but small enough so that they feel like they're in a safe little cave.

A lot of rats (especially males) urinate because they are being territorial. It's likely that your female is doing it out of fear or out of submission. She may also be marking her territory...maybe she is urinating all over to show you that that's HER cage and that you're unwelcome.

The key to understanding animals is to think like them. Put yourself in their shoes and try to figure out why they are acting the way they are. That will give you a better idea of how to react. Good luck :)

marmite_madness
December 9th, 2007, 05:53 PM
Do you ever give them treats or talk to them? Do you ever just hand feed them while they're in their cage? These kind of interactions should be first and foremost before actual handling happens. Once the rat trusts you a bit more handling won't be so bad for them.
I noticed the mention of you making a complaint for the employee grabbing them by the base of the tail. This actually isn't an inhuman way to capture an untame rat. As long as it's the base of the tail you are not going to injure them. The TIP of the tail is the sensitive part and can actually break. In some cases it may be better to pick up a struggling rat or a rat that is trying to bite by the base of the tail to prevent yourself from squeezing their body too hard. It is MORE stressful for the animal to grip their body tightly and try and get them out of the cage than to just grab them quickly at the base of the tail and take them out. In the first case the animal feels trapped and in danger, in the second case the ordeal is over quickly.

It sounds like you're making handling a very bad experience for them. You said you FORCE them out of their cage for handling. That's not exactly going to make handling something they look foward to. What do you do once they're out of the cage? How long are the handling sessions and what kind of activities do they consist of?
I've only had a couple of rats bite me in my life, and even untame ones are generally pretty friendly after few minutes of non-stressful interaction, so the fact that both your rats are biting kind of indicates you're going about handling them in a way that is causing them stress.


i dont force them out the cage, when they grab onto the bars i let go and then try again, they usually let go the second time, and i do give them treats,and they snatch it out of my hand and run away back to their house/bed.

its just the fact that i dont understand y they have become so hard to handle when they were alot better before and they were getting used to me?

i didnt make a complaint about picking them up by their tail, i made a complaint about them not being handled, thus needing to be picked up by their tail, when iv had other rats from a different store, the man simply put his hand in and they jumped onto his hand,

and thanks glitterless, will try your tips :)

glitterless
December 11th, 2007, 04:43 PM
I think the reason for them suddenly becoming worse is pretty clear. You went on vacation and left your mom in charge. I'm sure that she's competent with them, but a nervous animal does best bonding with one person before moving on to strangers. Your rats were probably just learning to get used to you when you went away and your mom took over.

I'm not saying that this is bad on your part; you're entitled to a vacation ;) But it's just going to take more time for them to remember who you are and for them to trust you again.

marmite_madness
December 14th, 2007, 07:43 AM
I think the reason for them suddenly becoming worse is pretty clear. You went on vacation and left your mom in charge. I'm sure that she's competent with them, but a nervous animal does best bonding with one person before moving on to strangers. Your rats were probably just learning to get used to you when you went away and your mom took over.

I'm not saying that this is bad on your part; you're entitled to a vacation ;) But it's just going to take more time for them to remember who you are and for them to trust you again.


yeah, id had them for 4 months and things were going great so i thought that it would be ok to go on holiday (clearly it wasnt ok with them two lol) im just gunna have to persevere and try to regain their trust

glitterless
December 15th, 2007, 02:30 AM
yeah, id had them for 4 months and things were going great so i thought that it would be ok to go on holiday (clearly it wasnt ok with them two lol) im just gunna have to persevere and try to regain their trust

Good luck with them :) I'm sure that in time you'll have 2 sweet little ratties again. Some animals are more shy than others...so just be patient and don't expect too much.

marmite_madness
December 17th, 2007, 01:10 PM
well after all my efforts, they still wouldnt come out by themselves, so i put my hand in, and george decided she wasnt having any of it, and bite through my finger nail, yes straight through. hurt like crazy!!

went doctors, sorted out my finger, but my mum went mad, saying she wont have aggressive rats in her house....etc...etc...so decided to ring the rspca who said they will have them for 5 after xmas :(

even though she bit me, im still sad :(

eclecticnoise
March 13th, 2008, 08:26 PM
There are so many things that could be happening. Having you go away and then suddenly come back is a little traumatic to the rats. There are very good rat specific forums that have many threads on behavior problems. Also try the Dapper Rat website. Here is a link that talks about how to get your rats to trust you.
http://members.aol.com/juliesrats/behavior.html#bonding

I'd like to be more specific - but considering all the causes of rats biting it's probably better to send you in the right direction research wise.