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 Post subject: Biting
 Post Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 5:50 am 
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So a short while ago I got a new rat named Luma who is terrified of myself and anyone else who comes near her. I have another rat and other than the first few days I brought her home, she's never acted this way. She is the most cuddly, loving, sociable rat. I was hoping Luma would warm up to me but it has been a couple months and nothing has changed. I've tried socializing with her the same way I do my other rat but any time I put my hand in/on/around the cage to get her out she will run away then creep up slowly and bite, HARD. I don't give my rats food or treats through the cage so she isn't mistaking my hands or fingers for treats. My family and friends are afraid of her, she's drawn blood from us and I don't know what to do to make her more comfortable around me. I'm sad that she's still so skittish and I want her to be comfortable and want to play and cuddle with us. When I do get her out of the cage successfully (which requires gloves and treats) to play, clean the cage, fix something etc. she runs and hides and doesn't want to be near me.

Is there anything I can do to help her? I love my rats and I love her but I also don't want my friends family or myself to be afraid that she'll take a chunk out of us. :(


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 Post subject: Re: Biting
 Post Posted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:18 pm 
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I'm sorry to hear that Luma is so nervous. Clearly something has terrified her in the past. It is probably going to take a lot of patience to get her to come around. How does she act with her cage mate?

If I were you I'd try hand feeding her something like yogurt from a spoon, in the cage. That way if she bites it'll be the spoon her teeth come down on. It will be good to get her to associate you with threats.

The other thing you could do is to put her in a bonding pouch and keep her with you, either carrying her around or on your lap, to get her to be really familiar with your scent. Others will hopefully know better whether it would help to have her cage mate in the pouch too.


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 Post subject: Re: Biting
 Post Posted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 6:57 pm 
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Rats all have individual personalities, and while the way they're handled and socialised can strongly influence their development, many personality traits are deeply ingrained (and indeed genetic). Luma may never be as handleable or human-sociable as your other rat, no matter what you do, and it won't be your fault or hers either: every rat is different, and you can't force a rat to change in a way that goes against their inherent personality, whatever it might be.

If you haven't already, put the rat cage somewhere where you often are, like your living room. Also, remove any enclosed beds or other hidey-holes from the cage: that way Luma will get used to your presence more quickly. At the very least, you want to be able to observe her without her running away or getting stressed, so that you can keep an eye out for any symptoms of illness.

A couple possibly more controversial suggestions...

If she's very skittish, I would actually recommend feeding treats through the bars (possibly on a spoon as Squirrel suggested) at least initially. Having the bars there as a barrier may help her feel more confident/relaxed about interacting with you. Also, opening the door creates a delay during which she can decide to run away and hide: if you can immediately offer her a delicious treat on a spoon every time she sees you, she has an incentive to stick around right from the start.

I used to avoid feeding treats through the bars but found it didn't stop rats snatching at fingers (or other things) that were temptingly just the other side of the bars: if it's outside the cage but close enough to grab, it clearly must be dragged inside for thorough investigation. So I gave up and started feeding thorough the bars when I felt like it (e.g. when I want to hand out a few treats, but don't have time to deal with the mass exodus of rats that happens when I open a door :lol: ). If I stick a finger through the bars, it does sometimes get snatched by a rat that thinks it's a treat, but a snatch doesn't hurt: rats have good jaw control and in my experience are intelligent enough to be deliberate about what they're doing. If they're snatching something to make sure they get it before anyone else does, it'll be fast but not painful (don't want to damage the goods!); if they're biting hard enough to hurt/draw blood, it's because they mean to do it, and they'll bite regardless of whether you feed them through the bars or not.

People often advise against wearing gloves to handle rats since they reduce your sensitivity and mean you could accidentally hurt them, but if you're handling them correctly (both hands scooping them around the middle, not dangling them by their tail or anything like that) I reckon the risk is low, and if a rat is routinely biting so hard they're drawing blood then I reckon gloves are necessary simply for your own health and safety. When you pick her up, be as confident as you can: don't hesitate or dance around her, just go in and grab her. Don't hurt her, but be firm: you want her to realise that being picked up is something that just happens sometimes, but doesn't hurt and doesn't lead to anything bad. Having an open cage layout will help with this.

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 Post subject: Re: Biting
 Post Posted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:37 pm 
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OMG I meant associate you with treats. Not threats! Silly auto-correct :x


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 Post subject: Re: Biting
 Post Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 1:47 am 
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Thank you both for your help :) I'll have a long list of new things to try to get her more comfortable!

Also, she is very good with her cage mate! They've been almost inseparable since I brought Luma home. In fact she looks for comfort in Bella when she is scared, usually running to her and trying to get behind her/under her.



Edit: I forgot to mention one thing, Luma will often knock over food bowls or anything big enough to cover the entrance hole of their hut and barricade them in. Is this at all significant to her being so skittish or is this just something ratties do?


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 Post subject: Re: Biting
 Post Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 8:55 am 
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What are their ages?

Also - remove the hut, and anything else enclosed that she could hide inside, so that she learns to accept that she's not in danger.

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 Post subject: Re: Biting
 Post Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 11:08 am 
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I got Bella almost two years ago, and I would say Luma is four-five months old now, give or take. She's still on the smaller side though - especially compared to Bella - and up until last month was pretty good at squeezing through the bigger spaces between cage bars despite all my attempts to escape-proof it, thankfully she's grown quite a bit since then.

I took out the hut a few hours ago, nevertheless she's still been finding places to squeeze and try to hide herself (under their wheel, into the corners of the cage, etc.)


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 Post subject: Re: Biting
 Post Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 11:12 am 
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Take the wheel out too. It sounds harsh but it is better for her to accept that there's no danger.

You might want to consider getting a third ratty of similar age to Luma. It's great that she gets on so well with Bella and looks to her for protection, but in the long run she'll need a companion of her own age. It might be easier to introduce one while Bella is still very much in the picture.


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 Post subject: Re: Biting
 Post Posted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 9:02 pm 
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Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2016 5:35 am
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Sorry about the last update. Bella recently became very sick and needed a lot of attention, a lot of vet visit, etc.


Nothing has changed with Luma's behavior, though, unfortunately. I've had a few small victories, she'll occasionally let me pet her as long as she has a spoonful of food in her mouth. She's still very jumpy no matter where she is but definitely more territorial than anything. Doesnt really bite when I have her out of her cage but will bite when I'm in the cage and territorial over Bella too when I try to touch her now.


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