Every sentient living being communicates differently. What might be subtle communication for some may not be acceptable for another. For instance, our deaf Blue Heeler, Harper, pokes the back of our knees with her cold nose as a subtle reminder that she's hungry and I should dish out her meal as quickly as possible. While I suppose this is better than her barking at me, the cold nose bonk doesn't seem subtle when I get out of bed on a cold morning. Likewise, if your pet rat bites you, they’re trying to tell you something along the same vein. Therefore, today we're going to discuss why do pet rats bite. Also, we’re going to address how to stop it from happening.
Why Do Rats Bite? Behavior or Communication.
First of all, there are two main reasons why rats bite. The biting is either a learned behavior, or they’re trying to tell you something. So let’s delve deeper into each.
What I Was Trying to Say….
Have you ever said something you didn’t mean to? No, not YOU!!! When considering why do pet rats bite, you need to get to the “why” first. Here are some possible reasons:
- Rattie is scared: Rats, in general, have poor eyesight and excellent hearing. Therefore, they may bite because they don’t know what’s touching them. Additionally, their excellent hearing makes everything seem extra loud. So, you might have startled them by accident.
- Rattie is fighting his rattie roomie: Trying to stop a fight puts your fingers or extremities in danger. Suppose you can find a small basket or something to separate the rats until cooler heads prevail. In that case, it’s better than sticking your hand between them due to their poor eyesight.
- Rattie is sick/in pain: Biting is a defense mechanism. If your rat doesn’t feel well or is injured, he might bite out of fear moving him will make it worse. Take your sweetie to the vet right away to help you figure out what’s wrong.
I Wasn’t Acting Out…Promise! Its Instinctual Behavior
Lack of human interaction: As a prey species, rats are generally fearful of humans. Therefore, if you rescued your rat, they may not have been appropriately handled or been abuse victims.
Protecting territory: If your rat is hormonal/pregnant or guarding resources, biting is a means of defense.
Biting Warning Signs
If you’re new to rat pawrenthood or have a new rattie addition, you may not realize what to look for BEFORE they bite. So here's what to look for:
- Raised fur
- Hunched back
- Displaying teeth
- Raised front paws
Working Together to Stop the Biting
Once you discover why your rat is biting, here are some solutions for both of you to improve your relationship:
- Quietly announce your arrival. When you get near your rats’ enclosure, choose a standard way to let them know you’re around. For example, in a low voice, say hello. Another idea is to use a quiet chime or another low-volume noise, so they know who it is.
- Teach your rat to trust you. While this takes time, paying attention to your rat and rewarding him or her with treats will make them feel safe. As prey animals, slow and steady wins the trust race with your rat. Don't rush to pick them up; just sit quietly with them and pet them.
Get Some Trust Building Treats 😉!!!
- Don’t interact with your rat between the enclosure bars. Due to their poor eyesight, poking food and toys through their habitat bars makes it hard for them to figure out what’s going on. Instead, use the habitat door to interact with them or use floor time if possible.
- Squeak loudly when they bite. Squeaking communicates pain in rat language. Therefore, you’re letting her know that she’s hurting you when she bites.
We wish you and your rats a long and happy relationship. By working together, you can definitely determine why do pet rats bite and progress towards stopping that behavior. If you have any stories or solutions, we’d love to hear them. Please comment on our socials or email.
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