Biting Rats: The rules of rats and how to counter them
Rules of the rats: If something unfamiliar sticks a digit or a dangle through the cage wire, a responsible rat should nip it.
Solution: Keep small toes inside the cage if those small toes are ratty toes and away from the cage if those small toes are not ratty toes. When the rat is small and has no jaw power, stick -your- fingers through the cage wires and let them grab and nip at them. Do this daily (or more often than that) until they learn that your fingers aren't tasty, aren't food, and are only interesting to sniff. Soon you should see a difference in the way they hug your finger with their teeth (ie that they stop biting down as soon as they make contact with your finger) and they should also spend more time tugging your finger with their paws trying to get you inside "the nice way."
Rules of the rats: If something holds food for you through the cage wires, grab it as quickly as possible before another rat gets a chance, even if it means biting the hand that holds it.
Solution: Offer big long pieces of food. While they are still clinging to their morsel, hold your other hand up in a fist so they can smell human and know where the food is coming from. Let go of the morsel and have the next morsel ready for the next rat. Repeat as necessary. They should learn that the human will always have something for each and every rat, and that they can take their time grabbing the morsel because the human will hold it for them. If the rat stops yanking it out of your hand, offer smaller pieces so you can get them closer to your fingers so they can clearly understand where the food is coming from.
Rules of the rats: If you are sound asleep and something grabs you from behind, whip around and bite it.
Solution: "Knock First" (-Jane Adamo) Make sure they're alert and that they've had proper time to primp themselves for their visitors. Don't barge in there like it's your home and expect them to be nice about it. After they've adjusted to these unexpected visits, they'll be less anxious and won't startle as easily.
Rules of the rats: When afraid and in doubt, bite it and bite it hard.
Solution: Know the difference between a calm trusting rat and a 'fraidy rat. It's a lot easier and less time consuming to cautiously move in and get your rat to trust you than it is to train the big-bad-bite out of a rat. Once they know the bite works, they won't stop. AVOID THE BIG FEAR BITE! Make lots of noise before you reach the cage. Let them come to you instead of going after them. Learn the fear sounds, learn the fear stance, learn the fear breathing patterns. If your rat, for example, has their mouth slightly ajar and is backing up into a corner as your hand moves closer to him, I guarantee if you grab him, he will bite or wants to bite. Avoid that possibility by holding your fist in a place close enough for him to smell it, but far enough that he knows you're not going to swoop him up.
Rules of the rats: Do not speak to non-rats. Do not trust non-rats.
Solution: It's all a matter of training and getting your rats to trust you. You fetched them from the pet store, dragged them out of their warm peaceful existence, drove X number of miles in a vehicle hitting every pothole on the way home, then proceeded to tug them out of the box and throw them into a cage. They didn't ask for that. Who are you anyway? Make sure that you are -considerate- and understanding of this! Treat your rat as if her were a very afraid child. Offer him toys, treats, water, and a good night's rest before poking and prodding further. Give him time to learn the ins and outs of his new home. The next day, let him sniff you out. If he seems comfortable, take him out and show him that you are indeed a rat (albeit a smelly, dirty one). Show him that you know how to clean off those annoying always dirty spots by making small scratching motions with your index finger on his brain spot and his shoulders. You'll have won him over. If he seems uncomfortable, move the whole cage to where you're going to be for the next hour. Let him come to you. Don't grab. Do this until he does come to you and when he does, spend at least 20 minutes letting him sniff your hands, check out your nails, and know that you know the tricks of the trade (ie those special shoulder/head/side spots). Woo with hand-given tasty treats but DO NOT bribe! If they won't take it, drop it in front of their nose. They will take it eventually, if not the next day, the day after.
Note: If the rat is 6 inches long, without tail, he is most likely very capable of giving you a good hard bite. Anything smaller and you can "feed" him your fingers. If he is a bigger rat, don't feed your fingers but rather your fist. It's bigger and less threatening (for both parties). Don't go after him, let him come to you.
Always put yourself in their shoes. If something big, scary, and 100 times your size came in after you, what would you do? I personally would wet myself and cower in a corner, but if the big impending thing came after me, and I had nowhere to run off to, I'd bite like the dickens!
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Disclaimer: There are many non-sarcastic accounts and tips on the web regarding rat care. This is not
one of them. These are merely accounts of our experiences with rats, our perceptions of these experiences, where we've failed
and where we've succeeded. These accounts are here for two purposes: