Saturday, July 13, 2013

Weekly Rat Facts: Bad behavior

Even the most docile, playful, well behaved rats will sometimes do something that they shouldn't. Rats need a lot of free time out of their cage to keep them happy. A minimum of 2 hours outside of their cage a day is required for a happy rats, it doesn't have to be all at once. I take my boys out for an hour in the morning and again when they wake up during the day and look like they want to come out to. Then at night when they wake up again, they get to come out again. I usually have my 3 year old boys out for 2 hours a day because they don't want to be out as much, they are old and want to sleep more these days, but Lucky is only 8 months old and has a lot more energy so he comes out a lot more. 

Rats who don't get a lot of time out of their cage will do things like chew the bars of their cage, tear up the cage ie..chew on everything, throw bedding around and push the things in their cage around because they are bored and are looking for something to do. 

As you can see from the above picture, Fang was a biter. When we got him he was unsocialized and timid and a timid unsocialized rat will sometimes bite because they are scared. I have seen people posts absurd things in rat forums about how they 'discipline' their rats if they bite. You cannot discipline a rat. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. These people actually said they put their rats in a time out box for a few minutes or sprayed them with water. These asshats should never ever under any circumstances, own a rat. 

Instead of making your rat afraid of you, the right thing to do is trust train them. Which means you keep trying to get them to come to you instead of making them come to you. Putting your hands in their cage and snatching them out is not the right way to treat a timid animal. Instead, bring the entire cage over to the couch or bed and leave the cage door open. Rats are curious creatures and they will come out to investigate what is out there. 

Let them come out on their own. Leave a couple of treats out for them so they see that coming out isn't scary, in fact they get yummy treats if they come out. I did this with my timid boys and after a few weeks they came to me! They started crawling on me, giving me kisses and wanting to be held. You can either discipline a rat for not doing what you want or you can do it the right way and trust train them to trust you enough not to bite you. 

I also heard people who have rats say that if a rat bites them they will either have them neutered or kill them (put to sleep). I see no reason to do either of these things. I've had hamsters and rats that bit me and never once thought about putting them through an unnecessary painful surgery or putting them to sleep. I don't know what these people are thinking. 

While neutering a teenage male rat who is full of hormones making him more aggressive might and I say might help tame his aggressiveness down a little. The better thing to do is to trust train them. If for whatever reason you have a rat that no matter how much you try to work with them on socializing they still don't want to be handled...then don't handle them. Right now I have a rat, Marbles that does not like to be picked up. Once he is out of his cage and on the couch with us he will interact with us, sit on the couch with us, take treats ect. but he doesn't like too much petting or to be picked up. So we open the cage door and let him jump up on the arm of the couch and let him come and go from the cage as he wants. 

I've heard some rat owners say that a rat who acts like this is not a rat they would want and they would put him to sleep so they have room to get a more social rat. To those people I say, You should not have any rats. 

My Marbles is happy and healthy and I see no reason to force myself upon him and make him let me pet him and pick him up or put him to sleep because he isn't as social as some other rats. That's just crazy. 

I had a hamster who bit me every single time I held her so I started wearing thick gloves to take her out. She would crawl into my hands (gloves) and come run around on the couch with us for a while each night. She was a happy little girl, she just didn't like hands. there was no reason to kill this little animal just because she didn't like hands. It was my responsibility after adopting her to find out what worked for her! Not what worked for me. Animals are not disposable, once you adopt or buy one, they are your responsibility to care for them until they die a natural death or you have to put them to sleep because they are too sick to enjoy their life any longer. 

What you don't do is kill an animal because they don't act the way you think they should. 


  1. I LOVED this post and I love how you defend these beautiful creatures - it shows your heart. You're absolutely right - we cannot be angry at an animal just because it doesn't act like we want it to.

  2. Yep, they have their own mind. Best to work with them as you do and get them through it.

  3. Very interesting read, but rats are dangerous too LOL

  4. Optimistic Existentialist and Patt Hatt, thank you both for your lovely comments. I only wish more people would see things as you both do.

    P V Ariel- Not sure if you mean rats are dangerous or not but domesticated rats are not dangerous. Wild rats can at times be a nuisance when they get into your food and eat it or chew their way into your home but even then I wouldn't call them dangerous. A humane trap can be placed to catch them and then relocate them to somewhere they will be happier.

  5. Great post Mary :) You're such a good rat mom! I don't think I'll ever have one--would be so hard with the household we currently have (all the kitties and no safe spot for little bitty pets anymore) but I'm enjoying getting to know your little herd.

  6. Herding Cats- Burning Soup, thank you. I'm glad you're enjoying getting to know my babies.

  7. Really, they're no different than people. Some of us are touchy feeling and like physical contact and others of us prefer people we don't know not to get too familiar until we get to know them. That's the way I look at it. :)

  8. Great post, I always enjoy hearing about your furry friends and I am entertained by your comments to those who are a little misguided. Thanks for the info.

  9. Thank you for writing this. I totally agree.
    I must say I was rather disappointed at first when I got my five little noses and none of them was cuddly the way I would have liked them. And they never became cuddly nor did they like to be touched. But they never bit me - not even when I had to take and hold them for medical treatment.

    It never ever came to my mind to have them put to sleep only because they weren't the way I wished.
    I was there for them, not they for me.
    Five little wonderful adorable personalities....

  10. Elf, thanks. Hopefully others feel this way and the ones who don't will change their minds.

  11. Alienne, You are so right. Sometimes they aren't going to be as cuddly as we want but that's ok we got them to make their lives good ones not to make them the way we want them to be. Rats all have different personalities and that's ok.


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