My rat bit me and drew blood - several times

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Clickbeetle85
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Joined: Tue Nov 27, 2018 8:44 pm

My rat bit me and drew blood - several times

Post by Clickbeetle85 » Wed Feb 06, 2019 9:06 pm

Hi all,

I'm sitting here in tears writing this. I've just been bitten 4 times, one of them quite hard.

We have 4 male rats, about 5 months old. One of them, Eric, used to be an absolute sweetheart. He would gently lick my hands, nibble groom me etc. He was very quick to settle into our house and it didn't take long for him to get used to being handled.
Over the past several weeks he has become extremely hormonal and fired-up around his brothers. He starts fights at every opportunity and chases his smallest brother constantly while they are having free-time.

I've been threatening to get his bits chopped off for a couple of weeks, but things appeared to have settle down over the last few days.

Unfortunately this morning he bit me. Hard. I was picking him up from the floor, as I have done many many times without an issue. I didn't spook him, he knew I was there. He just didn't want to be picked up. I grabbed a tissue to stop the bleeding, and then picked him up and put him back into his cage.

I rang the vet later on and booked him in to get fixed!!!

This evening during free time I scooped him up while he was sitting on my lap. We had a cuddle and I thought everything was fine. I tried again 10 minutes later and he tried a test bite, no blood drawn. I kept hold of him.
He then bit me again, 3 times, each time drawing a little blood. I stood my ground and didn't put him down, not wanting him to get the message that he could get what he wants by biting.
He finally bit me so hard that I automatically dropped him. I was so shocked. It doesn't appear to have gone too deep, but there was a lot of blood. But now I feel like I've let him win, so he'll just keep on doing it.


I've never had a rat that has bitten me like this. I'm so upset right now, and don't know what to do. I don't feel like I want to pick him up again because I know he's going to bite me. I feel so stupid!!


He is booked in for neutering next Friday, and I know it will take some time for his hormones to settle down after that. What can I do in the meantime? Pick him up with gardening gloves on? Don't pick him up at all? I feel such a failure for letting him win.


Any advice would be gratefully received. :(

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[cub]
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Re: My rat bit me and drew blood - several times

Post by [cub] » Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:16 pm

First of all this isn't your fault, and it's not his fault either; this sounds like absolutely classic hormonal aggression, and you've already done the right thing for it by booking him in for a neuter.

Second of all, keep an eye on the wound and see a GP if there's any sign of infection: redness, warmth, swelling, or pus. Make sure you've been vaccinated for tetanus at some point in the last few decades as well; the latest research indicates the vaccine lasts at least 30 years, but if you're not sure, then getting a booster won't hurt. (Well, there might be a "small sharp scratch". :lol: ) Rat bites are fine most of the time — I am living testament :P — but they can get infected, especially the deep ones from properly aggressive bites, so it's worth treating them with a reasonable degree of care.

With hormonal aggression it's not a case of winning or losing against the rat; they are so pent up with hormones that they simply aren't thinking clearly. When biting is driven by such a strong emotional state, you can't really train them out of it, especially when it's their own biology that's causing it. You're already planning on addressing the root cause of the issue by having him neutered, and in the meanwhile you can just work around it. So yes, absolutely handle him with gloves when you need to; that is a very practical and sensible option and there's no shame in it.

Strategically working around handling difficult-to-handle animals isn't a sign of failure; it just means that there's a problem — which often isn't anyone's fault to begin with — and you've come up with a way to make sure that everyone stays safe despite it. Hopefully once he's feeling more himself after the neuter, you can go back to having cuddles with him, and his brothers will be very relieved too I'm sure! :luck:
Poo-shoveller to: Calyn, Din, Zephyr Donovan (Phoenix), and Zephyr Mick Jagger (Edgeworth).
Fondly remembering: Xeltan the wonky, Lita (NLA32), Lia (NLA28), Zephyr Delanynder (NLA28), Falere (NLA36), Mirala (NLA36), Zephyr Opold, and Rila.

Clickbeetle85
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Nov 27, 2018 8:44 pm

Re: My rat bit me and drew blood - several times

Post by Clickbeetle85 » Thu Feb 07, 2019 3:49 pm

Cub - thank you so much for your reply. I was a bit of an emotional wreck when I wrote it, and I needed to get it all out of my system!! You've made me feel much better about the whole situation. :D

I absolutely believe it's hormonal aggression rather than him just suddenly becoming a nasty rat. Like I said, he was a proper love when he was a baby, so this outright aggression is quite difficult for me to process!

I'll use thick gloves if I do need to pick him up, and I'll try to keep handling to a minimum until his hormones calm down. He's clearly getting too wound up when I try to hold him, so I certainly won't force it upon him if it's not necessary - I don't think it will do either of us any good!! They get free range time every morning and evening, with full access to the cage without me having to scoop him up, so he won't be missing out on the fun.

My only other dilemma is whether or not to get the other boys fixed. I worry that once Eric is knocked out of the top dog position, one of the others might step up his game and begin to show his dominant side... two of them have the potential to become a bit feisty.

I just hope that giving Eric the snip will make everything a lot calmer for all parties. Fingers crossed!

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[cub]
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Re: My rat bit me and drew blood - several times

Post by [cub] » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:35 pm

If Eric starts injuring his brothers as well then he may need to be kept separate until after he's been neutered and his hormones calm down, but if he's mostly okay with them then just make sure the cage layout is nice and open, with no hidey holes, so he can't corner anyone anywhere.

As I understand it, neutering does slightly increase average lifespan in male rats, and if I recall correctly there are some people who electively neuter for this reason. On the other hand, surgery always carries some level of risk, even with an experienced veterinary team, so you have to weigh up the risks vs the benefits. In the case of Eric, who is clearly so hormonal that it's making everybody unhappy, the best course of action is very clear; for the others, it depends on how skilled your vets are, and your personal feelings on preventative surgeries. Depending on how you feel about that, you may just wish to adopt a wait-and-see approach; if the other boys aren't causing trouble (yet? :P ) then there's no real need to do anything.

There is also a veterinary hormonal implant (brand name Suprelorin, active ingredient deslorelin) which essentially chemically neuters the animal. It's now being used fairly often as an alternative to castration/spaying in rats, usually to treat aggressive males, sometimes in hormonally aggressive females, and also in some cases for health reasons, e.g. to (hopefully) prevent tumour recurrence. It certainly seems to work for hormonal aggression, but I'm personally unsure how well it really works for other things, and I don't think anyone so far has been willing to rely on it for contraception in rats, partly because there's some question as to how long it actually lasts in an animal with such a fast metabolism. So that's another option to muddy the waters with ... sorry about that! :lol:

If it helps any, my extremely personal opinion is that because Suprelorin is still very new on the scene, and the risks and benefits of castration/spaying are *much* better known, I would opt for surgical neutering as a first choice, and I would only fall back on the implant if I had a rat who wasn't a good candidate for surgery, or I wasn't confident that my vets could manage a surgery on a rat (since injecting the implant is a much faster and less invasive procedure). But for other people the implant is the first option, so that's also a perfectly valid choice.
Poo-shoveller to: Calyn, Din, Zephyr Donovan (Phoenix), and Zephyr Mick Jagger (Edgeworth).
Fondly remembering: Xeltan the wonky, Lita (NLA32), Lia (NLA28), Zephyr Delanynder (NLA28), Falere (NLA36), Mirala (NLA36), Zephyr Opold, and Rila.

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