Q & A: Rat Aggression

The following is my response to a question I got about rat aggression. I decided to post my response publicly because I get this question a lot and I think it is a pretty common problem among pet rat owners. For more information about rat adoption gone wrong, see my previous post,  “Oh, no! I adopted some new rats and now they are sick/mean…etc!”

Question: My rat has started biting me and bullying her cage mates, what can I do?

This question comes from a person who has a female rat that has started biting it’s owner and attacking and wounding it’s cage mates. The owner says that the rat is healthy and nothing has changed in it’s environment to cause the change in behavior. They want to know what to do about this aggressive behavior.

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Answer:

I am sorry you are having this problem. First let me say that there are two possible reasons a healthy rat may become aggressive. One is that they have become afraid for some reason, some change occurred. Something happened… maybe they were attacked by a cage mate, were mistreated by someone in the home, they simply stopped being handled for a while, or you got a new pet or a new cage and they felt more vulnerable by the extra space. If something happened to traumatize the rat (even if it doesn’t seem traumatic to you), you can usually help it return to it’s friendly demeanor by addressing the problem and doing some trust training to help it feel safe again. The other really common reason for rat aggression is poor temperament. This is mainly caused by bad breeding, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this kind of rat aggression can be really hard to deal with and often people end up having to put aggressive rats to sleep because of how bad it can get for the people and the other rats around them.

Bad temperament is usually seen in aggressive behavior that has no cause. No new rats or pets were brought home, not sick, not pregnant, no new cage, no new trauma of any kind occurred, but the otherwise healthy rat has become “mean”. Hormonal aggression also falls under this category and should have been bred out of the line. For male rats, having them fixed is one way to try to remedy hormonal aggression. Usually the fixed male can then be integrated into a colony of females and can do very well. Unfortunately the same is not a practical option for hormonally aggressive females. One way you can try to determine if it could be a problem of bad temperament, is to know where the rat originally was bred and to find out if the rat had to be actively socialized as a baby (meaning it had to be handled constantly or it became skittish or bitey) in order to act friendly to humans. This early socialization often just helps rats be unafraid of humans and is a helpful practice, but it also can have masked a natural inclination toward aggression or dominance, which is something a good breeder would have actively bred out of their lines before offering any rats to the public. This type of aggression can be extremely hard to deal with and usually just gets worse over time. Poor temperament is usually seen in feeder bin rats, pet store rats and “oops” litters bred by uninformed pet owners. If temperament is the problem, then there is nothing that will work for long. There are a few very good breeders who actually temperament test their rats before offering them for adoption. Most just handle the babies a lot in the beginning, which socializes them, but doesn’t reveal much about their given tendencies, so some of this behavior can pop up unexpectedly after the rat has fully matured.

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Sometimes friendly rats become skittish after being put into a new cage or a huge cage. You may feel like you are giving them a wonderful amount of space to run and play in, but rats are prey animals and they like to hide to feel secure. A huge somewhat empty space can make them feel vulnerable and affect their behavior. Have you felt that kind of creepy/foreboding feeling you can get when you stand alone in a big empty or unfamiliar house? I have, especially when house sitting or when I have looked at houses with a realtor. If that can feel disturbing to us, then how much more disturbing to a prey animal that is hardwired to run and hide? The ideal solution is to really clutter up the space with lots of cubes, hammocks, and hides to help them feel more secure. If that doesn’t work, return them to the smaller cage and work on trust training or re-socializing them. They should be back to their normal selves fairly quickly.

That being said, if a rat is naturally friendly, but just got a little scared or wasn’t handled enough you can try trust training methods to get the rat to stop acting out and start trusting again. Here are some links for dealing with aggression that might give you some ideas of what you can try. Hopefully it is not a temperament problem and you can help your rat return to the once friendly pet she was. Good luck!

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“Oh, no! I adopted some new rats and now they are sick/mean…etc!”

“Oh, no! I adopted some new rats and now they are sick/mean…etc!”

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This post is in response to some messages I have gotten about people having trouble with newly adopted ratties. I always try to help and give whatever advice I can, but you can save yourself a lot of trouble if you first do a bit of research before you adopt rats from someone/somewhere.
First – Know who you are adopting from.
Look for breeders with websites and FB pages (pages not profiles – pages can have ratings and reviews from previous adopters) that tell you about them. Ask them lots of questions. Why are they breeding rats? What is their focus – are they breeding for health and temperament? How are they doing that? How long have they been breeding rats? How long do their rats generally live? Are there good reviews on their FB page?
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Second – Understand that all rats are not the same.
I know people do not want to hear/admit this, but it is the absolute truth. Sometimes feeder bin rats are absolutely fine but sometimes rats are in the feeder bin because they have genetic issues or are sick and can not be sold as a pet and can eventually become aggressive. Buying a baby rat that is not weaned from a feeder bin is not doing that rat any favors as it is very hard to keep a “pinky” or “fuzzy” rat alive without a mother. This “rescue” usually just amounts to a slow death for that baby rat and that is cruel. Health and temperament issues are the most common complaint for a lot of rat owners and I can tell you that a reputable breeder will not let you have a rat that has not passed temperament tests and that they know comes from a healthy line. Additionally, reputable breeders will gladly take back any rat you get from them for any reason, so if your rat becomes aggressive, you can return them to the breeder, if they are a good one. Buying rats from a feeder bin or from an unknown person with an “oops” litter is very risky for you and for any rats you have at home. One nasty virus brought into your home with a new rat can kill all of your rats in an amazingly fast amount of time.
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Third – Give the breeder/pet store a chance to help.
If you have a complaint, be up front and honest with the breeder/pet store.
If you have problems with your rats after getting them, first try to work it out with that breeder or pet shop. Usually whatever problem you have can be worked out if you contact them right away and are just honest with them. Places like Petco will often take your rat to their inhouse vet and you will get free medical treatment if your rat becomes ill within the first month or so. Regarding other stores and private breeders, they usually have some kind of guarantee if notified of a problem in a timely manner. Unfortunately, sometimes that means exchanging the rat for a different one and most people say they don’t want to contact the breeder because they don’t want to give back the rats. You don’t have to give your rats back if you don’t want to… you can always choose to keep them and deal with whatever the issue is on your own; but it is not fair to complain behind their back if you are not willing to give them a chance to do something to help you. You must let the breeder or pet store know right away if you are having problems with your rats. ***
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Fourth – Be willing to make a complaint. 
If you feel you have been wronged or someone did something wrong and you can’t work it out with them, then at least stand up for yourself and your ratties. I get messaged complaints about breeders a lot and the majority of those people want to remain anonymous, but this just helps those with bad breeding practices just keep doing the same things to other adopters. One Colorado breeder I have been told about a few different times has a FB page filled with only glowing reviews and ratings. If the people with legit complaints would just rate and comment honestly on the website or FB page, then that would not only serve as a warning to other adopters, but it might make that breeder have to change their ways. I know that people don’t like confrontation, but hiding behind anonymity doesn’t help anyone and it makes it so I can’t help you anyway… with no one willing to back up the story, that story is simply gossip.
A little bit of research can go a long way to help prevent problems with your new rats. Finding a good breeder is a great first step. However, if you are in a situation where you are having problems with your ratties, don’t overlook the help that may be available to you from the pet store or from the breeder who sold the rats to you. Reach out to other rat communities in FB for advice and hopefully you will find a good solution for your rat babies.
***often you must have the breeder’s permission to re-home rats gotten from them

More Rat Babies!

Well, you can really tell Spring is in full swing with all the baby rats out there! Jay Ann has 6 baby rats in need of a family. Two males and four females were born on Apr 23rd and are now ready for their new homes.
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So if you are interested in these little cuties, message us on Facebook and let us know why yours would be the perfect home for them!

Super Cute Baby Mice Available for Pet Homes

Some super cute baby mice are available for pet adoption in Aurora, CO. Mom is a brindle and dad is a black mouse. There are 5 females available for a small adoption fee. They are all pretty docile and will be 5 weeks old this weekend (June 2, 2017). They are well socialized and very friendly to people and to other mice.

So if you would love to add some little baby mice to your pet family, and can pick them up in Aurora, send us a Facebook message and let us know why your home would be a perfect home for these cuties!

Baby Rats

Hello, Rat Lovers! If you are looking for baby rats check out the BRE Rat Pack page! Brittany writes, “Hello. I was wondering if you could help me rehome the young rats I have. They were born April 13th, mix of males and females all listed on my page BRE Rat Pack. Their mom and dad were purchased on Feb 12 2017 from Shelby Siegle in Thornton CO and I have not heard that any of her rats have the Seoul Virus. Im located in Wheat Ridge and would like to rehome for $15.”

She has some cute babies ready for adoption! Here’s the Link https://m.facebook.com/BRE-Rat-Pack-1653306504682988/?tsid=0.40005603060126305&source=result

Two Baby Rat Girls Need a Forever Home

Megan Tiffany writes, “[Can you] help me find homes for 6 week old female rat babies. I didn’t know the moms were pregnant with them and I’m a struggling college student I can’t afford to keep the wee ones. We have two girls who still need homes. They were born on 04/20. Their mom was purchased from Scales n Tails in Feb 2017. All babies have been socialized from day one and adore people. There is a $10 rehoming fee. I’d like proof of a cage and the promise that if they ever have to get rid of the babies they return them to me.”

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These babies are for pet adoption only, they are not to be bred. They are located in Denver, so anyone interested in them would need to be able to pick them up in Denver. Please message us on Facebook with some pics of your cage set up if you are interested in adopting these baby girls.

Little Sammy is Looking for Some Friends and a Forever Home

UPDATE: 5/22/17  Sammy has found his forever home! 🙂

Okay, guys, I have a difficult case for you. Poor little Sammy was a feeder bin rat in Parker, Colorado when 6 months ago a woman decided to save him and keep him as a pet. He is a little blaze, dumbo boy and cute as can be, but because he was not handled much, he stayed very shy. After some episodes where the woman’s friend scared Sammy, he became afraid of people and needs a very patient, experienced rat lover who is willing to socialize Sammy and hopefully help him to learn to trust people. He has been alone in a rat cage this whole time, so it would be great if he could be introduced to and slowly paired with some other friendly males, as we know that rats are much happier when they have some friends. The best home for this boy is one with a very experienced rat lover that has other, friendly and well socialized male rats. The home should either not include children or be one where the children are not allowed to handle the rats because Sammy could bite when scared. Sammy will come with his cage and any supplies/toys that they have for him. Who ever gets him will have to be able to pick him up in Parker, Co.

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Are you the one who will help Sammy to learn to trust and have his happily ever after? Message us on FB and tell us why you would be a great fit for this lonely boy.

 

 

Two Beautiful Rat Girls Need A Forever Home

UPDATE: These little ratties have found their forever home.

Kristen writes, “Coco and Lucy were adopted from Ohana Rattery in January 2017. They are both female. Their birthday is November 26, 2016. They are healthy, happy, playful curious rats. They are really awesome rats, we just don’t have time and they love attention. We live in Buena Vista Colorado.”

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So there you go Rat Lovers! We need to find a loving and permanent home for these two girls. They will come with their cage and everything! If you are interested in adding these two sweet rats to your pet family, please message us on FB and tell us why you would be the perfect ratty parent for these beautiful babies!

Looking for Pet Rats?

Hey everybody! We are not breeding rats anymore, but we still love them a lot and if you are trying to find rats in Colorado, we are going to be posting any rats we know need homes here. We will have all the DOB info and where they came from and all that good stuff along with some pictures taken by their owners. We do not house the rats that we list. They stay with their owners until adopted and all interested people will be contacting the owner of the rats directly. We will do our best to update the  posts when rats are adopted.

TIPS ON PET RAT ADOPTIONS: Before you adopt a pet, check it for signs of illness or stress. When you adopt a pet you assume responsibility and full cost of vet and care expenses. Ask a lot of questions from the person rehoming it, such as, “Has this rat lived with other rats, has this rat or those it has lived with displayed signs of sneezing or respiratory illness, where did this rat originally come from (feeder bin, other pet owner or bred by that same person)?” Do your homework, find out all the background info you can about the pet you are adopting. Whatever you do, do not pay the adoption fee until you receive the pet.
Finally, understand that adopting a pet comes with it’s own risks for everyone in your home and that when you bring a pet into your home you are assuming all of those risks yourself, so you should make sure you know what you are getting into. We highly recommend that all breeders and adopters use adoption contracts when rehoming or receiving pet rats from anyone so that your agreements are clearly understood by all parties and are put in writing prior to the rat going to a new home.
We will do our best to ask pertinent questions of the people who have to find new homes for their rats before posting them on this page, and we will definitely not allow people to post rats that came from a questionable background or from a breeder who had the Seoul virus. However we do encourage everyone to get very well informed about the Seoul virus and all other zoonotic illnesses that pet rats can carry before you decide to adopt a pet rat into your family. Check out this link for more info on the Seoul Virus. http://ratguide.com/reference/SeoulVirus.pdf
DISCLAIMER REGARDING PRIVATE RAT ADOPTIONS:
  1. The admins of this page cannot police every adoption and are not responsible for private adoptions between individuals.
  2. Due to the Seoul Virus issue in Colorado… we can not guarantee you will be safe from the Seoul virus or any other possible zoonotic illness, and you adopt any rat AT YOUR OWN RISK.
  3. We do recommend that you be smart and safe when dealing with people you have never met in person and when rehoming your pet.
  4. If you are adopting a pet rat from a private party, understand that all transactions are between you and the original pet owner only, it is likely that no one provides a guarantee for your transaction.
  5. Mercury House Rats and all those associated with us are not going to be responsible in any way for the outcome of your pet adoption. That responsibility lies with you.
PERSONAL SAFETY: When meeting someone for the first time, please remember to meet in a public place like a cafe or shopping center. Do not meet in a secluded place, a stranger’s home or invite strangers into your home. Tell a friend or family member where you’re going. Take your cell phone along if you have one. Have a friend accompany you. Trust your instincts.

Adoption Gone Wrong – What To Do

“Oh, no! I adopted some new rats and now they are sick/mean…etc!”

Pet Rat Adopters can save themselves a lot of trouble if they just do a bit of research before they adopt rats from someone/somewhere; but sometimes they find themselves in a tough spot with rats that are not all they hoped they would be. So what should you do if you end up with rats that are less than perfect? Here’s some tips on rat adoptions.

 

First – Know who you are adopting from. Look for breeders with websites and Facebook (FB) pages (pages not profiles – pages can have ratings and reviews from previous adopters) that tell you about them. Why are they breeding rats? What is their focus – are they breeding for health and temperament? How are they doing that? How long have they been breeding rats? How long do their rats generally live? Are there good reviews on their FB page?

Second – Understand that all rats are not the same. I know people do not want to hear/admit this, but it is the absolute truth. Sometimes feeder bin rats are absolutely fine but sometimes rats are in the feeder bin because they have genetic issues or are sick and can not be sold as a pet. Buying a baby rat that is not weaned from a feeder bin is not doing that rat any favors as it is very hard to keep a “pinky” or “fuzzy” rat alive without a mother. This “rescue” usually just amounts to a slow death for that baby rat and that is cruel. Health and temperament issues are the most common complaint for a lot of rat owners and I can tell you that a reputable breeder will not let you have a rat that has not passed temperament tests and that they know comes from a healthy line. Buying rats from a feeder bin or from an unknown person with an “oops” litter is very risky for you and for any rats you have at home. One nasty virus brought into your home with a new rat can kill all of your rats in an amazingly fast amount of time.
Third – Be up front and honest with the breeder/pet store. If you have problems with your rats after getting them first try to work it out with that breeder or pet shop. Usually whatever problem you have can be worked out if you contact them right away and are just honest with them. Unfortunately, sometimes that means exchanging the rat for a different one and most people say they don’t want to contact the breeder because they don’t want to give back the rats. You don’t have to give your rats back if you don’t want to… but it is not fair to complain behind their back if you are not willing to give them a chance to do something to help you. You must let the breeder or pet store know right away if you are having problems with your rats. ***
Fourth – Be up front and honest with your complaint. If you feel you have been wronged or someone did something wrong and you can’t work it out with them, then at least stand up for yourself and your ratties. I get PM’d complaints about breeders sometimes and everyone often wants to remain anonymous, but this just helps those with bad breeding practices just keep doing the same things to other adopters. One breeder I have been told about a few different times has a Facebook (FB) page filled with only glowing reviews and ratings. If the people with legit complaints would just rate and comment that complaint on the website or FB page, then that would not only serve as a warning to other adopters, but it might make that breeder have to change their ways. I know that people don’t like confrontation, but hiding behind anonymity doesn’t help anyone… with no one willing to back up the story, that story is simply gossip.
***most breeders will take back the rats you have adopted from them, but often you must have the breeder’s permission to re-home those rats.