Do Pet Rats Bite?

Do Pet Rats Bite?

Few things are more discouraging to new rat owners than when their pet rat bites them. Rat bites are painful and may lead to serious illness and even infection in some cases. It is vitally important for rat owners to curb any aggressive behavior at a young age. We will outline some of the reasons your pet rat bites and ways to stop them from doing it.

Why do pet rats bite their humans?

Your pet rat may bite for several reasons. Oftentimes, your pet rat will exhibit signs of stress prior to snapping at you, other times they are just as surprised as you. Many times a rat bite can be entirely accidental. Here are some of the reasons why your pet rat might bite you:

  1. Fear
  1. Hormones
  1. Confusion
  1. Poor Eyesight
  1. Trust

1. Rat bites due to fear

Pet rats are incredibly attentive to your behavior. If you are jumpy and nervous around them, then they will react similarly. Always approach your pet rat slowly and calmly. This piece of advice is especially important for a new pet rat owner that hasn’t established a strong connection with their four-legged friends yet.

Rats exhibit aggressive behavior when they are frightened; a calm demeanor will go a long way with mediating any behavioral issues you may be having with your pet rat. If you are calm, your rat will have no reason to be scared and they will be able to relax.

2. Rat bites due to hormones

Hormonal aggression is most common in males. Neutered rats rarely have the same aggression issues as unneutered male rats. In young rats, you may notice a behavioral shift after having them neutered. However in older rats with aggression issues, these behaviors may be habitual and neutering may have little to no effect.

3. Rat bites due to confusion

Sometimes your pet rat might bite you entirely by accident. A reason for this may be food confusion. If you feed your pet rat treats through their cage bars then he or she may get confused. Consistently feeding a rat this way will make them think that everything that goes through the cage bars is food. Especially if your fingers smell like yummy treats! 

To avoid this kind of confusion, approach your rat with clean hands. If your pet rat continues to bite or nibble your fingers while feeding them, try placing the food in the middle of your palm instead of offering them food with your fingers. Avoid sticking your fingers through the cage.

4. Rat bites due to poor eyesight

Poor eyesight is most common in albino pink-eyed rats, though any rat can experience vision problems. A rat with poor eyesight is more likely to exhibit fearful behavior as they can’t see your approach as well.

Talk to your rat! If you notice that your pet rat isn’t reacting to you approaching them, then they may not be able to see you. Let them know that you’re there by verbally speaking with them as you enter the room.

5. Rat bites due to lack of trust

This one seems obvious but it is important to cover nonetheless. Just like many other pets/animals, you may come into contact with, pet rats require a trusting relationship to be comfortable in their home. When your pet rat trusts you, she/he will be far less likely to lash out and bite your fingers. 

The best thing to do if you suspect your rat is having trust issues is to spend as much time with them as possible. Normalize human contact with them. For newer pet rats, they may not have had much human contact if any at all!  

Conclusion and further reading

Rats are highly intelligent and highly trainable critters and long for your affection, don’t let your frustration stop you from having a good relationship with them. Bonding with your pet rat is incredibly helpful while trying to build a relationship 

It is incredibly important to curb your pet rat’s habit of biting as soon as it presents itself, not only for your safety but also for your rat’s. This behavior can easily be treated with patience.  A pet rat that bites can be a huge source of anxiety in your life for no reason!

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Emily Sanders

I'm Emily Sanders, an avid lover of pet rats and small household pets. Most of all, I adore my fancy pet rats and love sharing insightful and helpful information with others willing to learn about rats. If you're new to the world of pet rats, you'll find many of my pet rat guides of great use for getting acquainted. I hope to help you become an avid pet rat lover too.

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