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Pet Rats/Little Biters


A few years ago I owned a pair of lovely boy ratties. I had them from youngsters, and I got them from the pet shop I worked in at the time because I knew the manager only used one breeder and all the animals we sold from him were happy and healthy, so basically I had no problems with them and the closest they ever got to biting was the gentle putting their teeth around a finger with no pressure then releasing when they realised it wasn't food.

Unfortunately I have a few problems with my memory right now, so I can only remember the basics of care and training. A few weeks ago, after many months of thinking I would love to have some again, I picked up a pair of females. They were marked as fancy but from their ears I think they are Dumbos. Anyway, they were a few weeks older and being sold as "for adoption" by a larger chain pet store. Both quite healthy, they eat and drink well and have a lovely big cage with plenty to play with in there, but still one of them is bitey. Within the first week of having them I was sitting in front of the open cage door with my hands inside so they could begin to get used to my smell and start climbing and being handled, but one of them was a bit nippy. She wasn't showing signs of fear or aggression but was trying to tug my finger/knuckle in to the cage with her. A day or so later, same situation, she just bit very hard which unfortunately punctured an artery in my fingertip. I always made sure to wash well with un scented soap and even used hand sanitiser before and after handling too. I have since had to use thick gloves to try training her to be handled but still if I take them off she has a go for it again.

Please advise the best way to continue training her, she is otherwise a sweet and funny little thing so I would love to play with her more without the risk of becoming lunch!


Hi Jenivere,
It is common for a rat to grab your hand or finger to try to pull you into the cage, and this cannot be considered biting, or even nipping. She was trying to communicate with you. I'm not sure why she bit harder the second time, except maybe she was getting impatient. It's not a good idea to let them try to pull you around, so if she does it again, there are 2 things you can do. One is to squeak loudly like a rat being hurt, which should cause her to let go immediately. You can also say "No" loudly, and use your other hand to "unhook" her from you hand. Basically, your hand should be petting her or otherwise interacting with her, not just passively waiting for her to grab you.  Does that seem to cover the situation?

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Debbie Ducommun


I can answer any questions about pet rats, but you will probably be able find answers to simple questions more quickly on my website at If you have a life-threatening emergency you can try calling me at 530-899-0605. I am not usually on the computer on the weekend.


I have been "The Rat Lady" since 1985 and am recognized as one of the world's experts on pet rats. I have 3 published books and already answer lots of questions about rats daily.

President of Rat Assistance & Teaching Society

I am a monthly columnist for Pet Business magazine, and my writing has appeared in other magazines. I have 3 published books.

BA in Animal Behavior

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