Learn what to do if your rat shows signs of aggression.
The first thing I want to say about this topic is that rats are not naturally aggressive animals and are not prone to biting. Normally, they are very gentle, loving creatures. However, like all living things that have teeth, the ability to bite is still there. Most often, rats will only bite as a natural reaction to a bad situation. In some cases though, there may be an underlying condition or issue present that causes the rat to show extreme, or uncharacteristic, aggression.
Truly aggressive rats can quickly create problems, not only for us and our families, but also any other rats we may currently own. Not taking precautions around genuinely aggressive rats can lead to injuries for both us and our other furry family members, and in some extreme cases, fatalities for our other rats as well. The goal of this page is to help you to recognize the signs of a truly aggressive rat, and help to educate on why rats may become aggressive, what to do if you end up with a rat of this type, and methods you can try to reverse their temperament.
To get started, here are some signs to watch for that indicates you may have an aggressive rat.
Some rats may hide or flee from us when being interacted with. This is not usually a sole sign of aggression, as poorly bred or poorly socialized rats may show these behaviors simply due to being distrusting, nervous, or scared. For this reason, we will not consider these behaviors a sign of aggression, unless paired with one or more of the following examples listed below.
Now that we know some of the signs to watch for, here are some reasons why your rat may become aggressive.
So we know some of the signs to watch for and now have a better understanding of what might cause our rats to become aggressive, but now what? Here we will go over some general guidelines on what to do if you have determined that your rat is aggressive.
Sometimes, regardless of how much we try, some rats may simply be unable to be rehabilitated. If our rat is aggressive towards us/other rats and you have tried all possible methods to re-bond with them, or have become fearful of them due to repeated attacks and feel the situation has become out of hand, there are only three options we can recommend.
The first is to contact the breeder and let them know the situation. Inform them that the rat has become aggressive and list all of the incidents that have occurred. Always try and get photo/video deviance of the behavior within the limits of what is safe. A lot of times, good breeders will offer to either take the rat back, replace the rat, or help re-home the rat to someone that focuses on rehabilitating aggressive rats.
If the breeder is either unavailable or unwilling to help, the next thing you can do is re-home the rat yourself. It is very important when re-homing an aggressive rat that you are upfront and honest about why you are doing so. Do not be dishonest and hide the fact that the rat is aggressive, otherwise the new adopter may end up in the same situation as you. This is not fair, nor ethical, as this can cause not only cause stress and pain to the new guardians (and any rats they may already have), but it only adds to the stress of the rat in question that is being re-homed. Please, always think of what is best for not only us, but others as well.
The third option is that if you have a rat that is so aggressive that it cannot be rehabilitated or re-homed, the best thing to do may be to euthanize them. If a rat is this aggressive, not only is it putting you, and your other rats, in harms way - but it is living a life of constant stress, misery, and fear. This situation simply does not provide a good quality of life for the rat. If you have given the rat your full effort to try and help and nothing has worked, it might be time for us to make this very difficult decision.
If you have decided this is the best course of action and feel it is time to humanely euthanize your rat, you can either find someone who has the tools and set up to do it for you, or you can create a set up yourself. I have posted a link below that teaches you how to create one version of a Co2 chamber for your rat, although there are many different ways to build them. Some of these methods can be time consuming/expensive, so feel free to do some research find find the set up that would be easy for you to make yourself if you do not have/want someone else to do it for you.
Note: We do not ever advocate keeping the rat in a lone cage without cage mates. This does not provide the rat a good quality of life as it can cause further psychological damage. Many research articles have been posted online outlining the different outcomes that have occurred from depriving a rat of same species interactions including depression, psychosis, cage madness, as well as others. Regardless of what some may say, we as humans, simply cannot replace the social interaction that rats need from other members of their species. For this reason, we at WGR do not consider allowing an aggressive rat to live alone in a cage an acceptable solution.
For a final note, this article was not intended to scare or upset anyone who may be reading it. As stated above, rats are not naturally aggressive animals, and it is not as common as some would have you believe for us to have a truly aggressive rat. In most cases, this aggression has been caused by something they have experienced in life, or an illness they are suffering from. Every effort should be made by us as their guardians to understand, empathize, and help these amazing animals, even if they may seem to have problems at first. We should never result to re-homing or euthanizing as a first option (unless blood is being drawn). Some of the most misunderstood rats, when given love, time, and patience, can be some of the best friends we will ever have.
As a last note, again, please always contact the breeder you adopted the rats from and let them know what's happening. Not only should they be willing to help you find a solution but this also gives them feedback on how their lines are developing and if there are any issues they need to watch for. Its always important to be open and communicative with your breeder.
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