Aggressive rats – Kevin’s story
This is the true story of Kevin, a rat who came to CavyRescue as his owner – who we shall call Mrs X – found him “vicious” and “nasty”. It is an example of how love, attention and patience can make such a difference to a pet.
Kevin is a brown hooded rat and was approximately 5 months old when he was brought to CavyRescue by Mrs X.
She’d apparently been given him by a friend of a friend and when she got him home, he was asleep in his cage. She thrust her hand in to get him out, and the shock of being woken from a deep sleep meant Kevin automatically defended himself by biting his ‘attacker’.
30 minutes later, Mrs X and a still slighty dazed Kevin, were on the CavyRescue doorstep. Mrs X suggested we have him put to sleep as he was so “horrible”, and left.
After just 10 minutes with him, it was obvious that Kevin only bit or tried to attack you because he was so very scared. He didn’t even like being stroked. We’ve had many rats like this in before whom, with a little attention, can quite easily be ‘rehabilitated’.
However, Kevin was a hard nut to crack. While we spent time with him, trying to build his confidence, he obviously needed that extra bit of attention.
One of our rat fosterers, Sam, offered to try and rehabilitate Kevin (she’d willingly rehomed a rather aggressive rat from us previously and in a short time, turned him into a relaxed, happy, loving rat).
So, we packed Kevin off, with instructions to Sam to watch her fingers! Sam kept in regular email contact, telling us of Kevin’s day-to-day progress.
First of all she made him realise that coming out of his cage wasn’t scary, but fun. She didn’t force the issue, just opened his cage, sat on her bed, and let him come to her.
After just a week, Kevin was letting Sam stroke him – albeit, very gently! – without him freezing up.
With lots of love and patience, Sam ‘worked’ on Kevin. She let him feel in control of when he came in or out of his cage, when he went to her etc.
Just three weeks later I got an excited ‘phone call – Kevin was out on Sam’s Mum’s lap – asleep. He’d been with her for two hours, generally nuzzling up to her! “I think he’s got a crush!” laughed Sam.
Kevin remained with Sam for the rest of life, sadly having a stroke which lead to his death. Without Sam’s unfailing dedication to Kevin’s ‘rehabilitation’, the happy, loving life he had with her would never have been possible. A heartfelt thank you to her.
The moral of this story is never to neglect your pets – the more love and attention you give them, the more you will get back from them.
Biting rats – what to do
We get a lot of phone calls and emails from people saying the same thing: My rat tends to bite and now I’m frightened to handle her..what should I do?
We have lots of rats come in to CavyRescue that are no longer wanted due to them being so-called “aggressive” etc and, in nine cases out of ten, with time and patience, they can be turned around into loving little ratties.
You need to build up your rat’s trust. Sit near to the cage and read a book, relax and let her come out of the cage in her own good time. Keep the room quiet, with no loud noises, other animals or distractions.
You may need to do this for a few days or even weeks until your rat feels confident enough to come out. She will then start to investigate, probably including climbing over you.
If she gets a bit nippy, say a firm “No” (do not tap her on the nose or anything, the tone of voice will be enough) and put her back into the cage.
She will learn that ‘good’ behaviour is rewarded, ‘bad’ behaviour means being put back in the cage.
(If you are worried about handling her, get a big, clean coffee jar..she will climb into it and you can lift her back to her cage. Use this method ONLY if she tries to bite you when you pick her up. IT should never be used as a substitute to one-to-one contact).
Don’t show fear of your rat – rats, like most other animals, can pick up on the vibes and will react accordingly – if you are ‘feeling fear’, the rat will think there is something to fear and be on her guard, which usually means, bite first, ask questions later!
Pick her up regularly (you may get a few wounds, but these will lessen, I promise!) so she gets used to you.
You may see progress in as little as 2 weeks and up to 3 months. Please be patient, treat your rat like you would a scared child..she’ll come round eventually and you can both enjoy a wonderful friendship.