My Parkies are biting!

Discuss rat companionship, introductions and behavioural problems such as biting or shyness or tell us about your rat's unusual habits.
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My Parkies are biting!

Post by Hobbit Stealer » Mon Jul 18, 2011 3:19 pm

I'm still having problems with Hobbit and Womble :( I posted about this a few weeks ago as I was undecided on neutering, there didn't seem to be specific 'hormonal' behaviour. However I now think Womble is definitely hormonal and needs to lose his nads.
Womble has episodes (it's not constant) of poofing up, foofing, and biting me viciously. I'm going to get him neutered when I get paid. I can take him in and out of the cage to let him run around but I get really frightened of him now and am wary of handling him, but his problem seems to be in the cage. As babies they both hated to be touched and still squeak (the tiniest peep if you just brush them lightly with your finger) when you touch them... when they were young I tried to simply teach them squeaking would not work and would handle them regardless... now I worry that by 'forcing' them into socialising with me I have turned them into biters.
Hobbit's always been an aloof character and very wilful. I had him out of the cage just now and he kept climbing somewhere I don't want him, so I'd pick him up and move him. He'd squeak every time. My thinking has always been that he has to learn squeaking will get him nowhere. He then sat calmly next to me for 5 minutes, sniffed my hand gently, and bit me hard. I kept my hand still so he didn't get a reaction, but he bit me harder. I moved my hand away and he reached up, sniffed my arm and bit me again. I think he just wants me to go away and never touch him, I don't know what to do. I would like to have him neutered as well as Womble, but I'm not sure it would work if his biting is a learned behaviour and not a hormonal response.
I'm thinking of handling them both with gloves on, but will this do anything? They won't be learning anything about being handled and touching my skin, just the feel of a gardening glove?
Mandy and the Boys: Agouti rex Widget, black roan Teddy, mink berkshire Hobbit and champagne self Womble
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Re: My Parkies are biting!

Post by Amzy » Mon Jul 18, 2011 5:31 pm

I am sat typing this reply with Raz now and we've just had a lengthy discussion about this. We have 20 parkies between us - Raz has Chelsea, and two of the girls caught in the park, 4 bucks from Chelsea's second litter, 4 park babies (bucks) and 2 bucks caught in the park (one 3rd generation and one from Chelsea's first litter, also caught in the park). I currently have 6 does, 1 doe from the park, one doe from Chelsea's second litter, and I had 5 park babies (one of whom has unfortunately passed away). my Mum also has 2 which I have close contact with. Between us we have many babies from a wide range of litters so I hope to provide a bit of scope and depth within my reply.

I have had very little issues with my girls... but as you know, they are rats with big attitudes, and I see that within my cage. Fortune and Cookie were on their way to becomming joint alphas before Cookie passed away. They were exceptionally good at it, although at times got a little carried away! They controlled my very feisty group very very well, and both worked well together. However they both had an amazing amount of respect to me. Fortune in particular has bitten. She will bite anyone new who joins me for play time (she gets upset with Raz and got upset with Sian also). She went through a phase of attacking me - challenging my presence within free range - and I believe this was challenging my position as 'boss'. She got me about 8 times within one free range. So I got tough with her... every time she went to bite, bit, or went to kick me I pinned her... and I pinned her until she submitted to me... and I continued to do this (and I still have to sometimes now - however she rarely bites now). She now has respect for me, but I recognise that she could very easily get out of hand with her behaviour if I did not impliment any boundaries! When I introduced new babies/rats to the group both Fortune and Cookie used to chaise away the new rats if they came near me. Which I believe was a sign of respect towards me. Those two had the most amazing respect and loyalty towards me... but I believe this was only due to the boundaries that I implimented. Cookie was quite hormonal and used to scent mark/rub herself against the side of the pen, she squeaked when she didnt want to go away but it was never an issue waiting for her to climb my leg before picking her up to put her back into the cage!

I haven't had any issues with my other girls at all.... and none have ever shown agression or frustration. I also have Fortune and Cookie's sister, Dina, and she hasnt got any of the same behaviour traits as Fortune and Cookie.

Raz has had a few hormonal issues with the boys, however 2 of Chelsea's second litter have been neutered (one had to be due to an injury) and Percy has also.... some of the park babies have shown hormoanl agression however they have gown out of it and calmed down.


I have found that my girls in particular are easily wound up and upset but If i remain calm and be firm they calm down and behave.
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Re: My Parkies are biting!

Post by Golgotha_tramp » Mon Jul 18, 2011 5:48 pm

Hey, on the mobile so this will be brief (sorry).

Bohater from a very early age clearly had his eye on alpha and (when anode passed) headed straight into the spot. He did go though a phase after this of being very moody, despite being as tractable as play doh before he began squeeking, nipping and jumping like he had been electricuted when touched. As with Amzy I found that pinning was the way to get him back into shape. He has passed through it and is his cheeky self again but will strop every once and a while.

Could anything have happened in the cage to prick his ideas of stature?
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Re: My Parkies are biting!

Post by purple_vixen » Tue Jul 19, 2011 12:07 am

[quote=Hobbit Stealer"]He then sat calmly next to me for 5 minutes, sniffed my hand gently, and bit me hard. I kept my hand still so he didn't get a reaction, but he bit harder.[/quote]

In my house, persistent foofing, sidling, biting unexpectedly (Womble) and a bite like this would result in castration. He's not happy, you're not happy, and the bite isn't due to a startle, a scare or you smelling of food. You're experienced with rats, so from what I've seen of your forum posts, Womble and Hobbit will have the right diet, cage set up, free range and handling. You can wait to see if they grow out of their hormones, but they are stressed now, or they wouldn't jump to biting so quickly.

I have a vet who I trust, so I neuter earlier now after seeing the difference which a neuter has made for other rats. Particularly Camembert and Gorgonzola, who were nightmare teenagers who wanted to put holes in cagemates and staff, then each other, but who were introduced successfully to a small group, then a large group after neuters.

I know that we have to look at all contributing factors to biting, but if an experienced rat keeper is getting blood drawn from unsignalled bites and there has been hormonal behaviour, a neuter (or at least Tardak) would be my first port of call for males.


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Re: My Parkies are biting!

Post by Golgotha_tramp » Tue Jul 19, 2011 7:50 am

I would add that I had considered fixing Bo' but as there was cage changes (death of my alpha) and I personally felt I would need to talk it through with Amzy, Raz and KatieJ. I decided to give him some time to settle. He was shoving the boys around but only biting me, had he started biting cagemates this would have forced my hand.

I am absolutely not calling your judgement or care into question Hobbit Stealer. I was sharing my biting experience of my parkies.
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Re: My Parkies are biting!

Post by Hobbit Stealer » Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:14 am

purple_vixen wrote:
Hobbit Stealer" wrote:He then sat calmly next to me for 5 minutes, sniffed my hand gently, and bit me hard. I kept my hand still so he didn't get a reaction, but he bit harder.
In my house, persistent foofing, sidling, biting unexpectedly (Womble) and a bite like this would result in castration. He's not happy, you're not happy, and the bite isn't due to a startle, a scare or you smelling of food. You're experienced with rats, so from what I've seen of your forum posts, Womble and Hobbit will have the right diet, cage set up, free range and handling. You can wait to see if they grow out of their hormones, but they are stressed now, or they wouldn't jump to biting so quickly.

I have a vet who I trust, so I neuter earlier now after seeing the difference which a neuter has made for other rats. Particularly Camembert and Gorgonzola, who were nightmare teenagers who wanted to put holes in cagemates and staff, then each other, but who were introduced successfully to a small group, then a large group after neuters.

I know that we have to look at all contributing factors to biting, but if an experienced rat keeper is getting blood drawn from unsignalled bites and there has been hormonal behaviour, a neuter (or at least Tardak) would be my first port of call for males.


Vix.
Thanks everyone, I appreciate your advice.
Womble is due a neuter, he is getting one asap (I had waited a while to see if it settled for numerous reasons, one being the first bite seemed completely out of the blue and out of character, another being that my alpha was horrendous and bullied the Parkies relentlessly in the cage but they were starting to stick up for themselves - I wanted to see if cage dynamics was the cause. Since then, my alpha also died.) It's just Hobbit I'm not sure about as he doesn't seem to be hormonal at all. I think he is very stubborn and has learnt that biting me works. I guess that's my fault for not handling his behaviour properly but this is my first experience of biting. I've had a rat neutered before but that was hormonal behaviour towards other rats, he never bit people.
I might try Amzy's suggestion of pinning him as he probably does need a show of dominance from me - I just don't want to get Hobbit neutered as a snap decision because he's bitten - I am not convinced he has a hormonal problem. I *want* to get him neutered with Womble, but I don't want to be putting him through an operation just because I'm panicky and a bit desperate, I want it to be for the right reasons that I go through with it.
His ideas of his stature - well he's always been really stubborn and very very wilful and naughty :o He used to squeak all the time, not out of fear but defiance at me interrupting him in his ratty business. When he was a kitten and my old boy Jack was on his last legs he used to bully Jack which was awful. It was like he had gone, 'Oh hahaha, there's a big rat here, but I can beat him up and he doesn't do anything! Yay!' My alpha Chaser used to put them back in their place, he was very rough and OTT with them (he was a terrible alpha) but he died last week. I suppose the loss of Chaser could cause Hobbit to get too big for his boots, there is no one to punish him now, so I guess I should be filling Chaser's role here.
On the other hand, he is a young rat, healthy, I don't feel it is dangerous to neuter him, and he is biting people. I'll try being dominant with him and see how that goes - if he continues to bite I will have him neutered. How long is a sensible time range to give him to buck up his ideas??

ETA: When Hobbit bit me yesterday, he'd been out of the cage exploring for a long time while I was sat near before he bit me, just to clarify, he doesn't bite when picked up or as soon as he's taken out of the cage, that's why I find his behaviour confusing :-?
Mandy and the Boys: Agouti rex Widget, black roan Teddy, mink berkshire Hobbit and champagne self Womble
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Re: My Parkies are biting!

Post by stormsmuggler » Tue Jul 19, 2011 9:48 am

Have you tried good old Balance drops from Sabby. As you can imagine with 10 park related males all hitting puberty at the same time I've had my fair share of foofing and teenage tantrums, yet not once been bitten by any of them.
As Amy explained, one of the muffins was neutered due to testicle injury and also the one who i thought was the culprit, as he was covered in blood. This was actually a mistake on my part because it seemed that Biscuit was innocent, something I discovered when Roobs went back into the cage. so he was back off to the vet to get his other ball removed.
At the time of the muffins Percy and the parkies hitting puberty I lost both my alpha and beta rats, so there was some confusion over who should take up the role of leader. Ironically Oscar (who we are 99.9% convinced is park related) took up the position without so much as a sideways kick at anyone.
Park rats (the 12 that were found in the park) are rats with attitude, they had to have some character in order to survive, but even on the days we first caught them, checked them for injuries treated them for mites etc, transfered them from traps to cages not one of them bit or squeaked at us. If any of my boys park or otherwise causes trouble in the cage or during free range they get diciplined by means of pinning or time out (put in a carrier for a while).
In my opinion if you had a large dog try to get the better of you (or a small dog) you would make him respect you with dicipline (not a beating) but you would show him that whatever he is doing is not acceptable behaviour and remind him of his place before he became dangerous, why not do the same to a rat.
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Re: My Parkies are biting!

Post by Jemma » Tue Jul 19, 2011 11:51 am

I would definitley recommend castrating these lads, it does sound like they are feeling quite upset and that kind of purposeful biting would mean a definite for me. It's not them being surprised it's them choosing to be aggressive.

I would be very cautious about pinning a rat though. You can acheive the same results (demonstrate you are not below them in the pecking order) by firm handling. Pinning is what rats do to rats, and if a human does it it doesn't mean that we suddenly speak rat, it just means that a giant thing has decided to flip a rat on it's belly (this is my understanding of pinning) making it feel massively scared and vulnerable. Rat pinning is normally the rat choosing to place itself in this position, with coercian admittedly, and so is properly showing subserviance. Holding a rat who bites firmly and saying no very clearly shows them that you are not going to be pushed around without subjecting them to something traumatic. Whilst that does work when you can get the same results with less force it's worth trying.
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Re: My Parkies are biting!

Post by spoiled_rat » Tue Jul 19, 2011 12:08 pm

stormsmuggler wrote:In my opinion if you had a large dog try to get the better of you (or a small dog) you would make him respect you with dicipline (not a beating) but you would show him that whatever he is doing is not acceptable behaviour and remind him of his place before he became dangerous, why not do the same to a rat.
You mean by pinning rats? I have found pinning them doesn't make the slightest bit of difference at all with true hormonal bucks though, as it is not behaviour driven and chastising them in such a way usually has no effect, as the underlying problem is still there i.e the hormones, and you will likely get bitten.
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Re: My Parkies are biting!

Post by Hobbit Stealer » Tue Jul 19, 2011 12:24 pm

spoiled_rat wrote:
stormsmuggler wrote:In my opinion if you had a large dog try to get the better of you (or a small dog) you would make him respect you with dicipline (not a beating) but you would show him that whatever he is doing is not acceptable behaviour and remind him of his place before he became dangerous, why not do the same to a rat.
You mean by pinning rats? I have found pinning them doesn't make the slightest bit of difference at all with true hormonal bucks though, as it is not behaviour driven and chastising them in such a way usually has no effect, as the underlying problem is still there i.e the hormones, and you will likely get bitten.
I have mentioned this more than once, but I don't think Hobbit is hormonal. Or can hormonal problems occur without the usual huffing puffing hissing spitting sidling etc. behaviours, because he does not seem stressed, tense or angry when he bites?
Mandy and the Boys: Agouti rex Widget, black roan Teddy, mink berkshire Hobbit and champagne self Womble
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Re: My Parkies are biting!

Post by spoiled_rat » Tue Jul 19, 2011 12:38 pm

Hobbit sounds hormonal to me, just not such an extreme case as the typical huffing balls of fury you often read about, most likely due to the fact that you aren't backing off when he does it like most people do.
However in my experience, this only goes so far, and to actually remedy it, I tend to either neuter or stick the agrressor in with an excellent, but fair Alpha, which tends to work better than assertive handling/pinning as we cannot speak rat, but they can and it usually keeps them just about in check if they cannot be neutered for whatever reason :)
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Re: My Parkies are biting!

Post by Hobbit Stealer » Tue Jul 19, 2011 12:46 pm

Thanks :)
As for putting a decent alpha in with him, my 2 Parkies now only have 2 cagemates left - one is already neutered and a big flump, the other was a lone rescue with absolutely no social skills who is a complete wimp and screams at everything :roll: To think Teddy (the rescue) would be the manliest buck in the cage! :o
I'll try holding him firmly if he tries anything but it definitely sounds like neutering is the way to go... I just wanted to check I wasn't taking an easy way out with a behavioural problem.
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Re: My Parkies are biting!

Post by NickyE » Tue Jul 19, 2011 4:18 pm

My Parkie Tempest was a problem before he was 5months old! I'd put breakfast in the cage one morning, which was open and was just straightening up some cardboard to the left of the cage on the floor and he ran across and sunk his teeth into my palm near my wrist. It bled for over 4 hours.

I can't remember if there'd been problems before that but afterwards there were lots. I had to be careful putting things into the cage, taking things out of the cage and touching any of the others. He would stand there in the cage when it was closed going ffft ffft ffft at me. Cage cleaning was a nightmare and it would often take me 1/2 hour or more to even be able to pick him up and put him in a carrier in order to clean. I have to put one arm and my head into the cage to clean and the last thing I wanted was him sinking his teeth into my face.

I spoke to my vet about Tardak but he recommended neutering and warned of the danger of this becoming learned behaviour. I tried agnus castus capsules which seemed to have a tiny effect. The agression was only aimed at me - in fact if his cousin Kembali went towards him he'd run away, so it wasn't about wanting to be alpha in there. I kept putting it off but in the mean time 'bali was getting a bit naughty too with biting my hand in the cage. Once they'd both got over 6 months old I got them both neutered.

Immediately there was some effect and now 2 months or so down the line they're both almost completely OK. I never see that "red mist" aggression from Tempest when I'm trying to cage clean. He did get fffft ffft fffty through the bars at me yesterday for no clear reason, and tried to have a nip outside of the cage the other day. 'bali got all bog-brushy when Shadow was looking into the cage last week (Tia, his aunty, went between him and the bars to calm things down, she is so lovely!) but generally the hormones have pretty much gone away and their behaviour is almost completely better.
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Re: My Parkies are biting!

Post by Betterstar » Tue Jul 19, 2011 4:41 pm

I would also be very wary of pinning rats. It's not necessary and you will, in some cases, be doing more harm than good.

We've never "disciplined" our rats, we only ever pin them during play, and we've successfully dealt with some very troubled rats.

Neutering seems like the way forward here, he sound a lot like our Musk, who used to bite without any warning and without obvious reason. If Musk had been well enough to neuter he would have been in a shot.
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