Is your rat aggressive?
Does your rats often start fights with the other rats? Does he bite, or scratch you, or the other rats? If he does, I may just be able to help you. Whether he is aggressive towards you or other rats, it is important to take action to stop anyone getting hurt.
Why is your rat aggressive?
There are a number of reasons as to why your rat may be aggressive. It could be down to hormones All rats go through a "teenage" stage at around 6 months to a year old. At this stage your rats hormones, can literally be overwhelms him and this may lead to aggression. It can also be down to stress, perhaps he has lost a friend, or he has experienced a change in environment. It can also be caused by illness. If your rat is in pain, or unwell he may become aggressive. It can also be caused by your rat's past experiences. If he has been abused by people before, or perhaps not handled enough to know we will not hurt him, he may bite as a defense mechanism. Some rats are genetically more susceptible to aggression.
All rats release pheromones in their urine and these pheromones in males, mark out their territory and can provoke aggression in other rats. Both male and female rats can suffer from aggression, but males tend to more often.
What can you do about it?
Luckily there are several things you can try, to treat your rats aggression.
My Secret Weapon
Vanilla essence. If your rats are fighting, or you are having trouble introducing them, this is the way to go. You can buy vanilla essence online or at the local supermarket. Simply rub a few drops at the base of both rat's tails and along their backs. It will not hurt them if they lick it off, in fact they will probably like the taste.
The smell of the vanilla essence (which is very pleasant) will cover up their own natural smell, which may be offensive to the other rat (as rats use smell as a way to communicate). The taste may encourage the rats to lick each other and grooming will start the natural bonding process. This is all I need to do to curb any aggression in my rats.
If your rat is being aggressive towards you, rub the vanilla essence on your rat and some on your wrist. This way you will both smell the same and you will be less scary and offensive to your rat.
Secret Weapon 2
Vanilla essence was a temporary solution to stopping my boys from fighting, but when I finally worked out what was causing the fights, it was easy to resolve permanently:
I gave them 2 separate food bowls!
Yes, it really was as simple as that. I placed 2 food bowls at opposite ends of the rat cage and placed one rat by each food bowl. They did not have to share any more and all fights stopped after that. It was amazingly simple. They used to fight even when it was not meal time, but all that stopped.
When dealing with aggression, or any other negative behavior in your pet, you must exercise a great deal of patience and understanding. Changing behaviors takes time and while the vanilla essence will help, you must deal with the problem at the source. If your rat is biting out of fear, your main job will be to build up a trusting relationship. Sit by the open cage relaxing or reading a book and let your rat come to you and sniff you. Offer him a treat when he comes onto your lap. Building a trusting relationship can take time, but it worth it in the end. To deal with fights between rats have a plant mister of water at hand. Spray your rats if they fight and if this does not work throw a towel over them.
Homeopathy is a wonderful tool when dealing with behavioral and health problems in your rats. It is entirely natural, so there are no side effects, but it really does work.
PetAlive's aggression formula is the best to use for rats. It comes in granule form, so you can dissolve it in soy milk, yogurt or your rat's favorite drink and they will lap it up. The product is marketed at cats and dogs, but worked wonders for rats.
The granules have an immediate calming effect and will generally help curb the aggression within a few days. The formula will not change your pets personality, but could change their lives, if it means time out of the cage, enjoying the company of other rats and people.
Is your rat stressed or ill? Please check your rat over for signs of ill health. Your rat could be aggressive because he feels ill. Check my rat health checks page for more info and take your rat to the vets if necessary.
If your rat has had a change of environment, or has lost a companion this could have been the cause of aggression. Monitor his environment, check he is not too hot or too cold. If your rat is kept on his own, get him a companion. Rats are very social animals and love to have another rat to snuggle up to, groom and play with. Human companionship is not enough. Female rats are easy to introduce, but males may be a little harder. Look at the introduction rats page for tips to make things go more smoothly.
A Final Resort
If you have tried everything and nothing has worked it may be time to consider neutering your pet. In males the aggression may simply be caused by hormones and neutering will stop the surplus of hormones raging around your rats little body. There have been many reports that neutering has completely stopped aggression in pets and made their lives a lot happier.
Of course anesthetic is more serious for rats than say, cats and dogs, so it is something you must consider carefully. You must find a vet who is caring for rats and respects you and your rat. Simply calling the surgery and asking a few questions will usually help you determine whether they are the right vet for you.
After the surgery you rat will need you to nurse him for a few days and then you can begin building up a trusting relationship minus the aggression.