Territory Issues

Shy-Shy maturing into his Ginger coat

Shy-Shy my Berkshire Agouti rat is a bit of rascal at times regarding what he deems to be his space. I can’t blame him of course, if a giant stuck it’s hand into your house and started moving stuff about, you’d probably be a bit annoyed too! This morning I was waking up the boys to move them to a tank which they sleep in while I’m cleaning out their cage (I’ve given up trying to do it with the rats free ranging, because they just try and get back in their cage and “help” me! Shy-Shy regards any movement of his bedding as a personal affront, and sets on the perpetrator (my hand) with full-on biting action! Anyway, I’d effortlessly transported the three good beige boys to their tank, without so much of a sniff (in fact Stripe just gave me a nonchalant lick). Shy-Shy was sitting in his box looking agitated and slightly disgruntled for the fact that I’d woken him up. So I spoke to him gently and reassuringly, and slowly moved my hand towards him to let him sniff me and let him know it was only mum. Well.. he shot out at me and gave me a warning bite (I knew it was a warning bite because it only slightly caught the skin – if he’d have wanted to he could have sliced a little chunk out of my finger!). I’ve read lots and lots of rat-owners comments that rats never bite, but I think it simply depends on the rat’s early experiences and it’s genetic predispositions. They are as different in temperament to each other as dogs or even us. My rats were rescues, so unfortunately they weren’t handled much until I got them at six weeks old. Apparently, very tame rats have been handled as early as possible (for short periods) during the first three or four weeks, this period being crucial to their developing trust in human contact. I haven’t had experience with newborn rats, but we used to keep Guinea Pigs, and I handled two sets of litters literally from birth and they became extremely tame (Tufty and Flash would sprawl out like a cats on our laps while we watched TV!). I must point out that it did not unduly stress the mother Guinea (Marmalade) because she was already comfortable with us. I would presume that a nervous mum may not like her babies being “stolen” from her for those few minutes! Rodents have been known to kill their own young if they feel threatened, but I wouldn’t imagine this ever happens in an environment where the rodent mothers are tame and relaxed with human company.
Shy-Shy seems to have a wild streak in him, he’s much more alert and faster than the other boys, and definitely the brightest of the bunch (it’s maybe the agouti line, I don’t know) and he reminds me a lot of Ratty (agouti too) who was also very territorial. If any one has any thoughts on this please feel free to add a comment.

I nearly forgot to add – Shy-Shy said he was “sorry” afterwards by tenderly licking my fingers – awww!

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating chickpeas and wholegrain rice

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