Interpreting pet rat bites
It will happen eventually; your pet rats will bite you. But most of the time, their reason for biting you is not because they want to eat you, or because they don’t like you, or whatever negative you take to mean a bite. No, most of the time, they are probably showing you some love and affection.
Lacking speech, rats communicate in different ways. Sometimes they do it with their teeth. Since we are not covered in fur, rat bites can sometimes sting us. Bites vary in severity, and it is important for pet rat owners to distinguish what the rat bites mean. Most rat bites do not harm our skin. Some are just small pinches, while others are a bit harsher. It is rare for a pet rat bite to penetrate human skin. When it happens, many times, it is the owner’s fault.
Gentle pinching can be interpreted as a kind of grooming. Yes, rats love to groom each other and if you keep them as pets they will probably groom you because they like you too. These bites can be considered displays of affection. Do not withdraw your hand when a rat is doing this. Typically, a pet rat will scrape its teeth into your skin to groom you. Other times, gentle pinching can also be perceived as something a rat does to test what kind of being you are and what you are made of, especially when it is still new in your care. It is because the rat is curious and not because it is hungry. However, there are times when a pet rat may lick and bite you because it wants to taste you. But this only happens when you’ve just recently handled some food and didn’t wash your hands.
There are also some times when a rat is grumpy and not really interested in playing. When you tease him while he’s feeling this way, prepare for a stronger pinch. This type of bite may be more difficult, but it is certainly not strong enough to break your skin. At times like these, leave the rat alone and do not disturb it. It will come to you when he’s ready to play and be petted, eventually.
Hard bites that do not break the skin can also be interpreted as a kind of game that rats like to play. Your rats may think it’s fun, but since these types of rat bites sting a lot more than light bites, you should probably try a tagline to let them know that you don’t like these types of games. Don’t get mad at them, just find a solution to stop them from doing it. Do whatever works as long as they learn that tapping is good, but cutting hard is definitely bad.
It is rare for a pet rat bite to bleed. However, it happens, most likely because it scared or freaked him out so much that his first reaction is to bite hard. Remember that rats are often prey due to their size and therefore easily startled. Do not start them.
Pet rat bites are usually not that harsh. Just remember that for a pet rat, a bite is a form of communication or a sign of affection. Don’t be afraid because your rat bit you. It just shows you how much he likes you.