Pet Sort-Out


Why Does My Pet Rat Nibble Or Bite Me Softly?

Feature Image Of Why Does My Pet Rat Nibble Me

Fancy pet rats are the most adoptable pets globally. It is mostly because of their calm, smart and friendly nature. We love to watch them explore almost everything in our house and those cute pairs of front teeth are the cherry on the cake. Rat teeth are also sharp tools your pet baby could be using as a defense.

Yes, pet rats indeed nibble and bite their human parents too! Now if you ask why they do such activities then the scientific answer will be Rats softly bite or nibble when they are projecting domination, going through hormonal changes, disliking your choice of play or cuddle time, hormonal surges, or as a post-trauma response. 

In this article below we will discuss all the causes of rats nibbling in detail. We will also move on to understand the reasons behind such behaviors and look into preventive measures. 

Why Do Rats Nibble?

Our nasty little pet rat babies undoubtedly make great pets, playmates, and cuddle buddies. Spending time with our animal therapists feels distressing and emotionally fulfilling. Rats too love human companionship and adore their human parents.

Pet rats are often seen tickling, nibbling, and exploring all of their human parents. Aggressive biting is very rare in healthy pet rats. However, if your pet rat buddy seems to be aggressive and biting you and other family members often, you need to look into the habit with a serious eye. [Source: Royal Veterinary College, UK]

Rat bites can also be the result of behavioral and biological setbacks. Here are some reasons for your better understanding.

Biological Bites

Sometimes pet rat bites have biological issues as the root cause. As pet rat owners, we must have a keen eye on the daily responses and activities of our pet furry friends. Proper identification of these biological factors that may cause severe results later is important. 

Here are major biological issues that may cause pet rats to bite or nibble their human parents:

  • Keen Hearing: Rats are very sensitive to noise. Any noise or music that is loud to human ears is even louder to rat ears. Physically pet rats have small ears their behavioral oral hearing power is extremely strong. Any sudden cracking sound, loud music, random noises, car honking can create irritation and stress among our little rodent pets. This stress may cause them to bite and project strong annoyance to certain loud situations. As responsible pet parents, it is our responsibility to keep in check any such volume rise in and around the living space of our pet fur babies.
  • Hormonal Changes: Hormonal changes are a part of the growth in all living animals. Pet rats are no exception! hormonal male rats show vicious and dominating behavior while growing years. This happens due to slow and sudden surges in testosterone levels in male rats. Pregnant females will also develop biting tendencies if disturbed and not taken proper care of. Stressed-out pet rats can also use nibbling and biting to show their irritation. Neutering your rats can also help you calm them down and stop further biting habits. 
  • Pink Eyes: If your rats have pink eyes, chances are that their eyes are weak. Visually disabled rats are very cautious about any movement towards or around them! Aggressive biting and strong nibbles can be a newly developed defense mechanism for such pink-eyed fancy pet rats. It is advisable to approach, feed and care for these rats very gently. Patience and effort and proper training are highly required to handle pink-eyed or any other disabled, sick, and hurt rats.
  • Injury or Illness: Your perfectly looking rat may be suffering in silence without your knowledge. Many times, physical ailments keep growing slowly inside the rat body without any proper physical outer changes. If you do not identify such illness in your rats prior, chances are they will rush to bite and nibble you to project vulnerability, sickness. In such cases of sudden aggressive biting, immediate veterinary advice is required. 
  • Newly Developed Awareness: While shifting homes, frequently changing the rat cage placing or any external product, bigger pet, or any other item that may cause threat and dislike in your pet rat baby can make them bite and get aggressive. Rats are calm animals but dominant and territorial by nature. Anything, animal, or person who tends to threaten their personal space can be victim to strong bites. It will be a wise choice to allow your beloved pet friend some space and privacy whenever required.

Behavioral Bites

Behavioral rat bites could be caused due to: 

  • Least Human Interaction: Mostly with rescued rats and new store-bought baby rats who have the least prior human interaction, bites are common. It takes time to train aggressive rats in these situations. However, with proper training, daily care, and ample love it becomes easy to heal these much-deserving pet rats. 
  • Interpreting Fingers As Food: While feeding your rats, they may sometimes mistake your fingers for their food. If you have a tendency or you may love to feed your fur babies with your hand, it is time to change the habit!   However, if you are someone who loves to add personal touches while feeding your beloved pet baby, we advise placing the treats or food on your palm and encourage them to come and eat from your flat upright facing palm. This way it will be easy for rats to identify their food and not bite or nibble mistakenly.
  • Territorial Domination: Sometimes when you have more than one and you try to shower equal love on each one of them, the dominating male may rush to bite or nibble you. Sometimes it is due to a sense of domination that everything belongs to the dominating male rat. These territorial rat bites are nothing to worry about until it becomes aggressive and severely hurtful.

I hope these reasons help you understand the reasons behind your pet rat biting and nibbling you. However, as you identify the rat’s habit of biting, it is also crucial to understand the type of bites before you jump to any conclusion and seek professional help.

Types of Biting

When a pet rat parent complains about their pet rat biting or nibbling, it is something to be noted or concerned about. Rats are very calm, polite, and happy little animals. Though territorial, rats are not aggressive

As biting and nibbling habits among rats sprout from different causes, it is important to note the kind of biting they project and when. Here are a few types of biting that you can consider before concluding anything about your beloved pet rats.

  • Test Biting by Rat babies  

The most common type of biting or nibbling habit is test biting. When small teeth start appearing in baby rats, they try on the sets of newfound gifts on everything and everyone. Nibbling in this case is very gentle and there is nothing to be bothered with baby rats trying their teeth on you. It rarely hurts. However, these bites can feel little pricking and a slight, gentle backstory on your baby rats will help them understand your dissatisfaction

However, in growing pet rats gentle nibbling is also a reflexive action for self-grooming. Rats also nibble on their cage mates to eat away skin worms or parasites sometimes.

  • Fear or Trauma Biting

Many times, especially with rescued rats who are later adopted by loving pet parents, they report aggressive and biting behavior from their new pet member. Biting and nibbling in rats sometimes roots from past trauma and memory of unhealthy human interaction. If you try to hold, cuddle or play with a traumatized pet rat, chances are they will bite you. Love is alien to these small baby rats. 

It is heartbreaking to see our little pet rat babies suffer from past traumas. However, patience and guided rat training is the only way to heal from this situation of trauma rat biting.

  • Cheeky Biting

Our curious and super-smart rat babies love to play whenever possible. Rats love human companionship and can turn to nibble into a game anytime. Cheeky bites are gentle quick bites and run-away games curated by our pet rats. It is fun and cute to watch them nibbling and running away playfully. 

However, your inattentive playfulness can make them grow a bad habit of severely biting on you and other family members. It is better to pick your rat up gently and tell a strict NO! We sometimes have to be strict parents to help our furry friends build a healthy and happy life for us and themselves too. 

  • Scratching or Nibbling on Fingers

Rat babies will scratch and nibble you mostly when interacting from outside the cage. Pet parents often experience scratching or gentle nibbling, while feeding rats through cage bars or approaching them with their fingers through cage gaps.

Feeding through the cage frequently will create a mindset in your pet rats that anything approaching them is food! Your fingers are not accepting and thus they end up biting you. Also, dominant male rats may feel the threat of something or someone approaching their living space. They may also end up scratching you with sharp paw nails in defense and aggression. 

However, mostly these scratching and finger nibbles are harmless or slight wounds. You may simply wash your wound under running water to clean it and apply an antibacterial ointment if required

  • Aggressive Biting Attack

Bites by growing or teenage rats is another common situation many rat parents face. During the growing weeks or months of a male rat, it is natural to feel testosterone surges. This hormonal surge makes male rats project their domination and territorial aggression in a relationship. 

Female rats throw tantrums and aggressive behavior and bites if they develop polycystic ovaries. Hormonal changes are a normal part of the maturity process but can create enough stress among these little fur babies. 

The aggressive bites are caused due to such hormonal changes that come without any prior caution and can create deep hurts and wonders in humans. Proper wound dressing and seeking immediate medical help is advisable for such wounds. 

Similar to humans, rats can have different personalities depending upon the environment they are growing up in. Sometimes they can be competitive towards social hierarchy, flirtatious towards female cage mates, or maybe distressed due to any other reason. 

As pet rat parents we are responsible for finding the root cause of their stress and help them heal from past traumas and aggressive bites. 

How To Stop Your Rat From Nibbling?

Welcoming home a pet rat is not going to be easy. Rats are indeed very calm and soft-natured animals who love human companionship. However, as mentioned earlier in this article, rats can develop a habit of biting or nibbling due to various reasons. 

However, fancy pet rats show signs before nibbling or attacking their human parents or other family members. You will find them signaling irritation or try escaping before using those sharp teeth tools. [Source: Rodent Husbandry and Care]

Rat signals biting or attacking by:

  • Lifting their chin.
  • Displaying teeth with a wide-open mouth.
  • Raising their front paws.


  • Flaring up with raised hairs on the back.

If you are worried about your rat baby’s nibbling habit due to aggressive behavior or any other reason, let me confirm that you can change it. Here are a few rat training tricks and tips you may love to try to stop your pet rat from nibbling.

  • The Faulty Bite

Trick your rat to bite a harder object or food they dislike. Simply while playing or cuddling your pet rat, keep a hardy little piece of the object they dislike. Whenever your rat tries to bite you, use this hardy item as a whip and allow them to bite on your proposed object.

It is mostly when the whip is hard enough against rat teeth or they taste any unlikely food, chances are they will stop biting or nibbling.

However, as responsible pet parents, we must be gentle during this process. We do not want to harm them anyway or break their precious cute teeth.

  • The Fun Punishment

Well, I am not trying to be mean or hurt our rat babies anyway. Please understand that this trick will only make your smart rat baby stop their habit of biting. 

During playtime or when your rat rushes to nibble you hold them up with a soft and oversized sock and pull the socks around them. This will make them stay inside a pocket and help you carry them around easily without you stressing about them nibbling you or your clothes. Playfully try this trick and it will stop your smart pet baby from biting you any further!

  • Tell Them YOU are the Boss

 Yes, we love our pet babies unconditionally and shower them with all the good treats and nutritious foods, and happy toys possible. But, let them know that you are the boss in the house. It is thus better to keep away their territorial habit and stop nibbling you whenever you try to play or cuddle them. 

You can try to hold them up gently in your hands until they stop fighting back or using their teeth. 

You can also treat them, tickle them and groom them up if they respond well to your compassionate training. After all, they are our lovely pet babies!

  • Love and Care is your Only Answer

If your pet rat has suffered from any critical trauma before or was raised in an unhealthy situation, chances are they do not like much human interference. It is usual for rescued rats to bite and nibble their new loving parents to defend themselves. 

In such cases, it is better to slow down and train your new buddy with immense love and support. 

You can also keep away from pet rat biting and nibbling by wearing gloves during play hours, rat-proofing your house and play area, or keeping the rat confined!

Training an abused rat may need time and effort. However, it is fun to train a healthy rat to prevent nibbling. I hope these simple rat training tricks help you in the process. Happy pet rat parenting!