Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Rat Behaviors

By Shellyane Bryan
A rat owner from England shares tales of living with her first rat, Queen Dumbo Duncanson-Bryan, and a rat named Mouse.

Photos Courtesy of Shellyane
Bruxing is one of the most common rat behaviors, though spouts for dominance are also observed.

I’ve been doing research into rat behavior this week. I researched everything from what it means when rats grind their teeth to what it means when rats lie on their backs on the bottom of the cage as if they are dead. The most commonly known rat quirk is bruxing, which is tooth grinding rats do when they are both happy and stressed (confusing, huh?). Bruxing also grinds down sharp teeth. Sometimes when rats grind their teeth together, their eyes also boggle in and out of the sockets, which is something I find a little bit disturbing.

Now, I’ve never known any of my rats to viciously attack one another, but they have given a few nips from time to time. When I first introduced Mouse to Dumbo, she got a few kicks to the face and a few nips here and then when Dumbo lost patience with her. On one occasion, I had to clean up a small scrape on her ear.

Another thing I notice is Mouse tugging on Dumbo’s ears, especially when she gets near the door of the cage. I discovered this was a sign of dominance between them, and seeing as Mouse was just a baby at the time, this leaves Dumbo looking like a poor old lady! She has since reasserted her dominance, even though from time to time when they are fighting, Mouse gets Dumbo pinned on her back. Dumbo protects the areas of her body that are vulnerable when they are play-fighting. Sometimes, while Dumbo is on her back, Mouse starts to groom her. This is a sign that she isn’t finished playing and is preparing to nip, but this play-fighting is basically a sign of friendship.

One of the most irritating rat behaviors is scenting. It doesn’t matter where Dumbo is or how long she has been out of the cage, without a doubt, she scents at least once. Scenting is when a rat leaves a small trail of urine behind for the purpose of marking its territory. This annoying little instinctive habit has been the cause of many loads in the washing machine. It’s also a little embarrassing to have your friends think your pet rat is urinating all over them. I’m just thankful Mouse hasn’t started doing that yet.

Oh, just as an ending note, Dumbo and Mouse are now fit and healthy!

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Reader Comments
I've been doing research on rats too because I'd like to get some one of these days. I loved the reference to how confusing "bruxing" is. It made me laugh because cats are the same way in that they purr when they are happy or stressed. I'm glad I found your blog!
Amber, Benicia, CA
Posted: 2/12/2009 9:35:54 AM
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