Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Mouse The Rat's Toe-Nipping Habit

By Shellyane Bryan
A rat owner from England shares tales of living with her rats named Mouse, Slinky and Diddy.

Click image to enlarge
rats Diddy and Slinky
Photo Courtesy Shellyane Bryan

Rats Diddy and Slinky (front) keep alert to protect their toes.

My rat Mouse is not aggressive. She is a calm rat who has never bitten me, or given me any reason to distrust her. This is why it baffles me that she has an obsession with biting the toes of other rats that are otherwise minding their own business.

I understood why she used to yank my rat Dumbo’s ears (though I have yet to see her do this to my rats Diddy or Slinky). That was purely a show of dominance, but I can find little to no information about toe nipping!

Both Slinky and Diddy have ended up with bleeding toes because of Mouse’s unusual little habit. She especially seems to enjoy biting their toes when they’re on the other side of the bars; and she doesn’t just nip, she holds on! I don’t know if she is just being playful and doesn’t realize that she’s also causing pain — though their squeaks should really give it away! Mouse isn’t an unintelligent rat, after all.

Perhaps it’s no more than a show of dominance. She is definitely alpha rat among my current three rats, though Slinky is starting to give her a run for her money, even with her small stature. Diddy still seems a bit nervous at times, but I think it’s Mouse that’s making her feel on edge. Mouse could worry the Italian mafia with her Jabba the Hutt gut and steely gaze.

I realized today that I’m still not entirely OK about losing Dumbo. It’s odd that we get so desperately attached to our pets — to the point where they leave a void in your life when they’re gone, especially when they live for such a short period of time. I see Diddy’s head sometimes and forget she’s not Dumbo; and even though Slinky acts just like her, it’s never quite the same. Like people, pet rats are irreplaceable.

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