If your pet rat is biting or nipping, your health risks are probably relatively low. However, you still need to follow standard first aid practices every time you are bitten. If a wild rat has bitten you, you need to seek medical treatment immediately.
Treating Rat Bites
- Assess the damage the bite has done.
- If the wound is minor, meaning that it barely broke the skin or did not break the skin at all, you can wash it thoroughly with warm water and an antiseptic soap for at least 15 minutes. Apply an antibiotic cream, then cover the wound with a bandage if needed.
- If the wound broke or tore the skin and there is substantial tissue damage or bleeding, apply pressure with a bandage or clean towel to stop the bleeding as best as you can. Seek emergency medical care from a qualified professional immediately.
- If you believe the injury could become infected or has become infected, go to the doctor immediately. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, oozing and pain.
Rodents actually pose a relatively low risk for rabies infection, but you should contact your doctor immediately if you suspect there is even the slightest chance that the rat that bit you might have been exposed to or be carrying rabies. If the rat that bit you was a wild animal rather than a pet, you must contact your doctor to discuss your risks. Rats can carry several diseases in their saliva including leptospirosis, hantavirus and rat bite fever.
Working With Your Rat
If you are being bitten or nipped by your pet rat, you need to teach him to stop biting you. Pet rats bite for an assortment of reasons including fear, stress, aggression or to protect themselves or their young from a perceived threat. Determine why your rat is biting and then work to correct the problem.
- If your rat is biting out of fear, try to remove whatever is causing him to feel the fear from his environment.
- If your male rat is behaving aggressively, have him surgically fixed to remove hormonal urges.
- If your rat is biting due to a lack of socialization, handle him more often to acclimate him to people.
Do not reward your rat with food or by putting him immediately back in the cage after he bites you. Rewarding him for biting will encourage him to continue this behavior.