Rat Bite Fever
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has shared that people can contract Rat Bite Fever in multiple ways. Infection can be spread through bites and scratches from an infected rodent which includes rats, gerbils and mice. It can also be spread without a scratch or bite, and just by handling a diseased animal. It is not spread from person to person, only rodent to person or through contaminated food or drink. The CDC has also gone on record to say that Rat Bite Fever is rarely fatal and is very treatable with antibiotics. People who work with rats or live in rat infested buildings are at a high risk of infection and the CDC recommends that people who handle rats wear gloves and wash their hands often. As of 2004 there have only been around 200 cases of Rat Bite Fever documented in the United States.
Over the years, Tiny Toes has rescued rats who were initially so frightened that they bit staff members. Some staff members have handled rats for 15 years, been bitten many dozens of times, and never experienced adverse effects. Rat Bite Fever is so rare that we feel no need to wear gloves. All animals, including humans, can carry disease. Cats can carry Cat Scratch Fever. Dogs can carry Rabies. The list goes on.
By Debbie Ducommun
Do Pet Rats Bite? Like dogs, most pet rats do not bite. However, there are two main reasons rats might bite:
1. Rats will defend themselves and their territory (cage), especially if their rat family includes babies. Some will bite strangers if they poke their fingers into the cage or in front of the rat’s face. Rats may also bite when scared, startled, or hurt.
2. Rats will sometimes grab your finger instead of a piece of food or something else they really want, or grab too hard if they smell food on your fingers. Or, if you feed your rat through the bars of his cage, he may get into the habit of grabbing anything that's poked in like fingers.
To prevent getting bitten by rats, here are some rules:
1. Wash food smell off your hands before playing with rats.
2. Instruct visitors and children not to stick their fingers through the bars of the cage. And always take your rat out of his cage before letting strangers pet him.
3. Never tease your rat, especially with food.
4. Give your rat a signal when you give him a treat, like saying the word “treat” or making a clicking sound, so he won’t get in the habit of grabbing your fingers when you don’t have a treat for him.
5. Use care when there are babies in the cage. Other rats besides the mother may be protective of babies.
6. Don’t startle your rat by grabbing at him too quickly. Talk to him first, wake him up, and make sure he knows you’re going to pick him up.
7. Be very cautious when handling a rat that’s hurt or scared. You may even want to wrap him in a towel before picking him up.
8. Be cautious with new rats, especially older rats. Until they get to know you, they may not trust you and might bite if you reach for them inside their cage. Try inviting them to come out first.
9. Handle your rat frequently—every day is best. A rat that isn’t handled for a while may become distrustful or neurotic and start biting.