This article is from the WSSF 2009 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Karen Robbins
Teri Thompson, e-mail
Q One of my pet rats just died. I have another one, his best friend who is now left alone. He is already 1½. Should I get a new companion for him? I don’t want him to be lonely but I know he will be aggressive with another rat. Suggestions?
A Depends on the rat. They are social animals and do get lonely if left alone. Since he was living with another rat, he may be more accepting of new friends than if he had been alone since you got him. If you get two young males 6–10 weeks old and slowly introduce them to the older rat, he may accept them. You say you know he will be aggressive to another rat, how so? Was he aggressive to the one that just died? If so, then he should probably be kept alone. Neutering is the suggested route for aggressive males but the age of your guy may prohibit that—you would have to consult a vet on this.
If you do decide to get two new males, after they have gone through quarantine (www.afrma.org/quarantining.htm) and you have placed their cages near/next to each other for a couple weeks so they can get used to each other’s smell and all seems well—no puffing up, hissing, rubbing on his part because he is upset with the new males near his space—then introducing them in neutral territory (a place your rat never uses) such as a bathtub works out well. You can put some vanilla extract on everyone’s noses and genital area so they all smell the same. Some people will give everyone a bath so they all smell the same. There may be anything from serious sniffing and checking over the youngsters, to pinning them down (to show them he is boss) and them squeaking, to immediate aggressive fighting and harm to the young ones. If he does attack the babies, remove him immediately (grabbing by the base of the tail so you don’t get bit) as he could kill them or even try neutering them (it has happened) if he is serious about doing them harm. If he does attack them, then he will probably never be able to be put with them and you will need to have two separate cages (possibly in different parts of the house). Some males are fine as long as the other males are in their own cage, but get upset when they are out in the same area at different times for playtime or some may get so upset just by the smell of another male that if you handle the young ones then go to handle him, he will attack you thinking you are the other male. Some males will get upset and show aggressive behavior just by the smell of another rat next to them. In any case, aggressive rats are not to be taken lightly as the damage they can do to you or another rat can be permanent or fatal.
Q I’m in a very difficult situation. I adopted two rats from my friend who was no longer able to take good care of them. One only has three legs (amputated due to a running wheel injury). Not only is she missing a leg, she has a large tumor as well. The original owner of the rat (a different friend) used to have a vet who did operations at an affordable rate, but left town and we’ve been unable to contact her. The friend I adopted them from told me that the vet said as long as she was moving and happy, that surgery wasn’t suggested because it’s dangerous to anesthetize small animals. The tumor has gotten very large though, and I feel that it’s really important to try and remove it, because if I had a large tumor hindering my daily life, I’d sure want it gone. The only problem is I’m a college student, and I’m afraid I can’t afford the cost of removing the tumor. I love her though, and if giving her up to a charity shelter or someone who was able to afford the surgery would mean she’d be happier in the long run, I’d do it. Are there any charities you know of that would be willing to assist me in removing her tumor? I don’t want to see her lugging that awful thing around anymore. Any information you could give me would be greatly appreciated!
A My suggestion is to get the latest CrittersUSA magazine. Most all pet shops have them. In the back they have an extensive list of vets all over the country (you don’t say where you are looking for one) and lists what kind of small animal they treat. We have some vets listed in our Directory www.afrma.org/sales/afrmabks.htm#directory. You can try the Association of Exotic Animal Veterinarians at www.aemv.org. The Rat Fan Club has lists of vets on their web site for western U.S. and other countries at www.ratfanclub.org/vetrefw.html, and for Midwest and Eastern U.S. go to http://ratfanclub.org/vetref.html. You can also try contacting your local humane societies/animal shelters to see if they have an exotic animal/pocket pet vet referral or rat rescues near you. There are rat rescues around the country and a search on the Internet may find one near you. As far as prices, it varies from vet to vet. You would have to call the ones near you to find out their experience in removing tumors and how much they charge.
In regards to removing a tumor, it would depend on the age and health of the rat as far as if they would make a good candidate for surgery. Tumors should be removed if at all possible (it’s best done when the tumor is small), but if the rat has severe respiratory issues it wouldn’t be good to put it under. If the rat is 2 or over, you need to take into account that their life span is only 2–3 and putting them through surgery that late in life may be more risky than letting them live out their life with the mass. It also depends on where the tumor is located and how large it is. Large tumors are more involved with the surrounding tissues and it is a more complicated surgery. Your vet would be best able to advise you on these matters when examining your rat.