Illnesses & Behavior

Common Illnesses

  1. Upper Respiratory Infection
    All rats carry a bacteria in their system called mycoplasma. This bacteria causes the majority of URIs in
    rats. Symptoms include a red discharge called porphyrin
    (not blood) around their nose, eyes, and ears. rats will make wheezing, crackling, gasping noises, and have difficulty breathing. Rats with URIs can have sucked in sides, puff up their fur, and can be lethargic. Antibiotic treatment is required and includes amoxicillin, baytril, and doxycycline.
    It is common for rats to get sniffly within the first week of moving to a new home. These new-home sniffles should go away within two weeks.
  2. Abscess
    Abscesses are extremely common in rats. They begin as a large lump. If an abscess is suspected, a warm compress a few times a day will help it come to a head and burst. Abscesses must heal from the inside out, or it risks infection getting trapped in the body. Rats heal amazingly well from these wounds and generally need very little intervention. If you wish, the wound can be rinsed with sterile saline and sprayed with Vetericyn spray. Do not use neosporin or hydrogen peroxide.
  3. Parasites
    Good news: Rat mites and fleas are species-specific and won’t be passed on to you or other pets.
    Bad news: they can travel in your pet’s food and bedding.
    There are many options for parasite control, but the best option is to purchase cat/kitten Revolution from your vet. Give your rat one drop of the solution behind its head once a month. Dose every rat living in the cage. It is important to find a vet willing to treat rats. They are considered exotics, and not all vets will treat rats. Be sure to find a vet for your pet rats prior to bringing them home.

Behavior

Rats are social animals, and because of this, must be kept in pairs at minimum. Scientific
studies prove rats kept without rat friends are more likely to become depressed and aggressive. They also become ill more often, die sooner, and can begin to self-mutilate.

Rats live in groups called mischiefs. They have a hierarchy within the mischief.
When establishing a hierarchy, rats make noises, tussle, power groom, box, and display other dominant behaviors. Unless blood is being drawn, let it go. If you interfere,
you are just prolonging the creation of the hierarchy.


Rats make a variety of noises that mean they are happy (generally called chittering or bruxing. ) A very happy rat may even boggle. Boggling occurs when a rat grinds its back teeth rapidly, causing its eyeballs to bounce back and forth in its sockets.


A stressed rat will stay hidden and will puff out its fur. A rat in pain may puff up its fur, suck in its sides, and/or squint its eyes. This is known as the Rat Grimace Scale. Rats are prey animals and do not display pain or illness clearly.


You have to learn to read the tiny signs of a rat in distress.

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