Q: “My rat sneezes a lot, breathes funny, and has some blood around his nose and/ or eyes. What’s wrong?”
A: This is THE MOST COMMON question I am asked. These symptoms usually indicate an Upper Respiratory Infection. This is the result of using pine or cedar bedding, allowing ammonia to build up in the rat’s cage/aquarium, or simply old age when the rat’s immune system is weakened. Symptoms include: sneezing, porphyrin staining around the nose and eyes, (often mistaken for blood) wheezing, and labored breathing. You must take the rat to a vet for proper diagnosis and treatment. An Upper Respiratory Infection can be controlled with antibiotics, but if left untreated it will develop into pneumonia, and your pet will die. My advice is to keep the rat in a proper (clean) living environment (no pine or cedar), and get veterinary treatment as soon as you notice a problem.
Q: “My rat scratches himself a lot and has scabs all over his body, but I don’t think he has any fleas.”
A: These symptoms indicate an infestation of mites, which are little creatures that burrow into the rat’s skin. Consult your vet for treatment.
Q: “My rat has a lump on her tummy, is it an abscess or what?”
A: No, most likely it is a mammary gland tumor, they are the most common type of tumor in rats. They are usually benign. It is best to get the tumor removed as soon as possible, they can grow very, very large, and complications could make your rat ill. There is always a chance that the tumor is not benign, and it can and probably will spread to the rat’s lungs, so if you see anything that looks like a tumor, get it checked out and removed before it gets out of hand.
Q: “My rat has very long nails, can I trim them?”
A: Yes! Nail trimming is very important! When trimming nails be sure to only trim the tip, don’t cut too far back, or you will hit the “live” part of the nail and will cause it too bleed. If you are afraid to cut the nails yourself your vet will be able to trim them for a small fee.
Q: “Can I potty train my rat? How?”
A: I have heard of people who claim they potty trained a rat, but I have NO idea how they accomplished this or what exactly it entailed.
Q: “What bedding should I use? Why are pine and cedar bad? What would happen if I tried to use pine or cedar? Is there a ‘safe’ pine or cedar bedding?”
A: The best bedding is CareFresh . CareFresh is usually available at most pet stores, but if you cant find it use shredded newspaper. Pine and cedar are bad because they have dust and oils that irritate the rat’s upper respiratory tract and cause Upper Respiratory Infections and pneumonia. There is NO ‘safe’ pine or cedar bedding. I once heard of a rat who died of an allergic reaction to a ‘safe’ pine bedding so just DON’T use it!
Q: “Can I include dog (or cat) food in my rats regular diet? He really loves it!”
A: I’ve never met a rat who didn’t like dog or cat food but don’t include it in their diet, the nutritional values are totally wrong for a rat.
Q: “Can I give my rat a bath? He smells.”
A: Yes! Baths are good for your rat! Use warm water and a mild kitten shampoo. Don’t try to blow dry him, just use a towel. Don’t give your rat too many baths because it strips the coat of oils that keep your rat shiny and protected. One bath every month or so is okay.