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Pet Rats/Is my rat sick?


This is a long one, so I apologize in advance.
I have a two year old rat named Bonnie who lost her only cagemate three weeks ago to inoperable tumors.  They were sisters and very close, and when Sway passed, I gave her a few minutes with her body to help her understand why she would be missing.  Soon after, she started hiding from me in her house and didn't want me to hold her.  I spoke with a breeder and set up an adoption as soon as possible so she wouldn't be lonely.  I purchased a new cage that is much larger than her old cage and already moved her in to get her used to it before the new rats came.  I picked up four new baby girls last Saturday to slowly introduce them to her.  They are currently quarantined in a separate part of the house and so far sem perfectly healthy.

Yesterday I noticed Bonnie was acting a bit more lathargic than usual and was not coming out of her igloo at all.  I picked it up to check on her and she seemed fine, except she appeared to be breathing heavily and squeaked when I tried to pick her up.  She was never the most social rat, so I'm not sure if this is something to be concerned with or if she's simply depressed from being in a new cage and alone.  I plan to take her to the vet this weekend.  Should I take her sooner than that?  Could it just be depression, or is it possibly something worse?


Its really hard to say. From your description, it could be depression from the loss of her cage mate...or it could be a respiratory issue setting in, possibly due to the new babies (to "properly" quarantine you would technically need to have had the babies in a separate air space, which would mean outside of the house)....or it could just be coincidence that old age is setting in (average lifespan of a rat is about 2-3 years of age). I could recommend having her see a vet, just to be safe. If she is ill, you would not want her getting the babies sick.

I am sorry I don't have a better answer but hope this helped!

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Shawna Laufer


Nutrition has always been an interest of mine as well as creating stimulating environments for rats. I conduct product reviews on my blog so I can take questions regarding products marketed or intended for rats. Other questions regarding basic husbandry, feeding, grooming, and other pet rat care will be accepted. I have very little breeding experience so I would not be able to answer much in the ways of breeding or genetics questions. I can help with some basic health care questions but am not a vet and always suggest contacting your vet for serious inquires.


I have over 13 years of experience with pet rats, having worked in several pet stores, as a veterinary tech assistant, and with my own pet rats. I run a highly regarded blog on the subject of pet rat ownership ( with a corresponding YouTube channel and Facebook page. I have been and always will be open to questions and comments.

A photograph of my lady rat's cage is being published in Worth Publishers' college textbook "How Children Develop, 4e" by Robert Siegler, Judy DeLoache and Nancy Eisenberg on the subject of how complex, stimulating environments and how they relate to the brains of rats.

I have some college experience, but not in the field of animals. I completed the majority of an at-home Veterinary Technician course which I was unable to complete due to financial reason. The majority of my knowledge on rats have come from personal experience, conducting my own research with the help of published medical studies and journal, the internet and through other knowledgeable 'rat people'.

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