Pet Rats/Tumors


My Cinnamon
My Cinnamon  

I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable when it comes to pet rats, having owned many over the past several years and also as a child. However, I am struggling with a problem that I've seen several of my rats go through.

I have mostly owned female rats, two at a time, as cagemates. I have cherished my rats and hopefully given them everything they've desired and needed as a rat "mom." I don't have other friends or family that has ever owned rats, nor do I know anyone that doesn't see them as "pests" or "disgusting."

So I am in need of some opinions and advice. I have never spayed my female rats, mostly in fear because they are so small and on females, it seems to be such an involved operation. #Obviously, a little simpler with males.# I am fearful of putting my rats through the stress of a vet visit and surgery, not to mention due to them both being female cagemates, I've never really had a real reason to put them through the stress. At least I thought so in the beginning when I was less informed.

Over the past few years, I've learned that by spaying female rats, it lessens the chance of a tumor. I have seen some of my girls have tumors that continued to grow very large, mostly around their hind legs. I've been lucky enough to own rats that, while having these tumors, were not afflicted with them until they were much older, and didn't develop any other problems besides slowed mobility. They passed on due to age, I believe, not from the tumor, or so I'm almost certain. There is always that chance that of course, because they cannot speak, there were symptoms I wasn't able to discover in their behavior.

When you love your pets so dearly, however, you always second guess yourself and live with the guilt - did I allow this to happen? Did she suffer because of my ignorance? Should I have taken my girls to the vet and take the risk of surgery in order to lengthen their life and lessen the chance of tumors?

I am an animal lover, they are my children, and in no way do I want them to suffer. I cannot handle a pet even being unhappy for the slightest moment. So as a fellow rat owner, I was just wondering what your opinion on this matter is. I just don't know anyone else that can help me with this, and I fear that, while the vet's opinion is always to opt for the surgery, they also cannot control the risk of surgery or anesthesia to some individual pets.

Also, this is off topic, but I can't help but ask - I noticed under your publications entry, you listed that you are a columnist on Pet Business magazine. Is this is a magazine for pet owners? I've been searching for an affordable pet magazine to subscribe to. I realize everything is going "digital" now and I'm only 27, but I often prefer having an actual magazine in my hands, and have been looking for all-pets type of magazine. I subscribe to DogFancy, CatFancy but I cannot find an all-pets magazine that's affordable or not digital. The digital ones are never monthly either! Only twice a year, etc.  Sorry about the off-topic question, but I couldn't help myself with that.

Thanks for taking your time in reading this. I really appreciate the opinions of fellow rat owners.
I also do pet photography and am trying to make rats irresistible to the public eye, as many people in my local area believe they are "gross." Thanks again!

Hi Amber,
Having female rats spayed definitely reduces their chance of both mammary and pituitary tumors, and I recommend it when you have a vet who is experienced in doing surgery on pocket pets. I have an article about surgery on my website with points that you can discuss with your vet to make sure your vet is knowledgable about the best way to do surgery on rats do reduce the possible risk.

Pet Business magazine is a trade magazine for pet shops, not for pet owners.  I only know of 2 magazines for pocket pets, one is in England. The other is Critters magazine which only comes out once a year. Sorry. I invite you to join the non-profit I run, the Rat Assistance & Teaching Society, if you want to get our quarterly rat newsletter.  See the website at

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Debbie Ducommun


I can answer any questions about pet rats, but you will probably be able find answers to simple questions more quickly on my website at If you have a life-threatening emergency you can try calling me at 530-899-0605. I am not usually on the computer on the weekend.


I have been "The Rat Lady" since 1985 and am recognized as one of the world's experts on pet rats. I have 3 published books and already answer lots of questions about rats daily.

President of Rat Assistance & Teaching Society

I am a monthly columnist for Pet Business magazine, and my writing has appeared in other magazines. I have 3 published books.

BA in Animal Behavior

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