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Pet Rats/baby rat acting strangely


hello Irene, I have a rat behavior question for you. got two baby rats about a month ago. my girl blue and my wifes rat is bearkat.  blue is a little more shy than bearkat, as she's always more hesitant to come out of her cage. we got them as feeders but we're well on our way to socializing these sweeties. right to the point, we got home tonight after being away for awhile and we wanted to put the rats in our hoodies(since we're body training them), like we usually will do at night. tonight we came back and while I was greeting them in their cage, bearcat, blue cohosh's sister, and blue both approached at the same time. since bearcat was right there, my wife just scooped her up pretty quickly, and blue seemed to back off after that. then it was really hard for me to get her out of her cage. I finally managed to do so, but she just froze in my hoodie, very sloooooowwwly circling my torso(she usually gets hyper, running all around on me). id peek and and try to give her her favorite treats but she wouldn't take them. then I noticed she had something dried on her face, matting up her fur, a small distance from her eye although the fur around her eye was dry/fine. I cant think of what she could have gotten into, or if it is related to anything. she kept hiding behind me, in the back of my hoodie, which is not like her as she loves to run around in my sleeve. I decided to finally put her back in her cage with her sister. when I did, she didn't want to come out of my hoodie! I had to try and nudge her out of my hoodie to get her to go into her cage. I eventually gently dug her out and placed her in her cage, and she and promptly scooted into her fish, which is a closed off, container like structure with a small hole for her to enter into. so basically shes acting really scared or anti social. we then put bearkat back into the cage, and blue wouldn't play with her or anything, like they usually would when they both reunite.

I visited a friend earlier and was petting their dog and cat, so I wonder if blue was smelling their scent on me and it spooked her: but her sister bearcat was just fine, and im almost centainly sure she's never had contact with any dog or cat and so I wouldn't think she'd recognize the smell.

we always have plenty of food, water, bedding, and things to play with for our girls in their cage.

would you have any hints or ideas on this?


Hi Doddi, it is most likely nothing to worry about.  In fact, since you wrote to me, I'll bet she's already back to her old playful self.  In my experience, ALL of the rats I've ever had occasionally act like that and all of mine are/were generally playful as well.  Rats occasionally get "spooked", by what, we may never know.  I live in California and my thoughts are earthquakes that we cannot feel but animals can.  Sometimes it is a loud noise or something new they may see in the distance that spooks them.  Regardless of the reason, every time this happens (which is very seldom), that rat (and sometimes more than one at a time) will act very strange.  Sometimes, they just hide out and don't come out even to eat, sometimes they stand on their hind legs in a corner or behind something and just sniff the air endlessly, and they don't come when it's time to play whereas normally, they race to me for playtime.  This "spooked" behavior often lasts for hours and often the entire day, but the next day, they are back to normal.  The best thing to do when they are in this state is to leave them be and allow them to "get over it" on their own.  I wouldn't encourage forcing playtime if she doesn't want it or it will spook her more.

Now, there is a chance that she is ill, but I really do doubt it.  Was the dried stuff you saw close to her eyes reddish or a reddish-brown in color, or clear?  If it had a reddish color, it is likely porphyrin, which is a secretion that rats get around their eyes and/or nose when they are under stress.  If it is porphyrin, the stress was probably a result of her being spooked by something.  Rats also are stressed when they are ill.  If they are very ill, you will not only see porphyrin but you will see lethargy, lack of appetite, sneezing, wheazing, and/or cowering with a hunched back and fur standing up in a corner.  If her frightened behavior continues for more than a couple of days, look carefully for any of these signs, and if you see them, chances are the illness has become serious and needs to be treated immediately by a vet.  Don't wait, as waiting too long could be tragic.  Make certain that the vet you use has extensive experience with rats.  If you need help finding a good one in your area, write back with your zip code and I will help you.  It's critical you have a good vet lined up anyway in such cases of emergency, which every rat owner will experience at one time or another.

Please write back and let me know how your baby is doing now.  I hope that this response is helpful to you.

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Irene Murphy


I can answer a variety of questions regarding adoption and care of pet rats throughout their lifetimes, including questions about their health and well being, temperment, diet, bedding, cages, toys, etc. I will try to answer your questions to the best of my ability in a timely manner and I have an abundant amount of resources to help me to help you with your pet rats. I love rattie pictures, so include pics with your question if you can. You may ask me medical questions, but please be advised that I am not a vet. I may use my resources to answer some medical questions, however, I will need to refer you to your local vet with medical questions that I feel I am not qualified to address.


I have been a huge rat enthusiast for many years. Since becoming a rat owner, I have educated myself in all areas of pet rats from every resource I could find including the internet, books, conversations with local exotic vets, as well as several local rat breeders.

I have a college degree but not in the area of animals. I have obtained my extensive experience and knowlege of pet rats all on my own because in my eyes, pet rats are the most interesting and fascinating creatures you can ever imagine to have as pets. I also am saddened by how mislabeled and misunderstood these amazing and extremely smart animals are by the majority, and my mission in life has become to educate and change as many people's perceptions of rats as I possibly can.

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