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Pet Rats/Rat has died, lonely cage mate


Today, one of my pet rats (Harry) died. I believe it was from a heart attack produced by my dog bumping the cage into the wall and it making a huge noise. I tried everything to save him, CPR and everything but it didn't work and he died.
I am super devastated about this, I love him very much. I only have one other rat Norman, who is about 6 months older than Harry was (so about a year and a half) and I am super conflicted on what to do with him now. I fear he will be super lonely by the loss of his friend. He has no one to play with, to sleep with or anything.
I am becoming very busy in my life, as I work and go to university full time and I was struggling to provide enough attention to Harry and Norman before this incident so I am not very keen on getting another pet rat.
Also, introducing Harry to Norman in the beginning was difficult work and took months and months until Norman finally accepted him (after he rejects many other ratty friends) so I don't even know if he will accept a new friend.

I have thought about rehoming him, but he has been my pet rat for over a year now and it will devastate me to re-home him, but if it saves him from being lonely and depressed I guess it's the right option.

What do you think? I don't know what to do, I just need some help.

I am so sorry to about your losing your boy and I share in your sorrow as I also love one of my girls last week.  My situation is a little bit different however as I intend to keep rats for years to come.  My girl that was left behind seems a little lonely but not severely depressed so I think she'll be ok.  But I just adopted 2 new baby girls from a breeder which I plan to intro to my lonely girls once the babies are almost her size, in a month or so, so that she won't hurt them.

Now to help you.  You already know you have a few alternatives, neither of which makes you happy.  Since you sent me your question, are you seeing signs of Norman being lonely, or worse - severely depressed?  Some rats do surprisingly well after losing a mate, and others go into deep depression which sometimes causes stress which leads to illness, and possible death.   Ultimately, you will need to be the one to make the best decision for both you and Norman.  

I will try to help you by offering a suggestion.  Remember that this may not be something you agree with but it is what I would most likely do if I were in your situation, based on the assumption that Norman is showing signs of depression.  I am considering also that your life is getting busy and you won't have much time to spend with Harry.  Due to your lack of time, it is more important than ever to get Norman a new mate.  Even if you have time, nothing replaces the companionship of another rat.

I would look around at local breeders, rescues, or (as a last resort) pet stores for a male rat that is closer to Norman's age but one who is on the very mellow side.  The reason is that you want a boy who will allow Norman to be the alpha rat and the new boy being submissive.  It will be much much easier to introduce them to each other.  If you put 2 strong-willed male rats together, each will try to vie for power and dominance, a battle that may result in a very long, perhaps violent struggle that may possibly even never be resolved, and resulting in injuries or even death.  A low-key new male is critical here.  I would bring the new boy home and first quarantine him for 2 weeks before intros to ensure Norman does not contract any illness (if you adopt from a reputable breeder who keeps healthy rats, quarantine may not be required...this is my preferred option if possible).  Hopefully intros will be easy and successful.  If there is trouble, consider having the more dominant male neutered, or even both of them.  Neutering takes a few weeks to reduce the male hormone production in the body, but after that, intros should be very easy.  I know many successful cases of neutered males getting along perfectly that fought violently before the neuter.

One other important thing is to make sure you give them a very large cage, as large as you can afford and have space for.  Include in it many toys, tunnels, igloos, hammocks and a wheel, and try to check in with them even on your busiest days, even for a few minutes and offer cuddles and treats.

My answer has the best intentions for Norman and you in mind.  He would be happy to have a new cagemate, and you would not suffer from as much guilt at not giving them as much attention because they would have each other.  I hope this is helpful to you.  I would love to know what you end up deciding to do and please let me know if I can help you with anything else.

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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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