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Pet Rats/rat acting odd


QUESTION: I have had my rat for four weeks.  He went from being very frightened and biting to lovely and sweet and playful.  A couple of nights ago, he started acting oddly.  He would walk, lay on his side.  He flattened himself like a pancake.  I was very worried, he would crawl along in his cage and stop and flatten himself.  I took him to the vet the next morning(he was acting fine by then) and they said he was in good health.  He does have tiny red specks in his fur.  I didn't see bugs, and the vet checked under the microscope and didn't see anything.  He recommended I bring him back for a dip in a day or two.  I have an appointment for Friday.  Since this started he no longer sleeps in his wooden house.  He sleeps next to it.  Do you think it could be a parasite?  The only things that have happened since the first incident, is that I cleaned his whole cage out and didn't leave any old bedding material in his house.  I replaced it all.  The vet estimates he is about 3 to 4 months old.  I adopted him from a shelter, he came from a vet tech lab.

ANSWER: Hi Joanne,
Do not take your rat to the vet to be "dipped." External parasites in rat should be treated differently, but it he doesn't have visible bugs or scabs, he does not need to be treated.

Has it been warmer than usual in your home lately? Because the behavior you described sounds like a rat who is hot.

BTW, do you plan to get him a friend? Rats do best with a buddy.

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QUESTION: It has been very hot this week. I have air conditioning but it is definately a bit warmer inside. Can you tell me what the specks are in his fur. It looks like dandruff but it is reddish in color. I would like to get him a friend but I was advised against it because when he was brought to the shelter a student from the vet tech program took him and another male rat and this one was fighting with the other. That's why he brought him to the shelter. Can you tell what if anything I should do about his skin and should I just lower the temp in the house a bit or can I do something else?  Thank you.

Sorry, I should have said something about the dandruff. This is normal in adult male rats. The skin on their back tends to be oily, and the oil tends to be red or orange, so it is not anything to worry about.  If it bothers you, you can bathe him.  I think he must be older than 3-4 months. How long have you had him, and has he grown during that time?  It is also unusual for a male rat that young to be fighting with other rats, so I think he must be more like 8 months old. That's too bad that he seems to be aggressive with other rats. Neutering would stop that, but it is also okay for him to be alone if you can give him a lot of attention.

It is okay to allow the temperature in your home to get up to 85-90, but not above that for your rat's comfort and health. You could blow a fan toward his cage to make him more comfortable in warm temps.

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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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