Pet Rats/Older Rat


Brownie (cat) and Charlie (rat)
Brownie (cat) and Char  
QUESTION: Hi Irene I know it's been awhile but I have a question pertaining to my now elderly female rat. My rat Skyline is going to be turning 2 yrs next month. I lately have noticed that she has had trouble moving around the cage. The cage I have is a 3 level cage with non steep ladders (i believe it's the Superpet Large Cage for Exotics#. Well she now is having trouble going up and down the ladders. She has almost fallen off the levels and i had to catch her when she actually did fall off the cage #i did catch her). So I thought that maybe I should put 2 dishes on the bottom of the cage for food and water since the other dishes are near the top of the cage. I just don't know what to do should I transfer Skyline with her sister Bella into a single level cage so that there is no ladders to climb? I'm just afraid she will really hurt herself being in that cage. Please if theres anything else I should know about older rats please include it in your answer. Thank You So Much

ANSWER: Hi Sydney, I do remember you :) and it has been a while.  Thank you for including pics of your rats...they look so sweet!

You absolutely should move your girls to a single-level cage to prevent injury.  Make sure that the level is nice and spacious so they don't feel confined.  Make sure that food and water very easy to get to for Skyline.  If you notice she has trouble drinking from the water bottle, put some bottled water in a heavy bowl for her.  You may also need to start offering softer foods if she has trouble eating solids.  Soft foods that are good choices are baby foods, yogurt, Ensure.  You cane also puree anything.  If the girls are eating lab blocks as their staple diet, then you can add blocks to a little Ensure and smoosh them up into a soft form.

Here's a wonderful link to a web page that offers a lot of information about caring for elderly rats:

One more thing to watch for, because 2 years old is still rather young for a rat to be losing her balance so easily.  Watch for signs of a possible pituitary tumor which can cause loss of balance among other things.  Here is a link to info about a PT:

Please write back and let me know how Skyline is doing.  

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Here\'s a pic of Nikolai
Here's a pic of Nikola  
QUESTION: Well I took Skyline to the vet last week (when the weather wasn't crazy. Got to love Midwest winters). The vet looked her over and said that he did believe that Skyline had a pituitary tumor. He said they can't really help her and that she should live what could be her last part to her good happy life. He told me that if she could not support herself that I should bring her in to be put down.

Now she was moved (along with her sister Bella) into a single level cage. She has lately been having a hard time eating so I bought plain all natural yogurt which I feed about 3 times a day to Skyline (sometimes little Bella will steal a portion of the yogurt:). But now I have a problem. She had had a difficult time trying to drink out of the water bottle so I put in a ceramic dish with water in it so she can drink. It worked for abut 2 days. Now her balance is so bad that she literally gets her entire head under the water and when she gets her head out she sneezes like crazy like as if she was drowning in her water dish. Please help I am trying all that I can. Please I hope she can live to reach 2 yrs on Saturday.

Oh no!  I was praying it wouldn't be a pituitary tumor...those are horrible.  I lost my heart rat Ariel about 8 months ago to one.  Sometimes, a PT can be slow-growing but more often than not, they tend to be aggressive, meaning that the symptoms worsen drastically from day to day and likely from the minute you see the first signs, it might be as early as a week or 2 later that you have to put them down.  It's so very sad :(

I hate to be the one to bring sad news, but Skyline's PT seems to be of the aggressive kind, as was my Ariel's.  If caught early enough and it wasn't too aggressive, there is medication that can help reduce swelling of the tumor on the brain and can extend the life by months.  One of these kinds of meds is bromocryptine.  By the time I got my Ariel bromo, she was no longer even able to lick food and so it was too late (the loss of licking ability is usually the last sign before you know it's time to put a rat to sleep, as they can no longer eat or drink).

If Skyline is still licking soft foods, call your vet and see if he can give you a prescription for it.  But you'd have to get it and start giving it asap to reap its benefits.  

Regarding the "drowning" her head in the water, perhaps put just a tiny bit (less than 1/4 inch) in a small dish or plate so she can lick but not have her face get in.  

Although it would be wonderful if she could make it to her second birthday, please don't prolong putting her to sleep if you see her suffering.  With a PT, she is probably sleeping a lot, so allow her to do that.  Keep her comfy perhaps by providing an igloo or house with soft fleece bits so she doesn't need to try to climb into a hammock.  When she can no longer lick food or water, and begins to look generally sad and miserable, then you will know it's time to say goodbye.  This would be the kindest last gift you can give to her.  

Please do make absolutely sure that your vet uses a humane method to euthanize her.  That would mean that she needs to be given enough anesthesia first so that she is completely asleep and feels no pain (as if she were going into surgery) before the final injection is given.  Ask if your vet will allow you in the same room while the procedure is done so that you can hold her...some vets will allow it and others won't.

I want to say how very sorry I am for you and your baby girl.  It is so hard to see them go through this.  It is by far, in my opinion, the worst illness a rat can have and I understand completely what you are going through having been through this myself not long ago.

One more thing you may want to think of doing is getting her paw prints as a memory of her.  Some vets will do that for you.  

Also, who is the little rex rattie in the photo you included?  He is adorable :)  And yes, he looks like a rex.  I have a girl that has the exact coloring and curly fur.

Any questions along this journey, please don't hesitate to write me again and I will happy to give you help.

Pet Rats

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


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.

©2016 All rights reserved.