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Pet Rats/R.I.P Natalie (the adventures of Sophie)


QUESTION: Dear Irene,
It's been a while but it's me Erin you might now remember me but I have a question that I really need answered. My rats Sophie and Natalie I have had for about a year and half now almost two years. Sophie is still a bundle of energy and hunger and always wants to go and go. But Natalie has slowed down to almost a stop she use to be lively and happy now she just wants to sit and stare off into space she barely eats. All she does is drink and sleep. Her fur is thinning out and she has no meat on her. What is wrong with her? Am I not feeding her right? Does she need to get out and play more? Even Sophie tries to get her to play but she just won't move. What is wrong is my little girl dieing? Please respond soon. Thank you for the help.
Erin Down

ANSWER: I'm sorry I couldn't respond sooner.  I do remember you and your Sophie and Natalie.  I can't tell you if Natalie is dying but I do know that she is definitely ill.  Losing weight, not eating, not being curious and playing, losing fur....all signs of illness.  I don't know if it's something that can be cured but you can't know unless you take her to a that is experienced with rats.  I hope you can take her soon. It's not something I would hesitate another day on.  If you need help locating a good exotic vet near you, I can help you...just let me know.  

Meanwhile, I would get her started on medication asap, even before you can get her to a vet.  Do you happen to have amoxicillin capsules at your home?  If not, they can often be found at a fish supply store, hopefully one near you.  If you do find amoxicillin, don't tell them you are buying it for your rat.  I can help with dosing but you would need to know her weight.  That is why I am just hoping you can get her to a vet tomorrow.

I hope that this is something that can be treated with antibiotics.  Please get back to me and let me know how she is doing right now.  I am praying for the best outcome for your baby girl.   

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

QUESTION: Dear Irene,
Sadly I was not able to get help for Natalie in time and she passed away in my arms. Sophie is all I have left now. Sophie is still quite healthy at 369g and still eating and drinking very well. She loves to run and play still and wants to see and know everything. She does have a stuffy nose a lot though. so my question is can rats have allergies like we humans do? She is not sneezing blood everything coming out of her nose is clear like when a person has allergies. So is it possible she just has allergies or is it something else I should be worried about? Please respond soon I can't loose Sophie too. Not so soon. Thank you for all your help and support. I hope to hear from you soon.
Thank you so much!
Erin Down

ANSWER: Oh Erin, I'm so very sorry and sad that you lost Natalie.  But please don't beat yourself up over it because, to be honest, from your description of her symptoms, things seemed very grim from what I know about rats' behavior when they are gravely ill.  I really believe that even had you gone to the vet with her, there is likely nothing he could have done to save her.  My first thought is cancer or something else internal that had probably been growing within her for some time.  I lost my first rat to cancer and she was just short of 2 years old...her symptoms were very much like Natalie's.  My vet confirmed cancer.

I don't blame you for being very worried about Sophie.  Yes, rats can get allergies.  Tell me about the environment she is living in.  Her bedding, the air around you use candles, perfumes, hairspray, smoke, cleaning products or anything else that she could be breathing in?  Rats can also have allergies to high protein diets...what do you feed her?

When did this sneezing and congestion begin?  Remember also that she may grieve for her sister, as many rats do when losing their lifelong companion.  Grief causes stress and stress causes the immune system to be vulnerable to illness.

Although we may think this is allergies, to be completely certain and for your own peace of mind, I do highly suggest a visit to a vet for an exam.  Make sure this vet has experience with rats.  I can try to help you find a good one near you if you don't have one.  Just tell me what city you live in (or the nearest large city)

I also recommend you spend much more time with Sophie as she will surely be lonely now.  Are you considering a new friend for her?

Please get back to me with answers to my questions.  I look forward to your reply.

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

QUESTION: Dear Irene,
The bedding I use in Sophies cage right now is shredded paper and news paper. Yes I sometimes use perfume and scented candles but I keep these things far away from Sophies cage. I do have carpet in my room so it tends to make my room stuffy and dusty but try and keep the air clean and the dust low. The sneezing started a couple months after I got her when I was using CareFresh bedding in her cage. It was suppose to be dust free but that was a huge lie. It kicked up more dust then any other bedding I have ever used. The sneezing started then as only an occasional sniffle it has gotten a little worse but not much. She shows no other signs of illness. She is still eating very well she drink a lot sleeps a lot and loves to run and play all the time. She is as curious as can be and loves to build and dig and chew. There is no blood coming from her eyes or nose. And her teeth are still a healthy colour.
I do have one question would she feel a little less lonely if she had a bunny friend? My mom's pet rabbit Holly loves to run and play in the same area Sophie does. The two seem to get along quite well. Holly is confused on what exactly Sophie is. And what that thing is on her butt known as her tail. But other then that the two love to push around boxes and chew things and roll bottles around. Is it a good idea to have the two together? Should I keep them separate? Could they come to get use to each other and be friends? Will it make Sophie happier at all?
Hope to hear from you soon thank you for all your help. I'll try not to beat myself up to much about Natalie. I still feel like I should have done something sooner. But your right there was nothing I could do. Right now I am trying to focus on Sophie it makes me happy to see her out and about.
I hope to hear from you soon and thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions.
Erin Down


I am revising my answer regarding your bunny.  Since I asked the question in my rat network regarding bunnies and rats together, the overwhelming response was NO!  It is very dangerous, as bunnies have strong rear legs, and even out of joy sometimes, may kick a rat so hard it could mean death.  Can you get your Sophie a new rat friend?



It really does sound like allergies.  The shredded paper and newspaper are a good choice for bedding.  I hated're so right about it's terrible dustiness!  Even Aspen wood shavings are dusty.  I personally use fleece to line the bottom level of my cage and then I discovered this wonderful bedding which really is dust-free, which I use in the litter pan only.
Maybe try fleece for a week or so and see if that alleviates the sneezing.

You didn't mention the diet you feed her.  Again, high protein in their diet can cause allergies...perhaps you can get back to me on that.

As for bunnies, I no nothing about a possible relationship between rats and bunnies, so I went and asked this question to my rat network and someone sent a link to this video.
This is very encouraging for you.  I don't know much about bunnies, but they are not natural predators I can imagine they would not try to hurt a rat.  It sounds like you've already exposed Holly and Sophie to each other.  My inclination is that if they seem gentle with each other, then go ahead and continue with playtimes, always supervised of course.

Is your intention to not have any more rats after Sophie?  If not, then why not get a rat friend or two for her?

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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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