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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 02-11-2013, 02:45 AM Thread Starter
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new rat questions

My fiancé and I just got new pet rats the first of this month. We bought them from Petsmart initially we got four (they were all in the same cage) but recently had to send two back. Now we are noticing one of our rats Houdini is sneezing a lot but there are no signs of illness. I've had rats before and never encountered this should we be concerned? Could this be due to the other two going back? Also our boys seem to have a thing for nibbling, licking and wrestling with fingers and toes none of my past rats did this should we be worried about biting? What does it mean?
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 02-11-2013, 04:32 PM
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Hi RatOwner! Congratulations on your new rats.

I'll do my best to answer your questions. Others here will have great insight for you too.

Sneezing: You've had your rats for almost two weeks. I'm thinking this will be past the 'new home sneezes' stage. So, my next suspicion would be either sensitivity to environment like bedding or something, or the beginnings of a upper respiratory infection (URI). Or both.

Rats have the puniest respiratory systems in the world. Stress can affect their immune system-stress like moving to a new home for instance. Anything with perfumes, dust, dirty cage fumes, or phenols in their environment will trigger inflamation and a secondary respiratory infection.

So, first of all, lets detective work the environment.

What kind of bedding do they have specifically (name brand included)?
Are they in a drafty, dusty, fumey, or moldy area?

If any of the above are the trigger, we can help eliminate that for you.


Next, lets look at the symptoms: I would bet money at the very least Houdini may have the start of standard URI. This will require a vet visit and a round of antibiotics to treat. If you need tips on finding a good vet, we'll be happy to share.

There is also a chance that your rats came to you with something more serious, and the two you sent back were also sick. Pet stores have zero effective quarantine when it comes to rodents, and the poor things are often mill bred, stressed, and with poor immune systems. If it's something more serious than a URI, it will be even more urgent that your boy go to the vet for some aggressive treatment. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you though, that it's just a URI.

Your toe wrestler is hysterical. If you've got a youngster especially, licking and nibbling are signs of affection, and wrestling is a sign of play. You may just be lucky and have an exceptionally people oriented rat.

If they are old enough to go through puberty/hormones, you might end up dealing with hormonal aggression. I'm not as familiar with all subtleties of hormonal people aggression, so I can't say that is what's going on, someone else, perhaps Lilspaz, can give a more knowledgeable answer. But my first instinct is that he's just a cheeky, playful boy.

If it does ultimately turn out to be hormonal aggression, that can most often be easily treated by having him neutered.


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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 02-13-2013, 08:33 AM
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Interesting info Storyseeker, you really seem to know your ratties !


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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 02-13-2013, 05:38 PM
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Welcome to the forum!

Was there a particular reason you had to bring back two of your ratties to the pet store?



Storyseeker already left you a great post full of excellent information so there is not much for me to add! Like she said, look into your bedding situation to make sure you do not have something in their environment that is causing the sniffles and sneezing. Even things in the air, like scented candles, incense, air freshener sprays, or your cologne could be culprits. Often though, it seems to be the type of bedding.


I always use fleece and flannel fabric for my rats as it is so dust free compared to bedding like Carefresh, etc, and it is also so comfy and warm for the rats.


And Storyseeker is right...the nibbling and such you are getting is a terrific sign of affection from your ratties. No worries about biting at all. Despite what many non-rat owners think (probably from horror movies and myths about rats) rats are probably the least likely to bite or nip, compared to other small animals like hamsters, etc.


Nibble grooming, as it is called, is a way for your rat to show you affection as he/she is treating you like one of the pack, and trying to "groom" you, most often by nibbling or softly chewing on your fingertips and whatnot.

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