New Rats Sneezing Questions--HELP!
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Thread: New Rats Sneezing Questions--HELP!

  1. #1
    Little Fuzzy Lohosey's Avatar
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    Default New Rats Sneezing Questions--HELP!

    Hey there!
    I just bought two small male rats from a pet store three days ago. Since I got them, they won't stop sneezing. One, I remember, was sneezing a couple of times when I held him before I bought them. I didn't think anything of it since I've never owned a rat before. I had them in pine bedding for a couple days in an aquarium. After doing a bit of research, I learned that pine bedding is BAD and aquariums are BAD. So I removed the pine bedding and put in an old tshirt instead. I was hoping that after I removed the pine bedding, they wouldn't be sneezing as much. It has, however, only been a day, but they are still sneezing. And I'm getting worried.

    Does anybody have any advice for me? Is it allergies? Nervousness in a new environment? Respiratory infection?

    One doesn't seem to have much energy and doesn't sneeze as much as the other one. The other one is full of energy and can't seem to stop sneezing when I get him out to play with him. They don't seem to have any leaking from their eyes or noses. They do lick their paws and wipe their faces/noses quite often though...

    Help would be greatly appreciated for this new rat owner!!!

    -Lauren

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    Skritch Lover Tibbs87's Avatar
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    Hi Lauren! First off, welcome to RatForum. I'll try to answer your questions as best as I can (with the help of the other folks on here, hopefully). To simplify, let me list off a few questions and answers:

    Q: Is sneezing often normal?
    A: When placed in a new environment, rats sneeze often as they are becoming accustomed to their surroundings. Removing the pine bedding was a good move, as pine is irritating to their (fairly) delicate respiratory systems. If neither of them have red liquid coming from the eyes or nose, you should be ok for now. Keep an eye on them. The sneezing should subside over time. It varies from rat to rat, but I would say it may take a week for the sneezing fits to pass. I've owned a handful of rats over the years and ALL of them sneezed a lot at first. If it gets worse (red discharge from eyes or nose, wheezing, etc) bring them to the vet. In short, lots of sneezing at first is totally normal.

    Q: Are aquariums bad and why?
    A: In short, aquariums are not the best housing for rats. Why? Aquariums offer poor ventilation, which is harder on the little ratty's respiratory system (for lack of a better word). Aquariums also tend to trap humidity. I would buy a cage which is big enough for them both as soon as possible. Rats love to climb, so a wire cage (with shelves or ledges, preferably) is your best bet. An online calculator can help you figure out what size is best for your two males.

    Q: What is good bedding?
    A: In my experience, paper pellets have been the best. They don't generate much dust and are very absorbent while also keeping smells to a minimum. I highly recommend "yesterday's news" pepper pellet cat litter, wherever you can find it (try amazon.com).

    And this last one isn't really a question you brought up, but as for not having much energy, that can be normal for a rat adjusting to its environment. I've found that the best way to bond quickly with your rats is to have "forced playtime". Which means you take them out of the cage and let them climb on you, sniff their environment, etc. in short increments at first (10 - 15 minutes/day). As they seem to be getting more comfortable, you can let them hang out with you longer. The more time they can spend out of the cage, the better.

    I hope that isn't information overload. If you have any other questions, there are a lot of folks on here who know their rats, so ask away!

    Good luck!
    Tom
    Bernie and Gus Rusty

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    Skritch Lover Tibbs87's Avatar
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    Oh also, if anyone notices something I said that isn't entirely accurate, please let me know. I am 99% confident in my advice, but it always helps to have a second opinion.
    Bernie and Gus Rusty

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    Little Fuzzy Lohosey's Avatar
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    Default Thank You!

    Thank you so much for the quick response!

    I will try and get a new cage as soon as possible. Hopefully they settle down and feel more comfortable, eventually getting rid of their sneezing fits. I'll just keep a close eye on them. If they don't get any better, I'll take them in to the vet to have them checked out.

    One more question: They are relatively young and small rats. When do they reach full maturity and size? I'm not quite for sure how old they are ("small feeder rats" is what I was told), but I'm looking forward to having them get older and bigger in my care.

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    Skritch Lover Tibbs87's Avatar
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    Hey, no problem at all. If you have any pictures, that would help me to place their age. If they're small feeder rats, they're most likely about 5 weeks old. I think most pet stores get them about that age. You can expect them to reach full size at about 1 year old. They will grow very quickly up until about 3 months and then will start to slow down. So, quick growth between now and 3 months followed by a period of slower growth until about a year old. Hope that helps! Good idea to keep an eye on them and of course if they get worse or you see no improvement after about a week, the vet can help you out. Good luck!
    Bernie and Gus Rusty

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    Skritch Lover Tibbs87's Avatar
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    Also, this may be of help... http://www.rattyrat.com/guidebook/howold.html
    Bernie and Gus Rusty

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    Little Fuzzy Rubber Duck's Avatar
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    One thing about a wire cage vs. aquarium is back to the ventilation/airflow thing. While the ventilation is good, rats are just tiny little critters and in the wild, they'll seek out tiny little cavities to huddle in to keep warm. When you switch to a wire cage, you'll have to give them some little box they can hide in to stay warm if there's cold drafts around the cage. Right now mine are hanging out in their plastic baby wipes box but I'm planning on making them some kind of little bird house. All I have around here is pressure-treated wood, or plywood. Both are not good materials to use because rats like to chew on everything. Pressure treated wood contains arsenic (AKA: rat poison) and plywood has toxic glue that holds the plys together. I'm thinking about using some kind of hardwood. There are lots of osage orange trees around here. Cutting that stuff would be like cutting through steel though.

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    Skritch Lover Tibbs87's Avatar
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    Agreed. I also want to be clear that picking the right bedding is important, since excess dust will be irritating to your rat. I have had to take my rats to the vet for Upper Respiratory Infections due to having the wrong bedding and not cleaning the cage once/week. I can't stress enough how important that is. Anyway, that's it!
    Bernie and Gus Rusty

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    Little Fuzzy Lohosey's Avatar
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    Tibbs,

    I woke up this morning to say hello to the little ones and change out their bedding before class and Gregor just won't stop sneezing. It seems as if when he breathes, he has snot in his respiratory system because it makes this clicking sound each time he breathes. Then, after he breathes in and it makes the clicking noise, he sneezes. This process happens over and over and over. I'm thinking I might take him back to the pet store, unfortunately...

    If I do choose to get another rat in the future, what signs should I look out for? For example, I will NOT choose one that already has the sniffles or that doesn't like to be held. Anything else?

    While I'm at the pet store, I will also pick up a bigger cage that is NOT an aquarium.
    Mojo and Gregor

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    Skritch Lover Tibbs87's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lohosey View Post
    Tibbs,I woke up this morning to say hello to the little ones and change out their bedding before class and Gregor just won't stop sneezing. It seems as if when he breathes, he has snot in his respiratory system because it makes this clicking sound each time he breathes. Then, after he breathes in and it makes the clicking noise, he sneezes. This process happens over and over and over. I'm thinking I might take him back to the pet store, unfortunately... If I do choose to get another rat in the future, what signs should I look out for? For example, I will NOT choose one that already has the sniffles or that doesn't like to be held. Anything else?While I'm at the pet store, I will also pick up a bigger cage that is NOT an aquarium.
    Hey Lohosey - a vet will be able to take a look at your rats and determine whether antibiotics will be necessary or not. If you do choose to bring him back to the pet store, know that your next rat may develop similar symptoms if housed in the same aquarium. To be honest, the best thing is to go to the vet. I was freaked out when my first rats exhibited similar symptoms, but it all cleared up after a dose of antibiotics. I know it seems like it's scary or a big responsibility, but a trip to the vet may help to ease your concerns. This is normal and a preventable part of being a rat owner. However, members of this forum can help talk you through whatever concerns you may have. I'm an old pro at this point due to the information I've gathered from this forum and from my own experience with rats. I would at least see what the vet has to say before you do anything else. Cheers!
    Bernie and Gus Rusty

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