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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Over the weekend one of my rats, Marburg, who was only two months old, suddenly died from what may have been either internal injuries of some sort sustained in a freak accident when he suddenly panicked for an unknown reason and jumped away while being held, or a heart attack. I can't get what happened out of my mind. Yesterday someone on this forum said that it sounded like a heart attack, which would explain the sudden unusual panicked behavior and everything. I told my vet over the phone what happened and she couldn't be sure of why the rat died, but said a heart attack was a possibility. My fiance still thinks internal injury. We will never know... we are left with so many questions about exactly what happened.

Since the incident happened, I have felt nervous about handling rats, especially since my rats are young and pretty squirmy and hard to catch in their cage. Maybe it's the trauma of watching Marburg die talking, but it feels like they are very delicate and made out of glass and if I make a wrong move, I'll break them. I'm glad for the moment that I don't have kids because right now I'd be terrified of letting a kid touch them, if even I'm afraid to touch them the wrong way. I'm afraid of accidentally hurting them if I lift them out of the cage, or applying a little too much pressure and breaking them without even knowing it if I'm holding them and trying to keep them from squirming away, or them getting hurt if they squirm or leap out of my hands. Obviously I know that you shouldn't be throwing and dropping and squeezing them, but since I have now seen a rat jump down to the floor and be dead a minute later, now I am nervous about the possibility of a rat suddenly dying if I handle them or they jump. Surely they're generally not fragile enough that they would be killed by normal handling, since they pounce on and wrestle with each other, and do some jumping? Yet the incident over the weekend reminded me of just how fragile they are, if it *was* an injury and not a heart attack that killed my rat... am I just being overprotective right now? How do I overcome the fear of harming my rats? Hopefully this passes as the shock wears off.
 

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I dropped a 4 week old pup once while trying to carry them all to the bathroom for play time (trying to move 17 little boogers without losing any is a challenge). The pup was absolutely fine, but I was traumatized. From then on, I transferred them to a carrier and then to the bathroom instead of holding them to carry them (this also cut down on the number of trips I had to make lol). This is really helpful for moving them around if you have to walk a ways for immersion or whatever you're doing. Handling squirmy pups is hard sometimes and you're not wrong for being cautious. Just take it slow :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I dropped a 4 week old pup once while trying to carry them all to the bathroom for play time (trying to move 17 little boogers without losing any is a challenge). The pup was absolutely fine, but I was traumatized. From then on, I transferred them to a carrier and then to the bathroom instead of holding them to carry them (this also cut down on the number of trips I had to make lol). This is really helpful for moving them around if you have to walk a ways for immersion or whatever you're doing. Handling squirmy pups is hard sometimes and you're not wrong for being cautious. Just take it slow :)
I can imagine that handling pups is pretty hard with all that squirming!! What we usually do when they're being taken out for playtime is keep them in a plastic Rubbermaid tub, and hold them right over the tub especially if they're squirming so we can safely set them down if they're about to fall from a hand. The tub was nearby when the rat died but he seemed very relaxed and he suddenly jumped pretty far away out of my fiance's hands onto the carpet and ran off--it was completely unpredictable. Now that I'm dealing with younger ones I'm mostly handling them in the tub so I can set them down fast if I need to.
 

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My rats have done the scary leaping from my hands when they were skittish pups, head first into walls, from great heights etc. They've also dropped the 140cm height from the top of my tall cage after climbing up the side when I've not been looking. No injuries, carried on like nothing happened. Rats are pretty hardy animals. I think what happened to yours was a freak accident - definitely sounds like an underlying health condition - perhaps a heart attack, maybe the jumping was a mini seizure? I doubt it was the fall. So sorry for your loss - hope you feel better about handling to the other little ones soon.
 

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I think we all do this, to one extent or another, after a trauma.

It's especially hard to find closure and cope, when there are unanswered questions and/or we are feeling guilty, and doing the "what if" thing.

I once had a bunny (of a breed known for congenital heart issues, Flemish Giant) have a sudden stroke/heart attack. He was young and vital one moment, near death and struggling the next. During the hours the vet and I worked with him, evaluating and trying to stabilize, assess whether he could have any sort of meaningful recovery, or whether it would be best to euth...he ended up passing on his own.

I drove my remaining bunny nuts, I am sure, hovering over him for a couple weeks at least, following that. I also jumped and acted a fool when my older kitty did a bit of sneezing. I kept expecting somebody else to just up and die, you know?

I guess what I'm rambling on, trying to say to you is that some of this is normal. It just is.

It's part of the process, and while your grief will get more bearable, the memory of the trauma will always be there.

About all you can do is take as many precautions as possible, and focus on the positive small daily good memories, and try to move on from the worst of that fear.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Yeah, the "what ifs" have been hard for both me and my fiance (who was the one holding the rat when he suddenly jumped). While it could have been that he landed in just the wrong way to break a bone and puncture a lung (he was bleeding from the nose), it's sounding more and more to me like it was underlying health issues. The death was just so sudden, there was no time to do anything to help him. I think it's natural to be traumatized after something this freaky happens.

I had never seen such an incident happen before; every time I saw a rodent die in an accident it was from obvious injuries. And neither had my fiance, who had rats in the past. He told me that his abusive ex-girlfriend was once holding one of his rats and she screamed and threw it when it pooped in her hand. Somehow, the rat was unharmed (even though he was very upset, of course!)
 

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Here's a tip. Find a safe rat proof area and let your rat climb and play. Watch. When you see those buggers fling themselves off a 5.5ft tall cage and walk off like it's nothing you realize they're pretty hardy.

I once sat on a rat (yes) and it scared me so bad. I was sure I broke her back. I stopped trying to sit down around rats which made enjoying free range hard. I bought a chair and they climbed in the chair so I couldn't sit there either. It was a giant mess of anxiety until I accepted it was an accident, rats are hardy, and they weren't enjoying free range when I wasn't.

I know it's harder with death. Caius died of lung abscesses. Remus has pneumonia. It makes me feel like my babies are weak and a step from death. It makes me not want to interact because it's a moment before the next one dies on me...
 

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I can't go into all of the bad things that happened to my rats over they years... I mean seriously bad things, and I can pretty much assure you that rats can survive some pretty nasty falls and some pretty major injuries. They aren't fragile given their small size and within certain limits.

I suppose freak accidents can happen, but for the most part a 6 foot drop won't even phase them.. When Fuzzy Rat got old and couldn't climb down from my desk, she would just walk to the edge and let herself drop to the floor... thud... then just keep on walking... I'm 6 foot tall and I can't begin to count the times my older rats fell off my shoulder when their nails wore down.

Yes, freak accidents can kill a rat, but for the most part rats are way more durable than you give them credit for. And even if you chalk this up to a freak accident, millions of humans trip and fall every day, most get up and dust themselves off, and I'm sure somewhere a few break their hips or necks... But we don't bubble wrap ourselves just in case... Life involves risk, for humans and rats. I've lost a best furry friend to a tragic accident too, you try to not let it happen again when it can be prevented, but for the most part you have to accept and manage the risks as best as possible... For a rat and a human getting killed is just part of life, it can happen to every one of us. I mean today either of us might get hit by a runaway truck. That doesn't mean we build a bunker and lock ourselves inside... what kind of life would that be?
 

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I'm sorry to hear about your loss. I think we've all accidentally injured a rat at some point, but some are luckier than others.

It sounds to me like the sudden unexplained panic was a symptom; Marburg may suddenly have been in intense pain or unable to breath and gone into a blind panic. The other day I was inspecting one of our boys after a fight, and he was calm and letting me hold him until I accidentally touched where he'd been bitten; the pain sent him into a panic and he started squealing and thrashing about, then broke of my grip and jumped into a box to hide. If a rat can react that badly from a minor external injury, I imagine it would be even worse from a life-threatening internal problem.
 
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