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My rat, Kitty, is over two years old and she has been showing her age. She is less active and slower than my younger rats. She also lost her alpha status in the cage. What has been worrying me is that she is walking weird now. She isn't lifting her back legs up all the way and kinda dragging them. Is she hurt or is it normal for old rats to walk like that? Also her fur is less soft and, well, ratty. Is that also something old rats get her does she need something? What things do I have to do differently to care for a elderly rat?
 

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Wow...I was going to look up 'hind leg weakness' and came across your post. My one male rat who has had two tumour removal surgeries doesn't pick his legs up to walk anymore and he can't sit on his haunches to eat. He looks just awful. But when he free ranges, very slowly I might add, he likes to raid the cat food dishes. It's not like he can gulp food down like he could before so I allow him to nibble on it.

I don't know if my rat is in pain and hope he's not. Even though he can't get around like he used to he enjoys his food. I make a rat mash for him which is easier for him to eat and also have lab blocks available for him and make sure his water is in a bowl on the cage floor so he doesn't have to stand up because it's difficult. I also have a bed made for him on his cage floor (an upside down 'tree trunk' bought from the pet store). It gives him privacy and security and he doesn't have to climb.

My rat looks ratty too and isn't cleaning himself like he used to. His brother is doing fine though. Both rats are from the same litter but ageing differently. I will be following this post.
 

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My late elder rat developed this issue as she grew older as well, I'm beginning to think it's quite common. She lived to be three and scooted around on her back heels until the very last, but as the vet told me, her condition wasn't necessarily painful, and he could tell because when he touched her legs and joints she didn't show any sign of pain. He told me that it could have just been inflammation in the joints caused by age. Whenever I touched her back feet (she would curl her toes up) it seemed as though she barely felt me touching her, so I had thought she had a little bit of paralysis from the heel forward.

My vet offered me anti-inflammatory medicine though he didn't think it would do her much good. He advised me to keep an eye on her to make sure she was still moving around decently on her heels, and she was until the very last. If you are worried, because your rat may have a different situation, a vet visit may be in order just to get an opinion, as I did. I didn't want my rat to suffer, but according to my vet, so long as she could move reasonably and was still eating and drinking, he felt she was still doing quite well for her age. I would just keep an eye on her; you just want to be aware if anything changes to the point where she is having serious trouble moving. I used to worry because my rat's legs would hang up if her nails got caught on any of her nesting material and she didn't have enough strength to pull her foot free. (To solve this, I trimmed her back nails to keep them from hanging on things.)

& I wouldn't worry about her fur--as rats age, similar to cats, the grooming upkeep is often one of the first things to go. My rat started to lose her fur, actually, from age and hormones, and one thing I noticed was that she let her nails get long and filthy, and I had to clean them with a toothbrush and trim them for her. It's a natural process of age, and I think the leg dragging may be, too. I would advise you to keep an eye on her sanitary area, because if they're not grooming it is easier for them to develop an infection down there (every once in a while it would be wise to clean them up down there & make sure that the area is dry).

At this point I would recommend condensing her cage to one level with plenty of soft spots and as few obstacles to get over as possible (if you have younger rats in there with her, this may be as simple as removing the ladders, if at all possible; your younger rats can probably climb up to higher levels using the bars of the cage walls but your elderly rat likely cannot.) This is especially important, because sometimes rats try to go up levels, as my rat did, and when she wanted to come down again she would lose her footing on the ladder and roll down it, so I removed the ladder to protect her.

Every rat has a different genetic makeup, too, and though you may have rats that are the same age, they will both respond differently to it--one rat's elderly years may be another rat's late adult years depending on their bodies' response, and not every rat will show the same signs of aging (it just kind of depends on where the age manifests or if it does).
 
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