Rats are prone to a number of health problems and
most people would agree that vets bills are probably the biggest expense associated with keeping them. Although
getting your rats from a reputable breeder may reduce the risk of health problems, it is by no means
a guarantee of life-long perfect health. Anyone thinking of getting rats should be financially prepared for vets bills. You may get lucky and never need to see a vet at any point in your rat's life, or you may be horribly unlucky and be back and forth to the vet every month. I spent over £400 on one rat in his last year of life, and there are rat owners who have spent much more than that. Now, of course, most rats don't run up bills this high, but its something to be aware of, and prepared for.
Below are the most common ailments rats suffer from, but is by no means an exhaustive list.
It should be noted that I am not a vet and my advice is based on experience, and the knowledge I've gathered over the years from other rat owners.
If in doubt you should always see your vet.
However, it is important to find a rat knowledgeable vet before you actually need to use one. A lot of vets know very little about rats, but are still willing to take your money, which is part of the reason you need to do your homework.
There are some wonderful vets out there, but also a lot of shoddy ones who have little to no rat experience.
I feel I must mention this as I have heard so many people's stories of how their vet misdiagnosed their rat, or was lacking in the most basic of rat knowledge.
I even knew of one situation where a vet put a rat to sleep, completely unecessarily, because he misdiagnosed it due to knowing nothing about the species, so it pays to do research yourself, too.
Fortunately, I have now settled on one particular vet who is very good, but it took many years to come by him, and on the occasions I have to get an appointment with a vet other than him, its an uphill struggle to get the care my animals need.
The general public trust their vets to have a good amount of knowledge on all pets, but when it comes to rats, vets are sometimes just not that educated; their training on rats is minimal, and mixed in with the training for all other small furries, which rats are not always the same as.
If your rat is ill, by all means take him to a vet, but do research yourself online (assuming the ailment is not urgent. Any animal in serious distress needs to see a vet straight away, regardless.) Don't be afraid to question your vet if you have picked up different information via your own research; it's not beyond the realms of possibility that he/she is incorrect or uninformed, and a good vet will appreciate the knowledge you can share with them; good vets recognise their limitations and strive to improve, so will not have an issue with being questioned.
Rats are very prone to respiratory problems. It is one of the biggest health concerns in the rat world. Pneumonia, tumour growth, scarring, abscessed lungs, bacterial infections, none of them are uncommon. Mycoplasma Pulmonis (myco for short) is a bacteria that all rats, wild or domestic, have from birth.
It is passed from the mother to the babies in the birth canal. This is why lab rats are born
by caesarean section. SPF (specific pathogen free) lab rats are myco free because they are
delivered in this way, and this is important for laboratory rats.
But all other rats, including wild ones, have myco.
Do not listen to anyone who tells you to seperate your rats from one another as a result of myco, or who try to tell you it is contagious; all rats already have it. Therefore, isolating them from one another is utterly pointless when it comes to myco specifically, and may in fact make an ill rat worse due to the stress of being away from their cage mates.
Myco lays dormant in the
rat's system until something causes it to flare up and become 'active', which is when you will start to see symptoms. Some rats go their whole lives without any issues from myco, others are plagued by it. Myco can become 'active' via a number of triggers, these include: stress, a genetic weakness (good resistance to myco is partly genetic, and good breeders select their pairings with this in mind), bad husbandry (dirty cages can inflame myco, as the ammonia from urine build up can aggravate their lungs) or even just......for no obvious reason.
Myco can also flare up and then settle down again on its own.
Or it may flare up and stay there for good.
Once active, Myco causes blisters on the lungs and eventually death. Myco cannot be cured but
it can be managed with antibiotics, and many rats live perfectly normal lives. However, Myco has a tendency to develop a resistance to antibiotics, so if the problem persists, your vet
may need to try different types over time. Myco left untreated for a long time eventually causes scarring on the lungs and can then prove problematic for life.
But not all respiratory flare ups are myco related. Some are bacterial, some are viruses, some are from tumour growth in the lungs, or any other number of causes, though the symptoms can be similar for all!
The first signs that your rat might have a respiratory
issue are sneezing, or noises when breathing, like crackling, hooting or 'pigeon noises'. Any rattling, clicking, hooting or snuffling should
be watched closely. Of course, all rats sneeze sometimes, and there's no need to start panicking if
your rat starts sneezing more than usual; it doesn't necessarily mean he is ill.
Some rats go through a sneezy period when they're first brought home; this is due to stress and often settles down within a few weeks. If the rat is otherwise well, with no other signs of illness, and is his/her bright, usual self, it probably isn't anything to worry about.
However, if the sneezing continues for a long time, worsens, or is accompanied by respiratory noise, lethargy, a fluffed up coat, obvious effort to breathe (sucking their sides in with each breath, for example) and/or red
discharge around the nose or eyes, get your rat checked by a vet.
The red discharge you might see around eyes and noses is called porphyrin and is often mistaken for blood, even by vets.
It's not blood.
secretion that all rats naturally produce when ill or stressed. You'll notice that rats may produce more of it after a
bath, or a vet visit, or other stressful event.
Porphyrin is not a reason to panic in and of itself; all rats will have a little from time to time, sometimes you'll see a little when the rat first wakes up. But if you see it frequently, or lots of it, it could indicate an underlying issue. If you see excessive porphyrin around one eye, for example, it indicates an irritation or injury to that eye. Another useful thing to be aware of is that rats wash themselves many times a day, and often wash away the porphyrin themselves, so you may not notice it at all. But if you see red staining on the insides of your rat's wrists, this indicates they are frequently washing porphyrin away, to the degree it has stained their legs, so this would be something to monitor.
Female rats are more prone to mammary lumps than males, though it's not unheard of in males too. Rats have a lot of mammary tissue, even in places you wouldn't expect it to be, though the most common places for these lumps to occur tends to be under the arm-pit, on the chest, or around the hind legs, but they can pop up almost anywhere.
Most turn out to be benign fatty lumps and can be removed quite easily, especially if done while they're still small. However, they can grow back, and some rats will have repeated lumps throughout their lives; others will never have a single one.
Needless to say, constant removing of mammary lumps gets costly. The price of a lump removal varies depending on the size of the lump, how it is attatched, and the vet practice doing the operation.
Lump removal at my vet's costs around £50, but it can be higher if the lump is particularly large or hard to remove. If you know you want to opt for surgery, get it done as soon as possible; the smaller the lump, the easier and quicker the operation, which is better for the rat, and cheaper for you!
Sometimes lumps appear in places where it isn't possible to
operate, or where an operation could prove more dangerous than the lump itself. It's up to you and your vet to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.
In elderly or infirm rats, it can be tricky knowing what to do for the best when lumps appear. It is a conflict between leaving the lump alone, and allowing the rat to live out the rest of its days and having it put to sleep when the lump begins to affect quality of life or risking an operation on an elderly or frail rat that may not make it through, or may not have many more weeks of life left anyway.
I have put rats in their second year in for lump removals in the past, as long as they are otherwise robust and healthy, and so far, all have done very well. However, any elderly rats with other health issues, particularly respiratory ones, are usually left to live out their days in peace, then are put to sleep when - ideally a bit before - the lump becomes large enough to affect their quality of life.
Do nut under-estimate how large lumps can grow. Below is a picture of a rescue girl I had brought to me when her owner had allowed the lump to get to such a size, he was then too ashamed to take her to the vet to be put to sleep. I had her put to sleep the same day, but as you can see, the lump is bigger than she is, and she could barely move around and had little to no quality of life; nothing in her life was easy or comfortable. Had she been left like this, she would have eventually died in pain and distress:
Large lumps drain a lot of energy from the rat, and if they become too large, the lump can lose blood supply and become necrotic, causing infection. Rats with large lumps are eating for two: the lump steals a lot of the energy they take from their food, so rats with large lumps often struggle to maintain good body weight, despite eating normally.
Which is the best option for your rat when it comes to whether to operate or not is personal choice; you know the animal best.
For me personally, I'll always give surgery a go if the rat is in fair health and stands to gain at least a few months of extra life. The way I see it, a lump that is left alone will eventually cause the rat to have to be euthanised. If the outcome is going to be death eventually anyway, I would rather give the rat a chance at life by opting for an operation, as long as their odds of survival are reasonably good, and they stand to gain a good bit of extra time.
Another thing to note is that not all lumps are mammary lumps that require removal. Some may be relatively harmless cysts, or, more commonly......
Abscesses are quite common in rats, and on first glance can be almost indistinguishable from mammary lumps.
Abscesses sometimes occur as the result of a scuffle in which one rat nips another, or they can pop up for no apparent reason. Bucks have two glands on the belly, on either side of the penis, and these are prone to abcess in elderly individuals. The skin here is particularly thin, and if the rat is overweight, or has hind leg weakness and tend to drag themselves along, it means their underside is always in contact with the ground, making abscesses more likely.
Some rats seem to be more prone to abscesses than others, and some bacterial infections, such as Staph, can cause abscesses, some of which are contagious from rat to rat.
fairly easy to treat and most people who have the stomach for it deal with them themselves at home. Of course, if you have a skittish rat, or you're squeamish or uncertain, then the vet
is your best bet if you want it lanced. Some people put the rat into antibiotics as back up to stop the infection returning, but in my experience, this is rarely necessary with a bog standard abscess. Most abscesses in otherwise healthy rats will heal up on their own without the need for medications.
Often, you will need to do nothing with them at all; they will eventually resolve themselves.
Once opened up, either naturally or via lancing, they tend to heal pretty quickly and you should see signs of this within a couple of days.
You can bathe the abscess site in a salt water solution if your rat will allow, though again, I seldom have to do this. Rats, if nothing else, can be remarkably quick healers.
If an abscess doesn't appear to get
better, however, or actually gets worse, particularly after its been lanced and drained, then take your rat to the vet.
Be particularly cautious with abscesses that appear on the face: these may sometimes be indicative of another issue, such as a tooth problem. Facial abcesses in rats are trickier to treat due to the lack of skin on the face compared to the body, and the close proximity to bone.
We have had issues over the years, and still sometimes do here at the sanctuary with some individuals who carry contagious abscesses. All hailed from Pets At Home, at different times, but there seems to be a problem with some of the rats they produce in this respect. These abscesses tend to occur on the throat, just under the chin, and get to small grape size, but always resolve themselves and disappear within a week. Affected individuals here tend to have repeated bouts of these throughout their lives, while some have a couple and never have any more issues. Some seem to instantly spread to any rats the 'carrier' has contact with, some only seem to spread to certain individuals in the group while others are completely unaffected.
As you can imagine, this makes quarantining against this issue very difficult, as often the rats can be symptom free for many weeks, or they can come in with a cage mate who is not affected, lulling you into a false sense of security that they are not carrying anything.
These abscesses don't seem to cause any major issues in most, and are more visually unpleasant than anything else, with most rats not even noticing they have them.
But it is something to be aware of, as I don't think many people consider abscesses to be contagious, but some can be. And if you wish to show your rats, or to breed, it is obviously going to be a big problem, as well as being something to be aware of when it comes to mixing groups; one or two with reoccuring throat abscesses isn't a big deal, but 30 or 40 is, so we do our best to contain affected individuals, or those that have had contact with them (even if not symptomatic themselves) to a set group.
This does seem to be a Pets At Home problem, as all the individuals I've known to have this issue hailed from there, or had close contact with rats who did. Be wary of rats from there that show throat lumps; it may be nothing, they may have one and then never another in their lives (as my girl Dolly did) or they my not spread them to others, but I would feel I was doing a disservice to rats not to mention that this is an emerging problem with Pets At Home stock.
Skin Problems and parasites
Rats, like most animals, can get parasites like fleas, mites, ticks and lice, but the most common amongst our pet rats are mites and lice. Ticks are usually only found in rats that have been roaming outside in grass, like strays, and should not affect captive pet groups. We have only ever seen one tick on a rat, and it was a boy who had been roughing it in a garden for 2 weeks.
Rats can pick mites and lice up from anywhere, often it's the bedding or the litter, or, of course, other rats. Mites and lice are different from one another, with lice being visible to the naked eye (looking like tiny brown specks moving in the fur) whereas mites can only be seen under a microscope. But the symptoms and are virtually the same for both.
The first sign of a parasite problem is excessive scratching, and scabs, usually occuring around the shoulders and face.
Rats do scratch to clean themselves, or when it's very hot. But if the scratching is especially excessive, to the point the rat is breaking the skin and causing scabs, its likely they have mites or lice. Lice you can see, but mites you cannot: a skin scrape for mites often provides a false negative in rats, so its probably prudent to just treat them all as a matter of course if you suspect they are affected. With lice, you can sometimes see tiny, silvery specks that line up along the hair shaft, often on the longer fur around the rear and and back.
Scabs commonly appear on the shoulders, front legs and around the eyes and whisker pads. While not all scabs or skin problems are parasite related, they are so common in rats that it is usually the first thing one would want to eliminate before considering other causes. Below you can see how Attila looked when he had mites:
The most commonly used treatment for mites or lice in the rat world is Ivermectin. You can get this from your vet, or purchase it online.
Ivermectin from your vet can be either injected, or applied topically to the skin. All ivermec poses a small risk to your rats, and these days, most request it applied topically rather than injected, as injecting can up the risk of complications, and is more stressful to the rat.
I do not treat my rats for parasites unless I see evidence of parasites. Treating retroactively is not something I do, for any of my animals. All chemicals applied to an animal carry a risk, and I prefer not to take that risk on a 'just in case', where possible. This is, of course, personal choice.
It is not uncommon for rats to injure their feet, or tails. Sometimes they might get them stuck in something in their cage, or land awkwardly on them, and most of the time you don't see it happen, you just find them with a red, swollen foot and a limp!
Although it can look distressing, as they tend to swell up, sometimes looking like a pink rubber glove. The rat will usually not want to walk on the foot, and may hold it up close to their body. Most of the time, these are simply minor sprains or sometimes small fractures, and heal on their own without the need for veterinary treatment
There is very little a vet can do for a break or a fracture in a rat, as the bones in their feet are so tiny. All a vet will usually do is give the rat some pain relief and an anti-inflammatory, if that. They may advise to keep the rat in a smaller, single level cage for a few days while it heals, so they don't have to climb or use the limb too much.
If there is a puncture wound, such as if the injury was caused by a bite, antibiotics might be useful, but they're not always necessary. Ensure you keep a bottle of children's calprofen liquid at home, as this can safely be given to rats as a pain reliever. Most fractures, sprains and even minor breaks will begin to show signs of improvement within a few days.
If the rat has a major break, such as if the limb is hanging or there is bone protruding, surgery or amputation may be required. But these kinds of breaks are rare. Most of the time, the rat has simply sprained the leg, or pulled a muscle, or fractured one of the tiny bones in their toe, but it can look quite dramatic all the same. Again, if concerned, see your vet.
Rats living in a group may have little scuffles from time to time. This is a normal way of maintaining the heirarchy. In a bonded group, these are usually minor scuffles, but they can sometimes result in wounds. When rats have minor altercations, they don't usually intend to hurt one another seriously, but they can do so by accident if they misjudge a bite or scratch, or the other rat is smaller, or elderly and less able to avoid them.
Small wounds will require no treatment. Larger wounds usually heal on their own too, but you might want to give a pain killer for a few days, and possibly an antibiotic to safeguard against infection if the wound is particularly large or severe.
Rats heal amazingly quickly, and what looks like a big gash one day can be completely scabbed over and hard to find the next! Wounds on tails, toes or other extremeties can sometimes take longer to heal as there is less skin, fat, or protection on these area, and bites can sometimes go to the bone, as well as these areas being in constant movement. I've had several tails with visible bone or tendon through the wound, just caused by a bite.
In these situations, I give the rat pain relief, and keep the wound clean, using just good old salt water. Again, however, if you are concerned or the rat seems otherwise unhappy, see the vet.
Head tilt/inner ear infections
Head-tilt is another common problem in rats, and most people end up with a 'tilty' rat at some point. We have had a fair few over the years.
Head-tilt is almost always caused by an inner ear infection, which causes the rat's balance to be thrown out, and makes them hold their head at a tilted angle. Some rats are only mildly tilted, others severely so, where it seems their whole head is almost upside down.
There is a theory that if vet care is sought for the ear infection within 24 hours, the head-tilt can be cured. But this is only a theory, and most rats end up tilted, to some degree, for life. I have had some rats who have gradually lost their tilt, or most of it, over time, however.
While it can look odd to us, and in the case of the severely affected ones, quite debilitating, rats generally cope extremely well with a head-tilt. Most can still climb, run on their wheel, play, and do pretty much everything they could before; they adapt well, it is no reason to put a rat to sleep. In some severe cases, adjustments may need to be made to the cage so the rat doesn't have to do too much climbing or athletics to get to their food and water, but you will be able to judge your rats individual limitations yourself.
Curiously, I've known a number of rats who came into rescue with an existing, long standing head-tilt, which improved gradually with a change of diet. This is in no way scientifically proven, it is merely anecdotal. However, I had a rat come in once who had been kept on a strict vegan diet per his owner's desires, and he had a horrendous head-tilt, unable to even climb the bars of his cage, and he was only a youngster. As soon as he was given the animal protein vital to young rats, his tilt began to disappear, and soon, he could climb as well as any other. I have known similar stories from others. Again, these are by no means scientific, nor do they prove anything, but it is something I am curious about looking further into.
Malocclusion is the proper name for when the teeth in a rat's mouth do not line up correctly, and therefore, do not get worn down as they naturally should. As a rat's teeth never stop growing, if they are not kept down, they can cause all kinds of problems, such as growing into the rat's mouth, causing pain and an inability to eat.
The myth goes that rats need to constantly gnaw hard things to keep their teeth short; this is not strictly true. Rats should be able to keep their teeth perfectly neat just via grinding them against one another - if they line up normally. If they don't, they will over-grow.
Malocclusion is sometimes genetic, sometimes caused by a trauma to the jaw that knocks the teeth out of alignment, or sometimes can occur in older rats as a side effect of kidney problems, where calcium is leeched from the bones, causing them to become weak and less likely to hold the teeth where they should be.
Malocclusion is not something you can leave to resolve itself; it won't. All that will happen is that the teeth will get longer and longer, often curling back and into the mouth as they grow, and the rat will eventually die from starvation or infection. Check your rat's teeth regularly, as they grow incredibly fast and what isn't apparent one day can be obvious the next. If your rat has a problem with over-growing teeth, you have two main options.
The first is to have the rat's teeth clipped regularly. The time span between clippings will vary from rat to rat. Some of mine have needed clipping as little as once every 5 days, others have been able to go a week and a half or a little more between clips. A vet will be able to clip the rat's teeth for you, or, if you are confident enough, you can do it yourself.
I learned to do it myself after having a girl who needed it done every 5 days or so, and taking her to the vet every 5 days was not practical, for her or me.
It is also possible to 'burr' the teeth, similar to sanding them down, and some prefer this to clipping as it reduces the risk of shattering the tooth. However, burring is a more invasive and longer procedure, and on a rat that is anything other than very docile, would probably require some gas to do properly. Gassing a rat down that frequently is not necessarily in their best interests, so I prefer to clip mine at home. For me, it is less stressful for them to be in their home environment without needing to be knocked out, and if you become skilled, you can do a successful clip in seconds.
The other alternative to regular clipping is removal of the teeth.
This might sound like a better long-term option, but be aware it comes with a lot of potential problems.
For a start, removing teeth from rats is hard, harder than removing teeth from people, or dogs, or cats. To remove a rat's incisors, you need to actually get down into the jaw bone, and it is an invasive operation for a little animal. There is also the risk of breaking the jaw bone in the process, or, if the procedure is not done perfectly, there is even the risk the teeth can grow back later.
Most rats have only one set of incisors that are affected, but the problem is you often have to remove both sets, even the normal ones, because if you just remove one set, there is nothing for the remaining incisors to grind against, and they will then begin to overgrow too. So we're now talking about taking both sets of incisors out, upping the complexity of the op, and the chance of complications.
Most vets will not do all four incisors in one op as it is too much for a tiny animal, so they often have to spread the procedure over two, or even more, surgeries. This means several anaesthetics, and several chances something might go wrong.
If teeth are successfully removed, and no re-growth occurs, the rat will need to be fed soft foods for life, meaning they will require specialist care for the rest of their days.
The other option which does exist, but isn't one most of us would want to confront, is having the rat put to sleep. This is not necessarily the wrong choice, but it depends very much on the rat.
If the rat is elderly, and distressed by frequent tooth clipping, or makes it impossible for their teeth to be clipped, it may be worth considering whether their quality of life is all it could be.
But for young, otherwise healthy rats, I would not opt for putting them to sleep personally, I would probably just choose to clip regularly, and I am comfortable doing so.
If you wish to learn to clip, ask your vet, they can show you how. I personally use dog nail clippers for this, and have both styles in my tool box: the guilliotine type, and the type with the little round hole in the middle. Some rats prefer one type, some prefer the other, and it also depends on how the tooth has grown, and how easily accessible it is as to which work best.
Zymbals gland tumours
I feel it is worth mentioning these, as they seem to be becoming more common in the rat population.
Often called a ZGT, a Zymbals gland tumour is a tumour that occurs on a gland near the ear canal.
When I first started in rats, 16 years ago, these seemed barely mentioned. I would hear about them very occasionally, but they were still a fairly rare problem. I did not see my first ZGT until 10 years into keeping rats. Now, however, I have seen 3 in the last two years, and reports of them from other owners are rising.
An early sign of a ZGT might be a small mass or abscess just under the opening of the ear, on one side. These typically start out small, and don't seem to trouble the rat, but over time they can grow, ulcerate, bleed and cause pain. In severe cases, if they become too large, they can cause warping of the bone and even malocclusion as a result. ZGTs are, unfortunately, not treatable; their location and the nature of the tumour makes successful removal almost impossible. ZGTs tend to be malignant, and invasive.
A ZGT is, unfortunately, a terminal illness, and all we can do is keep the rat comfortable until such a time when euthanasia is necessary.
This is by no means a common problem in rats currently, but it does, for some reason, seem to be becoming more so. I recieve more emails asking for advice on seizures now than I ever used to.
But that's exactly why I'm writing a small piece on it. My rat, Jack, had seizures for most of his adult life and there was absolutely no advice anywhere online regarding rats and seizures. So I thought I'd share my experiences in the hope it would help other people having the same problem.
I first noticed Jack have a seizure when he was around a year old. I'd noticed periods of odd behaviour from him prior to that, such as seeming to go off into his own world or wandering in circles, but I didn't realise these were a form of seizure too until I began to research the condition in dogs.
A few times in the night I had woken to crashing in the cage and found Jack at the bottom of a ramp, or looking frightened, and always assumed he'd simply been fighting as he was the lowest in the group. But I now know he was actually having seizures. Most of the time, he seemed to have them at night, though he did have a few while I was with him.
During a seizure, Jack's body would go rigid, he would paddle his legs, gnash his teeth and be unable to walk. This usually lasted less than 20 seconds, but he would then take anything up to an hour to get his bearings again. Immediately following a seizure, he would find it hard to walk, and often followed a circuit around his cage, over and over.
So what do you do about a rat that has seizures? The sad answer is there's not much you can do. I took Jack to the vet regarding his, and the vet pretty much told me she knew nothing about seizures in rats, only in dogs, and that she would prescribe him tranquillisers if I wanted, but I declined. It didn't seem right to be accepting medication from a vet who openly admitted she didn't know anything about rats. The vet told me she would go away and research the condition then get back to me. She never did.
Unless your rat is having seizures daily, and they are worsening, I would steer clear of drugs. Jack would only have one seizure every couple of months or so, but he did go through a phase where he had many in one week. There are mixed opinions regarding how to handle your rat if you see him having a seizure. Some people insist they must be left alone, as any outside stimulus will only make it worse. Other people insist you should hold and comfort the animal. In general, I left Jack alone unless he was in a situation where he might get hurt, such as on a high level where he could fall. Most people with epilepsy tell you to leave them alone so I figured this was best for Jack too.
The only real dangers associated with this condition are the rat harming itself during a seizure or the seizures becoming so lengthy they run the risk of causing brain damage, in which case, medication should be used to control them. There is also a small risk of a rat biting it's own tongue while fitting, and with their teeth being so long their tongue can swell and block their airways, though chances of this are small, it's worth bearing in mind
If your rat does start to seizure, it's important to try and find a reason for it before anything else. Seizures could be a symptom of something serious. There was no outside reason for Jack's seizures, and nothing specific seemed to trigger them. But it's best to try and find a cause first before you assume this is the same for your rat, as seizures can be related to toxins, diet, environment, or many other things that it is best to rule out first.
If your rat has regular severe seizures that cannot be brought under control with medication, it may be worth considering whether euthanasia should be performed.
It should be stressed that these are just some of the more common
health problems of rats, and only a small percentage of the health issues that can occur. If you are concerned about your rat then take it to the vet. Sadly, a
lot of people seem to think that because rats are small and they don't cost much to buy, then
they're not worth spending money on at the vet. Anyone with this attitude should not own rats. Be warned: they do become ill, and they can be costly.
All too often, we read in rat groups and forums that someone has an ill rat, but cannot afford the vet. This is, in most cases, unacceptable. Nobody forces us to take on a pet; we choose to. In choosing to, we are also choosing to be responsible for their care, and this means vet bills. We all struggle financially, and people would probably be surprised at how little I survive on week to week, I am very far from being well off. But the animals do not have a say in who they end up with, so if we're going to take on the responsibility of pets, we must ensure we care for them correctly, just as we should if we decide to have children. If you do not think you would be prepared, or able, to pay out for vet bills for a rat, please do not get them. This may sound harsh, but I firmly believe pets are a luxury, not a human right, and we should only take them on if we can provide for all their needs.