Q & A

From the Nov/Dec 1996 Rat & Mouse Gazette


I accidentally pulled about two inches of my rats tail off and didn't know what to do. Can you give me more information?


A rats tail skin is very delicate and is easily pulled off if you grab the tail hard and pull, or if you grab the tail hard and the rat pulls away from you. If you must grab the tail to prevent the rat from getting into somewhere dangerous, make sure you grab the tail at its base, not anywhere close to the end.

Once an accident like this happens, there are only two possible courses of action: (1) Take the rat to a qualified vet and have the injured portion of the tail amputated surgically, and (2) Allow the injured portion of the tail to dry up and slough off.

With either choice there is plenty of pain involved, however, I believe the amputation is the short-term pain option. Careful consideration of any surgical procedure must still be used (i.e., age, health, or anything else that would present a higher risk during anesthesia).

The skin of a rat tail will not grow back and the injured portion of the tail will eventually die and fall off. This is called sloughing. During the time the injured area remains moist, there will be considerable pain involved. Once the tissue dies and begins to dry out, the rat appears to no longer be in any pain. It is very difficult to watch a rat go through this, and the rat should not be allowed to roam the house. Actually, the rat should be kept alone, on clean white paper-towels in a 10-gallon aquarium or something equivalent, so as to prohibit climbing or too much dragging the tail around. Most rats will stay relatively quiet during the painful period and should be encouraged to do so.

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Is there a home mixture I can use to clean aquarium cages instead of using Parvosol?


A mild bleach solution (10 parts water to one part bleach) is very effective at disinfecting, although it has no soaping action, but you must be sure to completely rinse the solution from the aquarium before placing the rats back inside. If you cannot find Parvosol where you live and choose not to use the bleach solution, any veterinary type germicidal/virucidal product will do.

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What's with the bathing? I mist my rats with water, but have never washed them with any kind of shampoo. I tried shampooing my first rat, and he hated the water, frantically clawing up my arms to get out of the sink. How, exactly, do you shampoo a rat and how often?


Instructions for bathing a rat were published in the Q & A section of the November/December 1995 issue of the Gazette, but since that issue is currently sold out, we will reprint it here for those who missed it.

First of all, rats only need to be bathed if you, the rats owner, find their smell or oilyness objectionable. Most female rats do not ever need to be given a bath unless you are showing them and their coat has become stained, and even then, most of them can be wiped clean. Male rats on the other hand, have an oily skin problem (some more than others) that is connected with their testosterone level and creates a thick, orange residue on their backs. Wiping with a washcloth will sometimes work for this problem if it is not too severe, but a good thorough bath is needed about once a month for more extreme cases.

Of course, with all of the different personalities our rats have, some will be much more willing to cooperate at bath time than others, and it is not uncommon for a rat to react exactly how you described your rats behavior. It is up to the individual rat owner to decide whether or not they feel a bath is necessary and worth the possible stress to both rat and owner.

(From Issue 2, Nov/Dec 1995, page 5)

Have a towel ready before you begin. Fill both sides of your kitchen sink with lukewarm water. Dip your rat in one side of the sink in the water, but only up to the neck. Using a soap made for cats or kittens, or sometimes even dish washing liquid (I use Dawn on my males since they tend to have an oily buildup on their skin) apply several drops on the rats back. Begin working the soap into a good lather and scrub well with your fingertips. (It is best not to use a brush as you can apply too much pressure without realizing it.) Be careful not to get any water or soap into your rat's eyes or ears. When you feel the rat is clean, lower him/her into the other side of the sink and rinse. Again, be careful not to get any water in the rat's eyes or ears. If you don't feel you can rinse the rat well enough this way you can hold him/her under a stream of running water, but be sure the water is not too hot. Dry thoroughly.

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