There will come a time when your beloved pet rat will sadly cross the Rainbow Bridge, as with any much-loved family pet their death can be extremely tough for the family to deal with. So, what happens if you are left with only one rat now, can they live alone?
What to do when you have one rat left? It is highly recommended that you get a new rat buddy for your single rat to live and play with no matter how much time and attention you can afford. Rats are very social animals and if all of a sudden they are forced to live alone they could easily get depressed, develop behavioral issues and will be at risk of early death.
I have been in this sad situation a number of times and its never easy, you might want to get another friend for your single rat but simply don’t know how to go about it or you might not want to continue keeping rats for whatever reason. Fortunately, we have gained some valuable experience with situations like this that we have shared below.
What To Do When a Rat Cagemate Dies?
First things first, its vital that your surviving rat(s) get the opportunity to deal with the death of their cagemate. Rats are extremely intelligent animals capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions like empathy and grief.
When one of your rats sadly passes away whether its from natural causes or you have unfortunately had to get them put to sleep at the vet, I recommend you put them into the cage to give your other rats the opportunity to process what has happened. It will be less stressful for the other rats to process the death of the rat rather than simply disappearing all of a sudden.
Rats will tend to sniff, prod and stand on the dead rat to try and get a reaction from their friend. They will open and sniff their mouth, this type of reaction is said to be similar to apes and believed they are checking for breath. Always stay present during this process.
Once the rats become uninterested then remove the dead rat from the cage, rats are prey animals and they will dispose of the body to prevent any potential predator’s attention. So be sure not to leave them unsupervised with the body or leave it in the cage overnight, they will end up eating the body to get rid of it.
In the next coming days and weeks, it’s important you give your rats some extra love and affection to help deal with their loss. This extra attention and care will be extremely beneficial for you and your other rats. I find that playing and talking to my rats provides great stress relief, this has been shown to be true in studies as it lowers blood pressure response to mental stress so it’s definitely a win-win.
Getting a New Cagemate For Your Rat
If you are left with one surviving rat then they really do need a new friend, even if you can give 2, 3 or even 8 hours per day, one on one time that still won’t be enough for your rat. Rats need the company of their own kind to play, fight, sleep and communicate with, you can find out more about why rats need to live in pairs or groups in one of our other articles if you click this link.
If you are planning to continue keeping rats as pets then introducing new rats to your existing setup can be quite daunting and also challenging experience for you and your rats. There isn’t one set way to do it but, fortunately, there are many good techniques to try and smooth the integration. I have tried many over the years and this is what I find the best to work.
Introduce 2 Young Rats
It tends to be easier to introduce two young baby rats between 8 to 12 weeks old. Your older rat will feel less threatened with younger smaller rats as they can exert their dominance easier as rats are territorial animals. The younger rats will also be big enough to defend themselves ar this age.
There are a few benefits of getting two young baby rats to introduce your existing rat. The baby rats will be able to keep each other occupied playing together and once their all spent it will be time to cuddle and sleep together recharging their batteries.
The rehoming period can be very stressful for a rat, having a familiar buddy can help comfort the rats coming into a strange new home and smooth this process. And, most reputable breeders and pet stores won’t actually sell you a single rat on its own for this very reason.
Not Planning on Continuing to Keep Pet Rats
There will be times when you don’t want to continue keeping rats or simply can’t for whatever reason, this is ok and it happens all the time. That being said, if you are left with one rat it is important that you consider the health and wellbeing of your pet.
There are a couple of options you can consider when you are down to one rat and it’s going to be your last for now.
You could look to rehome the rat, as hard as it might be, rehoming them could be the best option if your rat is left on its own. If you find someone who owns a group of rats and they are willing to adopt yours then this way it will be able to see out its days in the company of its own kind and not getting depressed and lonely.
Your rat might not look sad but it has been scientifically proven that rats become depressed if kept on their own. You can’t necessarily tell how it feels if it doesn’t look like it’s in distress.
Some people also make the mistake of thinking their rat is near the end of its life as its one and a half or two years old. Even though rats tend to live to around two, they can live longer than 3 years which is a really long time for your pet to live alone. We have written another article explaining why rats shouldn’t live alone.
Another option could be to foster or borrow a couple of rats, this might not necessarily be the easiest thing to do as it might be quite hard to actually get someone who is prepared to do it. You could post on Facebook or forums asking for help, there are plenty of helpful and likeminded people out there who appreciate you and your pet’s circumstances.
My Rat is Too Aggressive or Ill to Introduce to New Rats
Depending on your circumstances it might not be possible to rehome your rat or adopt new rats due to illness or aggressive behavior, this is normally a rare occasion and can typically be overcome.
You might have a rat who is too ill to deal with the stress of bringing two new baby rats into their home, this can be stressful for all involved. If you find yourself in this situation you could contact a local breeder or rescue for advice as they might be able to assist.
However, you might need to concede on the idea of adding more rats and help nurse and comfort your little pet.
Another common concern I hear is when someone feels their rat might be too aggressive to try and introduce new rats. This could be the case but it could also be the method of the introduction, age of the new rats, sex of the new rats or the environment they are in.
For more information on how to successfully introduce new rats to your existing mischief why not read one of our other posts on rat introductions here.
Can rats die of loneliness? Rats won’t necessarily die directly as a result of loneliness, they may, however, become sad, depressed and live a stressful more unnatural life in they live alone. As a result, they could develop health and behavioral issues that could lead to early death or develop serious health issues as a result.
How to keep a single rat happy? The best way to keep a rat happy is to provide the most natural living environment for them to live in, in your home and that is to provide them with rat buddies to live with. By doing this your rat will be happier and healthier as a result.