Should I Neuter My Male Pet Rat?

If you are not going to breed your pet rat, neutering them is a good idea. 

 Neutering them will also help prevent unwanted and unplanned pregnancies.  There are pros and cons in regards to neutering your pet rat.  

What is Neutering?

When you neuter your male pet rat, the veterinarian will remove their testicles to make them infertile.

Neutering Your Pet Rat

Pros

  • Aggression in male rats can be reduced
  • It lowers their risk of developing pituitary tumors but the surgery has to be done when they are between three and six months of age
  • Neutering your male pet rat will allow you to put them in with the females
  • They will have less buck grease and softer fur.

Cons

  • Recovery after surgery is painful
  • It can be an expensive surgery
  • There is a risk of complications after surgery, even death
  • Weight gain is common
angry rat in hands

When to Neuter Your Pet Rat

Although they reach sexual maturity around four or five weeks, it recommended that you wait to have the surgery done when they are between three and six months

Good Reasons to Neuter Your Pet Rat

  • Acting aggressively toward you or their cage mates as they become mellower once neutered.
  • Attempting or trying to hump the ones they are caged with even though they are males
  • You want to keep your male and females in the same cage but do not want her to get pregnant.
  • Low level of testosterone, which will lower their quality of life
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Preparing For Your Pet Rat’s Neutering Surgery

1. Pre-surgery

If your pet rat is prone to respiratory illnesses, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics for you to give to them a few days before they have the surgery.  Taking the antibiotics will help your pet rat to be healthy enough to have the surgery.  It will also help to lower the risk of them having an infection after the procedure. 

They do not need to fast or stop eating before surgery like other animals.  Since they cannot burp or vomit, there is no risk of your pet rat accidentally inhaling gastric juices or regurgitated foods while they are under sedation.  

If they do not eat, it reduces their energy reserves, which can be dangerous.  It will make your pet rat more susceptible to hypoglycemia and dehydration.  In some cases, if they fast, it can alter how they will react to the anesthetic.  Using inhaled anesthetic is safer for your pet rat than injection for the dose is easier to measure.  Do not have the surgery done if your veterinarian does not use inhaled anesthetic.

white rat on a shoulder

2. Post-surgery

Your pet rat should be clear to go home the same day after they are neutered unless there are complications.  Letting your pet rat go home that day will help to ease their recovery process and reduce their stress levels.  The veterinarian will show you what their incision looks like and go over all the warning signs that could indicate something is wrong and they need to be looked at.  

When your pet rat is recovering, they will need to be kept in a small cage separate from the others for at least one full day.  Ask your veterinarian to be sure when they can rejoin the other rats.  You can use a cat carrier as their recovery cage because it will limit any unnecessary movements. 

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Keep your pet rat warm after the surgery because the anesthetic will interfere with their body temperature regulation.  Use a covered heating pad to help keep them warm but make sure that they do not get too hot or chew on the cord.

Your veterinarian may prescribe pain medication and antibiotics to help your pet rat feel more comfortable and to reduce the risk of infection.  It is very important for the health of your pet rat to follow the instructions carefully.  Complete the full antibiotic treatment unless your veterinarian tells you otherwise.  Check their incision at least once or twice a day for any signs of infection, such as swelling, pus, or redness.

For a male pet rat to lose their entire sperm store, it can take up to three weeks.  During this time, they still can impregnate female pet rats so do not put them together until after that time.  To notice any change in their behavior, it can take from six to eight weeks.

Complications of Neutering

Besides infection, you want to check your pet rat for:

  • Any unusual bleeding
  • Excessive lethargy
  • The incision site reopens
  • Breathing that is abnormal
  • Post-surgical abscesses
  • Not drinking water or lack of appetite

The complications from being neutered can range from mild, such as a small infection, to something severe, such as cardiac or respiratory failure.  This is why it is important that you monitor your pet rat closely for at least a couple of weeks and if anything happens, call your veterinarian.

How to Avoid Complications

One way to be sure your pet rat avoids any complications after neutering surgery is to make sure that the veterinarian is experienced with neutering rats.  Do not be afraid to ask questions such as the type of anesthetic they use, which should be inhaled anesthetic. 

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If your pet rat is prone to infection, is old, avoid the surgery if the risks outweigh the benefits.  After your pet rat has been neutered, be diligent in monitoring their condition and check their incision frequently so you can catch any problems before they get out of control.

Conclusion

  • Neutering is an optional surgery so it should not be done unless in cases of extreme aggression between males.
  • Neutering surgery is invasive so most pet rats who are healthy when having the surgery will recover without any problems
  • If your male pet rat has been housed with other male rats from a young age most will not need to be neutered as they are most likely not to be aggressive toward the other males he has been with most of his life.
  • There is no set price for neutering but on average, it can cost from $35 to $250.
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