This is a rather difficult question to answer. Not due to its complexity because it’s rather simple, but because the answer is both positive and negative.
Rats, like many rodents, thrive in a social environment. If they can’t hang around other animals similar to them, they will be extremely lonely.
It doesn’t matter if they have plenty of human contact, pet rats need to constantly have the ability to play and interact with other rats.
Pet rats can actually get depressed and anxious due to loneliness. Because of that, a lonely pet rat will eventually give up on life: they will stop grooming themselves, they will stop eating and eventually die from health complications related to this.
In short, a pet rat cannot die from loneliness, but a lonely pet rat can suffer from enough complications to weaken itself enough to cause its death.
They are not living under great conditions if they have to wait for their owners to play with them.
If your pet rat now lives alone with no other rodents around it, it will begin to feel lonely. Lonely pet rats can get bored and suffer from stress, anxiety and mental health issues that many people do not know pet rats can have.
It doesn’t matter if you are constantly with your pet rat, if it doesn’t have another rat to hang out with, they will feel lonely regardless.
It’s biologically impossible for a pet rat to die from loneliness or grief alone. This doesn’t mean a lonely environment is safe for a pet rat though.
So I did some research on this subject to find some of the pet rat grieving symptoms and what we can do about it as their owners to better help them through their hard times.
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Pet Rat Grieving Symptoms
Once a pet rat begins the grieving process, you will start to see different symptoms. Sometimes they all happen at once, and other times you’ll only notice your pet rat showing these symptoms one at time. They can include:
- Loss of appetite.
- No interest in playtime.
- Restlessness, aggressivity, and anxiety.
- Loss of health.
Loss of appetite: Grieving pet rats will stop eating their food and will only accept their favorite treats.
During the first week, it’s best to make the greatest effort possible to get them to eat and avoid any unnecessary weight loss. After the first couple of days are over, start giving fewer treats and more regular food.
Be sure to check if they are eating. Sometimes pet rats will begin to hoard and bury some of their food expecting their friend to come back if they haven’t seen the dead body.
No interest in playtime: Pet rats are extremely social and even more playful. But if one of their own dies, they will stop playing for a while.
They won’t run or use their favorite toys, as they feel lonely and perhaps depressed.
What you can do is cuddle with them and pet them to comfort them the best as you can.
Restlessness, aggressivity, anxiety: A grieving pet rat can wander aimlessly in their cage or chew toys more than normal due to anxiety or restlessness because of their loss.
They can also become aggressive towards their owners or other pet rats. If they are aggressive towards their owner, the best thing to do is back off and let them have some space.
If they are aggressive towards other pet rats, it’s best to separate them. to avoid any violent incidents.
Loss of health: A grieving pet rat becomes weaker due to depression and its symptoms.
When your pet rat is faced with tragedy, they will begin to lose interest in eating and life in general.
Excessive weight loss and not grooming itself can bring a lot of problems to a pet rat. Make sure to regularly check on them if this is the case.
Helping Your Pet Rat Through The Loneliness
If two or more pet rats are living together, eventually one of them will die first. This is a terrible scenario for most, if not all pet rats.
If you find yourself in a similar scenario, the first thing you need to do is understand your pet rats grieving process. They will need to see the body.
Scientists do not know if rodents understand the concept of death, but they understand when one of them is missing.
So even though it seems a bit odd, place the pet rat’s body inside the cage and let the other rodents look at it.
For some reason, when pet rats see one of them is dead, they will try to push it to make it react and eventually check its breath.
After a while, the living rodents will walk away from the body with the understanding their friend is no longer there. This process can take minutes or hours.
Keep in mind if they never see their companion’s body, they cannot grieve properly.
Once they know their companion is dead, they will begin to grieve. You need to understand grieving pet rats do not need to be left alone, but rather, need extra care and comfort food, as humans do.
They won’t play as much, but your pet rats will want to cuddle with you and will find solace in the treats you can give them.
Pet Rats And Depression
If your pet rat has stopped playing, eating and is restless, it might be a sign of depression due to loneliness.
Keep in mind, if your pet rat has lived alone its whole life, you might not see these symptoms as the little rodent will get happy when it’s time to play with its owner.
Make sure to avoid any unnecessary problems in your pet rat’s life and get it one or more companions for it to enjoy life with.
If loneliness is a result of a companion’s death, comfort your pet rat and let time heal the wounds.
What To Do When A Pet Rat Dies
When a pet rat dies, you and your remaining rat may go through your own forms of grieving.
While you go through this you still have to figure out other things like burial options.
Veterinary disposal and at-home burial are a couple that you can choose from, and there are a few more out there as well.
It all comes down to what you feel is the best way for it to help you move on.
Helping them through their grief is also essential to their good health. They won’t be able to properly move on without going through their own natural process of seeing the body when their rat companion dies.
As their owners, it’s up to us to help them go through that process the right way. You can read my article on what to do when a pet rat dies if you’re unfamiliar with that natural process.
Getting Another Pet Rat For The Lonely One
Getting a new pet rat is a great strategy to deal with their grieving, but it must be done with extreme care.
Keep in mind gender considerations when it comes to pet rats and how to choose a companion. See if it’s best to adopt a female or a male pet rat.
You should also pay attention to age. If you want to adopt a younger pet rat to share a place with an older rat, it’s best to get two instead of one. This prevents excessive grieving when the older pet rat eventually dies.
Remember rats are social animals and they love to be around their owners and each other.
They need to be able to play, groom, sleep, and just interact with one another to keep their mental and physical health at a good level.
Pet rats won’t suddenly die from loneliness but their health can definitely go down from not getting the regular interactions and cleanings from their cage mate.
So to make sure your pet rat doesn’t go down that road, always try to keep another compatible rat with them.
If that’s not possible or you’ve made up your mind that you won’t be getting any more pet rats, make sure to give your remaining pet rat all the love and attention they need so they won’t end up becoming lonely.