Dealing With The Death Of A Pet Rat

Losing an animal companion such as a rat is a lot harder than it sounds. You have loved your rat as much as you would have loved a friend, or maybe more.

Now, all of a sudden, it’s gone, leaving you with emptiness and grief. It is essential to move on, but you must understand the need to go through a mourning process.

If you feel overwhelmed with the loss of your pet rat, several questions could be running through your mind.

Here are some helpful suggestions for what you can do when a pet rat dies:

  • Notice the signs your remaining pet rat is grieving.
  • Help them through their natural grieving process.
  • Give the remaining rat more attention than usual.
  • Recover from the loss of your pet with help if necessary.
  • Possibly Replacing your pet rat after one dies.

Not everyone comprehends the blow you have to deal with when your rat passes away. This might have something to do with the fact that rats are not as common as pets as maybe cats and dogs are.

If you have had more than one rat, especially a couple, the process of moving on becomes even harder.

Considering you not only have to go through your own grieving stages, but also have to look into the remaining rat’s well-being.

Signs Your Pet Rat Is Grieving

Humans are lucky in a way that they can express grief in words, tears and many other ways.

Your animal companions, especially rodents, may not be able to do the same. However, that does not mean they do not experience sorrow when one of their kind passes away.

If you have a cage full of rats and you take one of them to the vet where it breathes its last, the remaining rats might grow impatient on not seeing it again.

They would realize that something is wrong then begin to show pet rat grieving symptoms like:

  • Refusing food.
  • Sleeping fewer hours.
  • Showing signs of lethargy.
  • They may stop grooming themselves.

These symptoms can stack up and start to affect their health, and it leads a lot of owners to wonder if their pet rat can die from loneliness.

Helping Your Pet Rat Through the Grief

Helping your pet rats through the grief of losing their companion is crucial for their mental and physical health.

The best way to deal with this is to show the remaining rats the body of the rat that has passed on.

This may seem odd but it’s actually the natural way to help the remaining rats move on.

It allows the remaining rats to have proof that their companion is dead and unfortunately won’t be coming back.

What will happen is they will check and sniff their nose and mouth constantly. They will also groom the rat and try to force a reaction from them.

Sometimes they will even stand on them or nudge them frequently when trying to get their companion to react. After a while, they’ll start to realize the situation and won’t wait around anymore for their friend to get up.

It’s at this point that you should remove the body of your dead pet rat from the cage.

Leaving their body in the cage isn’t sanitary and your other pet rats will also try to dispose of the body in their own way.

They do this because it’s apart of the mentality of a prey animal, they want to make sure the body doesn’t attract any predators.

Once they realize that the rat is gone, the grieving process speeds up and they might slowly get back to normal behavior, sometimes even in a few hours.

Giving The Remaining Rat Attention

When a pet rat dies, the remaining rats require your attention even more. This is especially true if only a single rat is left.

For them, it seems like they have lost their only companion and have no one else to share the grief with.

Remember that you are grieving too, and even though you and the remaining rat cannot share the grief among yourselves through words, there are other ways to make sure the grieving process is mutual.

After the passing of one rat, ensure you spend a lot of time with the remaining rats.

If you see your pet rat grieving, pet them often and watch out for any symptoms. Like us, rats are mammals, so in many ways, their bodies react to grief the same way as human bodies do.

So try getting yummy treats for them like chocolate-based foods, and make sure they are eating enough.

Look out for bacterial infections as these are common with rats that are dealing with acute stress. At the first sign of infection, treat the rats with antibiotics or take them to the vet to have them checked out.

They need you now more than ever and there is no need to deny you need them too.

They understand you even without words, your presence is enough to alleviate the pain they are going through.

Recovering From The Grief Of Losing Your Pet Rat

Giving the remaining rats your whole attention when their cage mate passes away might seem like the top priority, but do not forget that you need to take care of yourself simultaneously.

Regardless of the species of your pet, losing them is hard. So it’s natural to experience crying fatigue lack of energy or appetite irritability depression.

Sometimes time does not heal all wounds and we need help finding a healthy way to get through the pain of our loss. There are even books out there that can guide you through steps to cope with the grief of losing a pet.

E-Books you can download like How to ROAR: Pet Loss Grief Recovery help guide you through the recovery process with a step by step process.

In this e-book, they help you or your child with the loss of a pet of any species, and they also go through all the options you have after their death like home burial, pet preservation, veterinary disposal, etc.

Also spending more time with the remaining rats might help you in the grieving process to some extent. Studies have shown that talking to pets reduces stress in humans according to the National Institutes of Health.

However, we are all human in the end and need the help and support of other people. Do not hesitate to talk about your loss with family and friends.

The people who love you will be there for you even if they do not particularly understand the specific grief brought on by the death of a pet rat.

If you need any more help after your pet rat dies, you could always join a support group for pet rat owners.

Several such groups are available online. Talk to your vet or your pet store owner to see if they know of any physical support group near your residence if you prefer one.

Sharing your experiences not only unburdens your mind but listening to other people’s stories could make you feel valued and respected.

Joining a more generic support group might also help. The AMC Pet Loss Support Group, for example, is a great one.

Do not go through your grieving stages alone, because no one is truly alone in dealing with loss. Above everything, make sure you eat, sleep, exercise, and manage your stress well. All of this is important for a quick recovery.

Getting Another Pet Rat If One Dies

If your deceased rat has left behind a lot of cage mates, it might not be essential to get another new pet rat into the pack.

Although the remaining rats do grieve, because they are together, they might get over the loss and move on easily.

The question of getting another rat becomes vital when only a single rat is left behind.

It could be a partner or a sibling that the remaining rat has lost and with being no one to share the grief, the incident might take a toll on its health.

If this is the case, do not wait for the single rat to go through its grieving process. Get another rat as soon as you can.

In the meantime, be constantly there for the rat that is left behind to ensure it does not lose its health during mourning.

When getting another rat, compatibility also matters. If the rat that has been left behind is older, it might be best to get another older rat for better companionship.

If, however, your feelings drive you to get younger rats or baby rats, ensure you get at least a couple of them, so that when the older rat dies, the others are not alone.

Factor in your emotions while purchasing a new rat so that your decision benefits everyone. Remember, you need to move on and be happy with the new rat as much as the remaining rat does.

Moving On

Going through the loss of a pet can be emotional, but no matter how hard it may sound at first, life must go on.

Take time to heal yourself and your other rats. If you have other pets at home apart from rats, make sure you keep your bond with them alive and growing, too.

In times of loss, their association could be of great comfort. Do not shut yourself out and be sure to speak with people to let out your grief.

It is natural for you and your remaining rats to mourn. Give it some time and move on.


Hi, I'm Mason, I've kept small animals as pets since I was 8 years old. I love to learn and talk about them basically every day. Over the years I've adopted small pets like hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs.

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