January 27, 2023

Postponed writing this article about quarantine and rat care. The reason is the
passing of our beloved Meerschweinchen. I’m still teary-eyed as I write this and even more
painful is the knowledge that his suffering may have been prevented by proper observation of
quarantine.

Observing proper quarantine practices is essential to rat health when another rat is to be
introduced into your household. It’s not like bringing in a puppy as a companion for old Fido.
Your new pet rat may carry diseases particular to rats (but harmless to humans). The immediate
introduction of another healthy-looking pet rat is extremely dangerous for your current rats and
may ultimately be fatal.

I’m no vet or super rat expert, but I’ve learned the hard way that pet rats have very tender
little lungs that are susceptible to nasty pneumonia-like illnesses that can result in death if
not treated immediately upon infection. To prevent any possibility of such infections as much as
you can, here are the necessary steps for a safe and effective quarantine:

1. Do not bring your new arrival into the home of your current rats. You must first find someone
living in a separate building who is willing to house your pet rat during the quarantine period.
If a new arrival shares airspace with your rats, even if just in the same house on different
floors, your rats will become infected.

2. Do plan on a quarantine period of at least three weeks and no less. Many well experienced rat
folk prefer to extend it to a full month. During that time, you’ll be watching for any signs of
illness in your new rat: sneezing, red discharge in the eyes or nose, refusal to eat and
lethargy. Should your new pet rat exhibit such symptoms, immediately contact a veterinarian in
your area with experience in rat care. In my own case, Carmel’s sneezes were ignored until the
disease had progressed to a more stubborn stage.

Do not handle or touch another rat right after doing so with the quarantineed rat. Disease
can be spread by contact as well as through the air just like the human cold virus. The consensus
among those in the know is to change clothes and wash all areas of your skin that came in contact with the quarantineed rat. Better yet, handle them on alternating days when you’ve showered and dressed in clean, fresh clothes. Again, this is a rule we constantly broke due to our ignorance about proper rat care.

4. Do not allow others to touch the quarantineed rat. If one person does all the caretaking for
your new pet rat, the chance of transmitting something is a lot less. The kids and the in-laws
and the neighbors can all wait.

Seems like a big deal, doesn’t it? Your current rat is just that susceptible to outside diseases
and your new rat is just that likely to spread exactly that. If you can’t make this kind of
arrangement, don’t bother at all with getting another rat until your current ones have passed
away.

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