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Spaying,  Neutering & Aggression
Spaying Female Rats

Spaying reduces the hormone estrogen which plays a big part in female rats developing benign mammary tumors.  Spaying greatly lessens the chances of tumors developing and returning.  If a spayed rat does develop tumors it usually occurs much later in life than unspayed rats and spayed rats tend to live longer lives.

Choosing not to spay your female rat is up to you but consider this it may save you a lot of money in multiple tumor removal surgeries later on not to mention the  pain and suffering your rat will go through.

Spaying is major surgery and much better tolerated on a younger rat than an older rat.  Still, spaying later in life can help shrink and lesson the development of additional tumors.

 I have several adoptive parents that swear by spaying their female rats.  Spaying female rats also reduces the chance of developing cancerous mammary tumors and pituitary tumors.  



*  Note:  It has been determined in the laboratory that dwarf rats do not develop tumors due to a lack of growth hormone.  In three years of owning many dwarf rats I have yet to see even one tumor on a male or female dwarf.

Neutering Male Rats

Aggression isn't  usually  a problem but once in a while a male rat  at around 8 months to 1 year  of age will develop  too much testosterone.   A male rat with too much testosterone is not a happy rat.  He feels uncomfortable in his own skin and doesn't like other rats or even himself.   He may fight and bite his cage buddies that he used to love.  He may even bite you.  He just can't help it and it's not his fault.  Neutering will turn your grumpy "testy"  boy back into his old sweet self.   

Neutering may not help all male rats from aggression problems.  The male rat that inherently has a bad temperament may calm down a little but still be skittish,  frightened and bite.   Quite a few rescue rats and pet store rats fall into this category.

Adopting rats from breeders that work diligently to maintain well tempered lines is your best bet. You may not ever need to have a male rat from a good breeder altered.  Even so, occasionally a little guy will show up who develops an excess of testosterone mid life.   If you loved him the first half of his life love him enough to get him neutered.  Then he can go back to his happy life with his buddies or even live with a cage of female rats.

An alternative to neutering is sending the boy to a solitary life in his own private cage.  This may work out for the best if he is not aggressive towards you and only shows hostility for other male rats.   Since rats are such social beings you will need to spend a lot of extra time with your solitary rat so that he will not be unhappy and lonely.
Surgery

Please be aware that all surgeries have risks.  Infections
can develop at the site of incision or internally.  Minor and major surgeries pose a risk of  anesthesia sensitivity or overdose in such small animals as rats.  Neutering males is a less invasive surgery than spaying females but male and female rats alike have died during or after surgery due to complications.  

It is best to talk to your veterinarian and weigh the pro's and con's of surgery.  Be sure your veterinarian is experienced in the type of surgery he/she is to perform.   Make sure the vet has performed several successful surgeries of this kind on rats under his belt.  Just because your vet says he's neutered lots of dogs doesn't mean he can do it on rats.... it is not the same.
Fighting and Biting Rats-Males or Females

Do not attempt to break up a rat fight with your hands-you will get bitten.   You can put something between them or try distract them to the point they settle down.  The first thing I try is sweet talk believe it or not....I've found that if I persist with an excited or angry tone telling them "stop it" and "no" they will ignore me.   If I change my tone and start saying nice things in a calm and higher pitch voice or baby talk like "hi little watties,  come to me you silly sweeties...etc..  that tends to snap them out of fight mode.  Sometimes a treat will work if they are not too entrenched in the battle.  If all else fails sometimes a few gentle squirts of water will dampen their fighting spirit.  A blast of canned air has worked too.  

Do not attempt to pick up a rat that has just been fighting if his fur is still puffy and he/she is still posturing for a fight.  If the rats won't settle down you may need to put on a thick glove to pick up and remove the more aggressive of the two.  Time out works wonders with rats as well as children.
Fighting and Biting Rats-Males or Females

Do not attempt to break up a rat fight with your hands-you will get bitten.   You can put something between them or try distract them to the point they settle down.  The first thing I try is sweet talk believe it or not....I've found that if I persist with an excited or angry tone telling them "stop it" and "no" they will ignore me.   If I change my tone and start saying nice things in a calm and higher pitch voice or baby talk like "hi little watties,  come to me you silly sweeties...etc..  that tends to snap them out of fight mode.  Sometimes a treat will work if they are not too entrenched in the battle.  If all else fails sometimes a few gentle squirts of water will dampen their fighting spirit.  A blast of canned air has worked too.  

Do not attempt to pick up a rat that has just been fighting if his fur is still puffy and he/she is still posturing for a fight.  If the rats won't settle down you may need to put on a thick glove to pick up and remove the more aggressive of the two.

Pregnant and Nursing Females

Beware of pregnant rats a day or so before they deliver their babies and nursing rats.  Just before a female rat gives birth she will often times become grouchy (understandably so) and may fight with the other girls in the cage or rarely may bite you if you try to pick her up.  Again, hormones when not in balance,  can make a rat aggressive.  

Once the babies are born the nursing mother is the most protective during the first two weeks of the babies life.  At that time the babies are defenseless and totally dependant on their mother for survival and their mom instinctively knows this.   If you have a close bond with your female rat she may be perfectly fine letting you put your hands in the cage and handle the babies right off the bat.  Some momma rats may warn you with a little nip.  Pay attention to this not so subtle clue and back off.   Respect is key to gaining a momma rat's trust.  Until I know how my new mom feels I usually let her come out of her cage by herself or entice her out and then remove the cage and inspect and play with the newborn babies.  After the babies eyes open at two weeks of age they begin eating solid food and learning from mom how to use the water bottle.  She know that now the babies have a better chance surviving on their own.  This is usually the time when the momma rat relaxes and lets you handle the babies freely.  Note:  baby rats still need to nurse for at least two weeks more (weaning usually starts at 4 weeks of age)