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Today I had to put down one of my pet rats as he had developed a very bad respiratory infection that couldn’t be treated. Both of the rats before we got them have had a history with suffering from these, however we were never informed by the people we bought them from.

I have tried searching for some advice on how to help my pet rat deal with grief, however, most places said to place my rat's body in the cage so his brother could understand that he’s dead. In this case, though, the vet advised us not to do this as the liquids of the respiratory infection were leaking from my rat's mouth, eyes and nose. I did, however, let him see his brother and he immediately ran to him and saw that he wasn’t moving. Since then he has been sniffing around for him and closing himself off.

It's beginning to worry me as I don’t want to lose him too. We plan on getting him a new playmate so he isn’t lonely, but would like some advice on what to do in the meantime while he’s living in his cage alone.

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    The rat probably isn't dealing with grief, just loneliness. Companion is no longer there; why isn't especially significant.
    – keshlam
    Nov 9, 2023 at 3:15
  • If it is grief or loneliness: company by you and distraction with games, being pet and similar will help until it gets a new friend. Nov 9, 2023 at 8:28
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    Does this answer your question? What to do when my pet rat passes away? Nov 9, 2023 at 8:31
  • I think this is a distinct question from the linked one; the primary approach there wasn't an option in this case, so it will be a different solution
    – Allison C
    Nov 9, 2023 at 14:52

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I'm sorry for your loss. We really do love our furry friends and miss them when they pass.

Animals, like people, have distinct personalities; you don't know for sure what your rat is going through, and to wonder if it's grief might be unnecessarily painful for you. It might be that being alone is just confusing to him.

I've had a lot of "pets" over the years*, and all of them have surprised me in some way. Lately I've usually had a (thankfully) slow rotation of 3 dogs. About 5 years ago, I lost the oldest at that time. One of my dogs didn't seem to notice at all, and the other grieved the loss (he hung around the last place he saw her - my bathroom - for days without any interest in doing other things.)

I recently again lost the oldest of three (16 yo Border Collie), and to my surprise, neither of the other two dogs, even the one on the best terms with her who always treated her like she was her mother (honest; and indeed she looked exactly like her mother!) even seemed to notice. They didn't visit the last place they saw her or any other behavior consistent with grief.

We know from recent fMRI studies that dogs and humans have similar emotions. Rats are very intelligent animals, and there's reason to suspect they have rich emotional lives. But since they don't communicate with words, we often assume what these emotions are. It's natural to assume your rat's behavior is grief, but it might not be.

What to do to help him cope? A commenter suggested more play/pets, which is a good suggestion. I would add new toys, new games/tricks (good distractions for both of you), and a stuffed plushie around the size of the rat in his primary residence. Plushies work with human and chimp babies; might arouse curiosity and a sense of comfort in your rat as well.

Good luck.

*Maybe better phrased: animal friends whose lifestyles I funded?

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