A Detailed Pet Rat Dying Process and Pet Loss Support

It’s never easy to lose a pet, but it can be especially difficult when that pet is dying. For this reason, we created this pet rat dying process to help you understand what to expect through these challenging times.

A dying rat goes through three main stages; pre-death, death, and post-death. Pre-death is the stage where you have a sick rat whose health is deteriorating fast. During the death stage, your rat will let go and pass away and finally, post-death entails saying goodbye to your rat.

If you’re a rat owner, it’s important to know what to expect when your pet rat is dying. Rats have a lifespan of around two to three years, and most will die from natural causes. If your rat does die, it’s important to handle the death in a respectful way.

Being aware of the pet rat dying process will help make the process easier for both you and your rat. You’ll start preparing yourself emotionally and mentally for your rat’s death days or weeks before it happens.

Losing your lovely rat is a painful experience. However, you should always remember the following as you mourn the loss of your friend:

  • Your rat had a good life and died from natural causes.
  • Rats are very social animals, and they will be happy to go to the other side knowing that they were loved and well taken care of.
  • Death is a natural process, and all living things must die someday.
  • You can take comfort in the fact that your rat is now free from any pain or suffering.
  • Rats are very resilient animals, and they can quickly adapt to new environments. This means that your pet rat will be happy and content in the afterlife.

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the pet rat dying process in detail. I’ll help you know what to expect during the pre-death, death, and post-death stages. This will make the process easier for you. Keep reading!

1. Pre-Death

Pre-death is the period of time when your pet rat is sick or injured. During this time, you should try all means possible to save her from dying. Therefore, it’s crucial to learn how to help a sick rat.

During this stage, it is important to spend as much time with your dying pet rat as possible. Here to how to comfort your dying rat;

  • Give your dying pet rat plenty of love and attention.
  • Make sure your rat has a comfortable place to rest.
  • Give your rat any medication that has been prescribed by a veterinarian.
  • Prepare yourself emotionally for your rat’s death. You can do this by talking to other rat owners who have gone through the experience, reading books or articles about pet loss, or reaching out to a grief counselor.
  • Listen to music with your dying pet rat.

During the pre-death stage, a rat displays some crucial signs. There are different signs that a rat is dying and they manifest in the pre-death stage. These signs include:

Rat Becomes Skinny with Protruding Bones

pet rat dying process
sick rats

One of the most common signs of the pet rat dying process is weight loss. This is common among older rats.

As the respiratory disease progresses, your rat will lose more and more weight until they’re skinny. You may also notice that their bones start to protrude from their body.

There are various reasons why a rat may become skin and bones during its dying process. The most common reasons include:

  • The rat is in pain and cannot eat because of the pain.
  • The rat has a terminal illness and is losing weight because their body is shutting down.
  • The rat is dehydrated and starving to death.

There’s no definitive answer as to why rats lose weight during the pre-death stage. It could be any combination of the reasons listed above. However, it’s important to monitor your rat’s weight and consult with a veterinarian if you notice any significant changes.

Rat Cannot Stand or Walk

If your pet rat can’t walk or stand, it is likely that they’re in their dying process.

This means that death is very close and you should prepare yourself emotionally and mentally for your rat’s passing.

When a rat is unable to stand or walk, some of the things you can do include:

  • Making sure the rat has a comfortable place to rest.
  • Gently washing the rat’s body if they’re dirty.
  • Offering your rat water and food, even if they can’t eat or drink on their own.
  • Ensuring that your rat is in a warm and quiet environment.
  • If possible, you may want to consider euthanasia. This is a difficult decision to make, but it may be the best thing for your rat if they’re in a great deal of pain and suffering.

Lack of Grooming and Lethargy

Another common sign that a rat is dying is a lack of grooming. This is common among dying female rats. Naturally, pet rats are supposed to groom themselves.

As your rat’s health declines, they’ll become less and less interested in keeping themselves clean. You may also notice that your rat becomes increasingly lethargic and sleepy this sis a sign that your rat is dying.

The following are some of the signs you’ll notice on such a rat and their causes:

  • The rat’s fur is matted and greasy due to lack of grooming.
  • Malignant tumors which can be a result of internal bleeding from the infection
  • The rat has bald patches due to a lack of grooming.
  • The rat smells bad due to a lack of grooming.
  • The rat has lice, fleas or other parasites.
  • The rat has a respiratory disease.

If you’re thinking about how to save a rat from dying, At this point, you should be in charge of grooming your rat. This means gently cleaning their fur, trimming their nails and doing anything else that needs to be done to keep them clean and comfortable.

If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, you can take your rat to a groomer or veterinarian.

The following are the tools you’ll need to groom your rat and their uses:

Rat combTo remove tangles and mats from your rat’s fur
Nail clipperTo trim your rat’s nails
ScissorsTo trim your rat’s fur if it’s matted or greasy
Cotton ballsTo clean your rat’s ear
ToothbrushTo clean your rat’s tooth
Small dishTo feed your sick rat
tools used for rat grooming

During the pre-death stage, it’s important to spend as much time as possible with your rat.

You can euthanize your rat in case of severe sickness. Euthanasia ensures a peaceful death for the rat. However, the process must be undertaken by a qualified person like a veterinarian.

2. Death Stage

Death is the period when your rat is letting go and ultimately passing away.

The rat dying process can take minutes or hours, depending on the rat and the cause of death. During this time, it’s important to keep your rat as comfortable as possible.

During the death stage, you’ll notice the following signs of a dying pet rat:

1. Violent Convulsion

A rat in the death stage may have a violent convulsion. This can be a sign your pet rat is dying.

This is an involuntary muscle contraction that often results in the rat making a loud noise and thrashing about.

While it’s frightening to see, it’s not painful for the rat and doesn’t mean they’re in pain. The only thing you can do is make sure the rat is in a safe place and let them go.

2. Panting and Drooling

As your rat nears the end, they may start to pant and drool.

This is due to their organs shutting down and is completely normal.

There’s nothing you can do to stop this from happening, but you can make your rat as comfortable as possible until it’s over by:

  • Placing a towel or cloth under the rat to catch any drool.
  • Making sure the rat is in a quiet and dark place.
  • If possible, you may want to consider euthanasia. This is a difficult decision to make, but it may be the best thing for your rat if they’re in a great deal of pain and suffering.

3. Laying on Their Side

When a rat lays on their side, it’s often a sign that they’re in the death stage.

This is because when the rat’s muscles relax, they will naturally fall to one side. Muscle relaxation is as a result of:

  • The rat’s organs shutting down.
  • Loss of blood circulation.
  • Loss of body heat.

4. Twitching and Having a Seizure

A rat having a seizure is another sign that they’re in the death stage.

This usually happens when the rat’s central nervous system starts to shut down.

When a seizure is combined with twitching, it’s a sure sign that the rat is about to die. The best way to handle this situation is to stay calm and keep your rat as comfortable as possible until it’s over.

5. Final Breaths and the Moment of Death

This is the final step in the pet rat dying process. A rat’s final breaths are often the most difficult to watch.

A dying rat will start to take short, shallow breaths, and their chest will rise and fall less and less until it finally stops moving altogether.

The last thing you’ll see before your rat dies is eyes closing and she’ll be gone.

At this point, you can say your final goodbyes and mourn your loss. It’s normal to feel a great sense of sadness and grief when your rat dies. Remember that you did everything you could to make them comfortable and happy during their lifetime.

3. Post-Death

Saying Final Goodbye to Your Rat

After your rat dies, it’s important to dispose of them in a respectful way.

You can do this by:

Burying the Rat’s Remains

The best way to bury your dead rat is by putting the remains in a biodegradable bag, digging a hole in the ground and placing them inside.

Burial is best done in your backyard if you have one. If not, any patch of dirt will do. The most important thing is to make sure the hole is deep enough to prevent other animals from digging up the remains.

You can say a few words before you cover them up or even place a small toy inside the grave with them. You can say words like:

  • “Thank you for being my friend. I’ll never forget you.”
  • “I’m sorry I couldn’t do more to help you. Rest in peace.”

You need the following to bury your rat:

  • A biodegradable container.
  • A shovel or other tool to dig the hole.
  • The remains of your rat.

After the burial, you can plant a tree or flower on top of the grave as a way to remember your rat.

Expert Advice: If you choose to bury your dead rat in the backyard, ensure to enclose its body first. Enclosing the body before burial prevents unpleasant smells and the risk of exposure to diseases and other pathogens.

Cremating the Remains of Your Rat

Cremation box with flowers
Cremation box with flowers

Cremation is a more expensive option, but it may be the best choice for you if you’re uncomfortable with burying your rat.

Cremation is done by placing the remains in a fire-proof container and setting them on fire. The remains will eventually turn to ash.

You can then keep the ashes in a special urn or scatter them in a place that was meaningful to your rat. You can choose either:

  • Communal cremation: This is where the remains are cremated with other animals. The disadvantage of this option is that you’ll not be able to have your pet’s ashes back. Ashes of all pets will be collected and disposed of by the cremation service. Communal cremation for a rat normally cost between $15USD to $40USD.
  • Private cremation: This is where the remains of your rat are cremated individually in a specific cremation chamber. The ashes will be returned to you in a sealed urn. The cost of private cremation for a rat is approximately $100USD including the urn or memorial you select.

If you choose to cremate your rat on your own, you’ll need:

  • An Urn: This can be a small, decorative one or something as simple as a small cardboard box
  • A cremation box: This is to hold the remains while they’re being cremated. A metal pot or bucket will work
  • A shovel: To scoop the ashes into the urn once they’ve cooled
  • The remains of your rat

To cremate your rat, follow these steps:

  1. Build a small fire in your cremation box.
  2. Place the remains on the fire and let them burn until they’re reduced to ashes.
  3. Once the ashes have cooled, scoop them into the urn using the shovel.

Grieving for Your Dead Rat

It can take a long time to get over the death of a rat.

The best way to start the grieving process is by allowing yourself to feel all the different emotions you’re experiencing.

Cry, scream, rant, and rave if you need to – it’s okay.

Talk about your rat with others who understand what you’re going through. A good place for this is ASPCA through their pet loss hotline 1-877-474-3310. You’ll be able to speak to their grief counselor who will take you through the grieving period.

And finally, try to remember all the happy times you shared together. This will help you to cherish your rat’s memory and eventually start to heal.`

How to Memorialize Your Rat

Once you’ve come to terms with your rat’s death, you might want to do something to memorialize them. This is a way of keeping their memory alive and can be done in different ways.

Some people choose to:

  • Write a eulogy or poem
  • Make a photo album or collage
  • Create a scrapbook
  • Set up a memorial page on the internet
  • Put together a video tribute

The best way to decide what’s right for you is by thinking about what your rat meant to you. What would they have wanted?

Whatever option you choose, make sure it’s something that will help you remember your rat and keep their memory alive.`

A Word from Farewell Pet Care

Animals can’t speak in human words. Therefore, it’s our responsibility as pet owners to keep an eye for signs that our pets are unhealthy. This is one of the reasons for creating this pet rat dying process to inform you.

Having spent a lot of time with your rat, you know his behavior when healthy. You understand how he eats, plays, or even how she enjoys a rest. Therefore, when you see a change in these behaviors, it’s your time to act and know whether he’s healthy or not. The best way to do this is by taking the rat to a vet for diagnosis. You may save your rat if the ailment is diagnosed early and treated at the right time.

If you lose the rat, take time to mourn her. Keep the memories you’ve had with the pet before her demise. If you had two healthy rats, you should get another rat to stay with the one that’s left. This is because rats live as a community. They’re happy when they play together. Therefore, although you can be around to keep your rat company, she’ll need one of her species.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to save a rat from dying

If you see signs your rat is dying. Take your rat to the vet immediately so that can administer the necessary treatments.

Keep your rat comfortable to allow it to heal.

How long does it take for a rat to die without food and water?

A rat can go for a week without food and water before she dies. Water is more essential for pet rats than food. Therefore, they can live longer surviving on water alone without food. If you give your pet rats food and deny them water, it’ll be easy for them to die.

Do rats breathe fast when dying?

Yes. Rats breathe fast when dying because of pulmonary and respiratory infections that are responsible for the death of most pet rats. The faster breathing rate is a result of clogged airways. Thus, other rats will struggle to get in the air. You will also notice that the rat will be trembling as the body shuts down.

What to do if one of your rats died?

If one of your pet rats died, you should give her a decent sent off, take time to mourn and grieve for her but remember, life has to move on. You still have other rats left that you need to take care of. Rats enjoy living as a community. Thus, you must get a companion for the other rats that are left to eliminate boredom. 

Do rats know when they are dying?

So far there is no evidence that pet rats have an awareness of a death experience. Regardless if your pet is dying you should comfort them in their last moments. 

How to tell if a rat is dying?

Here are some signs a pet rat is dying

  • red staining around the eyes and nose)
  • Increased sneezing 
  • Increased mucous from the nose.
  • Breathing faster.
  • Breathing harder.
  • Eating less than normal.
  • Lumps or bumps anywhere on the body.
  • Hair loss.
  • Scratching all the time.

What are the signs my pet rat is dying of old age?

When your pet rat is near its last days, you might notice some changes. These can be signs your pet rat is dying.

The signs include 

  • Lethargy 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hair loss.

9 thoughts on “A Detailed Pet Rat Dying Process and Pet Loss Support”

    • Pay attention to body language does she or he still like pets and to be held and are they drinking and eating keep in mind that rats don’t like to show weakness so just because your rattie is acting tough doesn’t mean they are ok

  1. This morning I am losing my second boy, his brother passed not too long ago and I never knew how hard it would be letting them go, it feels like yesterday they were bouncing and leaping around the room and now my baby isn’t even standing up.
    This page really helped me understand what my boy is going through so thank you.

    Rest In Peace Harley and Sebastian<3

    • Hi Ace Peters,

      Thanks for your comment. We’re here to help our readers take care of their beloved pets.

      We take this opportunity to condole with you for the loss. Please take heart; it shall be well.

      May Harley and Sebastian Rest in Eternal Peace!

  2. My sister and her friend found my pet rat Juan lying on his side at the bottom of his cage. His brother had died a couple of months before, however he showed different and more obvious signs of illness so I didn’t know what to expect for my other. He started having seizures where his heart would beat very fast and he would only eat soft food so I would frequently buy him packets of baby food to ensure he was eating. Soon, his bones started to protude out and he was visibly balding. I booked a vet appointment, however he died before this. I was shocked. Although I allowed myself to consider the possibility of him nearing the end of his life, I was somewhat in denial and hoped that a trip to the vet would be all he needed. I explained to my dad that i did not want to bury him in the garden because I would know he was there beneath my feet – that unsettled me. My family decided that my dad would take care of him – me not He lived to 2 years old and recieved heaps of love and comfort before, during and after his death.

  3. My a baby tater tot passed a couple months ago it was hard to fun him limp and cold and now am even more attached to his brother cheese who is my spirit animal or soul rat and I he is dying now I am not at all ready every time I think about it I break down which stresses him out! 😭😭

  4. Both of mt rats are old, and have different issues. One developed a respiratory illness and I can’t get her to take the antibiotics prescribed. Ve tried everything, and she wont allow it. It’s awful watching her slowly fall apart and dying. It’s been almost a week and she’s still holding on. Her sister has a large tumor that has been steadily growing for months that I know is eventually going to cause her death and its been emotionally unsettling for me to watch. I know she still has many good days ahead of her, but the thought of watching it get worse is awful. I’m glad I found this page.


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