American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the WSSF 2012 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Beginners’ Corner

Rat Neutering Pros and Cons

St. John D. Phoenix, Facebook
QI just got male rats for the first time (I’ve always had females) and am considering having them neutered. I’ve read about some pros and cons of this, but would greatly appreciate words from someone who has actually experienced it before I make my decision. I’ve read a couple of different sources that say that having rats spayed and neutered can drastically reduce their chances of getting tumors, and since they have such a short lifespan already, I don’t want to take any chances. However, if getting neutered is a highly stressful/painful experience, I wasn’t sure if it would be completely worth it. I’m also hoping to reduce the boys’ desire for marking everywhere. They have a tendency to spray outside of their cage all along the wall, and to pee in the same spots around the house when I let them out. It also would be for aesthetics; people get grossed out by the males’ very conspicuous genitals. Plus, it might be fun to have a female rat as well.

Answer by Karen Robbins
AThere isn’t any reason to neuter your boys unless you are having aggression issues with them or you have females and want to house them all together or just to avoid any accidental pregnancies. Also, neutering is a painful surgery that does have risks that must be considered (the rat may die from complications or the neutering may not be successful and your rat is still fertile).

As far as marking, neutering does usually lessen them doing this but some may still do so. Rather than letting them loose in the house, give them their own play area on a table or counter where you control where they can be. Many people will get the kiddie wading pools and make into a play area for their rats with lots of toys. This way they are in a safe location and your furniture, floors, and walls are spared from them marking and chewing on everything.

In regards to the spraying outside the cage, this is one of the drawbacks of wire cages. You can take large sheets of Plexiglas or plastic and line your walls around the cages—one breeder uses shower curtains mounted on her walls behind her cages which are easy to wipe down weekly. You could even take the Plexiglas and have up against the cage where they pee or get a plastic bird cage seed guard and attach to the cage. The plastic office floor mats work well underneath the cages if you have carpet.

We have several articles on neutering (when dealing with aggression) in our back issues and on the web site:

Answer by Carol Lawton
AI’ve had rats for about 20 years. During that time I’ve had many males neutered for many different reasons. Sometimes neutering is your best option, such as a male who must live with females. Other times it’s used to correct behavioral issues such as hormone induced aggression. Each case can be a bit different.

Actually, it’s only spaying the females that can reduce the chance of mammary tumors, and the younger you do it, the better your chances of it working. But I don’t recommend surgery before your girls are at least 8 ounces, otherwise their parts are just too small and there’s greater risk. The other down-side is that spaying is body cavity surgery and mammary tumor surgery doesn’t invade the body cavity. That one has always been a tough call for me, especially since I’ve had spayed females develop mammary tumors anyway.

The only type of tumors you can prevent by removing a male’s testicles is testicular tumors, but they’re pretty rare. And yes, the surgery is quite painful for the boys . . . their testicles can be up to 10% of their body weight and depending on your vet’s technique, he may remove other tissue surrounding them. There is typically a couple days of pain and cramping involved.

The behavior issues you’re talking about with the boys probably aren’t going to change much if you neuter them. Males mark . . . period. I might have seen a slight decrease in it after neutering, but not by much. Urinating in the same place each time is just a rat thing, that’s not going to change. And I’ve lost two boys to complications following surgery.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff. Neutered males are different in some very significant ways. And the younger you neuter them, the more significant the changes (but I preferred waiting until they were at least 10 ounces). Neutered males tend to be mellower, the aesthetic issues are removed, they tend to be softer, and you can have girls too.

My personal option . . . I don’t recommend spaying as a means of controlling the possibility of tumors. I don’t think that swapping one surgery for another is a good one.

However, when it comes to neutering the boys, the changes in behavior are sometimes worth the risk. If your boys are from an excellent breeder who rarely has temperament problems, then I wouldn’t do it, but if they’re from a pet store and their parents are unknown, it may be worth the risk. *

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July 12, 2015