Rats make great pets. They are easy to look after, and they are a blast to have around. However, many owners are rightfully concerned about the potential for hair from their pet rat to spread around the house.
So, is it normal for a pet rat to shed? It’s normal for young rats to shed. However, the process isn’t as frequent with mature rats. All rats will shed some amount. As long as you keep an eye out for itching and bald spots, you need not worry about your rat.
In this article, we will discuss the shedding process in rats. We will also talk about how you can tell the difference between normal shedding and some sort of skin disease. Rats don’t require too much care, but as a responsible owner, it’s always wise to keep an eye out for certain things.
Why do rats shed?
The shedding of fur, also known as molting, is a common occurrence in most animals, rats included. During the colder seasons, the coat of fur in an animal’s body thickens so as to keep the animal warm in the cold. And once the season changes and the weather gets warmer, the excess fur starts to fall off, so that the animal can keep cool. This is what we call molting or shedding.
Under normal changes of the season, your pet rats are likely to shed their hair as well. But rats are unusually neat creatures. It is rare to find them shedding away clumsily as a dog or a cat would. You will notice some hair falling off of them every now and then, but for the most part, rats take care to remove almost all loose hair from their skin.
A rat will shed its first coat of baby hair when he/she is between six and eight weeks of age. At three months, a second prominent molting occurs. There are probably the only two times you will visibly notice your pet rat shedding.
After this, all sheds happen discreetly, with the rats taking care not to leave a trail of hair when they move around. You may notice fresh coats of fur in your rat’s body if you care to look, but they will do their best to keep this as discrete as they can.
How much shedding is okay?
An important question arises here. Exactly how much shedding is healthy? With animals like dogs, you can expect a large amount of seasonal shedding. But with a rat-sized animal, it is unusual to notice large amounts of shed fur. Like we’ve already mentioned in the previous section, rats are extremely careful about their hygiene and will do their best not to leave any loose hair behind when they move around. So, if you start noticing your rat shedding large amounts of hair, there could be something going on that deserves the vet’s attention.
Bald patches are also a big no-no when it comes to healthy rats. It is unusual for a rat to lose hair in one particular region, and this is usually a sign of allergies or some other problem. The best idea is to take your rat to the vet just to be on the safe side, as you’ll often require the opinion of an expert to find the root cause of the hair loss.
Another point that deserves attention here is the shedding of hair in old and ill rats. When rats get ill or older, they tend to get more lethargic than usual. This results in them taking less care of themselves. We’ve mentioned above that rats are otherwise incredibly attentive to their fur.
So if your rat starts leaving behind an unusually large amount of fur, then there’s a chance he/she is either getting old or is ill. Rats have an average life expectancy of between 2.5 to 3 years. So if your rat is approaching that age, you might have to give him/her some help getting the shed fur off their skin. If a young rat starts molting a lot, then best set an appointment at the vet.
Watching out for parasites
Sometimes parasites such as ticks, fleas, or mites can also result in an unusual amount of shedding in rats. These parasites irritate the rat’s skin, causing them to scratch a lot. Naturally, this will result in some hair loss. So if you start noticing an unusually high amount of random pattern molting in your rats, this could be the reason.
If you notice ticks or any other parasites infesting your rat’s skin, then you need to give him/her a bath with an anti-flea shampoo right away. Parasites like ticks and fleas are highly contagious. So just to be safe, it is wise to frequently use some sort of anti-flea spray or powder on your rats, especially after an interaction with another animal.
Shedding due to allergies or stress
There are a couple of more things that could cause your rat to shed excessive fur. Allergies are a non-brainer. You need to pick your rat up and check for any rashes or bald patches. If you notice a particular section with what looks like close shaved skin, that is a very clear indication of impending allergies. Best take your rat to the vet right away.
If your vet doesn’t find any allergies or underlying illness in your rat, but he/she continues to shed a lot, then your rat could be shedding for one of two reasons. Either he/she is getting old. Rats live for about 2.5 to 3 years, and if you rat is approaching that age, this could be it. You need to start accepting the molting as a part of the aging process.
If your rat is still relatively young and healthy but is still shedding a lot, this could be a sign of stress. Rats like all animals will succumb to stress when their sense of routine/certainty is challenged. Or perhaps there could be something else scaring your rat. Maybe a stalking cat? As the owner, you need to keep an eye out for all these things and make your furry little friend’s life as less stressful as you can.
Rats like most other mammals routinely will shed their fur. This is a part of a biological process, hormonal changes as a result of changing weather. But rats are unusually clean animals. They will do their best to take care of all the lost hair in their body. So it is unusual for a healthy young rat to leave behind large amounts of hair.
Occasionally, you may notice your rats shedding more hair than usual. A little bit every now and then is okay. But if you start noticing bald patches or random pattern shedding, that’s when you need to start becoming careful. There are a number of things that could be causing this. Parasites such as ticks, fleas, or mites are one possible reason. Check your rat for these parasites, and if you find any, give it a quick bath with some anti-flea shampoo.
The last couple of things you need to keep an eye out for are allergies or stress. If you start noticing your pet rat molting an unusually large amount of hair, without parasites, you need to take them to the vet. If the vet finds no illness or allergies, you need to be mindful of things that could be causing your rat stress.