Surgery can be scary. Especially if you’re a worrier… like me. And the decision to opt for an elective surgery, sometimes, can be an even more difficult one. So, should I neuter my rat? Neutering isn't necessary, but often, has serious benefits. Neutering is a surgical procedure where the testicles are removed, hence a male animal becomes infertile.
YES OR NO? SHOULD I NEUTER MY RAT?
While it depends on your particular situation (because as we know, everyone’s is different), there are lots of behavioral and health benefits that come with neutering your rat.
- Eliminating the potential of unwanted pregnancy if there are females present who are not spayed. (It’s an easier procedure to castrate the male than to spay (removing ovaries (ovariectomy)) a female.
- Reproductive cancer is actually pretty common in rats, and neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer.
- Hormone-induced behavior in rats is a thing, and neutered ones are way less likely to display it. (Think mounting and urine/territorial marking). It’s also possible for neutered rats to be less aggressive.
- Male rats may be calmer and easer to handle, as they’re not experiencing the stress of sexual frustration.
WHAT DOES THE NEUTERING PROCEDURE INVOLVE?
Usually neutered between 4-6 months, the surgery involves general anesthesia. (Note: It’s extremely important to make sure your veterinarian is specialized in exotics.) No fasting is necessary the night before. (Phew. Rats like to eat.) However, the morning of the procedure, remove the food, as there’s the possibility of food accumulation in the mouth, which has the potential for difficultly to pass a breathing tube for the anesthetic.
A physical exam will be given prior, and your exotic veterinarian may opt in for some pre-op blood tests to make sure your rat is actually healthy enough to have surgery. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
During the actual surgery, two small incisions in the scrotum will be made (or one just in front of the penis) for testicle removal. After removal, the incision(s) are closed with either sutures or skin glue. The majority of rats are able to return home within 24 hours.
POST-OP CARE… WHAT’S REQUIRED?
Pain meds will likely be given post-op, and your vet will probably send you home with several days worth to help ease the ouchies. A clean, quiet environment is a total must. Minimize running and jumping. The less stress on the incision the better. Separate the newly neutered rat from other rats for about a week for faster healing.
Keep a really close eye on the incision and inspect multiple times a day. If you notice any changes in behavior, appetite, drinking, urination, etc., contact your veterinarian to get advice. Rats can chew through sutures (if this is how the incision was closed) and open the surgical wound. If it happens, get to your vet ASAP.
ANY POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS?
While complications with neutering in general are low, any anesthetic or surgical procedure carries risks. But, following close instruction from your exotic veterinarian will minimize these.
Potential risks do exist, though. These are the most common:
- Internal bleeding
- Anesthetic reaction
- Post-op infection
- Suture reaction
Discuss any concerns with your vet before the surgery. You’re gonna feel much better. Trust me.
The decision to neuter your rat is yours and yours alone and it’s never a “one size fits all rats” answer. It’s not black and white. What may be good for one rat, could be bad for another. The decision should be made based on their behavior and the potential health benefits. Do your research. Talk to your vet. So that when you do make a decision, you’re 100% confident that it’s the right one for your pet and their situation.