Why it's a good idea to separate sick rats (but it's usually too late).
Basically there are different types of sick. LJB, for example, was always sneezing and breathing hard. His lungs were scarred. He was very ill. He could not stand to be away from Rattus Rattus though, so despite his almost constant illness, we kept them together and nothing bad ever came of it. As a matter of fact, Rattus showed no signs of catching LJB's illness until a week after LJB's death. They'd been together for two and a half years. In this particularly sweet case, both rats experienced the deterioration of health when separated and the risk of keeping them together was less than the risk of keeping them apart. As much as we'd like to think this always holds true, it does not.
We purchased a bunch of, what the friendly pet store employees delicately called "inbreeds." As such, we assumed that they would be as close to one another as LJB and Rattus Rattus and that separating them wouldn't be beneficial. We noticed a couple of them were sick but we'd figured that as young as they were, they'd already have spread it amongst one another. What we failed to take into consideration was the stress of the move from the pet store to their new home. There were maybe 7 or 8 boys and 2 girls. Of the boys, only Buddy died (He looked like carpet which was why he was named Buddy). Of the two girls, we were sure the emaciated scraggly blue one named Grandma wasn't going to make it. Her roommate, Caramel Twix, was fine. Grandma was in such poor health actually, that we had originally left the pet store with the whole bunch of rex rats except for Grandma. We were back at that pet store an hour later and boy were we glad she was still there!
The virus, or whatever it is they had, seemed to have completely passed a couple of weeks later. Grandma was doing great! The morning after however, Caramel Twix had passed away in her sleep. Caramel Twix was more "on guard" than most of the rats in that bunch. We just didn't even see it coming and after having around 100 rats, we've noticed that some do a really really good job of hanging on and not showing how ill they are until it's too late. There are a couple that have died, for example, on the way to the vet which was a 45 minute drive. This is a good reason to have water-soluble doxy, Tetracycline and/or Tylan in your medicine cabinet. It may help.
This is also a good reason to separate the sick rats from the healthy ones. Sometimes when you think it is over, it's not. Of course sometimes you don't know either. Always wash your hands between the handling of each rat. We've lost populations of rats in a matter of weeks. There's enough odds against them already.
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Disclaimer: There are many non-sarcastic accounts and tips on the web regarding rat care. This is not
one of them. These are merely accounts of our experiences with rats, our perceptions of these experiences, where we've failed
and where we've succeeded. These accounts are here for two purposes: