Adopting from a shelter

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New Member
Dec 20, 2018
In the future I plan to adopt a rat from a local shelter. Right now I have two rats.
I will be sure to ask about their quarantine procedures, but I'm wondering if I would still need to be worried about diseases like sendai. From my understanding this disease and others like it only show symptoms for a couple of weeks shortly after exposure, so I'm wondering if there anyway to know for sure that another rat is safe, do shelters test for these diseases? I would not be able to quarantine any new rat home because my living space is small, so I would need to have total confidence that any rat I get is healthy. I have read through this article already but Im still confused about this aspect of adoption. Thanks!


Loving rats since 2002.
Staff member
Jul 21, 2007
Northeastern Ontario
Shelters really can't afford to test for pathogens. But even breeders can't prevent certain diseases. A proper quarantine is preferred but unrealistic. I have never done a full quarantine while rescuing my rats. Yes, it poses a risk but I weighed the pros and cons and in the end, rescuing the rat was far more pressing than not. If you go through a shelter that uses a foster system, that would be better since the rats are kept in a home setting and not be exposed to incoming new rats unless the foster home takes in many new rats.


Senior Member - Vegan for the animals
Jul 21, 2007
central New Brunswick Canada
Here is what the rat guide has to say about quarantine
The ratguide also provides detailed information regarding the dangerous air borne illnesses that rats can get.

I doubt shelters test for diseases given their budgets. They are likely limited re quarantine because of people visiting the shelter and new animals coming in, thus possible exposure to disease.

When adopting animals people from a shelter, etc, people often ask questions about what is known about the rat's medical history, if the rat has been ill and if so what was the diagnosis, treatment, etc, if other rats have been ill or died, how long the rat as been there etc, Many diseases only last for a few weeks and animals will die without medical treatment, thus if seemingly healthy animals have been at a shelter for awhile, they may have a lower risk of disease. Since most people are unable to do a full quarantine, knowledgeable people often look at risk factors when bringing in new rats. (Even breeders do not usually quarantine rats or keep them under quarantine conditions.)

Rescues and (possibly) some shelters will place rats in foster homes. In that case a full or partial quarantine may be done, as the rats may have been there for weeks or months and not exposed to other rats or many people.

I have done full quarantines of new rats - by putting the new rats at a friends or family member's home (people who do not rat small rodents). Then the person has cared for the rats for a month or longer, or I have visited daily, using proper procedures, to care for the rats.

I also, like many who rescue or get new rats, have brought in many rats without using a proper quarantine - but I ask questions to judge risk. For example, if someone has had a rat for months, is seems healthy and other rats have not died recently (of resp. issues or unknown causes) then imo, I would consider the rats to be low risk.

Almost all of the outbreaks of airborne rat diseases I am aware of have started from rats people purchased from stores or from breeders. (not to suggest that all rats from these sources have diseases).
Of course visiting a pet store, vet, etc can break quarantine re airborne diseases if people do not take precautions so rats are exposed to diseases in normal life.

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