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Older rat not eating his Oxbow anymore

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thisguy

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Hi all,

Short version: We had a pair of brothers, 23 months old. First rats for us. Amazing little fellas. Little Felix developed a big tumour and we had to put him down last week. His brother Oscar stopped eating Oxbow at about that time and I'm wondering what might be wrong and what I should do.

Longer version:
We had to put our little Felix down last week, one of our pair of 23 month old brothers. They've been on Oxbow Essentials adult food since they were a couple of months old, with fresh veg every day. Early last week, Felix stopped eating his Oxbow, and that was part of what alerted us that something might be wrong. The vet said that he had a big tumour and there wasn't much that could be done. He seemed to be in pretty good shape for a few more days, and we fed him whatever he would eat until his time came. Oscar possibly took advantage of this situation and partook in the treat foods, but I did notice a little earlier that he hadn't been eating as much Oxbow. Oscar has completely stopped eating Oxbow since his brother passed. He seems to be in a reasonable mood, and eats his veg and some harder stuff (e.g. dog kibble), but won't touch the Oxbow. From searches, I'm aware that rats can get used to the treat foods and turn their nose up at the lab block, but I don't think that's it. I tried leaving the Oxbow out of the cage for a day or so, and reduced the treat foods (veg) for a bit, but he simply won't touch it. Part of me wants to say "that's fine, little fella, eat whatever", but I want him to be healthy. I don't know whether it's a function of him getting older, or whether he's just a smart little fella who decided to play it safe when he saw his brother stopped eating it. Does that happen? Any suggestions? Just try another lab block? If he seems okay, is it still a good idea to have a vet check him out?

Thanks for any suggestions!
 

lilspaz68

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a few questions on your lad. does he sit up and grasp the hard smaller foods with both paws equally or does he seem a bit clumsy? Does he seem a bit confused at times? Just trying to rule out PT (pituitary tumour).
 

thisguy

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Thanks for the reply. He doesn't seem clumsy, confused, or otherwise abnormal. Just a little older and more subdued. He will sit up and grasp foods with both paws equally. The only slightly strange behaviour that I've noticed is that when I give him some food like a little lettuce or a piece of carrot, he'll happily take it, put it down, groom himself a little (lick his paws and clean his face for a couple of reps), then start eating. I'm not sure how long he's done this for, or even if it's unusual for a rat, but I only started noticing it recently.
 

thisguy

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We just took a look. As best we can tell, things look even and straight. There's nothing obviously wrong.
 

lilspaz68

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Maybe he's just being picky. You could try grinding up the Oxbow in a coffee grinder then adding water (lots) to make a mush and see if he prefers that?
 

thisguy

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One more thing: Is it a problem for an older fella to be eating a lot of soft foods rather than hard? Do their teeth grow fast enough for this to be an issue? He still does eat some hard things (he'll take a little dog kibble, seeds, etc.).
 

lilspaz68

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it shouldn't be a problem, most rats will eat the hard stuff until they have trouble sitting up and grasping etc as they age or their teeth start to be misaligned.
 

mwp051699

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In my experience, all rats eventually reach an age where they forego their blocks or Oxbow rat pellets in favor of softer human foods. I think it's a combination of their increasing difficulties with eating hard, dry rat food, as well as their age causing their metabolism to slow down, in effect making unnecessary to eat as much, and in most cases, not nearly as much, as they used to. So, because they are not requiring much food to sustain their activity level, they can be more selective in their diet, only choosing the people foods you give as an extra, or treats that you give regularly. And when they do need to eat rat pellets due to not having enough human food on hand, it's usually at night when you're asleep, or when you're not at home, since they know that no human foods are forthcoming anytime soon. Lol. So don't despair. If you have any concern about his diet and a need to proper vitamins and such, you can give him Ensure to supplement his diet. But beware, again, he could forego eating some soft foods if you give him excessive amounts of Ensure, and trust me, not many rats will pass up Ensure, even in copious amounts, lol
 

thisguy

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Thanks for the advice lilspaz68 and mwp051699 -- I'm glad to know it can be a normal part of aging. He seems to be doing fine, but I think I'd feel a little better if I knew he was getting what he needed. He didn't show any interest in the moistened crushed Oxbow. I'll try giving him a little Ensure.
 

shaunavalon

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Hi there Hev, at 3 years old, your rat is very old indeed! I have had dozens of rats and haven't had any live to 3 years old as of yet.

If your rat is still displaying other healthy behaviours, like grooming and has proper co-ordination (as mentioned above), then try some more variety of food to find foods he will eat. While Ensure is a great food for rats, having them exclusively on Ensure is not the best thing - you still want them to eat and only want to use the Ensure to supplement their food intake when needed.
 
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I am not super experienced with rats but I am very experienced with various other pets, and I wanted to say something: have you tried offering a different type of pellets? Oxbow is great, but I have a rule for most my pets, and that is a varied diet, as varied as possible. In the case of my ratties I alternate Oxbow, Mazuri, Science Selective and a special blend made by a ratterie in my area, perhaps a new flavour or smell might do the trick.
 

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