Domestic rats can make excellent pets, they are highly intelligent, inquisitive animals that love to play and explore. On average they have a lifespan of 2-3 years. But there have been a number of cases of pet rats who have lived longer than this. 

Surgery in pet rats is not commonly talked about, and one reason for this may be their short lifespan compared to their canine and feline counterparts. But is surgery in rats always a bad idea? 

The short answer is no, in many cases surgery in rats can be a good idea. 

Why is surgery performed in rats? 

Surgery in rats can be performed for a number of reasons, these include but are not limited to: 

  • neutering of males and females (known as castration and spay surgeries respectively) 
  • mammary gland tumour removals/ other lump removals 
  • wound repairs 
  • abdominal surgery 
  • fracture repairs 

When is surgery a good idea? 

Surgery is a good idea in cases where you have fully discussed the pros and cons of the procedure with your veterinary surgeon and understand the risks and benefits associated with the procedure. 

It is important to remember not all surgeries will be appropriate for all pets, as different conditions and situations can make procedures lower or higher risk. And it is also important to remember that no surgical procedure or anaesthesia is without any risk at all. That has to be factored in when deciding whether to go ahead with a surgery on your pet rat. 

With all of that said however, many surgical procedures can be advantageous for your pet. For example having a mammary tumour removed that is causing pain and discomfort, neutering your pet to prevent it breeding, or repairing a wound that would otherwise not heal very well. 

Historically, procedures on small rodents such as rats have been considered higher risk by many pet owners; with a perceived higher rate of complications compared to surgeries on dogs and cats. However there are a high number of highly experienced and well qualified veterinary surgeons with special interests and/or additional qualifications in treating exotic species and small pet mammals. These veterinary surgeons are very experienced at anaesthetising these species and performing surgeries on them so the risks associated with the surgeries are greatly reduced. Albeit as mentioned before there is always some risk associated with every procedure no matter who is performing it. 

Contact your veterinary surgeon

It is advisable to contact your local veterinary surgeon; ask if they have any vets with a special interest or additional qualifications in treating exotic pets. If they don’t and you would like to be treated by one, then you can search on the RCVS for individual veterinary surgeons with additional qualifications. You can also look for a local practice that has expertise in rats with VetHelpDirect. 

Is surgery in pet rats ever a bad idea? 

The decision to go ahead with a surgical procedure is always that, a decision. In some cases when discussing options with your veterinary surgeon they may advise that in your animal a procedure is particularly high risk or has a higher chance of a bad outcome. In these cases you may decide with the guidance of your veterinary surgeon that surgery is not a good idea. But as always, every pet and every case is different. It is important you fully discuss the risks and benefits with your vet before making a decision. 


– Surgery in rats is not always a bad idea, in fact, in many cases it can be a good idea 

– The decision to go ahead with surgery in your pet rat should always be fully discussed with your vet and you should understand all the possible risks and benefits of the procedure before making that decision 

– Veterinary surgeons with special interests and further qualifications in exotic pets and small mammals, and practices with wider expertise in these animals both exist and you can searched for in your local area

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