Sandy's Critter City

By Sandra Conti-Todd, Mentor and consultant for the proper care of pet rats.

Quarantine Info

My two past babies, Griffin and Dodger!

"Please, do it for us! Keep us safe! Help stop the cycle!"

Proper quarantine is so serious that it prompted me to devote an entire section about it and how to do it properly. Quarantine is done in order to prevent the spread of disease from your new rats to your existing rats.  

So many new rat owners are totally unaware of the need to quarantine the new rats they buy from a pet store or a rescue.  A good breeder will always make sure the new rat owner understands all about proper quarantine. Some may even require that you sign a paper saying you will do proper quarantine when you first adopt the rat (s) from them.

  In order to properly quarantine new rats, you must do it in a separate airspace. People think that by having it across the room but in a different cage is good enough, but it really isnt. If your going to do that, you may as well not even bother with quarantine at all. These germs form the dangerous viruses we are trying to contain are airborne and will travel on most fomites. This includes humans as well. We are also vehicles of transmission of these diseases as they can live righton us for many hours.
Its really not that hard to do. Simply find a space to keep the rats that does not share the same airspace. A temperature controlled garage or basement that is free from dampness and drafs is a good place. I use my walk in closet that is on the opposite side of the house. The vent that brings in the heat or cool air is from a different air duct so this works out perfectly.  You can even ask a friend or family member if your new rat can hang out at their house for a few weeks, providing they are rat free, of course.  I have been told that quarantine for 3 weeks can be a real pain in the neck and this is why many people ignore quarantine. It is worth it if you want to protect your rats from possibly spreading a deadly virus to your existing colony. Pet store rats are the greatest risk since pet stores do not participate in any type of quarantine. If they do, you can bet its not done correctly. Some stores keep new animals away from existing animals for a few days, but again, this is simply worthless to even bother with since 3 days is not time to incubate any type of nasty virus we are trying to avoid.

The next step is about YOU.  When you are done visiting with your new rats, there are a few things you need to be sure to do before going near  your exising rats back home.  For one thing, change clothes, including socks and remove shoes. Do not even bring the shoes you were wearing into  your house. Leave them on the front stoop or simply outside by the door. 

Anyhow, wash up...the usual...hands up to the elbow and face. If  you can shower that would be great but its not really necessary. Next, blow your nose. Whatever we inhaled can adhere to the lining of our mucus membranes and blowing our nose to get rid of it will help prevent spreading it if we just so happen to sneeze. Ahhh-choo! Put on fresh clothes and go find something to do for at least 2 hours. Its a good idea not to go around your rats for at least 2 hours just in case you missed something.  This time will allow any nasty bug time to die off since there is nothing to maintain its lifecycle.  Your not what its looking for in a host (its species specific) but it will gladly use you to hitch a ride on in search of their next victim.
Repeat this process everytime you go around the rats. All the effort is worth it, trust me.

What exactly are we looking for?

In the health care section I talked about SDA and Sendai viruses, which are the two diseases that are commonly found in petstore rats and both can be deadly. Its very contagious and can wipe out all of  your rats, one by one.  At first, the rats do not appear sick and over time their health starts to decline. This will be seen during quarantine.  Also, parasites like lice or mites. The new rats may not have any live critters on them but may be carrying the eggs. During quarantine these eggs will hatch and you will start to see signs of external parasites such as excessive scratching, scabbing and loss of hair in patches. Dont fret. This is all treated easily once discovered but its best to catch it before it gets passed around to the other rats you have at home.

More info on proper quarantine  The rat guide