The older a pet rat gets, the more ailments they can have and the more help they may need from you. Unfortunately with age comes reduced mobility, reduced energy and muscle weakness.
Male rats are fastidious groomers and if you watch them they will sit up and bend completely over so they can groom their genital area and tail. When rats start to age, they may not groom as well as they had been which can lead to problems that you the owner may have to intervene and help with.
If you watch your older male rat trying to bend over and clean his genital area and he's having a hard time doing it, he may develop something called Sheath Plugs. Sheath Plugs are a build up of oils, urine and a waxy substance that your rat would usually clean himself. It can clog the sheath and cause pain, bladder infections and problems urinating.
You should check your rat each week for abnormal lumps and bumps all over his body. You should also check your male rats genital area to see if there are any lumps where the penile sheath is, you will need to remove the sheath plug for your rat if you find he has one. To do this you may need someone to help you hold your rat on his back. I found giving my rat a small treat to eat helps him ignore what I'm doing down there.
The easiest way to remove a sheath plug is to have someone else help hold your rat on his back. You should be down by his tail, put both your hands underneath him and use your thumbs to gently press down on either side of his sheath. You will need to roll the sheath down until you see the sheath plug which will look like a milky white piece of wax, and remove it.
If you don't feel like you can do this yourself, you can take your pet rat to a veterinarian who can show you how to do it correctly.
Hind Leg Paralysis
Some rats will become paralyzed in their back legs as they get older. I've had several male rats with this condition. They can still live very happy lives but you will have to help them groom themselves each day by wiping their bellies with a damp cloth several times a day so they don't get a rash from any urine they get on their belly.
How To Prepare The Cage For An Older Rat
Older rats have a harder time getting around so all ladders and upper levels should be take out of the cage so they don't fall and hurt themselves. Lower the water bottle and make sure any food dishes are lower to the ground so he can reach them.
Older rats become more cuddly and want to spend more time with their humans outside the cage. This is usually the time that rat owners bond even more closely with their pets because they become big squishy cuddle rats who love to be held and petted. They also have no problems sharing your food while they are out with you.