Most rats live 2-3 years but some have been known to live a little longer. I had a rat that lived to be five years old. Each rat is an individual so it depends on the health and care of your rat as to how long he will live. When you adopt a rat you should always ask how old it is so you will know. Keeping track of your pets age may help you determine what's wrong with him as he gets older. As rats age they may begin to show certain symptoms for you to look out for.
Diagnosing problems early, the use of appropriate medications or foods, making trips to a veterinarian and changing your pet rats environment can often times help keep them healthier and happier as they get older.
Skin and Fur Changes
As rats get older they can sometimes have a hard time grooming themselves, but you can help by taking a damp cloth and doing a daily wipe down, especially on the abdomen and tail area if your rat is having bladder control problems. You never want to let a rat sit in their own urine as this can cause skin problems. Your rat will also love the extra attention you are giving him.
Diet and Weight
As rats get older their diet might change and they might not eat as much as they once did which can lead to them getting thinner. Giving a few extra, high calorie treats each day is a great way to keep the weight on and help with muscle condition. When my rats get older and start eating less I tend to give them high calorie treats I know they will like including things like, nuts, yogurt, ice cream, pudding, custard and avocado. I also add a vitamin supplement to my rats water. If eating becomes hard for your rat, you may need to hand feed much of their food several times a day, and make sure that the water bottle in low enough in the cage that your rat can easily reach it.
Changing the Environment
Depending on the type of cage and the accessories in the cage, you may have to make some adjustments to the inside of the cage so it's easier and safer for your aging friend to get around more comfortably.
Replacing steep ladders with low, wide ramps and covering them with fabric can make them easier to grip and walk on. When your rat starts to get really wobbly while walking, taking all ladders out of the cage is the best thing to do so he stays on the ground floor and can't fall off a ledge and hurt himself. Placing food bowls and water bottles on the ground floor so your aging rat doesn't have to walk far if they are hungry or thirsty will also help.
Changing to an all fabric bedding instead of litter can make sure that small pieces of bedding don't get into his eyes, mouth or nose if your rat has problems walking around. I use all cotton baby blankets.
Most rats as they get older love to be with their humans but instead of running all over the place when they come out, they just want to cuddle with you or sleep on you. This is a great time to spend more time with your rat. As rats get older they tend to become big, squishy cuddlers. I have 4 male rats right now that are just over a year old and they are all cuddlers who love to come out and lay around on or next to us on the couch.
Trips to the Veterinarian
If it looks like your rat is in pain or having trouble breathing you need to take him to the veterinarian and talk to the doctor about euthanasia. Most time as long as your pet is happy, walking around feeding and grooming himself and isn't having a hard time breathing there's no need to euthanize but that's something you should talk about with your veterinarian. When deciding whether or not to adopt a small pet like a rat you should consider if you can give this type of care when your pet gets older. If the answer is no, then maybe you shouldn't adopt a pet that may require this type of devotion.