Recently I had to raise the ladder leading to the upper shelf of the big rat cage because Marbles has hind leg degeneration and can no longer easily walk up the ramp. The ramp is the black thing over the box.
Marbles can get around on the bottom level alright, even though he's slow and drags one of his back feet a little bit. He's also a very grumpy boy and doesn't like to get petted or played with.
But when I pick up the yogie treat bag, his ears perk up and he comes to get one.
He won't eat the rat food seed mix or even the other crunchy rat food that I get anymore. He likes, steamed white rice, pudding, baby food, scrambled eggs and bread with mayonaise on it.
And yogies. Which are yogurt rat treats.
Marbles, the last of the 4 brothers I adopted from a family friend a little over a year ago, has slowed down quite a bit. I had to move all of his beds, food dish's ect..down stairs and pull up the ramp so he doesn't try to get upstairs. Marbles took the time to check out his box and bed being downstairs and then went back inside his pink igloo and went back to chewing holes in the baby blankets. lol I think that must be his favorite thing to do.
When rats get older they slow down, may have trouble walking and getting around and you don't want them falling from the higher levels and hurting themselves so it's best to keep them on the flat bottom levels of the cage.
Older rats may need help with grooming. Marbles is still able to groom himself and he still comes out to potty in the corner but as they get older they may not come out to the potty corner and in such cases you may need to wash them off or use a baby wipe to keep them clean. Never let a rat sit in their own urine as this can cause skin rashes.
If eating becomes a problem for your rat, you may have to hand feed them several times a day. I am giving Marbles pudding on a spoon a couple of times a day as well as making sure he eats little bits of egg, baby food and rice. Those are what Marbles likes but your rat might like other foods. Try a bunch to find out what he'll eat.
With older male rats, there are a couple of things that you may have to look out for and help your male rat with. As they get older they may develop skin rashes, lumps, bumps or abscesses so you should check them each week for these things. Abscesses may go away on their own but a lump that grows rapidly and is hard may be cancer and you should have that checked out by a vet. Some male rats also have trouble cleaning their genital areas. The easiest way to tell if they are having a difficult time is to watch them, if they can't bend down to clean themselves, you may have to help with this. If they can't clean their genitals, males will sometimes develop what is called a penis plug. If this happens, you will have to remove it for them or it will cause pain, bladder infections and problems urinating. Penis plugs are a build up of oils, urine and a waxy substance that your rat would usually clean himself.
To remove a penis plug, you will 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. 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.