How to Take Care of a Paralyzed Rat

If your pet rat has lost the use of his or her hind legs due to injury or illness, they can still live a happy life if you know how to care for them.


  1. 1
    Always see a vet. They can assess the rat to try to diagnose the problem. If there is a serious medical condition, it might cause other problems beside paralysis.
  2. 2
    If they have suffered an injury, you should probably restrict their movement for awhile. Do this by housing them in a very small enclosure, such as keeping them in their carrier instead of their regular cage. Since it's recommended you house multiple rats together, this will usually mean separating the rat from his or her cagemate temporarily. Give your paralyzed rat extra attention, and their cagemate if there's only one, so they don't get too lonely.
  3. 3
    Give them newspaper or cloth bedding instead of the usual chips. The bedding needs to be soft because the rat will be dragging his or her belly on it.
  4. 4
    Avoid wire flooring. This is important for all rats, due to the risk of injury, but a paralyzed rat is at even greater risk of getting injuries to hind legs or tail. In addition, the flooring irritates the skin of their lower belly as they drag themselves around.
  5. 5
    Make sure food and water are easy to reach. You may need a bowl with lower sides for the food. Position the water bottle lower, because they can't sit on their haunches to drink.
  6. 6
    Keep them clean. Change the bedding as often as needed, even if this means multiple times a day. If this is not enough, you may need to give them baths. Check if they are clean by sniffing their hindquarters - if they smell like urine, wet a washcloth and rub them gently. Be sure to dry them off completely.
  7. 7
    They may recover, depending on the condition. If it is an injury, healing can occur over the first few weeks. However, some other conditions cause progressive paralysis. Be prepared for complete paralysis, but keep your hopes up.
  8. 8
    House them in a one-level cage. Even if they do recover quite a bit, they will have lost agility in their hind legs. They are at greater risk of falling, and cannot jump.
  9. 9
    If housing them with other rats, watch how they get along. If other rats bully or trample over your paralyzed rat, they will not be able to defend themselves as easily. They should be housed separately if this occurs. Be sure to always give a single-housed rat lots of attention! If they other rats are behaving themselves, group housing is preferred - not only are rats social creatures, but friendly cage mates can help a paralyzed rat keep clean by grooming them.
  10. 10
    Watch for injuries or infection on their lower body or legs. The rat may not feel any injuries, or may even start self-injuring due to lack of sensation. Sores are especially likely if the rat spends most of the time lying still in one position. Take them back to the vet if any sores develop.
  11. 11
    At the first sign of any illness (weight loss, lack of appetite, sores, sneezing, runny nose, etc), bring them to a vet. They are more prone to bladder infections and pneumonia than most rats. Early treatment is very important.


  • Too often, people euthanize a pet as soon as they develop any chronic condition or disability. However, hind leg paralysis doesn't have to stop a rat from enjoying their life. It doesn't cause pain, and most rats can get around readily using their front paws.
  • Be aware that paralyzed rats often have bladder control issues. They're more likely to pee on you. Don't get too upset about this, just take them out for shorter but more frequent play sessions.

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Categories: Mice and Rats