castrating as routine - good idea, bad idea?

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Ziggy
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castrating as routine - good idea, bad idea?

Post by Ziggy » Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:47 pm

I have always been opposed to operations on rats that are not 'necessary', as in, not to save a rats life or cure a medical issue. I've never been fond of the attitude of 'I wanna castrate my boys just so they can live with girls' for example.
I like there to be some genuine reason, based in the welfare of the rat alone, why it is done.

However, lately, I've been debating with myself the pros and cons of retroactively castrating all males that come to me.
I run a rescue, so all my rats (minus one, currently) are rescues. I have 40 rats, only 7 of which are female. The rest are all male.
My boys all live in one enormous group in one enormous cage system, save one group of geriatrics who are too old to introduce to the group, and two old lads with mobility issues who live in a small cage together because they couldn't compete with the others, and two in quarantine for illness.

Given that I have this many unrelated adult males, only a couple of which are castrated, living together, its surprisingly harmonious. I rarely have any serious fights, just the occasional scuffle/boxing match/bundle. I have in the past had a few abscesses from nips in fights, and on one boy who was an ex-snake food rescue and has NO immune system, this caused him irreversible damage.
I had one boy tumble down a ramp in a scuffle, land oddly and fracture a leg. But recently, everything has been harmonious and I never have any serious biting or wounding, all just 'accidental' issues that come from normal scuffles.

However, as I have new rats coming in fairly often, and my lot are expected to be welcoming to new boys going in (and 98% of them are totally unconcerned with newbies, you could virtually just plonk them right in if it weren't for a couple of troublemakers). I am wondering whether it is worth castrating any new lads who come into my sanctuary, as a matter of course from now on, providing they are healthy and good surgical candidates.
The way I see it, the pros and cons are as follows:

Pros
would make for a far more harmonious group, much more of the time. I feel it would be beneficial to prevent any kind of fight injuries for the rats and be less stressful for the individuals within the group, and the group as a whole.

Castrated rats I've had in the past, and the ones I currently have, seem to keep better condition, live longer, and look generally healthier, especially when they get older, not to mention they seem generally happier and more mellow and relaxed. All the nad-less lads I currently have are lovely, licky, affectionate, happy boys.

My boys group could then freerange with the girls, saving time (I realise this alone is not a good reason to elect for this kind of thing, but with the other benefits, I feel its worth mentioning).

Cons
The obvious risks of any surgery on a rat. I would feel terrible if a rat who didn't actually 'need' to be castrated and was done as a routine had issues or died.

The cost. These are all rescue rats, and obviously owning 40 rescues is expensive enough as it is with just the regular vet care, let alone adding another chunk of vet's costs onto that. Each castrate is £48.

Not all my boys are any kind of issue. Lots of them are intact, but perfectly amiable. However, I have seen even these chilled out, trouble free rats start strutting their stuff when the heirarchy shifts.

What is everyone's opinion on this?
If I had 40 well bred, breeder rats, I likely would not need to consider this.
But with every rat being a rescue, most the product of BYB and petshop stock, they're not the most well adjusted of rats and tend to have more issues behaviourally and physically than well bred rats.
If I decided on this, would I need to castrate absolutely every boy living in the group for it to work? If I left, say, a couple intact for arguments sake, would they then automatically become real bullies on account of being the only ones in the group with their balls? Would it need to be every single individual for the group to live harmoniously?
If I decided this, it would be something I'd begin doing from now on, ie, every new boy that comes in gets 'done', rather than going back and castrating all my current boys. Would this be the right way to do, or would it need to be a case of doing everyone from the word go?

Thanks for any advice/opinions.

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Re: castrating as routine - good idea, bad idea?

Post by Bazu » Mon Jun 20, 2011 5:47 pm

I think I'd take it on a case-by-case basis, obviously, but I think castration as a 'default' isn't such a terrible thing. As you say, they tend to live longer and appear healthier, and there's the lessened likelihood of difficulties during intros.

On the flip-side, as you say, there's the ever-present op risk, and the cost. £48 seems incredibly steep, based on my experience, but I guess it's worth it if that's the only decent vet locally or something. Assuming the boy seemed to be in general good health, though, I'd certainly trust my vet with the surgery (though I am considering a one-off, as opposed to hordes! :o)

Do you tend to rehome, or are you more of a 'forever home' rescue? If you aim for rehoming, neutered boys tend to be far easier to find homes for, because of the (likely) improved temperament and health, and because of the fact that all-female owners can consider them too. My Nova, for instance, was neutered before I got him, and because I wasn't actively seeking new rats (he was local and on his own; it was a considered-for-a-while sympathy case), I quite probably wouldn't have taken him on if he were intact.

As a rescue, could you maybe arrange something with your vets that could provide you with some sort of discount?

ETA: Also, re: castrating everyone from now on or all the existing lot too, I think I'd just go from here on. If you've got a good group, massed castrations might upset the hierarchy somewhat or cause major upheaval, whereas any new castrated boys are likely to be near the bottom of the pile and so cause minimal fuss.
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Re: castrating as routine - good idea, bad idea?

Post by Ziggy » Mon Jun 20, 2011 5:54 pm

Bazu wrote:£48 seems incredibly steep, based on my experience, but I guess it's worth it if that's the only decent vet locally or something.
Really?
I had my first two castrates done today at the vet in question, for £48 each, and the reason I have moved to them after 13 years at my regular vet is because of their pricing.
My regular vet charges £80 for a castrate. So to me, £48 was amazing! I always knew my regular vet was pricey, but I thought £48 was about average.
Bazu wrote:Do you tend to rehome, or are you more of a 'forever home' rescue? If you aim for rehoming, neutered boys tend to be far easier to find homes for, because of the (likely) improved temperament and health, and because of the fact that all-female owners can consider them too. My Nova, for instance, was neutered before I got him, and because I wasn't actively seeking new rats (he was local and on his own; it was a considered-for-a-while sympathy case), I quite probably wouldn't have taken him on if he were intact.
Generally more of a forever home rescue, but I have rehomed the occasional rat over the years. I have a limit of around 40, so if I am up to that limit when new rats need to come in, I make efforts to rehome them.
But generally, I keep most of the rescues because finding good homes for rats in Norfolk/suffolk is notoriously hard :(
Bazu wrote:As a rescue, could you maybe arrange something with your vets that could provide you with some sort of discount?
My regular vet gives me a discount on consultations, and I ill continue to go to them for anything other than surgeries, since it seems to be mainly their surgeries that are ridiculously expensive.
Bazu wrote: castrating everyone from now on or all the existing lot too, I think I'd just go from here on. If you've got a good group, massed castrations might upset the hierarchy somewhat or cause major upheaval, whereas any new castrated boys are likely to be near the bottom of the pile and so cause minimal fuss.
That makes sense. Thanks :)

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Re: castrating as routine - good idea, bad idea?

Post by Bazu » Mon Jun 20, 2011 5:59 pm

Ziggy wrote:
Bazu wrote:£48 seems incredibly steep, based on my experience, but I guess it's worth it if that's the only decent vet locally or something.
Really?
I had my first two castrates done today at the vet in question, for £48 each, and the reason I have moved to them after 13 years at my regular vet is because of their pricing.
My regular vet charges £80 for a castrate. So to me, £48 was amazing! I always knew my regular vet was pricey, but I thought £48 was about average.
Yikes :o

I've never had a castration done myself (Nova aside, my lot are all ladies), but I've had friends pay £25-£30 for theirs, so that's the price I'm used to hearing. The old postcode lottery again, I guess!
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Re: castrating as routine - good idea, bad idea?

Post by Ziggy » Mon Jun 20, 2011 6:11 pm

Bazu wrote:
Ziggy wrote:
Bazu wrote:£48 seems incredibly steep, based on my experience, but I guess it's worth it if that's the only decent vet locally or something.
Really?
I had my first two castrates done today at the vet in question, for £48 each, and the reason I have moved to them after 13 years at my regular vet is because of their pricing.
My regular vet charges £80 for a castrate. So to me, £48 was amazing! I always knew my regular vet was pricey, but I thought £48 was about average.
Yikes :o

I've never had a castration done myself (Nova aside, my lot are all ladies), but I've had friends pay £25-£30 for theirs, so that's the price I'm used to hearing. The old postcode lottery again, I guess!
£25 would be amazing!
My regular vet charges £120 for a lumpectomy too, while this new vet I found charges £48 for any lumpectomy. So I've saved myself some money from my old vet, but still, I'd love to find someone competant who could do it for £25!

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Re: castrating as routine - good idea, bad idea?

Post by Betterstar » Mon Jun 20, 2011 6:18 pm

I've always payed roughly £40-50 for neuters, £25 seems crazy cheap to me! We've moved around a fair bit too, so it's not that we only use one vet.

We've ended up neutering most of our rescues, for one reason or another, and 2 of our breeder boys. We're probably a bit neuter-happy compared to other people's attitudes, but I really do think that it makes life so much easier (not just for us as owners, but for the rat too!).
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Re: castrating as routine - good idea, bad idea?

Post by redrach » Mon Jun 20, 2011 7:43 pm

I have also been considering this recently so it's great to hear some opinions. I'm considering having a girl spayed as she is the youngest of three by 3-4 months and after her i'd like to just have males. Therefore i'm considering it so she could go with my two boys of the same age when the other two girls go (and my old men). I haven't spoken to my vet yet as it's only a thought and would be concerned they might not be experienced enough.
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Re: castrating as routine - good idea, bad idea?

Post by Bazu » Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:15 pm

redrach wrote:I have also been considering this recently so it's great to hear some opinions. I'm considering having a girl spayed as she is the youngest of three by 3-4 months and after her i'd like to just have males. Therefore i'm considering it so she could go with my two boys of the same age when the other two girls go (and my old men). I haven't spoken to my vet yet as it's only a thought and would be concerned they might not be experienced enough.
I'd be more concerned about spaying than neutering, because spaying is a much more invasive surgery. The one time I've booked a rat in for it, she came out fine, but it's something to consider.

Could you not neuter those two boys, and get more boys once she goes? Just offering an alternative viewpoint - it'd probably cost about the same; my girl cost something like £80 to be spayed, I believe!
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Re: castrating as routine - good idea, bad idea?

Post by NickyE » Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:19 pm

can't help on the original question but I had 2 castrations done a few weeks ago and the bill was just under £80
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Re: castrating as routine - good idea, bad idea?

Post by redrach » Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:23 pm

Bazu wrote: I'd be more concerned about spaying than neutering, because spaying is a much more invasive surgery. The one time I've booked a rat in for it, she came out fine, but it's something to consider.

I had a feeling this may be the case ): I think I'll need to give it a long think and speak to my vet (i've made a post in health if you want more info about my circumstances, or whatever).
Bazu wrote: Could you not neuter those two boys, and get more boys once she goes? Just offering an alternative viewpoint - it'd probably cost about the same; my girl cost something like £80 to be spayed, I believe!
I did briefly consider this as it would be less invasive, but then my concern is still if she outlived them, she would be on her own until her end as I couldn't get any more until she had gone. It's a really tough choice, i'm really struggling to make a decision, but want to decide sooner rather than later to ensure I can get it done when she is healthy and not too old.

thanks for the insight (:
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Re: castrating as routine - good idea, bad idea?

Post by babytarragon » Mon Jun 20, 2011 9:56 pm

As an ex-veterinary nurse, I don't see a problem with routine castration.

Spayng however I believe should only be done in the case of genuine medical necessity. It's horribly.invasive.
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Re: castrating as routine - good idea, bad idea?

Post by aimlessdesire » Tue Jun 21, 2011 6:45 am

My vet is currently looking at just removing the ovaries rather than a full spay, because it's a lot less invasive and they can do the operation through the top / sides meaning that they don't need to have the doe on her back for the op. Not sure how many other vets would be happy with doing that sort of op though
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