Previously, a rat model of chronic compressive myelopathy that uses a water-absorbing polymer inserted under a spinal lamina was reported. However, the best size and coefficient of expansion of the polymer sheet have not yet been established. The aim of the present study was to optimize these properties in an ideal rat model of cervical compressive myelopathy. Thirty rats were used in this study. A sheet of water-absorbing polymer was inserted under the cervical laminae. Rats were divided randomly into five experimental groups by the expansion rate (350 or 200%) and thickness (0.5 or 0.7 mm) and the control. After the surgery, the severity of paralysis was evaluated for 12 weeks. At 12 weeks after the surgery, cresyl violet staining was performed to assess the number of motor neurons in the anterior horn at the C4/C5 segment and Luxol Fast Blue staining was performed to assess demyelination in the corticospinal tract at the C7 segment. ‘Slow-progressive’ paralysis appeared at 4–8 weeks postoperatively in rat models using sheets with 200% expansion. By contrast, only temporary paralysis was observed in rat models using sheets with 350% expansion. A loss of motor neurons in the anterior horn was observed in all groups, except for the control. Demyelination in the corticospinal tract was observed in rat models using sheets with 200% expansion, but not rat models using sheets with 350% expansion. A polymer sheet that expands its volume by 200% is an ideal material for rat models of cervical compressive myelopathy.