Choosing Your Pet Rat

Males or Females?

Male rats are called bucks and the girls are termed does. There is a strong difference between the two sexes, although both make excellent pets. I personally prefer bucks to does, by many others prefer does. Although generalizations can be made with both genders, each rat is in individual and individual personality can trump gender tendencies.

Bucks are almost twice as big as the does – 600 grams vs 300. I like the more solid feel of the bucks, and they tend to be a bit easier to get a hold on. Combined with their more laid-back personality, they’re sometimes easier for children to tote around. Bucks are lap rats and are more content to lounge around, either with you or in their hammock. The one physical drawback to bucks is their “goolies” – they are very large proportionately and many non-animal people are taken aback by their sheer size. Neutering will reduce the greatly size of their testicles, along with helping any marking. Some males “mark” – they leave a tiny drop of urine every few feet. I don’t really notice marking with my males. I’ve had some bucks mark more than others, but it’s really negligible – maybe a small drop here and there, but it’s much less clean up than dog drool or a cat ‘hairball’. I’ve never found it a real problem – perhaps one of two of all of the rats I’ve ever had marked enough to be really noticable. Males introduced to each other when at least one of them is young tend to get along fine, but adult males may squabble a bit more than females if they were not introduced young.

Girls are more active. Most prefer exploring the area rather than hanging out on your shoulder watching TV like bucks do. They’re always on the go and love playing games. Standard coated does tend to have a bit softer coat than bucks. Does go into heat every 4-5 days, but there is no discharge. They have one fairly large drawback: many females get mammary tumors as they age. Most need to be surgically removed to allow for normal movement. Sometimes the cancer is malignant, and most often, the tumors regrow quickly, even if completely removed. Spaying your doe when she is still young reduces the occurrence of uterine, ovarian, pituitary and mammary tumors and cancers. The cost (monetary and physical) of spaying your doe when young and healthy is almost always less than one or more tumor removals.

Neutering rats isn’t very hard for exotics vets. Any veterinarian that has a base of pocket pets should be able to do this. Spaying is a bit harder on the rat, the vet, and your wallet. However, spaying reduces the incidence of certain cancers that does are prone to. Altering your rat also allows it to live with either sex peacefully.

What Variety or Color?

Every rat pet-placed from Echo Rattery is suitable as a pet, friend and companion. The variety (color, coat type, ear type, etc) has no bearing on a rat’s personality.

There are some varieties that might be suited for more experienced rat owners, but I do not place them in pet homes. Tailless, dwarf and hairless rats can require extra care. Tailless rats can have some skeletal abnormalities that can affect their gait and reproductive and digestive health. Dwarf rats are a “new” mutation in the rat fancy and their health as a variety is still under scrutiny. I do not work with tailless or dwarfs.

Hairless rats can be difficult to take care of. Their lack of hair means that they are easily scratched; haired rats may not realize that hairless rats are more sensitive to contact. They need to be kept at a slightly higher temperature or be fed a more energy-dense diet to keep their temperature regulated. Some lines of hairless does have trouble lactating and may have inverted nipples. Hairless are also more prone to eye “gunk” from eyelid problems. Although hairless are rumored to be immunologically incompetent, in my experience this has not held out. The hairless rats available to the pet fancy have been so interbred with haired rats that the original lab-based problems have been weeded out genetically. Since my goal is to improve any health problems hairless rats are known for, any hairless bred here will not be placed in pet homes. They will be kept by the rattery for monitoring throughout their life and beyond.

Some colors of rats are more popular with pet owners than others. This can be the result of fads – in the 1990s and early 2000s, dumbos, American blue and Siamese have been though times where pet stores have sold inferior stock at high prices because the colors were “new” to the public. Russian blues seem to be headed towards this direction as well. Anything that has not yet been widely introduced to the pet trade industry and commercial breeders has the potential to do the same. Commercial breeders do not select for health and temperament, so when they start breeding “new and rare” varieties for pet stores and feeder bins, the general population of those varieties goes through a decline in those qualities. However, the population of those varieties maintained by the more ethical fanciers has been uninvolved with those fads, and the stock of rattery rats and pet store rats have not been mixed.

My pet placed rats always have at least 3, sometimes over 20, generations of pedigree unsullied by genetically-iffy pet store stock. Every color I breed makes as good of a pet as the next. Blacks and agoutis tend to be shunned by most pet owners because they are not “exotic.” This is a poor reason to select a family member that will be with you for the next three years. Temperament and health should be the deciding factors, and the more ‘basic’ colored rats are just as deserving of love as the ‘rarer’ ones. Since I am so picky about selecting my breeding stock, the blacks bred here are among the best and are used as foundation or improvement stock for other breeders around the country. Every color makes a good friend!

More information about colors and how those colors are defined can be found here.

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