Fancy Rats

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fancy rats as pets

We Love Fancy Rats. They Are Playful, Funny And Very Sweet.

The Cute Fancy Rat Is Adored By Homes Around The World. But Is This Lively Critter The Right Choice For You?

Fancy rats can make great pets, given the right breeding, habitat and care.

They are endlessly entertaining, and even love a nice cuddle or a tickle behind the ears.

But are fancy rats as pets a good idea for every family?

Let’s take a look at what a fancy rat is and what they need to stay happy and healthy.

Because they might be pocket sized, but their needs aren’t nearly so small.

Will a fancy rat will be the right new pet for you and your family?

Let’s find out!

What Is A Fancy Rat?

A fancy rat isn’t actually any different to a regular brown rat. Although many people think it’s all to do with their colors, a fancy rat is just a way of describing a pet or show rat!

fancy rats

This means that fancy rat care just needs to provide what a wild rat would naturally need to stay happy and healthy.

This includes lots of space, yummy food, fresh water, and things to keep them occupied.

Although there are myths abounding that rats are dirty creatures, this simply isn’t true.

In fact research suggests they are happier in a clean cage than one that is messy. Even when you take into account the stress of removing their bedding and unsettling them.

They aren’t a low maintenance pet in terms of up-keep, but they certainly give a lot back.

We’ll kick off by looking at the types of fancy rats that you can find for sale.

Types Of Fancy Rats

The sky is the limit when it comes to fancy rat colors.

Fancy rat varieties are categorized in sets by the National Fancy Rat Society.

These varieties include Self, Marked, Russian, Shaded, AOV or Rex/Dumbo.

fancy rat varieties

The American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association have slightly different groupings.

They categorize fancy rat varieties as Standard, Rex, Tailless, Hairless, Satin, Dumbo or Bristle.

The brown or black fancy rat is a common and much loved pet. Along with the popular pink eyed white fancy rat.

As his hooded name suggests, the hooded fancy rat has his head and shoulders in a dark color.

hooded fancy rat

He should also have a dark stripe extending from there and down his back to his tail.

So, a brown fancy rat with white sides and belly would be described as Hooded.

Grey fancy rats can have cute white markings on their noses, or be all one color.

grey fancy rat

Rex fancy rats are popular due to their cute curly hair.

Unfortunately, the Rex mutation that causes curly hair, can also cause hair loss in rats.

Hairless fancy rat

The hairless fancy rat is a curious creature.

And very much one that is cooed over or flinched at depending upon who you ask.

Hairless Pet Rat

Unfortunately, their distinctive looks comes at a cost in terms of health.

If you are considering buying hairless fancy rats, then check out this guide beforehand.

Dumbo rat vs Fancy rat

Do you like your rats with their ears on top of their head, or do you prefer them on the sides?

Dumbo Rats - A Complete Guide

When it comes to the question of Dumbo rats vs Fancy rats, well, you don’t have to choose!

You might have been surprised to find out that a Dumbo rat is just another variety of fancy rat.

Our own rats are in fact Siamese Dumbo fancy rats!

Dumbo Rat Baby
Our baby Dumbo rats at 8 weeks old

There aren’t any differences in their behavior or the fancy rat care they require.

They make equally fabulous pets, and you can find out all about Dumbo rats in this guide.

As well as seeing some more photos our little cuties!

How Big Do Fancy Rats Get?

Fancy rat size varies quite a bit, but on average they will be somewhere between eight to ten inches in length.

Female fancy rats tend to be smaller than male fancy rats, and can have a more narrow profile.

Fancy Rat Behavior

Rats make fantastic pets, when the circumstances are right.

Well bred, well socialized rats in good habitats are easy to love.

Rat Cage Size Guide - how big should my rat cage be?

They play with each other, and adore each others’ company.

Lots of people say that a male fancy rat will be more calm and sleep more often.

With reports that female fancy rat owners get more playtime and a more active companion.

Whether this is true for all rats, or even in general, we can’t say for sure. All I know is that our own pet rats spend 80% of the time napping – and they are girls!

What is true for either sex, is that when reared properly fancy rats are gentle with their owners and rarely bite.

They love interacting with their human friends, and will happily climb out of the cage and up your arms to nestle on your shoulder. Or even in your top!

Rats are not a pet for people who are short on space.

Fancy rat cages need to be considerably bigger than the average hamster cage, with numerous floors, places to climb, hide and play.

It is also possible that rats will be more inclined to aggression if they are in too confined a space.

Fascinatingly, there may even be genetic markers for tameness!

As found by a massive experiment that bred over 60 generations of rats selected for either tameness or aggression.

Getting a rat baby from tame parents is a good way to increase your odds of having a nice tempered pet.

There are definitely genetic factors to finding tame fancy rats, but there are socialization aspects to it too.

Fancy Rat Socialization

Fancy rat behavior is hugely influenced by how well socialized they were as kittens.

can male and female rats live together

Their behavioral repertoire expands very quickly between 15 and 30 days old.

One study showed that baby rats that had been isolated from weaning for a six week period were significantly more aggressive than those that were reared in groups.

After being raised alone, rats are much more likely to bite or box any other rats they come into contact with.

Isolated rats are over emotional and more aggressive when they do come into contact with others of their species.

These issues related to how your baby fancy rat’s brain grows. They require interaction with others during these key developmental periods in order to grow up as social adults.

fancy rat love

Some scientists have suggested that beyond 30 to 60 days old, it is no longer possible to socialize an isolated rat.

I’m not sure if this holds true universally, but as a potential rat owner it would be sensible to only buy rats from breeders who have raised them in groups.

Fancy Rat Health

There is another responsibility that fancy rat breeders have.

And that’s to make sure that any baby fancy rats they produce are as healthy as possible.

best bedding for rats

Although fancy rats are generally healthy little creatures, there are a few problems that you will need to be aware of.

The main issues are with respiratory problems, tumors and potentially dental problems too.

Fancy Rats Breathing Problems

Breathing problems is rats are well documented. As a fancy rat owner you will need to take this into account when choosing your pet’s bedding.

The levels of dust in the bedding can have an impact on their lungs.

Cedar bedding has long been thought of as bad for rats’ health.

Baby fancy rats raised on cedar wood shavings showed a horrific 60% mortality rate.

This was compared to a mere 3% in those raised on corncobs or aspen.

Those that did survive on cedar had marked slower growth and weighed much less than the other groups too.

However, in one study, even rats kept on aspen bedding had higher rates of sneezing and more lung problems than those on paper bedding.

best bedding for fancy rats

You can find out all about the best bedding for rats to help reduce their likelihood of respiratory problems here.

Fancy Rat Tumors

Rats can also be susceptible to tumors. Mammary, colon, liver and pituitary tumors in particular come up a lot in research.

One study interestingly linked the incidence of tumors with a lack of vitamin A.

Another study cites a potential link between a high fat diet and intestinal tumors.

Relating the high fat to causing an increase in bile salts in the gut. Which in turn could cause changes in the gut that cause an increased development of tumors.

There is yet another link in a more recent study of rats, this time between dietary fat and mammary cancer.

Again, their research suggests that mammary tumor development is more likely with a high fat diet.

But in good news for fancy rat owners, feeding them apples every day has been shown to inhibit mammary cancer growth.

Prey species like rats are very good at hiding their illnesses. This enables them to stay safe in the wild and not attract predators. But as a fancy rat in a cage, it can make it tricky to know when something is wrong.

The best way to make sure your rat stays in good health is to handle them every day. Watch for changes in weight, or any signs of lethargy.

Fancy Rat Diet

Pet rats can be fed on a healthy rat pellet or nugget formula, and you can find them online or in the local pet store.

fancy rat diet

They are omnivores and so can also share little bits of your own food too, although it pays to make sure before you give them any that the food is safe for them.

You do need to be careful not to give too many treats and table snacks however.

Keeping rats at a sensible weight is vital for their health.

One study even showed a relationship between body weight and mammary tumors in females, and pituitary tumors in males.

Another study even went as far as to show that rats who fasted 1 day in 3 had an increased lifespan of 15 to 20%! 

This doesn’t mean you should starve your pets, of course, but it does suggest some benefits of a leaner diet.

How Long Do Fancy Rats Live?

Fancy rat lifespan tends to be cited as around 2 years by rat owners.

The study on fasting in rats had several control groups in it.

Rat names beginning with R

These rats were simply there to provide a baseline for rats whose food wasn’t manipulated for the experiment.

But it also gives us an idea of rat lifespan from a recorded source.

The length of lives of these control groups can give us a fairly accurate insight into how fancy rat life expectancy.

This particular study showed average length of life in days ranging from 685 – 814 days for females and 666 to 768 for males.

You can see that as we find in humans, female rats live a little longer on average than males.

These figures tell us that overall you can expect a fancy rat to live from 1.8 to 2.2 years on average.

Fancy Rat Breeders

The best way to find healthy fancy rats is to look for breeders locally to you.

Baby fancy rats are all beautiful. But they should also be bright eyed, have shiny coats and be inquisitive rather than afraid when you handle them.

Don’t buy a fancy rat that has been raised alone, as they may have social problems later on.

Ask to see the parents, and make sure that they are friendly and in good health.

How Much Do Fancy Rats Cost?

Fancy rat price for the pets themselves is generally pretty low. Think in terms of just a few dollars.

But the cost of a fancy rat is significant in terms of the kit you will need.

A huge cage, lots of toys, hammocks and other forms of entertainment.

The on going costs for feeding are fairly low, but you will need to factor in this substantial pay out at the beginning.

Is A Fancy Rat The Best Pet For Me?

Well bred, healthy, fancy rats make wonderful pets.

They do best in homes with lots of space, and plenty of time for playing.

For school age kids and upwards they can be wonderful pets.

But you will need to supervise their interactions so that they don’t accidentally squeeze them too hard or frighten them with sudden movements.

You shouldn’t ever buy your child a pet if you aren’t prepared to take responsibility for their care. But fortunately, fancy rats can be great fun for adults too!

Remember, fancy rats need company and this is essential for the first few months of their lives if they are to develop normally.

If you have plenty of space and lots of love to give, I am sure that you will adore your playful new friends.

Do you have fancy rats? What are your favorite varieties? Why not let us know in the comments section below!

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