Dumbo Rat – A Complete Guide to Dumbo Ear Rats

dumbo rat

Dumbo rats are the same species as other rats, but have large, circular ears that are much lower on their heads than normal rats.

From their nose to the end of their tail, they can measure up to 18 inches! They can weigh between 0.5 pounds, and 1.5 pounds, with males generally weighing more than females.

They are also sweet natured, and easy to handle.

In this article we cover everything you need to know about the lovable Dumbo ear rat.

Including a comprehensive guide to Dumbo rats as pets, Dumbo rat health and where to find adorable little baby Dumbo kittens.

Dumbo Rat FAQs

Our readers’ most popular and frequently asked questions about the Dumbo Rat.

What’s in this guide to the Dumbo Rat?

What is a Dumbo Rat?

It doesn’t take much imagination to guess what’s special about this little creature.

Their name immediately evokes a mental image of their elephant namesake. You’ll hardly be surprised to hear therefore that Dumbo rats’ distinguishing features are their ears.

Dumbo Rat

Usually, rats’ ears are small and oval, and perched quite high on their heads.

But Dumbos’ ears are large, almost circular, and positioned much lower on their heads. So they stick out sideways from behind their cheeks.

Despite this difference, they are still the same species as all other domestic rats. (Which is Rattus norvegicus, in case you were wondering).

Nowadays rats with traditional ears are often referred to as “top-eared”, to distinguish them from Dumbo varieties.

Where does the Dumbo Rat come from?

These rats owe their distinctive ears to a recessive gene called the dmbo gene.

Recessive genes are only expressed as physical characteristics when an animal inherits two copies – one from each parent.

When a rat inherits two copies of the dmbo gene, the development of their jaw bones and ears is altered very early in the womb. This gives them their characteristic appearance.

History doesn’t record the first Dumbo, but anecdotal evidence suggests the dmbo mutation first popped up somewhere in northwest America. Probably sometime in the second half of the 20th century.

So, all of today’s Dumbo rats probably share one common ancestor.

Dumbo Rat appearance

The most striking feature of the Dumbo Rat is his protruding ears. According to the breed standard, fancy rat ears should be set far apart on the head, standing erect without any folds.

In the case of Dumbo Rats, their ears sit lower on the sides of the head than other varieties of rat.

dumbo rats

Dumbo Rat size

From the end of their nose to the tip of their tail, they can reach up to 18 inches long, with females usually being slightly shorter than males.

If you’ve seen a domestic top-eared rat, that’s basically the same size.

Dumbo Rat weight

A male weighs between 1 and 1.5lbs, and a female typically weighs between 0.5 and 1lb.

From the end of their nose to the tip of their tail, they can reach up to 18 inches long, with females usually being slightly shorter than males.

If you’ve seen a domestic top-eared rat, that’s basically the same size.

Dumbo Rat colors

The gene for Dumbo ears can be combined with any of the genes for coat type or coloring.

This has made it possible for breeders to produce lots of different types. These include

  • blue Dumbo
  • Siamese Dumbo
  • Dumbo rex rat (curly coats)
  • black Dumbo

Believe it or not that are even more permutations! You can read our guide to rat colors here.

Dumbo Rat coat

According to the breed standard set by the American Fancy Rat & Mouse association, dumbo rats, like most other rats should have short and smooth hair.

It should be glossy too, except for the Rex variation which has more of a coarse coat.

Dumbo Rat structure

Your rat should be strong boned with a long body. Their tail should be as long as their body and be full of kinks.

Dumbo Rat Facts

Interestingly, and unfortunately for our dumbo eared friends, fancy rats are illegal to import as pets in Australia.
Similarly, in the Canadian state of Alberta, rats are seen as a pest and it’s illegal to own them as domestic pets.

So, it’s best to check if it’s okay to own a rat in the area you live.

Dumbo Rat temperament

Dumbo rats enjoy a reputation for being excessively sweet-natured and easy to handle.

This is probably because the first Dumbo breeders selected heavily in favor of docile temperaments when they first set up the breeding line.

However, temperament is never guaranteed, and the Dumbo’s family tree has become considerably more chaotic since those early days.

Whilst modern day Dumbos might still be more serene on average, their individual personalities can cover the full spectrum from laid-back to high-spirited.

Do Dumbo Rats bite?

It’s important to remember that rats, like many types of pet, are individuals with their own personality.

In a study on the aggressive behavior of domesticated rats, a study found the following:

“developmental factors including age, previous social experience, and physical aspects of the rearing environment play a surprisingly important role in the expression of aggression in this species”

These researchers found a range of behaviors from playful nipping to more aggressive biting. Their results showed that the more serious bites were in the minority.

Taming Dumbo Rats

These days, rats are widespread and popular pets.

Just like their top-eared counterparts, the flamboyant Dumbo rats are easily tamed, super friendly, and agile explorers.

Dumbo rat health

Luckily Dumbos’ endearing features don’t carry any inherent health risks with them.

These rats’ heads sometimes look a little dented on top compared to top-eared varieties, but this is the normal shape of a rat’s head. It just appears more prominent when the ears move out of the way!

When you bring any kind of rat home, there are a handful of rat health issues you’ll need to keep an eye out for:

Respiratory infections

Rats are particularly vulnerable to respiratory infections.

The first symptoms are often noisy breathing, runny nose or eyes, and weight loss.

You can help protect your rats from respiratory infections by cleaning them out regularly, using dust-free bedding, and making sure they aren’t overcrowded.


Rats love sharing human food!

And the sweet open faces of Dumbos can be hard to say no to.

A fat rat is more likely to get ill and die before their time, so limit their snacks to give them the best life possible.

Red tears (chromodacryorrhea)

Rats secrete a red substance called porphyrin from their tear glands when they’re stressed, which give the impression of shedding red tears.

Rats could be stressed because they’re bored, cold, cramped, unwell, or worried about other pets in the house.

If you’re struggling to find the cause, your vet will be able to help.


Tumors, especially mammary tumors, are quite common in rats and can often be treated.

Any unusual lumps should be checked out by a vet right away.

Dumbo Rat lifespan

With lots of care and attention to their health, these rats have the same life expectancy as top-eared fancy rats.

With a bit of luck, a well-cared for rat will live for two to three years – double or triple the lifespan of their wild counterparts! So the domestic Dumbo rat lifespan is significantly increased.

Do Dumbo Rats smell?

In short, the answer is no. Rats like to keep themselves clean.

If you think your rat smells, make sure his cage is clean. It’s super important to make sure your rat has a sanitized place to live.

Most domestic rats live in quite small spaces so it’s vital that its kept as clean as possible.

Dumbo rat care

Dumbos don’t need any special care as a result of their unique appearance.

But like any pet rat, you must follow some golden rules to give them a happy, healthy life:

  • Always keep rats in pairs or larger groups. They are extremely sociable animals (it’s not coincidence that a group of rats is called a mischief!). Solitude is incredibly stressful for them.
  • Rats need a balanced diet of high quality soy-meal based dry food, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Rats can’t vomit, so it’s especially important not to give them anything they can’t digest.
  • As well as toys and places to climb inside their cage, all rats need “free-range” time outside their cage every day to get exercise and stimulate their lively minds.

Dumbo rat cages

Just like top-eared rats, Dumbo rats need lots of space to play and explore.

The ASPCA recommends a minimum cage size of 2′ x 2′ x 2′ (60cm x 60cm x60cm) for two rats.

Rats like to roam over as much space as you can give them. So choose the biggest cage you can afford and fit into your home.

Because rats love to climb, a great way to give them more space is by finding a tall cage with lots of levels. This creates more internal floor space, but without a bigger external footprint.

Different Levels

Lots of space spread over several levels also means your rats can find some privacy from each other when they need it.

Fit out your cage with hammocks and boxes to nest in, and build up a stockpile of different toys that can be rotated in and out of the cage to keep things interesting.

Finally, choosing a cage with a deep base means that you’ll spend less time sweeping ejected bedding off the floor.

Keeping Dumbo Rats together

As we mentioned above, rats are best kept in pairs or in groups. They are very affectionate animals and love to be with their friends.

It is unlikely that they will show a worrying amount of aggression to any pals in their cage.

Caring for a baby Dumbo Rat

Baby rats are called kittens. Breeding Dumbo kittens is essentially the same as breeding other fancy rats.

Dumbo Rat
This 8 week old Siamese Dumbo Rat Baby is snacking on a tiny bit of yogurt.

A female Dumbo and a male Dumbo will always make Dumbo kittens.

Breeding a Dumbo with a top-eared rat, or mating two top-eared rats could produce a litter several, some, or no Dumbos. Depending whether the top-eared parent carries the dmbo gene.

If you have a litter of kittens to raise you’ll want to check our our article on caring for them. It has a week by week guide to help you know what to expect.

Showing your Dumbo Rat

Dumbos are one of seven rat varieties recognized by the American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association.

In showing, your rat will be grouped into further subgroups based on coat pattern and color.

As well as being categorized by coat and type, your rat should not have any physical deformities. It’s also of the utmost importance that your Dumbo’s temperament is good.

You’ll find a link to their official breed standard at the end of this article.

Rescuing a Dumbo Rat

One of the greatest benefits of rescuing any animal is giving them a new lease on life.

Good rescue centers can often help you with health testing your new dumbo eared friend.

Dumbo rat breeders

If you’re ready to bring home a Dumbo, the Rat Fan Club maintains a detailed list of rat breeders, including Dumbo breeders, organized by state and city.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, try the American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association’s list of resources for finding breeders.

In the United Kingdom, the National Fancy Rat Society keeps a directory of British rat breeders, including details of which ratteries breed Dumbos.

Dumbo kittens are ready to leave their mum at six weeks old.

Since they need company in their new homes, and siblings are less likely to fight than unrelated rats, some breeders insist on selling baby rats in pairs.

Similar Breeds

If you like rats you might be looking for other small, cute and cuddly pets that don’t need a whole back garden to sprint around in. Maybe you would be interested in one of these:

Dumbo Rat Products and Accessories

Here are some articles about some great products that will get you well underway to being a fully kitted out rat owner!

  • Hammocks
  • Wheels
  • Harnesses
  • Cages
  • Food
  • Toys

Are you convinced these cuties are for you? Let’s talk about how much they cost.

Dumbo rat price

Fancy rats including Dumbos typically sell for $10 – $20 in the United States, and £7 – £20 in the United Kingdom.

The price of a baby rat is set at the breeder’s discretion. So they might want more money for a Dumbo with another desirable characteristic. For example a blue Dumbo or a Siamese Dumbo.

This is most commonly true if they are the only rattery in their area breeding rats with that combination of features, and there is enough demand to warrant it.

Litter Size and Ongoing Costs

That said, rats are rarely expensive to buy, because they are such prolific breeders. A female Dumbo can have up to six litters a year and as many as 20 kittens in a litter!

But if you’re thinking of buying a pair of Dumbos, don’t forget to budget for the ongoing cost of looking after them.

The ASPCA currently puts the average annual cost of owning a rat at $300. This covers food, bedding, toys, vets bills etc.

Is a Dumbo Rat right for me

Rats continue to divide us. Modern domestic rats are charming and entertaining pets, far removed from their wild ancestors, but they still make some people squirm.

If any rat can overcome this stigma, it’s the baby-faced Dumbo.

These rats are lovely pets, and their owners often report them being exceptionally sweet-natured.

If you have space for a big cage, time to supervise time outside their cage every day, and financial means to provide for them over their whole life, then a pair of Dumbos could be just the right small pet for you.

One thing is for sure – you’ll never get bored of seeing their angelic faces every time they say hello!

Do you have a Dumbo Rat?

What has your experience of owning a Dumbo been? Have they been especially docile, or are they a bouncing bundle of energy?

Please tell us all about them in the comments section!

This article has been extensively revised in 2019.

References And Resources


  1. I have 9 Dumbo girls or various markings, Hooded variegated, Silvermane, Down Under, Whiteside, Siamesse, Hymalian, Mink etc. All my girls are very healthy and active. They are overly lovable, always wanting to give tons of kisses and take shoulder rides. They don’t fight with each other at all. Never bit or nipped (the occasional nip because of missing the tidbit of food and grabbing the finger by accident doesn’t count in my book).

    Never had any health issues, only had porphryn happen one time. That was because of stress when I brought the first pair home. Lasted 2 days and nothing since then in any of my girls.

    In a lot of ways I believe rats are better pets than dogs, and I am a dog person. They too give unconditional love… like a dog. They are quarky, goofy, hilarious at times with their funny antics. And so damned adorable with those dinner plate ears slung low on the head. Such expression. Get yourself a few Dumbo Rats, I promise you that you will not regret it.

  2. I have an adorable albino dumbo female rat…she is cuuute and fun but not the most cuddly, in fact she is getting more sociable but doesnt trust me as much as my other one…since she was a little rat she was scared of almost everything XD but now she likes to play with my hand (a bit too rough sometimes XD) and go inside my jacket. And she is SMART, is the one that always finds a escape route or a chunk of bread I forgot nearby <3

  3. I have so many dumbo rats… So at the start of my journey with dumbo rats, I received a “male”. Having researched everything BUT the sexing and baby-making part of these critters, I didn’t even check. I figured the pet store people would be knowledgeable enough. This one was lonely and seemed stressed. So I went and got two more “males”… Again, didn’t check. So now I have 30 dumbo rats in all, both female mamas had two litters each. I’ve learned a lot and I take care of them every day!

  4. I have a blue dumbo named Shelby. She’s still a baby, I’ve only had her since the 13th of October. She’s so sweet and friendly. I would (and do) recommend these sweet babies to anyone.

  5. I just got one for Christmas. She’s very cute and fast. I’m trying to get her used to my scent . I hope she will be ok with being alone. I’ve had her for a day but trying to learn as much as I can

  6. They don’t like being alone. Find out whether it is male or female and get a companion of the same sex. They do pine o their own and are not solitary pets.

  7. I have two blue rex dumbos, and they are so fun. I work from home, at night, so we have the perfect arrangement! They both get LOTS of interaction and free-range time at night, and we all go to bed at the same time.
    When I got them, I mis-sexed one, and now have a litter of eight very healthy babies. I am going to keep two (M-F) as cage mates for Mom and Dad and sell the rest. So far, it looks a pretty wild array of colors/patterns. It will be really cool to see what I end up with, lol. My male is a big, lovable guy but much more introverted than my female. She’s bouncy and playful ALL the time!

  8. I have a male dumbo, he’s about a year and a half. He is by himself i was wondering if it’s to late for me to put another male in with him?

  9. Some people say that dumbos are friendlier than top eared rats, but actually they’re the same. The ONLY THING that’s different between dumbo rats and top-eared rats is their ear shape. Also, please don’t breed dumbo to dumbo. If that happens, the baby’s eyes will be smaller, and this isn’t good for them. It can be remedied by switching the line back to top-eared rats, but the small eyed dumbo babies will not be able to enjoy life as much. You will get all dumbos, but they will all have health issues.

  10. I don’t understand why there is a separate article for dumbo rats. They’re exactly the same as their regular-eared cousins/siblings. I guess it bothers me because it leads to the pet-store marketing ploys that try to separate the same species into separate species’ in the store to make them more expensive. They sometimes take a hamster of a certain color and try to treat it as a separate species on the signage and pricing.

  11. What I noticed is that dumbo rats have a higher prevalence of ear infections, otitis externa and otitis media. This is most likely caused by the lower position of the ears.
    But that is something breeders rarely mention.
    Ask your rat-savvy vets about dumbo rats and higher prevalence in ear infections. It is the same for floppy eared rabbits and dogs..


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