Welcome To Your Complete Guide To Dumbo Rats! What Is A Dumbo Rat? Where Do They Come From? What Are They Like To Keep And Care For? Let’s Find Out!
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 rats.
What is a Dumbo rat?
It doesn’t take much imagination to guess what’s special about a Dumbo rat.
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.
Usually, rats’ ears are small and oval, and perched quite high on their heads.
But Dumbo rats’ ears are large, almost circular, and positioned much lower on their heads. So they stick out sideways from behind their cheeks.
Despite this difference, Dumbo rats 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 do Dumbo rats come from?
Dumbo 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, giving them their characteristic appearance.
History doesn’t record the first Dumbo rat, but anecdotal evidence suggests the dmbo mutation first popped up somewhere in Northwest America. Probably sometime in the second half of the 20th century.
All of today’s Dumbo rats probably share one common ancestor.
Dumbo rats as pets
These days, Dumbo rats are widespread and popular pets.
Just like their top-eared counterparts, the flamboyant Dumbo rats are easily tamed, super friendly, and agile explorers.
In fact, Dumbo rats enjoy a reputation for being excessively sweet-natured and easy to handle.
This is probably because the first Dumbo rat breeders selected heavily in favor of docile temperaments when they first set up the Dumbo breeding line.
However, temperament is never guaranteed, and the Dumbo rat’s family tree has become considerably more chaotic since those early days.
Whilst modern day Dumbo rats might still be more serene on average, their individual personalities can cover the full spectrum from laid-back to high-spirited.
Blue Dumbo rats and Dumbo rex rats
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 blue Dumbo rats, siamese Dumbo rats with brown or blue points, rex Dumbo rats with curly coats and even black Dumbo rats, to name but a few permutations!
How big do Dumbo rats get?
A male Dumbo rat weighs between 1 and 1.5lbs, and a female Dumbo rat 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 care
Dumbo rats 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 in Dumbo rats in pairs or larger groups. Rats are extremely sociable animals (it’s not coincidence that a group of rats is called a mischief!), and solitude is incredibly stressful for them.
- Dumbo rats need a balanced diet of high quality soymeal-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.
Dumbo 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 foot print.
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.
Dumbo rat health
Luckily Dumbo rats’ endearing features don’t carry any inherent health risks with them.
Dumbo rats’ heads some times 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:
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 Dumbo rats 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, Dumbo rats have the same life expectancy as top-eared fancy rats.
With a bit of luck, a well-cared rat will live for two to three years – double or triple the lifespan of their wild counterparts!
Baby Dumbo rats
Baby Dumbo rats are called kittens.
Breeding baby Dumbo rats is essentially the same as breeding other fancy rats.
A female Dumbo rat and a male Dumbo rat will always make Dumbo kittens.
Breeding a Dumbo rat with a top-eared rat, or mating two top-eared rats could produce a litter several, some, or no Dumbo rats. Depending whether the top-eared parent carries the dmbo gene.
Dumbo rat breeders
If you’re ready to bring home a Dumbo rat, the Rat Fan Club maintains a detailed list of rat breeders, including Dumbo rat breeders, organised 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 Dumbo rats.
Dumbo rat 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 Dumbo rats in pairs.
Dumbo rat price
Fancy rats including Dumbo rats typically sell for $10 – $20 in the United States, and £7 – £20 in the United Kingdom.
The price of a baby Dumbo rat is set at the breeder’s discretion. So they might want more money for a Dumbo rat with another desirable characteristic. For example a blue Dumbo rat or a Siamese Dumbo rat.
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.
That said, rats are rarely expensive to buy, because they are such prolific breeders. A female Dumbo rat can 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 Dumbo rats, don’t forget to budget for the on going cost of looking after them.
The ASPCA currently puts the average annual cost of owning a rat at $300, to cover food, bedding, toys, vets bills etc.
Should I buy a Dumbo rat?
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 rat.
Dumbo 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 Dumbo rats 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 at home?
What has your experience of owning a Dumbo rat been? Have they been especially docile, or are they a bouncing bundle of energy?
Please tell us all about them in the comments section!
Further Information and Resources
- National Fancy Rat Society
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
- People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals