The earliest documented evidence of domesticated rats comes from Japan and dates back to the Edo period (1603 to 1868). The tradition of keeping fancy rats may have originated in Japan, but pet rats have become more common over the years.
The term fancy rat is used to refer to a rat that has been bred to be a pet as opposed to a wild rat. Standards for fancy rats are set by the American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association (AFRMA).
Rats can make great pets for the right family. Rats as pets face a lot of stigma as they have been labeled vermin, but they make loving pets that can be trained like any dog. Some rats can even be trained to perform very complex tasks such as detecting landmines!
Although there are a wide variety of pet rats, they all come from the brown rat (Rattus Norvegicus). This is why pet rats have blunt noses, smaller ears and eyes, and tails the same length as their bodies. Although there is some variation due to genetic variance that resulted in the hairless rat, all pet rats generally share the same characteristics.
Keep reading to learn more about the different types of pet rats and all the varieties that exist today.
The standard rat
The standard rat is as close as possible to the wild brown rat. These rats eat a standard rat diet and do not need any specific requirements.
To take care of a standard rat, you need a cage with a floor made of sturdy material, so no wire, to protect its feet and legs.
- The floor should not be wooden as it can absorb urine which can lead to lung problems. The top and sides of the cage can be wired to improve air circulation.
- For an adult pet rat, the cage should measure at least 14″ by 12″ by 24″.
- You should stay away from pine or cedar shavings as they are poisonous to rats.
Your rat needs a shelter or sleeping box in the cage. Litter and bedding should be cleaned twice a week.
The temperature should stay below 90 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid heatstroke.
Standard rats eat lab pellets or lab blocks.
Include a water bottle that allows your rat to drink when needed, as water bowls can be knocked over.
Your pet rat needs 0.16 to 0.19 oz of food per 3.22 oz of body weight. An average adult rat will eat 0.48 to 0.64 ounces of food each day.
These listed requirements are the minimum needed to care for a pet rat, so you can add more items as long as they are appropriate for rats.
Rats need love and affection to bond with their owner, so the same way you spend time with a new puppy, you need to spend time with your new pet rat.
The name of the rex rat comes from the rex mutation. The rex mutation is a genetic variation found in mammals that leaves them with soft, curly fur.
The whiskers and eyelashes of rex rats also tend to have a curly, woolly feel. This is why rex rats are sometimes called sheep rats. If a rex rat has two of the rex genes, its fur, eyelashes and whiskers are tightly curled
As rex rats age, their fur begins to thin, which can lead to bald spots.
The Manx Rat
Like the rex rat, the Manx rat is visibly different from a standard rat. Manx rats lack a full tail; they only have one tip of a tail, giving them the appearance of having no tail at all.
Unlike the standard rat, Manx rats require extra care due to their tailless appearance. A rat’s tail plays an important role in a rat’s balance and self-care. Manx rats will therefore need extra care to ensure they are healthy and happy.
The Sphynx Rat
Like a sphynx cat, the sphynx rat is a variant of a hairless rat. The hairless rat is selectively bred to ensure that it remains completely hairless.
The sphynx rat is not recommended as a pet as it can get sick very easily and requires extra care to keep it warm. The main reason they are not recommended as pets is that if there is a demand for them, breeders will continue to breed these types of rats regardless of the rats suffering.
The Rat Dumbo
Unlike the standard rat, the dumbo rat’s ears sit lower on the side of its head and are much larger than other rat ears. Dumbo rats seem to have larger heads than other types of rats.
Other than the difference in appearance, dumbo rats don’t require any extra care.
Consider Pet Rats Your Next Companion
Although pet rats are not many people’s first thought when choosing a pet, their loving nature and friendly disposition make them excellent companions. Dogs and cats have been favorite pets for years, with hamsters and birds popping up here and there while rats have been left behind. So consider having a pet rat as your next companion to experience how truly amazing these creatures can be.