All Posts By

Marti

rat behaviour,rat breeding

How To Introduce New Rats

For years I dreaded introducing rats to one another. Or rather, I didn’t mind too much introducing does to each other — they were far more peaceable (usually), but I was scared to death of introducing male rats.

I had good reason. Adult male rats do not take well to strangers. A perfectly peaceable buck will turn into a a puffed up, adrenaline-fed hellraiser the moment he sees an intruder and new rats can inflict serious injury to one another, even death.

Much depends on who you are introducing to whom. Let’s start with the easiest: babies. You can introduce babies from different litters at any time up until ten or twelve weeks without any trouble. Breeders typically mix eight week old rats from one litter with a similar age from another litter without any need for special introductions. The same may be true with 10-14 weeks rats. However at some point introducing will cause some friction.

By the time they are juveniles, you should be a little more respectful of the need for measured introductions. Young rats may best be introduced on neutral ground — a sofa or dry bathtub on which a towel bas been laid will do. Such a space is nobody’s territory and therefore the rats may simply get used to each other without feeling any need to defend. (However, I have to admit I’ve been less inclined to use first stage and go straight to the “carrier method” which I’ll detail below)

The famous “rat lady”, Debbie Ducommun writes that “with time and patience almost any rat will accept a newcomer” with only the occasion rat requiring spaying or neutering in order to become more accepting. The reason for the neutering is to bring the level of hormones down. Apparently, territorial aggression is often transformed with a sudden knock to the gonads. While the world of rats owes a lot to Debbie Ducommun, a renowned expert, I am not as big a fan of her introduction methods which tend to to be gradual, with introductions in neutral territory being followed by introductions in a relatively large cage. Ms. Decommun recommends “cleaning out the larger cage completely and rearrange the furnishings so it appears to be a new cage. Trim the back toenails of the rats to minimize scratching in a scuffle. Put vanilla extract or perfume on all the rats to make them smell the same. Then put the rats in this cage.”

Not that she is wrong, as such. I think with does and rats of a few months old you can follow her methods and have success. And she is right about a great deal, including that the best time to start introductions is when the rats are sleepy (so the middle of the day). I also agree with her that if fighting is taking place over a period of weeks you may have to give up with two rats ever being friends. However, my preferred method of introductions is one called the “Carrier Method”. I didn’t make it up — I’m not sure who did — but it hasn’t failed me with any of the doe-to-doe introductions I’ve tried, nor with introducing adult bucks to baby bucks (10 weeks old). I haven’t tied adult buck to adult buck, except on reintroductions, which is a slightly different situation.

So what do you do with the carrier method? You put the rats to be introduced, whether it is a single individual to a single individual or a group to a group, into the smallest cage or carrier that will fit all of them. When I say “fit”, the rats need to be in as small a space as you can find that allows them to be shoulder to shoulder and still lie down. In the case of 2-3 rats, a small carrier will do. For 5 does, you may need a large carrier. For 10 rats, you’ll need a small hamster cage.

It should look crowded. A little like this:

Once you’ve put them all in, walk around with the carrier.  Rats that are unsure tend not to find, so usually they won’t do much while in “transit”. Keep them moving until they seem more relaxed. If you want to extend this time, put them in a car. The motion of the car is likely to keep them quiet as well.

Later, you can just sit down with the carrier near you. Hear squeaking and fussing? Walk around with the carrier to distract them from this. You may see a rat pinning down another rat, or forcibly grooming another so that the poor victim is squeaking lightly. That is to be expected. But as long as the one being pounced upon submits to the other, they will soon be fine. If a rat is really being aggressive with another, you may need to intervene. Do not do this with your bare hands! Get a water spray or a towel or oven gloves or anything, but do not ever break up a rat fight without protection. It is a sure way to get bitten.

Once it seems they are fine in the carrier you can add a mouse-sized water bottle (I say mouse-sized as it is the only thing that is going to stay in the holes of the carrier, most likely).

Add food scattered on floor. Do not give any treats or anything that too exciting to them that they will fight over.

Some people keep them in a carrier for a few hours or overnight. I’ve had mine in a  carrier for as little as 5 hours to as long as 24 hours. I’ve been known to sleep with a carrier next to my bed.  In fact, I have many carriers in different sizes and I put them into an identical carrier every 12 hours so they are clean. Only once I’ve seen they are bored as hell (approximately 1 day for does, maybe the same for bucks but might be longer) do I move to the next level, a really small hamster cage. From there it might be another day (or two or three) before they get moved to a single story rat cage like a Savic Ruffy. No hammocks. A day later, I try a hammock, then another, then maybe a little house. Once they are in rat piles and look like nothing much is stirring I move to my SRS, but only half of it. I am making it sound like I do this every week. I’ve only done 4, I think. 3 with does, 1 with bucks. You can go much faster if it is a totally nothing event (very compliant does or luck), but some people take a week to get from carrier to normal rat cage with no hammocks.

Rats will play fight and will have occasional grumbles (especially the boys) but it is natural for them to live in groups and they usually get on. If you have a particularly difficult situation, you may need to create alternative groupings or even neuter/spay a rat or rats. However, generally speaking, peace reigns.

Be warned that you may have to “reintroduce” rats on occasion. For example, if you’ve had one out of the group for days or weeks at a time or when the “alpha” rat dies. I recently had a buck out for mating. I shampooed him so that he wouldn’t smell like does but I still had to stick all the boys in an intro cage for a few hours until they were back to normal. It was definitely worth it (less stress for me, if nothing else!) and now they are all happy again…..

…..until I add a few more rats! Which I do on occasion!

rat behaviour,rat breeding

Taming Baby Rats

People get rats from lots of different places and they aren’t always the tamest of rats. There is no point telling someone who has just picked up a couple of unhandled babies that they ought to have looked for a breeder who selects for calm temperament and handles their baby rats daily. First, they probably tried that but didn’t want to wait 4-6 months for baby rats from these (frankly rare) breeders who handle daily. Second, it’s too late!

However, the good news is that for most rats, taming is just a matter of time and patience. While it may not seem easy, it is definitely possible to bring a rat around from a skittish scared baby to a great pet. In fact, some of the nicest adult rats I’ve had started out as not very confident babies.

There are different ideas about taming rats. Whatever method you choose, I’d suggest that early on (immediately) stop chasing your rats around a cage. The more you chase, the more they’ll run and you are encouraging them into a habit of running away from you. Also, while you know you aren’t going to hurt them, you are associating your hand with fear and this actually works against you.

If you have fearful babies (or even older rats) you might start with a smaller cage than the big (I hope!) one to which they will eventually graduate. If your babies aren’t too skittish, you could try a Ruffy Savic or a Ferplast Mary , for example. But really, any relatively small cage that is advertised as suitable for two rats (but frankly, is not suitable for two adults, though great for taming babies). Don’t worry that you will never use this cage again after you’ve tamed your rats – you will! Such small cages are great as “hospital” cages for the sick or elderly or for taking a few rats away with you overnight or to a rat show. Yes, I said rat show. The NFRS has many shows throughout the year and you may like to go along and even enter your own rats – they are quite fun events!

One method for taming rats is to gradually and softly get your rats used to you. This is what I do. People have various names for this method, but the idea is that you help the rats to gradually think of you, your smell, you gaze and your hands as the precursors to Good Things To Come! Gradually get closer and closer to them, always stopping before they freak out. Eventually, they will no longer afraid of you being there. However, this  can take anything from 5 minutes to 5 days.

I’ve done this for hours every day with older rats who otherwise may have bitten me and it works very well. I’ve also done it with babies. I can attest that eventially your rats will come to trust you, but you do need to clock up the hours, allowing the rats to gradually build confidence. It takes time. It takes patience. It is by far the most humane way you can get your rats to like you and associate you with all that they love.

However, make sure you start off with serious motivators. While a terrified rat will not eat (usually) you may find that a greedy rat is willing to take a risk to get to something very yummy. It’s hard for a rat to totally ignore the offer of “junk food” by way of digestive biscuits or small bites of cake. Start with a fair chunk so that they can take it and run further into their cage and gradually build up to cake crumbs they have to lick from your palm. Smear your hands with treats like yoghurt or pudding for them to lick off, that sort of thing.

You can then graduate to putting the treats on  your arms, etc until the rat feels confident walking onto your body to retrieve them. After initial reluctance, rats almost invariably find the food irresistible and associate you with good things. It is very satisfying to watch the process unfold.  Over time you can hold the rat and allow it to hop back into its cage when it likes. Before you know it, your rat readily walks out of the cage onto you and forgets all about being scared. You won’t even need treats anymore as your rat’s natural curiosity means they come check you out whenever you give them the chance. However, at some point you may want to practice picking up your rat and putting it down over and over and over so that if you have to do there is no question of the rat running away.

The other popular method for taming rats is total immersion – sometimes known  as the confidence method. In this case, you take your rat out and handle it for twenty minutes at a time regardless of how it feels about the situation. This is a great method for babies who aren’t really all that scared in the first place. But it’s easy to overwhelm them so be careful. You have to always be thinking from the rat’s point of view. I know you love your rats — but do they love you? And is there anything in this immersion process that is the least bit fun for them? The answer should be yes.

If your rats are particularly nutty, even the size of a Savic Ruffy or Mary cage being used as a “training cage” is probably too big. They may still be running away from you.  If so, do your best to catch them and put them into an animal carrier for the duration of your taming sessions, which should take place a few times a day. Again, even if you are using the “immersion” process be as respectful as you can of the fear the animal is feeling. You need to be sure you aren’t making things worse.

Inside a carrier, there really isn’t a lot of room to run, so they are well and truly stuck. This has the advantage that you can pick up a rat without cornering it. On the other hand, you’ve kind of already cornered it so it may be scared to death. At least the act of running, itself, has been eliminated which may mean the stress is less for the poor rat. Hard to say. However, you may be cornering it so that all it feels it can do is bite you. The rat will soon learn that biting works really well to get rid of an unwanted hand — and now you are in worse trouble than when you started!

Most babies are not going to bite you during the “total immersion” method (though don’t bet on it). When using this method, take the carrier with the rats inside to a secure room and stick your hand into the carrier for 5-minute stretches until they settle down with the notion of a hand. Beware they may nibble your hand investigating whether it is food (let them).   Nibbles from babies are one thing. Fear bites from adults are quite another. I prefer the softly-softly method for adults when possible for this reason and am more likely to take a few chances with the babies. Having said that, you really don’t want to scare rats during their most sensitive periods (for example from age 6 weeks to about 12 weeks). Make sure the babies are more excited that afraid and that every session with you is as positive and rewarding as possible.

But back to babies. Now that you’ve put your hand in and out many times and the rats are tolerating it, you can do one of several things. You can take out a single rat and try to keep it in your hands, allowing it to run from one hand to the other for a period of time up to about 20 minutes. Or you can purposely move it from one hand to another, which will not be difficult. Once you see a little improvement (this can take up to twenty minutes) swap it for the other rat, and so on.

When picking up your rats, remember to scoop the rat from underneath, and never pick it up by the tail. I know you will hear of people who “tail” rats (pick them up by the base of the tail) but that is not a great way to make friends with a rat. In fact, you could be bitten.

The use of a cloth or light blanket or something the rat can hid under, or even better yet “bonding” pouch which you wear around your neck, can help your rat feel safe. Using a bonding pouch, you can put a couple of babies in at a time. However, if you are using your bare hands (apparently a faster method, though not if you are at risk of the rat jumping) only have a single rat out at a time.

Whichever process you choose, or whichever combination of processes you choose, always remember that the rat is doing his best. You can’t ask a rat to try harder when they are trying their hardest already. The poor rat doesn’t know you want to love him. He thinks you want to kill him. So be patient – most rats do come around!

For more information and an excellent step-by-step description of the “immersion method” have a look at Isamurat.co.uk’s page on the subject.

rat care

How Much Does It Cost To Keep Rats?

People often imagine that rats are inexpensive pets. Who can blame them when there are articles all over the net that make such bogus claims as “All you’ll need to buy is a 20-gallon aquarium or a similarly sized wire cage ($30+), some bedding and toys, and food, which will cost you about $40 per year” ?Not only are these figures inaccurate, but a 20-gallon tank won’t be big enough for a pair of rats, let alone a trio. In fact, you shouldn’t keep them in tanks at all.

The truth is, rats are quite expensive. They are cheap to buy as babies and their food doesn’t even begin to compare to the cost of, say, feeding a dog. The cage or cages you will need are large and expensive, of course, but  you may get lucky and find a good second hand cage on Ebay or a terrific Facebook page for cages called Cage Spotters which lists cages all over Britain the are being sold second-hand.

 

So how come I say they are expensive? Veterinary bills. I cannot tell you how many owners are shocked by the number of veterinary visits required by their pet rats, let alone the surgery costs when required. Most rats will sail through their first year of life without needing veterinary attention, although there are no guarantees. However, at some point between 12-24 months your rat may very well develop a respiratory infection and require antibiotics. None of the antibiotics needed are legally available without a veterinary prescription. Some of them treat one kind of infection and some another. All of them have to be given as quickly as possible after symptoms develop if they are to be effective. A veterinary visit plus the cost of the medicine will range but I’d imagine £50.00 would do the trick at today’s prices.

 

Okay, £50 may not seem expensive. It isn’t, considering that any animal you have may require a veterinary visit. But rats also tend to develop tumours. Many of these tumours are benign (mammary tumours are almost always so) and can be operated on and resolved. However, you must ask your vet early on how much they charge for such procedures as the prices vary enormously! I’d expect to pay between £60-£110 for mammary tumour removal unless the tumour were particularly tricky and then it might be more.

 

Does are more prone to mammary tumours but bucks can get them because even though they don’t have nipples they do have mammary tissue. Bucks also tend to get abscesses, which may or may not require veterinary attention. They sometimes need neutering (I’ve not had that problem as my bucks are big softies, but not everyone is so lucky!), and the does sometimes need spaying due to pyometra or other complications of the reproductive system (this will cost between £80-£110 at my vet).

 

None of these number seem high until you consider that the animal lives an average of 2-2.5 years. In fact, the average age of death of a male rat in the UK is  Once your rats have reached the end of their lives you will say goodbye to them, which means you may need another appointment with the vet for a “pts” (put to sleep). You then buy a couple of more rats and the cycle continues!

 

I estimate that every rat you have will cost you about between £100-£150 in vet bills. If you have two rats you are looking at quite a sum over the course of their short lives. How short you might ask? Well, a pet survey in the UK found that most rats live on average for 1.8 years. Most of my rats live between 21 and 27 months. That’s it. I know people say they have rats that live four or five years but I’ve not found that to be the case. So, having spent all this money on spaying or tumours or whatever, you aren’t going to have years of a healthy pet. They will die and then,  if you are like me and you are hooked on rats, you’ll only go and buy another trio!

 

So, while it is true that rats are far less expensive than dogs, they aren’t cheap! Well-meaning owners are conned into believing pet rats will be an inexpensive option only to be shocked when they can’t afford vital veterinary care that their rat requires.

 

What about insurance? A great idea exceptional that not all insurers will cover rats. the one I know of is Exotic Direct. They would be delighted to insure your rats but they charge £15 per rat per month. You’d do better putting the money aside, I imagine. If you do find cheaper pet insurance for your rats, can you let me know? I’d love to tell others!

 

There are rats that will cost you very little and die peacefully in their sleep without having ever shown a sign of illness, but they are rare. Arm yourself with the cash necessary to look after your rats without worry and enjoy them without the stress of worrying how to pay the bill if they need the vet. And if you do run into financial difficulty, look up the PDSA before you have a veterinary emergency. The PDSA recognises that people keep rats in pairs at minimum and will cover some of the costs of veterinary treatment if you qualify.

 

I really feel for you  if you can’t afford a pet. The longing to connect with animals is very great. Rat owners like me are always looking for those who love rats to help them out when they are away on holiday or work. You might be able to help out a breeder. Join the NFRS and go to rat shows, meet breeders and soon you’ll be in demand to help out and you’ll get LOTS of time with rats and baby rats as well as a little money to store away for your own.

rat care

How to Breed for Good Temperament

All breeders try to breed for a “good temperament” but not all breeders agree on what a good temperament is! Some breed for rats that are active and always on the move. Others may wish for “lap rats” that tend to be more mellow and cuddly. All breeders agree they want their rats to be happy, relaxed animals. They want rats that enjoy interacting with humans and other rats without any concerns about injury.

Genetics influence temperament in all sorts of ways. I recall reading something from  long-time breeder, Jemma Fettes, of Isamu Stud, a very well known rat stud in the show world. She talked about how an orphan rat was put into a group of babies and grew up among them with (presumably) the same maternal care as the biological offspring to the mother. Even though he was raised exactly as the others, his temperament was far different. He wasn’t a “bad” rat, but a very active, cheeky rat, and far more trouble than his adopted brothers and sisters! Jemma was convinced the difference in his temperament was due to his genetics, not his environment.

When it comes to rat temperament, epigenetics come into  play.  That is, not everything about the DNA of a rat result in a particular temperament.  “Mother rats spend a lot of time licking, grooming, and nursing their pups. Others seem to ignore their pups. Highly nurtured rat pups tend to grow up to be calm adults, while rat pups who receive little nurturing tend to grow up to be anxious…Through her licking behavior, a mother rat can write information onto her pups’ DNA in a way that completely bypasses eggs and sperm. In a sense, her nurturing behavior tells her pups something about the world they will grow up in. Mom’s behavior actually programs the pups’ DNA in a way that will make them more likely to succeed.” (Genetics Science Learning Centre).

In fact, researchers at McGill University have determined that maternal care in the form of licking and grooming “changes hundreds of genes” in the babies at once.  In their laboratories, rats that were “poorly licked” were anxious and harder to handle. Those who were licked a lot were easy to handle. The tendency toward high levels of maternal care may be genetically linked, of course, but the point is that stress responses can be changed in a single generation. This has important ramifications for breeders. While they are unlikely to lose “type” or “colour” quickly, they can lose temperament simply because a doe isn’t attending to her offspring properly.

Having rats with low levels of anxiety is important. Anxious rats are more likely to bite. They are also more likely to become ill, lead shorter lives, and suffer from problems with mites. It’s important to breed relaxed rats and I know all breeders are trying to do so but understanding the mechanism for good temperament is trickier than it looks. And while breeders can do their best to socialise baby rats, handling them and creating a good environment for them with plenty of “enrichment” (toys and climbing and foraging opportunities), it looks like the basics of temperament depend largely on the mum!

ratty community

The Closet Rat Enthusiast

I’ve been at Oxford University this week teaching on the master’s programme for creative writing. It’s a great gig because I spend all weekend talking about one of my favourite subjects – writing fiction – with a whole bunch of people who feel the same. Yesterday, I had the unusual pleasure of discovering one of the students on the course is a rat lover. We spent lunch sitting across from each other talking about rats, peoples’ perceptions of rats, how certain genetics play out in forming different colours (known as “varieties” in the rat world) and the dubious pleasure of “show rats”.

 

We got some funny looks at the dining table, especially when I pulled out the current issue of Pro-Rat-A, the National Fancy Rat Society’s magazine, to show her.

 

As it happens, this young woman goes to schools to talk about the way we are acculturated to be afraid of rats. She wants to show children that animals like rats – and wasps and snakes and perhaps any number of other dreaded animals – have a place in this world. For her demonstration, she uses a pair of roan does she adopted. They’ve been great ambassadors for rats, total superstars, but one has recently died and she’s down to a lone and elderly doe who has little time left herself.

 

“Would you like some morerats?” I ventured. I was sitting with other tutors and you could just see them thinking, What is all this about rats?All these years we’ve known her and we had no idea Marti was crazy.

 

It’s true that I keep it quiet. I’m a closet rat enthusiast, not because I am ashamed of my affection for pets rats but because I don’t like to hear them bein disparaged by people who feel differently. But the young woman did not disparage them. I watched her face light up at the notion of my hoped-for baby rats, arriving in November.

 

“Oh yes!” she said.

 

I explained I was breeding Missy to Pluto and that the babies were all likely to be black, some with Berkshire markings (splashes of white on their stomachs and legs).

 

“Black is good! I want them to look close to wild rats.”

 

I let her know that wild “brown” rats were agouti but that ship rats were black. If I could source some agouti from another breeder as well it would be great to have a mix of agouti and black.

 

“Take three, a trio of baby rats is a good number. And with does, we’re only talking about relatively small rats.”

 

“How small?”

 

“I used the bread rolls from the basket on the table to demonstrate. “A doe is about two of these rolls. But a buck can be, say, three or more. Of course, it varies. I know breeders whose does are three bread rolls and bucks are four!”

 

Was that maybe too much, the bread roll rats in among the bottles of sparkling water and the discreet menu card and the cloth napkins and all the linen? A little unfair to the other diners who were not quite as enamoured of the fancy rat? No, really, it’s okay. You can level with me.  Better to have taken the rats back into the closet? I mean, they do like closets…

 

 

rat behaviour

Does or Bucks (girls or boys)?

When it comes to deciding whether to get bucks or does there is much to consider. Among rat enthusiasts, the debate on which gender is “better” makes for lively debate. Both bucks and does make great pets. I have to admit to loving both does and bucks equally, though it is a lot easier to keep only one gender because you can get all your rats out at one time daily rather than having two different play times, one for the boys and one for the girls. So, if you want to make your life easier, stick to does or to bucks. If you want both genders, however, I totally understand. In fact, there are some nice cages that will allow you to keep both sexes easily enough as the cage divides into half with an opaque tray between the two.

There are a lot of generalisations about the differences between bucks and does and we may as well start with them. So, true or false?

True of False? Bucks Are Lazy; Does Are Lively

There is some truth in this! A female rat, or doe, is often smaller, sleeker, and more active than her brother. While everything comes down to individual personality, does tend to be far “busier” inside their cages, racing up ladders, crossing ropes, building elaborate nests, etc. By contrast, boys tend to do as little as possible to create a nest, then flop down and sleep the day away. But at night, things are different! Boys will want to come out and play just as much as the girls will! they may not play as fast or for as long, but my boys race over me as I watch a movie, sit on my books and explore my eyeglasses while I’m trying to read, jump from one shelf to another just for fun. Girls are faster (no contest there) and tend not to sit on your lap as much as boys, but all this changes with age.

By 18 months, many of my girls will slow down enough to sit on my lap. The boys at 18 months will probably cuddle longer and be less likely to “race” anywhere!

My girls will frequently climb up my leg to get to me. My boys might come over to my foot, think about climbing, then change their minds.

If you have children who want to play with the rats during the day, girls are probably a better option, though the boys may learn that playtime is during the day and may wake up especially just to have fun.

True of False? Bucks Smell More 

In my experience, this is true. They’re bigger; they eat more; they have more oil in their coats. I don’t mind this about bucks but if you are someone who really hates the smell of rats I’d go for smallish does. Does tend to weigh between 350–500 grams, but can be more! Male rats range from between 450–700 grams. I have heard of a couple that top 850 grams.

Another point: if you are mildly allergic to rats you may get on okay with does but not with bucks.

Caution: bucks mark more, which means they dribble urine sometimes. If this drives you crazy, go for does.

True of False? Bucks Cannot He Introduced to Other Bucks

Not exactly true, no.  An adult buck will usually accept a couple of baby boys, ages 9-14 weeks, without difficulty as long as the introductions are done correctly. But introducing adult bucks to adult bucks is trickier. I’ve known people who have done it without any problems but please remember that rats who are strangers to one another can fight. The injuries can be serious or even fatal.

Those who are successful at introducing adult bucks to adult bucks almost always use the “carrier method”, about which I will write shortly. However, I personally do not like to introduce adult bucks to one another. I’m too concerned about injury.

By contrast, I have successfully introduced adult does to adult does with little to no fuss. I use the carrier method and watch for any signs of trouble. All my intros have been incredibly easy. This may be due to the rats I have, but I think it is true to say that does are generally easier to introduce to one another.

Everything depends upon individual personalities, of course.

True of False? Does Are Indifferent To Their Owners

Completely false! Makes me mad when I hear this! Does adore their owners! They just won’t sit in your lap for very long until they are a bit older. Have a look at Missy in this video and you’ll see that does can be just as much of “lap rats” as boys. However, everything depends on the age of the rats, how much you handle them, how much time they have to explore, and the “line” from which you buy your rats. Some lines produce more active rats than others. I am breeding for calm docile rats that make great pets. I don’t mind if they never win in the variety classes at shows — it doesn’t bother me at all.

I might add that bucks are pretty darn active as youngsters and that while some are licky, lovey “squishes”,  some don’t want to be “lap rats”. Again, it all comes down to the individual.

True of False? Bucks Are More Likely to Be Aggressive

Apparently, this is true though in my own experience, my bucks aren’t territorial or at all aggressive. They don’t bite me and I’m always reaching into their cages and messing about with “their” stuff. Both bucks and does tend to taste your toes — I have no idea why — but they don’t bite them as such. They may decide to give your fingernails a manicure, too. This amuses some, annoys other. Does will sometimes get a bit shark-like just after giving birth (though often not). Bucks begin “play fighting” at about 5 weeks of age and will occasionally get into scraps with each other as adults. Does do the same, but at a lower level.

Do not try to break up a rat fight with your hands as you could get bitten in the process. The problem with rat bits is that they HURT. And bucks are bigger so,if you were to get bitten, it may be more serious.

True of False? Does Live Longer

Statistically, this is true In general, does live a couple months longer than bucks. This may be because bucks tends to gain more weight than does in their later lives. There’s a wonderful website with all sorts of statistics on rats. Among the various graphs and charts is one that shows how rats pretty much continue to gain weight throughout their lives, with the boys being more likely to become obese unless their diets are carefully controlled.

True of False? Does Have Bigger Vet Bills

Probably true, unless you have to neuter your male rat in which case, they will likely cost as much as a doe.  A does may need a spay or to have mamary tumours removed. Some rats never seem to get mammary tumours. Others get enormous ones. Bucks can get them, too, but are less likely to do so. I’ve had two does spayed recently and both bounced back really nicely and are now genderless, happy middle-aged rats who I hope live good long lives!