Fancy Rats for Companionship
by Robert Hudson
Fancy rats are domesticated rats that have been bred to have a wide range of fur colors and patterns, tails or no tails, and big or normal rat ears. They are cuddly, affectionate, clownish, and inquisitive. I spoke with Anisah Grace Hanna who is an experienced rat keeper who adores her rats. She has been keeping rats since she was a child and hosts a rat discussion group, Ratz Furever
How many fancy rats do you have?
I have 3 boys. Peesus Christ is 2.5 years old. Hanniballs Lecter is a year old and Gnawdon Ratsay is 6 months old.
Why do you like rats for pets?
They’re cute, intelligent, funny, cuddly!! They’re basically tiny dogs.
Are they all one breed, or are there different breeds?
There are a few different varieties of fancy rats such as standard, dumbo, rex, hairless… I live in New Zealand though and we only have standard fancy rats here. We don’t have as many colour varieties as other countries either. Glad we have rats though!!
What are they housed in?
They should have a cage with a lot of space to move around in. My rats actually free roam in my room but I do have large cages available too.
What are basic care requirements?
Two rats or more, A good sized cage (not a tank as rats have sensitive respiratory systems so they need good ventilation) food bowls filled with healthy, tasty food, water bottles/bowls filled with fresh water, appropriate bedding, chew toys, hammocks, hideouts (maybe even a rat wheel) playtime outside of the cage (rats love attention!) I also recommend finding a vet who knows about rats so your rats can get the best treatment if needed.
What do you feed a rat?
There’s rat food made specifically for them but they can actually eat a wide range of food. Mine get veggies every day and then I add something else to go with it like chicken, fish, noodles, baby food, eggs, rice, cereal, oats, weetbix, dog food…
How long do they live?
2 – 3 years on average which is the only downside about keeping rats as pets. My heart gets broken a lot! But I also meet a lot of amazing rats.
How do you keep them from breeding?
I only have male rats at the moment. When I kept males and females, they lived in separate cages and had different play times outside of the cage. You can also neuter/spay your rats!
Can a rat live solitary or do they need to be in groups?
Rats should be kept with at least one buddy. In saying this, I have had a couple of lone rats over the years, I believe they can still live a fulfilling life if they are given a lot of attention but ideally, if they get along with other rats then they should have friends.
There are some situations where this can’t happen and I believe it isn’t the worse thing in the world to have a lone rat if it’s human spends a lot of time with him!
How do you interact with them? Are they affectionate?
Rats are very affectionate! I’m always picking them up for a cuddle and playfully rolling them on their back.. they love being tickled, it makes them hyper! It’s funny watching them zoom around.” She has taken her rats for walks on a leash and harness!
“Their little wing harnesses are from Aliexpress. I don’t take my boys outside very often as they prefer being inside but my rats do like to sniff the fresh air, there’s a lot to smell! I don’t stay outside too long with them either. Just a quick little walk for something different and then back inside where they get a treat for being good boys!”
She went on to say, “I used to take my rats to town on my shoulder when I was a kid and a few years ago I had a rat called Gerrat Butler who went everywhere with me. I’ve taken my rats on holiday and had them stay with me in my hotel room too. The reaction when people see my rats is always amusing. I’ve had disgusted reactions and amazed reactions.
I love it when people smile when they see I have rats and start to approach me, I’ve had quite a few kids who are curious. I always ask if they want to pat my rats and I’ll say “they don’t bite” to assure my rats are super friendly!”
Can you train them?
Yes, rats are extremely intelligent. They can be taught tricks and you can also litter train them.
I read somewhere that some people allow their rat to dig in dirt. Can you explain the reason for that?
Rats are very curious creatures, they love burrowing/digging so having a dirt box can satisfy their natural instinct to burrow. It’s quite fun watching them dig, you can really see how much they enjoy it.
Do you put clothes on your rat for pictures?
I make a lot of videos where my rats have props/clothes on them. I bring my rats up used to being on their back so I manage to create little scenes when they’re sleeping. (Anisah has her own unique sense of humor in her rat videos and photos).
Do they have toys?
They love chewable toys! Mine love wooden animal chews… makes a huge mess but if it makes them happy then that’s okay!
What is the hardest part and the best part of owning a rat?
Hardest part is their short life span. Definitely not fair!! Best part is literally everything else!! They’re so cute and funny!
The Rat and Mouse Club of America identifies four main varieties of rats: standard, rex, hairless and tailless. In addition, the American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association recognizes satin and dumbo rats. The National Fancy Rat Society of UK recognizes many varieties, but it has banned tailless and hairless rats from exhibition in the United Kingdom.
Standard Fancy Rat
The standard rat variety has short, sleek fur that nearly gleams with a glossy finish. The female has longer, softer fur than the male.
Hairless Fancy Rat
The hairless rat is completely bald with pink skin that is nearly translucent. It may or may not have whiskers. The hairlessness is caused by a genetic mutation. This rat is susceptible to cold and injury.
Tailless Fancy Rat
The tailless rat, is also known as the Manx rat. Sometimes they have a little stub of a tail. A rat’s tail helps it regulate body heat. Because of this, the tailless rat is considered not to be a 100% healthy breed.
Dumbo Fancy Rat
The dumbo rat variety is distinguished by the size and shape of his ears, which are larger and rounder than those of other varieties. They are shaped somewhat like a rose petal and are positioned low on the sides of his head. The coat can vary in color.
Rex Fancy Rat
Rex fancy rats has a curly coat and whiskers. The thick, soft coat comes in many colors, and it lacks the guard hairs that make rat fur coarse. Rex rats may be better tolerated by people with allergies. Fancy
Satin Fancy Rat
The satin variety is known for its shiny, silky coat and curly whiskers. The coat is said to have a metallic sheen.
Marked Fancy Rat
Marked varieties of rats generally sport two colors of fur that form patterns. For example, the capped variety has a body that’s solid white and a head with a cap of color that stops at the ears. The Irish variety sports a white triangle on the chest, plus white feet and a body fur of a different shade. The National Fancy Rat Society lists 11 marked varieties.
AOV Fancy Rat
“Any Other Varieties” of fancy rats include topaz, lilac agouti, cinnamon pearl and silver fawn. These names point to each rat’s coloration.
As you have read here, fancy rats come in a large variety of colors, and fur types, but depending on where you live or what country you live in, availability may be limited.