Do you have preferred colours?
There are many varieties of colours and markings in rats. In fact there are so many that an entire section has been devoted to them on this website. Click here if you wish to jump directly there. Only the colours and markings available in Australia at this time have been covered. If you are after a specific colour or marking, then it is wise to enquire around ratteries in your area as they are likely to have well bred animals in a variety of colours/markings.
Boys or Girls?
Unless you want to breed, you have to make the choice on whether you want males or females. Both live happily with others of the same sex. Girls tend to be more active than boys – the boys can prefer to snuggle in your lap than go spelunking for hidden treasures between the couch cushions. The boys can have a stronger odour than the girls, but it’s not an offensive smell and will be kept in check by cleaning the cage out often (like you are supposed to). Basically its a personal preference on which sex of rat you buy.
Pet shop or rattery?
Unless you know where the rats have come from, ie. a good rattery, then it can be a bit risky buying from pet shops. Some pet shops have excellent reputations and only sell well bred, healthy and well handled rats. Others, though, can mass produce their rats, inbreeding to the point where rats have weak constitutions and health problems. They can be kept in crowded, dirty conditions, are prone to biting, and may never have been handled. If you see these conditions in a pet shop, don’t buy their rats! If conditions are really bad, contact either the RSPCA or the rat association in your area.
Buying direct from a rattery ensures that your rats are healthy, robust, friendly and well handled. Most breeders breed and keep rats out of an intense love for the animals and therefore have the knowledge and expertise to raise quality pet rats. If you want to show your rats, obviously buying direct from a breeder will ensure quality colour and markings.
Tips on buying rats.
- Look at the coat, if it’s dull and staring, is falling out in patches, or otherwise looks unhealthy, don’t purchase that rat. Healthy rats have sleek, shiny coats that they maintain with a lot of grooming. The only exceptions to this are hairless rats and rex rats (curly fluffy coat).
- The eyes should be bright and alert and the rat should have an intelligent expression. Sick rats often have dull or staring eyes.
- Check for red staining around the eyes and nose. This is called porphyrin staining and occurs if the rat is stressed or has respiratory troubles.
- Don’t buy rats that are gurgling, rattling, sneezing a lot or coughing as these are usually the signs of Mycoplasma infection which is extremely difficult to treat and can recurr over and over throughout the rat’s lifetime
- How active are they? If the rat is inquisitive and active, taking notice of its surroundings, then it is likely to be a fairly healthy rattie. Sick rats tend to sit hunched up in a corner of the cage, inactive and generally lethargic.
- Check for strange lumps on the rat’s body (no the testicles don’t count). Lumps can be either tumours (dangerous) or cysts (not as dangerous). If in doubt, it’s best not to buy that animal.
- Make sure the rat’s back end is not dirty and scabby from scouring. Rats with diarrhoea are not healthy rats.
- Have a look at its tail and toes, making sure all are intact and healthy looking. (The tail part does not apply to manx’s obviously).
- Unless you have the time, energy, money and facilities to care for a very sick rat which may possibly die anyway, don’t buy ill or injured rats out of pity. Bringing home sick rats and letting them interact with any rats you already have may potentially expose all of your rats to illness and even death.
Bringing your new rat home.
Make sure the cage is set up and ready to receive your rat before you go and buy one. That way your rat doesn’t spend more time than necessary in a cramped little cardboard box. Give it time to settle into its new home – it’s in a new place and is probably scared. Don’t worry if it’s not friendly and receptive to your handling straight away. It takes a little bit of time for your rat to feel comfortable with you and accept you as its new owner.