Fancy Rats as a Pets- Lifespan, Habitats, and Risks
Did you know that the Fancy Rat is the domesticated version of the commonly found Brown rat? Over generations, the wild species of the brown rat have been bred through the years and now have become docile enough to become our house pets. Interestingly they get the name “fancy rat” as a promotional means to sell a domesticated brown rat.
The Fancy rat scientific name is Rattus norvegicus domestica. They are specially bred and are widely preferred as small pets.
Fancy Rats as Pets:
Surprised to hear that rats are a popular form of small pets? Think again! Fancy rats make great pets for not just kids but adults as well. Did you know that according to The Pet Food Manufacturing Association (PFMA) there are about 100,000 pet rats in the UK!!
Humans have kept pet rats since the 18th and 19th century when they were trapped by rat-catchers and were used for blood sports like rat-baiting. Today fancy-rat breeders supply these small sweethearts in various colors to homes across the world.
Do fancy rats make good pets? Yes!!
Unlike common perception, these rats are one of the cleanest pets that you can keep. They are fussy about their grooming and believe it or not, they do not like being dirty. If they get their fur dirty, they are sure to clean off the mess from their fur.
They also own their popularity as pets due to their smart nature. They are highly intelligent, very social and playful creatures. It is a lot of fun for owners to interact with these cute critters as they can be trained to perform interesting fancy rat tricks, solve puzzles, and even make their way through complicated mazes.
Along with their endearing and adorable looks, the rat makes for a pretty low-maintenance pet to have. You don’t need to wonder how to take care of a fancy rat. They don’t need to be taken for long walks and do just fine in small homes. Like most other rodents they are nocturnal, and they sleep through the day. No more worrying about your chum while you are busy at work. They are quite easy to feed and will love devouring your leftovers.
Pet rats are quite interactive and social creatures. They often interact with their owners and will indulge in playful banter with them. They hang out with pet owners and may often even groom them like their fellow rats. These pets love their owners and form close bonds with their human owners.
How much do fancy rats cost?
Forget your money worries. Owning and maintaining these delightful rodents won’t burn a hole through your pocket. The approximate cost of a fancy rat is about $10-20 and they do not need expensive toys, pet food, or cages. Even a fancy rat cage can be bought in under $100.
Fancy Rat Vs. Wild Rats
Wild rats as compared to fancy rats have a shorter life span. While the pet rat goes on to live for about three years, its wilder cousin lives for about a year. Fancy rats are also smaller in size compared to the wild rats. They have a longer tail and bigger ears in comparison to their wilder version.
Fancy rats are also quite domesticated and human-friendly. While wild rats may occasionally exhibit aggressive behavior, the pet rat loves to be cuddled and is playful, and energetic. They love playing with their human friends and even respond to their name.
Fancy Rat Colors
Fancy rat colors are spread over the entire spectrum. These skins of these rats may be solid, flecked, or with unique markings. They may even have different types of coat textures. If you are looking for a pet with unusual color patterns, here are some colors that may interest you:
- Solid: champagne, dove, powder blue, blue, black, mink, Russian Blue, Chocolate, Cocoa, Lilac, and pink-eyed white to name a few.
- Flecked: Silvered, Fawn, Argente, Chinchilla, Cinnamon Pearl, Lynx, Pearl, Cinnamon, Agouti, and Blue Agouti.
- Patterned: Burmese, Himalayan, Merle, Russian Blue Agouti Burmese, Siamese, and Blue Point Siamese.
The American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association (AFRMA) has classified these small pets based on their fur texture—Standard, Rex, Tailless, Hairless, Dumbo, Satin, and Bristle Coat.
If you are considering having a pet rat, you need to know the difference between Fancy Rats and Dumbo Rats. The easiest way to differentiate between these similar-looking rodents is the difference in their ears. While fancy rats have small oval-shaped ears, the dumbo rat as their name suggests has huge ears that are round in shape.
Fancy rat lifespan
The average lifespan of a Fancy rat is about two to four years under captivity. How long do fancy rats live largely depends on their living conditions? A lot of rats die in less than two years because of poor diet and pitiable living conditions. In good conditions, they may live for about three to four years also.
What to feed fancy rats?
Fancy rats love to eat vegetables, fruits, and other human food. They are omnivores and enjoy eating plant as well as animal-based food. Fancy rat food list includes fruits like apples, cherries, melons, strawberries, grapes, and bananas along with vegetables like potatoes, peas, squash, carrots, sweet potato, parsley, kale, and broccoli. The food list also includes cooked pasta, lean meats and liver, cooked beans, eggs, brown rice, yogurt, and whole nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pine nuts.
Fancy rats should not be fed chocolates, raw sweet potatoes, carbonated drinks, green potatoes, raw beans, sugary and sweet human junk food, and poppy seeds. It is recommended not to feed fruits like green bananas, mangoes, avocados, and rhubarb to them. Also feeding licorice may lead to neurological poisoning to your beloved buddy.
Pet rats need to be fed twice a day, once in the morning and then in the evening. It is essential to remove unused food and serve fresh servings every time. Always remember to provide adequate water for your pet rat. Also, keeping your pet fit and healthy is very important and they should not be overfed, to maintain a healthy life.
The RSCPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) recommends feeding rat cubes or rat pellets with a protein content of more than 16% to your pet rat. They also require amino acids and minerals from their diet as they are unable to produce it.
Fancy Rat Behavior
Fancy rats are fun pets to have. They love to explore new things, interact with their environment, are smart and are sure to keep you entertained. They love to be tickled. If you tickle your little friend, it will emit a laughing sound that can’t be heard with human ears.
Pet rats are very active creatures. They enjoy typical rodent activities like burrowing, climbing, and scavenger hunting. You may help your pet to indulge in some playful burrowing by providing it with a digging box filled with earth, sand, and other rat-friendly materials. You may also create an interactive cage with ladders, ropes, and toys to encourage the little rodent to engage in climbing and investigating fun. They are also curious explorers. You may provide a safe place to your pet so that it can treat itself to some snooping excitement.
These eloquent pets are quite vocal even for human ears. They make a variety of sounds like squeaking, clucking, chirping, shrieking, and hissing.
Pet rats are nocturnal and keep busy through the night. They love to play and interact from dawn to dusk. They also love to sleep during the day and may get stressed if they are disturbed in their sleeping pattern.
Most fancy rats love to swim and play in the water. You may provide a shallow container filled with water to give them a chance to enjoy their own swimming pool.
Male and female fancy rat behavior is very different. While the female is energetic, playful, and active, its male counterpart is more relaxed and loves to be cuddled.
How to take care of a fancy rat?
Fancy rats need very little maintenance and are fairly easy to have as pets. Some important fancy rat care guide instructions to keep in mind while looking after your little friend are:
- Size of the cage: A good-sized cage is recommended so that they are able to explore and have fun while they are by themselves. The best cage for fancy rats would be of about 2 cubic feet.
- The flooring of the cage: A wooden flooring or plastic flooring is perfect for their cage as it protects their nimble feet from damage.
- Cage Lining: Lining the cage with an easy to wash bedding or even newspapers is important.
Play-time with your pet buddy is very essential for its mental and physical well-being. You may engage in fun activities with it for improving your bonding. Some entertaining activities that are very popular among the pet rat community are:
- The Toss Time: Give a gentle toss to your furry friend so that it lands on a soft cushion.
- Grooming Fun: These velvety pets love to be groomed. If you are looking for some intimate bonding with them, you may imitate their grooming behavior and give them a rub or scratch on their back.
- Toys: Provide them with toys like ping pong balls, blocks of wood, tunnels, and cardboard boxes.
It is also very essential to trim their sharp nails every couple of months with a human nail cutter to ensure that they don’t hurt you or themselves with their razor-sharp nails. Also, remember never to trim their whiskers which are particularly needed for rats to maintain their balance as they maneuver their way around.
Also, remember to feed your little companion at regular intervals, and it is sure to love you through its life.
Do pet rats bite?
More often pet fancy rats do not bite their owners. The main causes of biting are if they are trying to defend itself, especially if there are babies or if they are suddenly startled or scared. They may also bite you accidentally while trying to nibble at the food that may be stuck to your hands.
Here’s how you can prevent yourself from being bitten by your pet rat:
- Wash food particles of food smell from your hands before playing with them.
- Do not tease the pet with food.
- Avoid startling or scaring your pet.
- Guide children and visitors not to stick their fingers through the bars of the cage.
- Be extra careful when there are babies in the cage.
- Also exercise caution with older rats, or pets that are hurt or wounded.
Fancy rat-bite hardly hurts. If you are bitten by your pet rat, clean the wound with water, and use hydrogen peroxide or some strong medication to disinfect it. You may apply a Band-Aid if needed. In case if the pain persists, you may need to consult a doctor.
Do fancy rats carry diseases?
A lot of first time pet rat owners are skeptical and worried if their fancy rat carries diseases like their wild cousins. A majority of pet rats bought from certified fancy rat breeders or pet stores do not carry the diseases that are found in wild rats. However, in extremely rare situations fancy rat illnesses like Leptospirosis, Salmonellosis, rat-bite fever, Seoul virus, and plague may occur.
According to the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention), the following safety tips may be followed to enjoy having a pet rodent at home:
- Always wash your hands properly after playing with your pet rat.
- Sanitize your hands after touching it or feeding the pet.
- Clean surfaces that are frequented by your pet to avoid contamination and spread of germs and bacteria.
- Do not eat or drink while playing with your pet rat.
- Keep your face away from the pet, and avoid kissing it.
Fancy rats are not just cute and cuddlesome critters but are also a fun and entertaining companion to have. With a little tender, loving care this little bundle of quirkiness will fill your home with joy!