How to Care for Your New Hairless Rat
Aqualand's inside scoop on Rattus norwegicus
Pet World Visit
Origin: Evidently these guys came out of actual lab work (on purpose) in 1953. They invented a weak, short-lived, disease-prone sport and refined it into three strains each worse than the other. Somehow, they got into the pet hobby and were crossed with normal pet rats and after many such crosses turned into a keeper. That’s the good news. The bad news? They are still ugly. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people get a real kick out of hairless rats.
Schedule: Rats prefer to work the night shift. You’ll notice this the first time you turn off their lights at night. In cages with lots of rats, they stand up on their hind legs, wave their “arms” in the air and mouth the words to that Tommy Roe song everyone boogies to. Add a strobe light. They keep this up for hours even without the glow sticks or pacifiers.
Arguments: Rats like to squabble amongst themselves, but not seriously like gerbils and hamsters. Among many rodents, the stranger is beset upon and severely wounded if not killed. Rat duels are more exercise than warfare. Injuries and nips are more visible on hairless rats. Do not panic. Use a dab of antibiotic salve if you feel the need.
Friendly: Perhaps inquisitive fits them better. Hairless rats like to explore. They crawl up your arm, into your sleeve, and into your pocket. They like people -- perhaps because people feel warm and give them tasty treats?
Temperature: You may have noticed their lack of an overcoat. Hairless rats would never make it at your local dump (do they still have those?) during the winter (most of us still have those). If you have more than one, they help keep each other warm. If you have a single, you may want to add a heat pad. They also like a hide box (which helps them stay warm).
Colors: Yup, you can find hairless rats in different colors. However, the whites and greys show up most frequently.
Hair Variations: You get quite a bit of hairless variation within litters. Some are naked. Some are fuzzy. Some are patchy. And some vary with age. The out-crosses with normal rats have made today’s hairless rats much stronger and sturdier than the originals. You would not want one of the originals. Actually, some people don’t appreciate the new hairless rats either. Wait a minute. Some people don’t appreciate any rats. There’s no accounting for taste.
Foods: Any of the good pet blocks make perfect foods. They contain the exact nutrition your hairless rats need and the hard blocks help keep their teeth ground down. Although, rats brux their teeth daily, they do not floss. Bruxism means grinding your teeth. In the absence of chew toys, your rats brux their teeth to keep them ground down.
Supplements/Treats: Hairless rats need no supplements but they love treats. If you want your rat to like you, “treat” him well. You can find canned treats on our shelves or make your own. First, forget cheese. Most rats like dried peas, beans, yogurt drops, sunflower seeds, Cheerios, bones, raisins, popcorn, dried fruits, and peanuts in the shell. If you look at one of the commercial rat food seed mixtures, you’ll see lots of “treats” mixed in. They pretty much ignore the alfalfa pellets.
Dirty Cages: Don’t do like I did the first time I kept rats for our psychology lab. They saddled me with two ugly, overgrown male rats to take home and care for all summer (in a little round 12-inch diameter circular cage made out of hardware cloth). Summer is not the time to delay cleaning rat cages. Luckily I had large windows in my bedroom with a great big exhaust fan. Hairless rats could not have survived that summer. I did find out, however, that regular rats will pretty much eat whatever you give them. Weekly cleanings work fine unless you keep a large herd.
Water: If you give your hairless rats a water dish, they kick litter into it and occasionally take an unwanted dip in the pool. If you give them a hamster water bottle, it may last a week. Rats can gnaw thru concrete and hamster bottles. You really need a rat-proof water bottle. P.S. The little devils will eventually gnaw into your rat-proof bottle.
Last Words: Hairless rats are fun. Ugly, but fun. LA
Want to have more fun
with your rat, hairless or not? Go to this great link for a whole
passel (not just half a passel) of rat games:
Info From Michael Guinn, April 9, 2005
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