There are a couple things that a pet fancy rat needs to be happy and healthy. The first is a healthy living environment and second is a healthy social environment. When selecting a rattery and breeder for your pet rat, consider some of these factors:
Did the baby ratties get properly "socialized" from the time they were born until they were ready to be adopted out? It's not all about how fancy the housing unit they live in is, it's about what kind of daily one on one attention they are receiving during their developmental stages.
The more handling and attention, the better pet they will be. A well socialized rattie will tuck in it's feet in trust upon being picked up, it will not squirm and try to get away. A well socialized rattie will not run and hide and jump off your shoulder or out of your hand upon being handled. A well socialized rattie will not show fear of humans, but a curiosity toward them; chattering, sticking their nose in your ears and up your nose. Just being friendly toward you. Some ratties are shy and timid just like people can be, but there is a big difference between shy and scared. A well socialized rattie will not "fear" humans.
Are the ratties of a good weight with clear eyes and nose and fur that doesn't have places where it looks like they've been scratching? Missing patches of fur and scratch marks can indicate the ratties have lice or mites. A good rattery breeder will treat their litters for pests before adopting out their animals and will instruct you of what to look for and what products to buy to maintain a pest free living environment for the duration of the animals life.
A good breeder will not adopt out any animals with breathing or respiratory problems, there will not be red discharge coming from their eye or noses. (Sneezing is not necessarily a sign of illness as ratties noses are very sensitive to smells within their environments.)
A good rattery and breeder will provide you with proper quarantine guidelines if you have other ratties living at home. Twenty-one days of separation before introducing new ratties to your family is the current recommendation. They will ask you if you have an exotic pet vet to take your pet ratties to in case of illness. They will be interested in the kind of care their ratties will receive from you after they leave their rattery. A rattery that doesn't care what happens to their animals after they are adopted out is NOT a good rattery.
Many ratteries adopt under contract. This is a good standard practice in an attempt to protect their animals, but if your rattery doesn't do so it doesn't necessarily make them a bad rattery. The reality is, adoption contracts are nearly impossible to legally enforce and many good ratteries realize that and don't bother to administer something they can't maintain, but they are very picky and choosy about who they adopt their animals to, to assure they are going to good homes to begin with. A good rattery and breeder will ask many questions of a perspective buyer to determine this factor.
A good rattery and breeder will encourage you to keep in touch with them and report any illnesses and the date of passing back to them, to maintain health and longevity records for their lines. A good rattery and breeder will offer you a lifetime of assistance in the form of mentorship for the duration of the life of your pet, they don't just disappear or not respond to questions just because the sale is complete, they are "accessible."
Ratties are a low maintenance pet selection. They can be kept in relatively small areas and cost effective housing setups. A rattery that uses large plastic bins especially converted for birthing, weaning and socialization processes is actually a good rattery, not a bad one. These bins are easy to clean and sterilize, thus keeping parasites and bacteria down to a minimum. The successful key to using these bins is adequate ventilation, correct bedding choices, frequent changing of the bedding and opportunities for exercise.
No cedar or pine beddings should be used. A rattery who uses these products is NOT a good rattery. These products create vapors that are just too strong for young ratties to breath in and it can damage their lungs. Even adult ratties should not be housed using these two bedding products.
A good rattery will have running wheels in their housing units or have a safe, free roaming area with toys and things to climb on, that allows all the muscle groups, heart and lungs to develop correctly and allows them opportunities to learn and be inquisitive about the world around them. Just as with humans, the more opportunities to learn that are given, the more intelligence is gained through living.
A good rattery and breeder will offer their animals a healthy variety of food choices. A rattery is NOT a bad rattery for feeding their animals supplements of good quality dog or cat foods, along with whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Just because a rattery doesn't feed their animals lab blocks does not make them a bad rattery. There are certain foods a pet rat shouldn't have and a rattery that feeds those unhealthy food choices IS a bad rattery.
Here is a list of some no-no's of what not to feed your pet rat.
NO caffeine products! No chocolate and very limited use of anything sweet, even though they may love to have them. Sugar free sweets in moderation are acceptable. No soda, candy or alcohol products! No spicy foods, such as raw onions or garlic, or hot peppers. Avoid beans for the same reason that we humans have problems eating them. They are gaseous and can cause pain in the bowels of your ratties.
Lab blocks have been created for ratties as a balanced food supplement, but they are costly. If your budget can afford them, this is fine, but don't feel guilty if your budget only allows other grain and supplement choices. Your rattie needs food from all the food groups, in healthy amounts, similar to the guidelines for us humans.
I specialize in pet rat behaviour. Ratties taste buds are almost as developed as ours, therefore they love our "people" foods. Lab blocks, though nutritional are bland and tasteless therefore when ratties are given opportunities for other more flavorful food choices they've been found to stash away their lab blocks and eat all the other better tasting foods first.
I believe for a pet rat to really thrive in life; physical well being and psychological well being should be considered. Having their pet rats be happy on all levels should be a main concern for a good breeder and rattery operator. Not necesarily what is considered "politically correct."
Some real treats are left over chicken and pasta, mash potatoes, and salads. Yogurt is a treat they adore. They also seem to favor bananas, grapes, watermelon and carrots. Low fat and sodium food choices should be considered when supplementing with people foods.
Ratties need to chew to keep their teeth from being over grown. A good rattery will supply chew items for them daily. Chicken favored rawhide chews for dogs are a good choice along with, left over chicken drum sticks. Though dogs should never have chicken bones because they can splinter in the bowels, ratties will gnaw on them to wear their teeth down without the bones splintering. Hard pieces of wood such as a branch from a maple or oak tree are also acceptable. There are products called "chew stones" that work quite well too.
A good rattery will make good breeding choices when selecting animals to have offspring from. Not all rattery owners are genetics experts and this does not make them a bad rattery. But a good rattery will be mentored by other people who do have a good genetics understanding and background, to help them make good breeding choices.
A good rattery and breeder is usually actively involved within their community. They are either a part of a club or online chat group, or have written articles to improve the fancy, have attended activities that are related to the fancy, or have read books devoted to the betterment of the fancy. They aren't just out there doing it, they are actively improving and constantly learning about the subject of raising and keeping pet rats.
A good rattery keeps records of their litters either in a database or document form. Many good ratteries register their ratties with the NARR, but if your rattery doesn't, it doesn't necessarily mean it's not a good rattery. Some ratteries can't afford this membership or have time to fill out all the paper work pertaining to this. The important thing is, they keep some kind of records, in whatever form, of names, births and deaths and health issues for their lines. If a rattery does not do this there is no way they can make correct breeding choices to improve their lines.
Just because a rattery does not allow the general public in to view their rattery does not make them a bad rattery. Years ago most ratteries did allow potential buyers to view and visit their ratteries, but many problems have developed from this process. Some virus's can be carried on a person's clothing for several hours of being subjected to it. Sometimes infections have been introduced from the general public into a rattery from other ratties or animals they handled before they came to visit.
Even lice and mites have been carried and transmitted from unknowing people who got them from other animals or bedding products. Therefore, a rattery that doesn't allow anyone into it is just protecting their animals and should be considered a good rattery and breeder as their animals health and safety should be their number one concern.
The care and appearance of the animals you are purchasing, and their temperaments, should speak volumes for the kind of care that is going on behind closed doors. A rattie that is not properly socialized or cared for, will show it in it's overall health and appearance. There will be no hiding the negligence of care of your pet rattie whether you are allowed to see the rattery or not!
It takes a minimum of two years of ongoing breeding for a rattery to really start to see the ins and outs of the process. This is the approximate/minimum life span of the animal. Until a rattery has had babies be born and pass away from old age or illnesses, they just aren't established enough to know the health and temperament of their lines.
In choosing a rattery, the longer they've been in business the chances are, the better they know their stuff, though this isn't always the case. There have been several ratteries in Michigan that have been in business for years but "abused or neglected" their animals. So knowledge is no substitute for negligence. Having the most expensive cages, food and housing setups is not going to do the animals any good if they aren't ever payed attention to and loved. Luckily, as of this writing those ratteries are not currently breeding.
In conclusion: The main factor of deciding whether a rattery and breeder are good or not, should be how much the owners love their animals. How much attention do they get? What kind of health care is available to them? Are they living in a healthy and safe environment free of pests, predators, and bacteria? Are they receiving a well balanced diet and exercise program? If all these factors are in place, you've chosen a good rattery.
Created on: 10/27/07
Revised on: 09/03/08