This article is from the Winter 2003 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Colors & Coats
By Nichole Royer
Q My local pet shops carry only randomly bred rats that are primarily used for snake food. Over the years, we have found a few that made wonderful pets, the rest were skittish, and one was downright psychotic.
We have found only Hooded, albino, or sometimes almost solid dark gray ratties to choose from. I’ve had best results by purchasing a baby between 10 and 14 days old and hand rearing with kitten milk from a pet hospital. I’d love to see some Rexes, Siamese, etc., available.
I did come across a shop that said they had Siamese. I drove 20 miles to find they had two males with no darkened hindquarters, just tan all over and a very small point on the nose. One of the males had been bred to a pink-eyed white (PEW) female the proprietor claimed was Siamese. This male was then bred back to his daughter (out of the pink-eyed white mom) who had only a small point on its nose. The PEW with Siamese nose point (I will call a wanna-be Himalayan) produced a litter of two albinos, one pale tan Hooded, one that had the same only in reverse (rear and the Hood with small line of tan) and one that had a tan spot on the back.
I read in The Proper Care of Fancy Rats by Nick Mays, if you take a Siamese male and breed to his PEW daughter you would get all Siamese, so why the wanna-be Himalayan? How could she produce that litter when she was bred to her Siamese dad?
A Most pet shops only sell “randomly bred” rats destined for the reptile industry. Even when they do carry “Fancy” rats, they often have been bred with no attention to health and temperament.
The Siamese you describe are very common within the pet shop community. Essentially, they are Siamese or Himalayan rats who have light points and hooded markings.
When these rats are young, the Hooded markings appear as light beige, sometimes with a slightly darker nose or tail base. As they grow up, these rats will fade till all that shows are the points on the nose and possibly the base of the tail. This is what the males you describe are, as are their offspring.
If a Siamese rat is bred to a PEW, all of their offspring will be Himalayan. If one of these Himalayan is bred back to the Siamese parent, the litter will be all Siamese and Himalayan.
That’s not what happened when the female Himalayan was bred back to her dad. Instead, this breeding produced two albinos, a pale tan Hooded, a pale tan Hooded with no color on the head, and one with just a spot on its back. These rats are actually Himalayan Hooded. This is what they look like as babies. They will lose their markings (all except the nose/tail points) as they mature. This, by the way, proves that the male that produced this litter is a Himalayan Hooded himself.
Though these are very poor Siamese and Himalayan rats, it is possible to improve on them. Though it takes years, you can even make them into show worthy Siamese (I did). It’s relatively simple to make nice looking pet-quality Siamese.
Start with the darkest of these Himi-Hoodeds you can find. Breed them to a rat that has little or no white on it. The dark gray ones with white on the stomach will work. From this breeding, you will probably get an assortment of Hooded and possibly albino babies. Keep two Hooded rats of opposite sex with the most color and the least white.
When these are old enough, breed them together. You will get an assortment of Hooded, albino, and light beige babies. With a little luck, you will have some light beige babies with white only on their stomachs. These are more of those Siamese/Himi babies. You will want to keep the ones with the most color and the least white.
Over time, by consistently choosing animals with the least amount of white on them, it is possible to produce Siamese rats. You may never be able to get color on the feet, however.
As a shortcut to this long and somewhat tedious process, I would recommend contacting the club on the east coast near you. The North American Rat and Mouse Club, Intl. [try their Yahoo Group; or see the article “Finding Breeders Near You”, Ed.]. They can assist you in finding breeders who have the animals in which you have an interest.