American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Fall 2003 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Beginners’ Corner

Depressed Rat & New Unhandled Rat

By Helen Pembrook

Rebecca Mauhew, Devon, England
QI had two male rats named Buddy and Tango. I bought them from a pet shop together, where I was told that they were both 7 weeks old. Six months later they were both the same size and, unfortunately, one died whilst I was on holiday. This left the remaining rat Tango, very depressed and low. The two rats were very, very close. Now, Tango is not a very active rat and is quite quiet. He used to only follow Buddy and wasn’t very close to me. However, Buddy was a very active little chap and was very affectionate towards myself. I, too, was very shocked and upset by Buddy’s death.

So, I spoke to the vet and RSPCA about Tango being very low and mourning. They both said that I should try and introduce another male rat to Tango. So, I adopted a rat from the RSPCA. I was told that this rat Eddy, hadn’t been handled up to the age of 6 months, so it might be a bit of a challenge. But it was a lot more challenging than the RSPCA made out, and I constantly attempted to contact them with no result. After a month I then found out from another rat owner that for me to introduce Eddy to Tango would be a massive risk, and I could end up with no rats at all!

After all that trouble I then thought that it would be easier to just give Eddy back to the RSPCA, but I had grown attached to him despite his unfriendly nature. And for me to give him back now would only put Eddy through more torment and could end up being put down! So, I’ve decided to keep Eddy and remain trying to tame him, but I would like some professional advice on the best way of taming him, but keeping in mind the fact that he is now nearly 8 months old and has never been handled.

It’s all been a bit of a mess—I set out to make my present rat happy and not so depressed, but ended up with two. I would fully appreciate it if you could write back with some advice, as I truly hate seeing my pets so unhappy.

For further reference I was wondering if you could give me information on hand rearing baby rats. And tell me where there might be a chance to do so, as I think it would be very rewarding. Many thanks. I am 13 years old. I own a male Agouti Rex rat and an Agouti Hooded male rat. Any information on rat shows would be appreciated.

AUnfortunately, there is probably not much to be done about the friendliness of Eddy. Some rats have a temperament such that they readily adapt to being handled at any age even when they have never been held before. Others don’t like it even when they are handled from a very young age. I would suggest you just give Eddy a large cage and lots of toys to keep him amused and only handle him when necessary to clean the cage. You do not want to risk being bitten, as rats can inflict serious damage if they want to. You can check out the Trust Training article on our web site to get some tips that may help in dealing with Eddy. Contact a breeder in your area and see if you can get a couple young male rats to introduce to Tango. There is a rat club in England called the National Fancy Rat Society. They have many breeders of quality rats and hold shows many times a year. There are also other clubs in Great Britain that hold shows and have breeders you may want to contact.

Clubs in England to Contact:

ClubWeb Site AddressContact Info.
National Fancy Rat
London & Southern Counties Mouse & Rat
The Midlands Rat
The North of England Rat
The Yorkshire Rat Club

Rats can leave their mothers at 5–6 weeks of age, and a fancy rat breeder will have already been handling them and will know who has the best personality. You should only introduce young rats to Tango so that there will not be any dominance issues. I would suggest that the new rats be 10 weeks or younger. Keep in contact with that breeder so that you can call them immediately if any problems do arise from the introduction.

As far as hand-rearing a baby rat, that is extremely difficult to do and is not advised unless the mom has died and there are no foster moms available. We have an article on our web site on orphan baby rats and mice that you can read to see what is involved. *

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August 20, 2014