This article is from the Fall 2000 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Breeding & Stuff
By Nichole Royer
Q Hi. My name is Monica and I live in Southern California. I used to have a rat named Kisser. He was the greatest pet I’ve ever had. He passed away which was very heart breaking for me. I never did get another rat because as I saw it, nobody could take the place of him in my heart. Well, to make a long story short, I think I’m ready again. It has only been about 10 years, but I’m kind of interested in breeding and showing. Since you are more experienced then I am, I’m coming to you for help. Can you help me get started?
A I’m glad to hear you are thinking about acquiring some more furry friends. I know how hard it is to lose one.
Many people tend to jump into the world of breeding rats and mice without thinking about the consequences first. I greatly appreciate it when folks such as yourself explore your options before getting started.
The first thing you need to do is figure out if breeding and showing is really for you. I would highly recommend coming to a show, hanging out, talking to folks, and seeing if this is something you really want to get involved in. We have shows and/or events every other month. You would be welcome to come to one of our events. Though we do take showing seriously, no one gets cut-throat or nasty like some of the people that show other animals do. Over all it’s a really fun and friendly group of people.
If you decide that yes, showing rats is right up your alley, your next step will be to decide on how much space, time, and money you have to invest in your new hobby. Breeding rats requires a certain amount of space and several cages at the least. Some varieties of rats can be bred with one or two litters a year, while others require breeding in much larger numbers.
Once you have determined your resources, you will need to pick the variety and color you want to work with. This is the time to do some research. Do NOT go to one show, spot some babies for sale, and buy them. Folks often have their best babies spoken for ahead of time, and what’s sold at shows, is what’s left. Also, you will need to do some research on which color and variety best fit with your needs.
Don’t fall into the trap of buying one of this and one of that if you intend to breed. If you decide you want to show, but not breed, then this is fine. Those who breed often have limited space, so it should be devoted to animals that can be part of their breeding program (which isn’t to say an oddball pet or two is bad, just don’t get carried away). Go to some shows and find a couple colors or varieties that appeal to you. Research those carefully and talk to several people who breed them. Find out their pros and cons, the particularities of each type, and measure them against your goals and resources.
Pick ONE color/variety to work with. This is a big mistake people just getting started often make. It’s hard enough to take one color, learn everything you can about it, and then breed animals with the intent to improve on that particular variety. Doing two, three, or more is very difficult, time and space intensive, and often you end up with mediocre animals. Do one thing, and do it well . . . at least in the beginning. Later, you will be able to branch out if you feel the need, but at first concentrate on one thing.
Start talking to the other people who breed the color/variety you want to work with. Let them know you are serious about breeding and showing that variety. Talk to them about their breeding program, visit their ratteries, and ask about problems they have faced. I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t had some problems somewhere along the way. Asking about them is a great way to avoid the same thing yourself. Look at other people’s animals and decide how you want to put together your breeding program. Read the standard and ask breeders what it means to them. You will get different interpretations from each person you ask. Use these to develop your own.
Your ultimate goal should be to purchase the best pair or trio of rats that you can get your hands on. This may mean being put on waiting lists and delaying things a bit. I know you will be anxious to get started, but a little time making the decision on your initial stock may well save you from a lot of trouble later on. What you need is the very best male you can get your hands on. If you can get two nice ones, it’s even better since rats are much happier with company. They can be housed together and you will have options (and a back up) for future plans. You will need at least one but preferably two females as well (once again, they are happier with company). Choose your females to complement your male—if he has weak points, they should be strong in those areas. The breeder(s) you get them from will be your best source of information on which lines combine favorably.
There you have a start, but I caution you that there is one more thing to consider. When you do start breeding, do so responsibly. You will need to find homes for all those babies, and taking them to pet shops is not really the best solution. Often, breeders will only sell you animals if you sign a contract saying you will not sell to pet shops. Breed limited numbers, put a lot of thought and care into those litters, and be selective about who you sell to. Never breed a litter in which you could not keep all the resulting babies if push came to shove.