American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Summer II 1997 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

On The Show Bench: What is Condition?

By Nichole Royer

Condition. It’s a term often used when talking about rats and mice at shows. It seems like a rather ambiguous term, yet it can make the difference between winning and losing on the show bench. Just what is it and what causes it?

Simply put, condition is the overall physical fitness of an animal. It is not just weight, or size, or health, or any other individual feature. Instead it is a combination of all of them. A rat or mouse in good condition has a firm solid feel when you pick them up. They are the correct weight for their size being neither thin nor fat, and feel muscular and sturdy, rather than bony or flabby. They are alert, active, and “bristling with good health.” The coat is clean, flat, and shiny (unless they are Rex or Frizzy in which case it is curly), and there is no sign of health problems whatsoever.

Condition has a direct bearing on coat, color, conformation, size, tail, head, and many other factors. So much of what a rat or mouse is judged on, is based on their condition. The most influencing factor in the condition of your rats and mice is the quality of the husbandry they receive.

A rat in good condition will feel heavy for its size. Animals who have respiratory problems, are elderly, or who simply do not get enough food or the right kinds of food, will be thin and light. Often, animals which are underweight will have thin, square tails, and their heads will appear long and thin, neither of which is looked favorably upon on the show bench.

Seal Point Siamese rat “KK1584-A Play It Again” owned by Nichole Royer, bred by Karen Robbins. This rat is in good condition; he also has very nice type and a good head.


Coat is another prime indicator of condition. If an animal’s coat is yellowed and dirty, if it appears ruffled, and if it contains any signs of lice, mites, or other foreign substances, then the animal is not in good condition. It is normal for light colored rats to develop small areas of staining on their bodies. This is usually confined to the tips of the hairs, and is unavoidable even under the best conditions. It is not normal for an animal’s coat to be yellowed all over its body, or down the whole length of its hair. If a rat or mouse actually feels dirty or oily, then there is something wrong with the conditions under which it is being kept. One of the main contributors to poor coat we see at shows, are cages with wire bottoms, which for some unknown reason often cause extremely dirty, stained coats.

Condition, or lack thereof, is not based on any one of these features. Instead it is an overall impression of the way an animal looks and feels. If an animal had a stained, dirty coat, but was otherwise in great shape, it would not be said that it was in poor condition, just that it needs a bath. If instead, it had not only a stained coat, but also was thin, listless, and wheezing, it would be fair to say that it had very poor condition indeed. *

Updated December 4, 2014