My Breeding Goals


I breed for the "whole" rat. My first priorities are health and temperament. I never breed a litter unless I intend to keep one or more rats out of that litter. I only breed to improve my own breeding program. If I don't get what I'm looking for in the litter for some reason, I may not keep one, but that is not something that happens frequently.

Health

Rats are delicate animals with average lifespans of only 2-3 years. Many health problems are genetic, at least in part, including respiratory problems, tumors, heart problems, hind-end degeneration, etc. There are also environmental factors to many health problems. For example, if a room is cold and drafty, even a healthy rat will develop respiratory problems. Tumors are affected by diet and excercise. So although there are several pieces to the "puzzle" of rat health, I do my best to ensure that my rats overall are healthy. I also require all adopters to stay in touch about their rats' health. Without this information, I will never know if there are significant problems within my lines. I need to hear about health problems as soon as they happen - even minor things. It's very important to stay in touch with adopters!

If I find a line of rats that have significant health or temperament problems I will stop breeding that line. Some of my original breeding stock did not live up to my expectations, and I have had to end one of my lines. Although this is something I don't want to have to do again, I will do it in a heartbeat if I feel that it's necessary.

Temperament

Temperament is another important aspect of breeding rats. I have found that temperament is very much genetic. Sure, you can socialize a rat as a baby, but if it doesn't have the "genes" for an outgoing temperament, it'll never be as friendly as a rat that does. If you have rats with shy or nervous temperaments, it can take many generations to fix, even if you breed them to the friendliest rats you can find. So I am very picky about temperament, and will only breed the best. In the past, I have had some less friendly rats, mostly coming from a dwarf male I brought in from CA. He produced beautiful rats, but they really didn't want much to do with people. After this temperament became apparent, that line was also ended.

Color, Type, Size and Markings

These are goals to work for, assuming that the rats' personality and health are equal. I do NOT breed litters just to make more of a particular color! I go more by the rats' type - essentially their conformation. Markings and color are secondary to type. If pretty colors pop up - that's great! But that is never the sole purpose of a litter. I do not choose my keepers based solely on color, earset, or markings. I have made that mistake in the past, overlooking a typier rat for one that was smaller with poorer type, but it had the color I was looking for. That was a mistake and I learned my lesson there!

I am working to better my rats in all areas, and I hope that some show-quality rats pop up from time to time. It is very much like breeding dogs - you take in mind each individual's strengths and weaknesses and choose a partner for that individual that will compliment both. I will use head shape as an example since it's the first thing I wanted to correct with my own rats! If I have a rat whose biggest fault is a long, narrow head, I will choose a rat with a short, thick head to breed to it. In the litter, several will have long heads, several will have short heads, and hopefully a few will have heads that are ideal. Those are the ones I would keep. For next generation, I will still keep in mind the head shape since I know that's not something that is consistent in that particular line, so I will choose another rat with an ideal head. Again, some may have short or long heads, but ideally, more will have perfect heads which gives a bigger gene pool to select rats from and will allow me to focus on other qualities such as markings, ears, eye size/shape, etc. Over time, the rats' type will improve overall and become more consistent.
There are many other things to keep in mind when choosing breeding pairs, and it's not always so simple. I have to take all aspects of each rat and its ancestors into account when deciding which rats will complement each other best. But heads are just an example to get the general idea across.

More About Type

The AFRMA Rat Standard say only this:

GENERAL DESCRIPTION - Rats should have a long racy body maintained in good weight, large bold eyes, long clean head showing breadth and length, large ears, long tapering tail, and an average body length of 8-10 inches.

The RMCA says this:

The rat should be of good size; females should be long and racy type; males should be of larger build, arched over the loin, muscular, well-toned, with long head, but not too pointed at the nose. The eyes should be large, round, clean, and full of life. The ears should be of good size, round, well formed, and widely spaced. The tail should be cylindrical, as long as the body, thick at the base, tapering to a fine point. The ears, feet, and tail should be covered with fine hair. The coat should be smooth and glossy (except Rex and Hairless). Males have a longer and coarser coat than females.

Well - that is not very descriptive! The best way to get an idea of type is to attend a rat show. You can talk to judges and other competitors and see what, exactly, that standard means. Unfortunately, in our area, there are not many rat shows with experienced rat judges, so it's not easy to form an idea of what makes "good" and "bad" type.

It is difficult to illustrate good type over the internet, because rats are not easy to photograph. A rats' head may look too long from one angle but perfect from another. But I will try to illustrate some of the faults commonly seen in rats, and also some examples of excellent type. But remember that even if a rat has some structural faults, it does not make it any less of a wonderful pet. I will only keep the best looking rats to breed (assuming temperament and health are there), and the majority of rats in a litter may not be breeding quality.

In rat shows, rats are evaluated on:

  • Color, Marking, and Variety (50 Points)
  • Temperament (15 Points)
  • Condition (5 Points)
  • Head (5 Points)
  • Eyes (5 Points)
  • Ears (5 Points)
  • Tail (5 Points)
  • Size (5 Points)
  • TOTAL 100 POSSIBLE POINTS

Heads

In baby pictures, the head can be easily evaluated. Once rats are older they can be evaluated for other faults.

Head is long and narrow.

Head too short and pointy.
Eyes are small.

Excellent Head

Excellent Head

Excellent Type

Type is something that is very objective. Every person can interpret the rat standard differently, and what is a perfect rat for one person may not be as attractive to another. The following rats are closest to what my "vision" is for type. This is what I am looking for in my breedings and what I hope my rats will continue to look like. Rats DO change a lot as they mature. Some things can be spotted at a young age, but as the rat matures it will change. Sometimes it will end up looking completely different than expected from its baby pictures, but a lot of the time it will return to the type it had as a baby. I have found that 3 weeks is a great age to evaluate type. After that - they can get a little wonky for a while ;)

Ben
Excellent male. Very strong head.
My only complaints are that his
eyes and ears could be larger.

Lovett
At a young age, is showing everything
I like to see. Gorgeous head and
body, large expressive eyes.

Hershey
Excellent type. Although the
photo doesn't show it, he has
excellent ears. He has a strong
head and a nice arch to his back,
a very thick tail and excellent
self markings.

Bella
Bella has a long racy body.
Nice headshape, ears could be better.
Very nice female, one of my prettiest.

Ears

Dumbo ears are too small
and are wrinkled. Head is long
and narrow.

Ears should be set higher on head.

Very nice well-shaped ears
placed on the top of her head.
Nice large eyes, very pretty rat.

Nice dumbo ears - very large, round,
and smooth. Small eyes.