Finding a good breeder can be a bit of a challenge sometimes, but is always very rewarding in the end. Nowadays, 99% of breeders will have some form of social media or website, so we’ll look at this as a starting point.
Google is so advanced these days that simply typing ‘near me’ at the end of a search term will drag up any relevant websites within a certain radius. That said, there are search terms we want to look at. When searching, we’ll use the words ‘pet rat’, as apposed to ‘rat breeder’. Without the pet attached to it, you’re most likely going to find lab, or feeder rat breeders, and these are something you want to seriously avoid. In looking for a pet, their temperament and affection will be based solely on how much time the breeder spends handling them and acclimating them to human hands.
That said, kits will always be a bit skittish when being pulled out of a cage, after all, they are very small and a giant hand coming out of the sky and dragging them out of their home would startle anything. So instead you’re looking for how they react when they’re out. Rat kits have got sugar for blood, mate, and they will be constantly moving, pinging about and trying to sniff and look at everything. If they are alright with being touched in this environment without biting or visibly frightened flinching, then this is a good example of hand accustomed rats.
With regards to life expectancy, unfortunately, rats don’t have the best. A good breeder will provide you with a good bloodline, always. They will avoid incestuous pairings (which unfortunately, pet shops do not guarantee), and will only breed those with the best temperaments. I’ve had hour long chats with our breeder in regards to her choices, and she would not shy away from telling me every little detail in her decision-making, and that is 1000% what you’re looking for. Your breeder will tell you if any are sick or if there’s a possibility that any have mites of bumble-foot, and they should not shy away from showing you these animals if you ask to see them. Because a rat’s lifespan is so short (2 – 3 years, with 2 – 2 ½ being the norm), their longevity is impacted by their quality of life and the effort that you put in to them, though feeder rats will always have shorter lifespans. Spend some time on google and find the best balanced biscuits you can find. Do not give them dried corn, or seed mixes, as this is akin to feeding them McDonalds, and you will wind up with fat rats, which will impact their health. Treats are well and good, and can be amazing for getting kits accustomed to you and to understanding good things come from you, but they need to be treated as junk food (fresh fruits and veggies are very good alternatives, with a 2/3 lean towards dark green vegetables).
And because I’ve rambled a little here, we’ll bring it back around to the breeder, and ask to see what food they’ve been eating.
So I’ll shorten up now, because I could write on this topic for years, and just give you the run down on what you should be looking for in regards to knowing a good breeder when you see one.
- Do they sell feeder rats?
If they’re selling feeder rats, this is a for-proffit rattery, and not your friend. They will not be concerned with the health of their animals, their longevity, or their temperament, and you will be buying a virtually feral animal that might live for a little over a year.
- What type of food does the breeder give them?
As I stated above, your rat’s diet is very important. Oxbow has some wonderful biscuit mixes that my old rats went mental for. If the breeder is giving their rat solely seed mixes, hamster food, or even god forbid bird seed mix, this is not someone who knows anything about rats, or cares enough to shell out to feed them properly, and should be avoided.
- Will the breeder admit to sick or injured animals, and show them to you?
Look, if a breeder has about 100 rats in their house, chances are, at least one of them is going to have some sort of issue. Again, as above, our breeder told us outright that one of her cages had contracted mites, and that she was working on bathing them all out of it. If the answer to this question is a very quick ‘No’, then chances are there’s something up.
- Do they have any medical records?
For the kits, most likely not, but for the breeding rats, there absolutely should be. Anyone who works with any sort of equipment or animals should always have records to show that they are in working operation/healthy. Logan and I bring our boys to the vets a couple of times a year, your breeder should be doing this as well.
- What type of cages are they using?
Your rat’s housing is very important! There should be separate cages for both males and females, and none of these should contain wire floors or ramps, as these can play havoc on a rat’s limbs. Google ‘Bumble foot’ if you don’t believe me.
Pregnant females should have their own maternity cages, and these should be open to air flow as well, so if your breeder is keeping mamma in a plastic fish tank or a small plastic hamster tank, this is not someone who cares about their rats. A good breeder will put money into their practice.
Likewise, babies should be kept in suitable housing, should have proper airflow, enrichment and bedding.
What kind of bedding are they using? If they’re using any kind of wood chips at all instead of paper or rodent safe recycled litter, then this is not someone you want to buy from. Wood shavings are cheap, easy to acquire, and can be extremely poisonous to your rats. Your breeder will ideally be using carefresh, fleece liners, recycled paper shavings, or rodent safe litter. Anything that produces dust is also not good for their health, and may have seriously impacted their lungs already by the time you get them. If your rat kit is sneezing when you go to pick them up, this is not a healthy pet. Respiratory diseases are the most common killer of rats, and they are so easy for them to get. 😦
- How knowledgeable is the breeder?
Ask simple questions, some of which are wrong, and see how the breeder responds. Ask if you can keep them on wood chips, if the answer is yes, run away. Your breeder should be knowledgeable about their practice, this is imperative.
- Look for reviews!
A good breeder does not shy away from reviews, and should have a Facebook page or a website displaying these. You should see pictures of happy rats with equally happy owners. Likewise, a good comment page can be an amazing place to get information if you have any questions or concerns.
Upon first meeting your kits they should be bright eyed and bouncy, like a five year old who just ate an entire ice cream cake and was then set loose in an amusement park. If they’ve got porphyrin (a red, almost blood-like ooze) coming out of their nose or eyes, this animal is stressed or sick, and their condition should immediately be questioned.
As any rat owner can tell you, keeping rats is expensive. I don’t know a single breeder who turns a profit on their hobby, so if the breeder is more interested in your money than talking to you about your new pets, then this is someone who doesn’t give a damn about their animals. If anything, the rats they sell might just make a dent in what they spend on food and enrichment for their charges, and probably not a whole lot else.
To close this off, I will say that finding a good breeder can be difficult, as it all depends where you live. Luckily, Logan and I live near London, England, so we had a plethora of breeders to choose from, but we still chose the one a 2 and a half hour drive away. Why? Because she ticked all the boxes above and then some. Rats are such good, joyful little pets that finding the perfect breeder can bring you years of happiness.
I hope this helps, if you’ve any other questions, get back in touch with me. 🙂