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Nemesis
Used with permission



Our Domestic Pet Rats



What makes our pet rats so different from their wild cousins is their mild temperament, their docility, and their mutual interaction with humans. This was done to benefit our own purposes for lab research, but somewhere along the way, we fell madly in love with them as pets.
Our pet rats came from the wild rats in much the same way that our pet dogs came from the wolves, but unlike the wolf-to-dog transition, our pet rats have remained looking pretty much the same throughout history. Many years and generations later, we have what we call a "domestic animal", a pet that lives with us and depends on us for it's existence. Like it's wild cousins, our pet rats still possess strong survival skills, and with the help of man's breeding specifications, our pet rats can retain the same agouti coat color as it's wild kin. In the wild rat the agouti coloration camouflages it from predators. In the pet rat this coat color is just one of many that man has achieved through careful breeding.


General comparison using a wild rat and an agouti-colored domestic rat. Can you see the difference? I can't.

wild rat wild rat domestic rat domestic rat

Intelligent, resourceful, adaptable Intelligent,resourceful, adaptable
Social, lives in large colonies Social, can live peacefully in same-sex groups
Agouti is normal wild coloring Agouti is genetically bred by man
Courser hair, thicker softer coats, more color variety
Strong earthy, musky odor Females smell like grape soda, males like warm tortilla chips
Nervous, aggressive, secretive, tolerates humans Personable, docile, playful, loves humans

What is Domestication?

How Were Rats Domesticated?

At some time you may have heard the name "Fancy Rat" when related to our pets and wondered why this term was used. "Fancy Rat" is a name used to clearly define to the world that these are domestic, gentle, animals, and not the "wild vermin that disgusts so many people". A Fancy Rat can be the rat that is purchased from the pet store feeder bin for as little as $2.00 to the pedigree rat purchased from a reputable breeder for as much as $25.00 (more or less). The fancy rat is purposely bred by humans for impeccable health, a mild disposition, friendliness toward their care-givers, and as a show or pet quality animal. To date breeders have achieved a wide variety of coat colors (black, agouti, blue, fawn, champagne, etc.), coat textures (standard, rex, satin, etc.), markings (berkshire, irish, husky, dalmation, self, etc.) and types (dumbo, siamese, hairless, tail-less, etc.), and combinations thereof. Breeders and show people commonly use the words "Fancy Rat", but lay people are catching on that this is a very pretty name for the animal that we love so much.

History of the Fancy Rat

Ye Brife Histore of the Ratte



Samuel Whiskers Beatrix Potter, of "Peter Rabbit" fame, wrote the story "The Roly-Poly Pudding (The Tale of Samuel Whiskers)" in 1908. "A thriller for 3 year olds". This book is affectionately dedicated to her own tame white rat "Sammy"...."In rememberance of "Sammy", the intelligent, pink-eyed representative of a persecuted (but irrepressible) race! An affectionate Little Friend, and most accomplished Thief".

More on Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)

Lab Rats:
Domestication of the rat was believed to have began in the early 1800's.
Breeding for lab purposes started in 1906 at Philadelphia's Wistar Institute from which the Wistar Albino strain was developed that became known as the WISTARAT. A strain of small, hooded rats were developed by Drs. Long and Evans in 1915 at the University of California, known as the LongEvans Rat (unable to find net info on this strain). The Sprague Dewley Rat was obtained from Sprague Dewley Inc. and has been maintained as an outbred closed colony ever since. The Sprague Dewley albino has a narrow head and a tail longer then it's body, whereas, the Wistar albino has a wider head and a shorter tail. The Zucker Rat is a large, black-hooded, mutated, inbred strain. It's background is undefined. It is bred specifically for obesity and is prone to diabetes. It is used in diet and food-related experiments.

More on Lab Rat Strains from Harlan

Science has bred rats that are predisposed to many of the same conditions that plague mankind. Lab Rats have, through no choice of their own, contributed to many medical breakthoughs that have saved our very lives over and over again:

Partners in Research

Researchers Find Stem Cell That Makes New Liver Tissue
Delaying Treatment May Aid In Spinal Cord Injury
Supplements Give Aging Rats A Kick
Stem Cells Relieved Parkinson's Symptoms
Diabetes Cured In Lab Rats
Melatonin Sparks Sexual Drive
Rats Dream About Mazes

...Just to name a few. Isn't it time we had some respect for the Lab Rat

Canadian Veterinarians: Ensuring the Welfare of Animals Used in Research, Education, and Testing in Canada

More on
Laboratory Rats and how they have benefited us. You can be sure that the vast majority of drugs and medicines that you are taken right now were first tested on rats.

Animals in Research Do the animals benefit from this research?

The Rats Kept as Pets:
Rattus Norvegicus (Norway Rat, Lab Rat, Fancy Rat) are the only rats that have been domesticated as pets. If you want to know more about Fancy Rats join us here at the Ratlist.

Rattus Rattus (Roof Rat, Ship Rat, Black Rat) has never been a domesticated species and still lives as a wild rat in many parts of the world. The Ship Rat can become an excellent pet when it is found as a youngster. Babies are found during reconstruction projects or when a cat or dog finds and brings one home alive. You can talk to Jane and Janet about their Ship Rats.
Black Rats as Pets

Cricetomys Gambianus (Gambian Giant Pouched Rat) are becoming a domestic species as breeders continue their careful breeding for temperament and docility. Gambians are sold to those who like a more exotic and unusual rat. They are quite tameable in the right hands. Please Note: It has come to my attention that Gambians have the same hormonal stress as our Fancy Rats and at a certain age they can become hard to handle or quite aggressive. You can talk to Dayna and Sandy about their Giant Pouched Rats.

Arvicanthis Niloticus (Nile Rats) are being kept as pets, though not very common at this time. I have no other information other then what is on this page.

Rats In The Classroom:
Rats can make excellent classroom pets as long as children are properly taught how to handle them and how to look after them.
Animals In Schools School guidelines for keeping pets in the classroom.
Profound Encounters Classroom animals are more than responsible pet care.
Animals in Schools: What are the Risks of Infection? Rats are one of 5 animals that are truly safe in the classroom.
Which Classroom Pet is Right for My Class? Choosing a classroom pet is not a decision to be made lightly.
Choosing the Right Classroom Pet 9 quick points, is a rat the right pet for your classroom?
The Care of Live Animals in the Classroom
Roosevelt Rats A page devoted to the rats of Mr. Smith's 5th grade class.
Our Classroom Pet Hello! My name is Carmel.
Oh Rats! Pictures of Licorice with her classmates.
What to know more about having pet rats in your classroom? Ask Jess
Animals in the Classroom: Lessons in Disrespect

Your Child's Show and Tell Day
What to know more about taking your pet rat for Show and Tell? Ask Kelly


Fancy Rats Do Make the Best Pets.
People from all over the world feel the same way I do about these amazing little rodents:

Alienrat Invaders from the UK
Clivia and Shelley A very special rat from Switzerland
Eighty Pound Pack Insightful essays from the USA
Eloise A sophisticated lady rat tells it like it is in the USA
Emily's Rats A little girl's devotion to her rats from the UK
My Meadow Meet Ann's rats and the rest of her family in the USA
My Pet Rats Karen Coffey's rats in the UK
Prattle Home of Bonnie, Peeve, Tsi Tsi in Australia
Roxy's Run A page for Roxy and Dewey in the USA
Susan Likes Rats Ya gotta see Chauncey in the USA
The Alphabet Rats Educated rats in Canada
The Literary Rats Well-read rats in the USA
The Rats of the Round Table Noble Knightly Rats in the USA
The Wrat Pack Cockney rats from the UK
Tigggr's Family Website Have a grrreat time visiting these ratties in the USA
Welcome to Irby's Rat Page Even a Rocket Scientist can love rats in the USA
Bev's Rats Come see Bev's boys and girls in the UK
The Rat Pack Visit Miles, Tucker, and Neil in the USA
Rats and Other Pets.... Spoiled rats in Italy
OzRatz An Ozrat Family from Australia
The Ratley Manor Meet Tickles and Rummage in Australia
Julie's Rats Meet Noah and his friends in the USA
Tuffe's Rat Page Come meet rats from Sweden



More Reading:
The Complete Rat Temporarily unavailable. I hope this site returns to the web some day. It was awesome




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