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.
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
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
, 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".
Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)
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
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
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
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
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:
(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
(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
about their Ship Rats.
Black Rats as Pets
(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
about their Giant Pouched Rats.
(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.
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
The Care of Live Animals in the Classroom
A page devoted to the
rats of Mr. Smith's 5th grade class.
Our Classroom Pet
Hello! My name is Carmel.
Pictures of Licorice with her classmates.
What to know more about having pet rats in your classroom? Ask
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?
Fancy Rats Do Make the Best Pets.
People from all over the world feel the same way I do about these amazing little rodents:
Invaders from the UK
Clivia and Shelley
A very special rat from Switzerland
Insightful essays from the USA
A sophisticated lady rat tells it
like it is in the USA
A little girl's devotion
to her rats from the UK
Meet Ann's rats and the rest of her family in the USA
My Pet Rats
Karen Coffey's rats in the UK
Home of Bonnie, Peeve, Tsi Tsi in Australia
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
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
An Ozrat Family from Australia
The Ratley Manor
Meet Tickles and Rummage in Australia
Meet Noah and his friends in the USA
Tuffe's Rat Page
Come meet rats from Sweden
The Complete Rat
Temporarily unavailable. I hope this site returns to the web some day. It was awesome
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