Breeder “Red Flags”
As a rescue organisation of pet rats we potentially see what can only be deemed as some of the worst cases of not only breeding but also misinformation regarding the proper care of domesticated rats. Some breeders breed to better the pet rats and we call these breeders Hobby Breeders, their goal is to better the health and temperament of pet rats by breeding only healthy and sociable animals. These breeders do this at a huge cost to themselves and only ask for a small adoption fee to show that you (the adopter) are willing to care for and provide for the animal properly.
There are also other people that call themselves “breeders” however they are what we call commercial breeders. Commercial breeders have very little interest in the end result of their litters and will generally supply to whomever is interested in paying the fee be it a pet shop, snake keeper (for either Live feeding or Killing and then freezing) or anyone else they think will pay the price. These breeders are the ones we would like you to be very aware of because although their rats may seem very healthy at the time of purchase you could well end up with a very unhealthy rat or one that suffers from incurable diseases for the rest of its life. There are some “Red Flags” that we will list below to help guide you when looking at potential places to adopt your new family member(s) from. If in doubt go away and have a think about it, or find someone else to deal with.
- Aquariums or fully enclosed cages which provide little to no ventilation are not suitable for rats. Hobby breeders will NOT recommend or encourage the use of these types of housing for adoptive families. If the breeder you are looking into says that these types of homes are suitable then find someone else to deal with. Hobby breeders will occasionally use Aquariums for their new mums and babies to avoid the pinkys (newborn baby rats aka Rittens) from escaping but they are only used for a very short time and then transferred to a larger more ventilated home.
- Getting offered the “pick of the litter” is a BIG red flag. The pick always goes to the breeder(s) as this enables them to continue to strengthen their own breeding lines with the healthiest babies. Hobby breeders breed to improve or strengthen their lines which they cannot do if they do not get “the pick”. Commercial breeders do not care to strengthen their lines so they will offer you the pick of the litter. If this occurs find another person to adopt your babies from because the chances are they are not babies that have healthy parents so they themselves are probably not going to be as healthy as you would expect from a breeder.
- Should you find a breeder that is asking for donations it is fairly safe to suspect that they are commercial breeders. Hobby breeders know that breeding rats is not cheap, their purchase fee only helps with a small percentage of the overall cost of that particular rat, the hobby breeder absorbs the majority of the cost themselves. The hobby breeder breeds for themselves, for the overall improvement of rats, towards their own goals for strengthening their own breeding lines. The hobby breeder absorbs this cost so that they get the “pick” of the litters to be able to continue with their own breeding programs. It is therefore the hobby breeders responsibility to pay for their hobby. You are generally asked by the hobby breeder to pay a small fee to show that you are serious about your commitment to the animal(s).
- The choice of who you want mated or a breeder mating multiple rats to keep up with buyer demand. Commercial breeders will sometime allow you to decide who you would like mated or breed multiple litters all together to provide a larger quantity of rats for purchase. Again the commercial breeders are only trying to meet demand with little regard for the animals they are bringing into this world, the babies are also lacking in confidence when being handled because the commercial breeder has not had enough time to socialise all of them. Hobby breeders on the other hand will breed based on their own experience and knowledge of the lines they are using. Hobby breeders keep strict records so that they know all background information to make an informed decision about what traits they would like to strengthen and those that they would like to breed out. Therefore they will not be influenced by a buyers wants or the pet industries needs and will only breed what they themselves have time to properly socialise.
- Breeders who sell their animals to pet shops or as snake food are NOT hobby breeders. Hobby breeders track their rats (for the rats natural lives whether purchased, in the breeders care or in foster care) so they can further their knowledge of their lines which you would be unable to do when supplying to these type of places. Purchasing rats from a breeder that supports pet shops or live feedings is only encouraging irresponsible breeding practices. All hobby breeders are attached to their litters and parents of the litters and would never put them in the hands of someone who would not carry on caring and treating the animals like a valued family member.
- If the breeder you are speaking with claims to have bred out all illness and disease like tumors or Myco then they are outright lying to you. Find someone honest to deal with.
- Breeder has too many animals. This is a tough one to decide as one person may only be able to handle 10 rats at a time while others can comfortably care for and handle more. No matter how many animals a breeder has that person should be able to care for and properly socialize all the animals in their care, including their litters. If you visit the breeders rattery take note of conditions that you see. There will be a distinctive animal smell however you shouldn’t feel ill or overwhelmed by it. If your nose and eyes begin to get irritated and sore one would assume that there is a high concentrate of ammonia in the air which is also one of the biggest causes of respiratory illness is rats. Avoid this rattery at all costs.
- If the breeder always has litters available this is another sign that things are not as they appear. Hobby breeders will generally have large breaks between their litters to give themselves time to socialise the babies and get all the information they require about health etc. Breeding is tiring and very time consuming so it is only normal for hobby breeders to want to give themselves and the animals some R&R time. Commercial breeders on the other hand will try to breed as many animals as possible to make the most money. If the breeder you are considering adopting from always has litters available tread carefully as any animals that you adopt will more than likely be antisocial or have behavioral issues due to their previous living conditions and lack of socialisation. The breeders that are always breeding will also have a tough time keeping up with the “paperwork” about their parings and consequent health issues.
- All good breeders breed with the intention of strengthening their lines thus meaning that they intend to keep at least one or possibly more from any litter from their carefully planned matings. If the breeder you are talking to has expressed that they are not interested in keeping any of the animals that result from their breedings it should raise a “red flag” and you should investigate further. Hobby breeders only breed to health achieve their goals for their breeding program. Responsible hobby breeders carefully select their paring (female and male to be mated) based on qualities that they would like to strengthen (ie health, temperament etc) or weaken. Therefore it is only natural that they would want to keep some of the litter to be able to continue using this line to breed stronger rats in the long run. Commercial breeders are not as interested in strengthening their breeding program so will generally keep the “breeders” (adult rats) but sell all the resulting babies to make a profit.
- At what age does the breeder start using the rats for breeding purposes? Although this subject is one that is difficult to determine a “correct” age there are some things that most ethical breeders agree on. Any breeder that breeds from rats under 4 months of age is NOT a responsible breeder. At 4 months of age the rats are still growing and any potential health or behavior issues man not have become obvious. Many good breeders will wait until the animals are 6 months of age or older before deciding whether or not to use them for their breeding program. Sometimes breeders will not even consider breeding from their females until 9 months of age once growth has slowed. Anyone who uses females older than 18 months of age is not acting in the animals best interests and should be avoided.
- If the breeder you are communicating with weans their litters before 4 weeks of age take this as a “red flag”. Breeders that wean babies before 4 weeks of age is not allowing their litters to mature enough before trying to separate them from their mother and sell them. Most hobby breeders will agree that litters should be allowed to stay with their mum for at least 4 weeks although 5 weeks is better. By this time all of the litter should be eating and drinking from bowls. Anyone that is forcing weaning before 4- 5 weeks of age is in a rush to get rid of the result of their breeding, possibly causing early health and behavior issues just so they can produce more litters for profit.
- Ethical breeders do not kill (cull) any offspring of their litters unless there is an untreatable or incurable disease or injury. Hobby breeders will rehome or try to rehome animals that they do not want to use for their breeding programs and that is totally acceptable as long as they inform the new family of any problems with that particular animal ie deformed limb etc. Some breeders choose to kill (cull) animals they have no wish to breed from, this is totally unacceptable and a definite deal breaker. Breeders that kill (cull) the offspring they have chosen to create, by intentionally paring a male and female, have very little regard for the lives they are helping create. Breeders who kill (cull) their young are also jeopardising their breeding program because any health issues that may be present later in those animals lives will obviously not be noted. Any good breeder keeps careful, up to date records on the health and temperament of all the animals they have helped create.
- Hobby breeders are always breeding to better their line which means they always have goals that include health, temperament, colour and type. Those breeders that only choose to focus on one aspect ie colour, are not breeding to better pet rats. It is irrelevant whether they are breeding to meet show standards or not, the goal should always be about strengthening all aspects of the animal. Health and temperament are the 2 most important aspects when choosing a mating pair. A hobby breeder, who keeps excellent records on all of their animals will look at the health and temperament, of not only the parents, but also that of their siblings, parents and grandparents to allow them to make a well informed decision based on facts that they have collected before making a final decision about their breeding pair. It is not enough to just have a seemingly healthy and well socialised pair and breed them because there could be genetic issues that the breeder is not aware of because they did not have adequate information to make an informed decision.
- Hobby breeders will charge the same adoption fee regardless of the coat type or colour. This is because all the animals are treated and thought of as equally important as each other. Those breeders that are breeding for a profit will more than likely charge a higher fee for the unusual coat types or colours ie blazes, rex’s, double rex etc. Hobby breeders normally charge between $15.00 - $40.00 (AUD) per rat depending on the individual breeder. Anyone charging more than this could be breeding for the money not to better the breed in most cases. If the breeder you are making enquiries with keeps changing the price on you, it is probably safe to think they are trying to make more money off this sale for their own financial gain. If this is occurring I would highly recommend you search for another breeder to deal with.
This list is by no means a way of telling you who you can and cannot adopt from but purely given as a guide to help you find a ethical hobby breeder who only has the animals best interests at heart. This kind of breeder is going to be only willing to breed from animals that show good health, temperament and longevity in the line. It should also be noted that some people got into breeder as they use to breed rats for feeding reptile, snake etc and decided to breed for the pet population instead, making the change from Feeder Breeder to Hobby breeder. Google is a great place to do a name search on the Rattery name as well as the owner of the Rattery. You will be surprised what you can learn from a quick search of these things.
We wish you all the best at finding a pair of domestic rats, whether from a breeder, pet shop or rescue like PRRR.