“Fancy rat” is the term given to domesticated rats. They come in a range of sizes, shapes and unusual colours. Since the 1970s, they have also been bred specifically for showing with the National Fancy Rat Society developing breed standards. They are extremely intelligent, friendly and a perfect pet for children or adults.
Types of Fancy Rat
- Standard Rat – these look very similar to wild rats, having short fur which is smooth.
- Rex – created by an English geneticist in 1976, they are a similar build to the standard rat but with curly coats. Even their whiskers are curled. The curls can appear to be wavy or permed. Their coats do thin as they get older, with many getting bald patches.
- Dumbo – these are considered the most adorable, with low set, huge ears that make them look as if they have a permanent sigh on their face.
- Satin – these rats have a finer coat than the standard rat, which has a unique sheen that can sparkle with some coat colours. Their coats are also wavy.
- Tailless – this variety has a complete lack of any tail. Their rumps are rounder than usual, and bodies more condensed.
- Hairless – hairless rats have thin, translucent skin similar to the Sphynx cat. Some have visible markings, and short whiskers. With no coat, they need careful handling as they are prone to injury.
How different are they to wild rats?
Although they originate from brown rats domesticated in the 18th Century, they are very different from the rats we see on the streets. They have longer lifespans than wild rats, living up to two or three years. They are more willing to explore new areas and eat new foods, and enjoy the company of humans. They are however prone to catching infections from their owners. As with many rodents, they can also suffer from tumours.
Like their wild ancestors, they do not like sharing a home with their natural predators. Cats and dogs will also find it hard to curb their natural urges, even with careful training. If you do have other pets, you should keep them as separate as possible. In the wild, rats will live in groups and develop a social hierarchy. They will play, groom and occasionally fight. Fancy rats also prefer to live in a group, and will act in the same way as their wild counterparts. Ideally you should pick a pair of the same sex from a litter. As they are already from a family group, they will have established a hierarchy and be happy to share their living space.
Fancy rats have been specifically bred to be a variety of different colours, with many different markings. This is the unique difference between the breeds.
Shades of Fancy Rats
One of most attractive things about Fancy rats is the many colours and markings they can have. Some are extremely rare and beautiful, with shades that cover a rainbow of colours. Examples of these colours can be found on the National Fancy Rat Society and American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association.
- Self – these are rats with one single body colour. This can be: black; British blue; buff; champagne; chocolate; ivory; mink; pink-eyed white ; and platinum.
- Shaded – these colours resemble the cat coat patterns with which share their names. They can be: argent crème; Burmese; Himalayan; and, Siamese (including a blue point variety).
- Russian – this is a relatively new colour, similar to blue mice. They have only been found in the pedigree breeding world, with no known Russian Blues having appeared in pet shops. They come in: Russian blue; Russian dove; and, Russian blue agouti.
- Other colours – with so many varieties, the societies place all other unusual colours into this category. They include: agouti; British blue agouti; cinnamon; cinnamon pearl; lilac agouti; pearl; platinum agouti; silver; silver fawn; and topaz.
As you will have noticed in pet shops and online adverts, rats are not only colourful but have a variety of patterns and markings. Many of these mix with the colours listed, although some cannot be shown. Markings give the rats their character, with every owner finding their own particular favourite. The markings come from different breeders and countries, and as a result have some strange names:
- Bareback – these rats will have a coloured head, neck, chest and shoulder, but will be completely white everywhere else.
- Berkshire – Berkshires are characterised as having a full white belly, white feet and tail, and a tiny white spot between their ears.
- Blaze – like horses, these rats have a long strip of white from ears to nose.
- Capped – the minimalist, with a rat only having a coloured head. The rest of his body will be pure white.
- Dalmatian – not spots as it would suggest, but a number of colours splashed across a predominantly white body. This gives a mottled effect.
- English Irish – this is when a small white triangle appears on the chest of a rat.
- Essex – the same as the Berkshire, but with blended or faded edges.
- Hooded – an extension of the bareback marking, these rats have a hooded head with the colour also spreading in a stripe down their spine.
- Irish – these markings are when a rat has a white belly, four white feet and a tip of white on the end of its tail.
- Masked – these white rats look as if they are attending a masquerade. Only a band of colour marks them around the eyes and across the bridge of the nose.
How to find your fancy rat?
All domesticated rats are a variation of the types and colours detailed here – any rat for sale on Pets4Homes will be a fancy rat type or colour. If you want to show your rat, check with the breeder to see if they are registered with any of the rat breed and show societies. The National Fancy Rat Society has a list of breeders, and can help with any enquiries you have about showing, breeding or general rat care.