Picking a good, responsible rat breeder can be very stressful. The best way to find a good breeder is to talk to them. Follow your gut. If they are not willing to answer your questions, then maybe you have the wrong breeder. That said, we all have bad days, and as breeders we often answer A LOT of questions every day. Try not to take up too much of their time, while still getting your answers. Here I will go over some of the common things people may use to pick a breeder, and whether or not they are helpful.

I’m not the perfect breeder by any means. People may disagree with my methods, just as I will disagree with theirs.  I have been breeding for 25 years, I’ve made mistakes, we all do.

I have seen breeders argue, and even publicly chastise other breeders for decisions they make about their rats. I feel like this is a big red flag. Everyone is different and has different opinions. Each of our opinions and techniques will be unique, and it is with the combining of these techniques that we make our beloved pet rats better. As long as the end result is healthy, happy rats then everyone wins.

Some breeders will let you into their rattery(open) and some will not(closed). This is not a red flag. In fact, I would find it more of a flag if they were not careful about who was able to enter. Unfortunately, our little rats have many contagious diseases that can be passed from someone looking for a pet to a rattery. Some of those diseases could essentially wipe out a whole rattery and every bit of work that the breeder has done. Please follow all of your rattery’s requirements if they let you into the rattery, EVEN IF YOU FEEL YOUR RATS ARE HEALTHY. Even a healthy rat can have germs that would cause illness. It is also worth noting that if you touch rats at a pet store you should shower before touching your own.

Different ratteries use different cages.  When talking to your breeder about cages don’t automatically discount them based on their cage choice.

Racks are not inherently bad or good. It is all in how they are used. When racks are kept clean, not over populated, and fresh food and water are provided, racks can be an efficient way to house multiple rats. I think they work really well as a place for mating and nesting. They provide privacy and therefore are also very safe feeling for many rats.  However, they can be a pretty boring place to live permanently.

Homemade tub type cages, with large openings cut out for screen on the front and or top. I have experimented with these and found that screen at the top does not provide enough ventilation for rats, however screen at the front does provide more than adequate ventilation and both is, of course, better. Tubs are easy to move, easy to clean and disinfect, and are very good for mothers to feel secure nesting. They can also be made big enough for toys and other types of enrichment, helping with boredom.

Many breeders will use cages with bars and levels, such as Critter Nations or Rat Manors. These are a wonderful way of keeping rats when they are not breeding. They provide a lot of space, and good ventilation. They are big enough for hammocks, toys, and other types of enrichment.  However, during and after mating I have found these cages to be a liability(as many other breeders have). Babies can be squished against the wires or fall of shelves. During breeding, there is a risk of broken legs, toes, or worse injuries from falling as males and females court each other(which can involve a lot of chasing).

When talking about health with your breeder, I think it is far better to have a breeder who is honest about the health of their rats than one who says they never have health problems.

You should know that some markings or coat types may have certain ailments they are more prone to. It is great if you have a breeder who lets you know this ahead of time. Don’t be scared off by this. Before leaving, check your rat’s health. Skin, coat, ears, teeth, and eyes before picking them up. Make sure they are not frequently sneezing (some sneezing is common, anything frequent could be a problem). ALWAYS quarantine your new rats, just to be safe, for at least 2 weeks.