Breeding pet rats is no walk in the park. There are so many things you need to learn before you can start. It seems easy enough, you know how babies are made. Put a male and female together and they will do the rest, right? There are so many considerations necessary before you begin breeding.

How many rats do you need to be a breeder? Well, if you breed related rats too often you will start to have problems. Things like misshapen eyes, birth defects, and temperament problems can pop up quickly if you are continually breeding within a small group. This mean you have to be constantly bringing in new blood or have enough rats to be able to breed out of a genetic line. I’m not sure what the magic number is but I would say you need at least 4 non-related blood lines to even be able to produce a few litters a year. When I say bloodlines I mean groups of males and females that are unrelated. So that would put you at about 12-16 unrelated rats.

What will you do with the babies? It is HARD to start out. Who will you sell to? Rats can have on average about 13 babies, ranging from say 3 to 21(my largest litter to date). Do you have the resources to sell that many babies? What about when you have a second or third litter and all your friends who wanted some already have them? Would you have the room and resources to keep a whole litter if no one was willing to buy them?

Can you pay the necessary vet bills if your rats have a problem? It doesn’t happen often but it does happen to all of us. Perhaps the babies are too big and mom needs emergency care. Or you have a new litter of rats and they are not getting fat like they should. Maybe they develop an illness and you need to get the vet involved with medication and discontinue breeding for perhaps months to make sure babies born in your care will not also have the disease. ┬áCan you afford to be responsible for those lives? Can you afford the energy necessary to sit with an ill rat for 48 hours straight with little to no sleep after paying for a cesarian?

Can you handle the heart ache? I would love to say that breeding rats is all happy little babies and smiling new adopters. However, that is not the case. Sometimes babies are born dead, or die soon after birth. Sometimes bad things happen. A beautiful line of blues that I loved was lost when every single female from that line was having still births. Over a course of months I lost probably 50 beautiful little babies that I was so excited about. The last one had to go to the vet to get shots to help her get the babies out. Then she had to have around the clock care for days to get her strength back. My heart breaks for each of those lives and then breaks again when I have to stop breeding that line to prevent future issues.

Do you know enough about rats to know when a vet is needed? Do you know what megacolon is, what the symptoms are? Do you know when to intervene in a birth? What to look for to make sure a baby is getting fed properly? If the answer to any of these is no, then you have a heck of a lot of research to do before you think about breeding. I recommend befriending another pet rat breeder. One who can help you learn and teach you what is necessary.

Lastly, do you think you will make money doing this? The answer is probably not. Breeding rats is more of a hobby than a business.