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Rats may not be the perfect pet choice for everyone, but for those who enjoy these intelligent rodents there is a degree of selection when it comes to choosing the right rat for you. One of the more popular rat choices is the dumbo rat, a fancy rat with unique ear size and placement. In this article we will cover everything you ever wanted to know about the dumbo rat including: physical appearance, behavior, preferred habitats and diet and why they make cute little pets.
What is the Dumbo Rat?
The dumbo rat is a recognized as a variety of the fancy rat species. The fancy rat is a species of brown rat that has, over the years, become domesticated and become the preferred rat of choice for rodent lovers. The actual name “fancy rat” has nothing to do with the species of rat itself, rather it relates to the “fancy” or appreciation that people have gained for this creature over time. While fancy rats may have begun as the prey in sport in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries, immediately following this they quickly became a species bred specifically for pet lovers. While the dumbo rat is a variety of brown rat, it is important to note that fancy rats are domesticated and as such they differ considerably from other rat species that are not bred specifically for pet keeping.
The Differences between a Wild Brown Rat and a Fancy Rat
As mentioned above it is important that a pet owner understand the difference between a fancy rat that has been bred to be domesticated versus a wild brown rat. Not only do domesticated fancy rats differ from brown rats in appearance but they are also psychologically different as well which contributes to their tamed nature. Disease is one of the biggest differences between wild brown rats and fancy rats. Fancy rats that have been bred by a reliable breeder for pet ownership are healthy rats that are free from disease. In contrast, wild rats are exposed to a significant number of pathogens that could be introduced in to the home with one of the biggest risks being salmonella. When bred in captivity as pets, fancy rats are also less susceptible to specific diseases than their wild counterparts. For these reasons it is particularly important when buying a fancy rat to ensure that you purchase your pet from a reliable and knowledgeable rat breeder. The Rat Fan Club has an extensive list of rat breeders which is a great place to start.
The Taxonomy of the Dumbo Rat
The brown rat is otherwise recognized by the name Rattus norvegicus. As already mentioned, the dumbo rat is a variety of fancy rat which is recognized as a species of brown rat or Rattus norvegicus. The brown rat is a member of the order Rodentia in the family Muridae. Within the family Muridae the brown rat is categorized as a member of the subfamily Murinae in the genus Rattus.
The Order Rodentia
Animals within the order Rodentia are those which we commonly refer to as “rodents”. Amazingly some forty percent of mammal species worldwide are recognized as being rodents! Rodents are characterized by the presence of a pair of incisors that grow continuously in both the upper and lower jaws. One of the most recognized rodents with this characteristic is the beaver which, like all rodents, must gnaw in order to ensure that its incisors are kept short enough to function normally. Rodents can be found on every continent of the world with the exception of Antarctica and include a significant number of well-known creatures including: beavers, rats, chipmunks, guinea pigs, mice, squirrels, porcupines and voles. Rodents are known for being the largest order of all mammals with approximately 2,277 species of rodents currently being recognized.
The Family Muridae
The brown rat is a member of the family Muridae. Of all families of mammals the family Muridae is the largest and encompasses some 600 plus species that can be found worldwide. Murids are particularly small creatures and generally measure around 4 inches long when not including the tail in body length. The smallest of all members of the Muridae family is the African Pygmy Mouse which measures in at around 3 inches long. The largest of all members of the Muridae family is the Cuming’s Slender-tailed Cloud Rat measuring in at around 19 inches long!
Creatures within the family Muridae are not only short bodied but they are also most commonly found to have pointed snouts with large whiskers, long scaled tails and slender bodies. It is also noted that Murids possess a particularly keen sense of hearing and smell. One of the most often cited and true facts about Murids is the fact that they breed regularly and produce particularly large litters of offspring that are born completely helpless for the most part. Although these characteristics describe many creatures within the family in question there is a significant degree of variation between species.
The Subfamily Murinae
The subfamily Murinae is the third largest of all mammal families falling under only Muridae and Cricetidae. In terms of mammal orders this is also the third largest group falling under that of the remaining rodents and bats. Creatures within the Murinae subfamily are native to Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa and have been introduced by man to all other continents with the exception of Antarctica. For the most part people recognize members of the subfamily Murinae as being pests and spreaders of disease however, when bred in captivity these creatures pose no more of a threat than any other domestic pet.
There are currently believed to be 129 genera in the Murinae species that are divided in to 29 different genera and 584 individual species. Most commonly the subfamily Murinae is recognized as being old world rats and mice and some of the more commonly recognized species within this division include: the striped field mouse, the wood mouse, the African wading rat, the long-tailed giant rat, the small spiny rat, the marmoset rat, the brown rat and the black rat.
The Genus Rattus
The genus Rattus is otherwise simply recognized as a group of mammals called “rats.” Creatures within the genus Rattus are all rodents that fall in to the superfamily Muroidea and are recognized as having long tails and medium-sized bodies. To researchers rats within this genus are recognized as being “true” rats. Rats within the species Rattus are distinguished by laymen as being much larger than mice. There are two particularly well-known species of rat within the Rattus genus; these are the brown rat and the black rat. These “old world” species are believed to have originated in Asia and over time have spread the globe. Terminology within the genus Rattus can be easily confusing for those unfamiliar with the taxonomy of the species with female rats being referred to as does when they are unmated or dams when they are parents or pregnant. Male rats are always referred to as bucks and young rats are referred to as pups. When a group of rats is formed they are most commonly referred to as a pack of rats or a mischief of rats.
One of the most common concerns for those who are unfamiliar with the difference between domestic and wild rats is disease. While disease from wild rat populations should be a concern, when it comes to captively bred rats there is little concern over these things since good breeders ensure that their rats are healthy and disease free. When it comes to the spread of disease from wild rats there are a number of concerns including: Leptospira, toxoplasma gondii, campylobacter, foot and mouth disease and classical swine fever.
The Species Rattus Norvegicus
The Rattus norvegicus is otherwise known as the brown rat. Other common names for this particular species of rat include: sewer rat, common rat, Hanover rat, brown Norway, Norway rat, Warf rat and Norwegian rat. This is one of the most common of all rat species. The brown rat is one of the largest of all muroid species.It is believed that the brown rat was first found in northern China but soon spread to all of the continents with the exception of Antarctica making it an incredibly successful mammal in terms of surviving in diverse environments.
The Appearance of the Dumbo Rat
The dumbo rat is a variation on the Rattus norvegicus species that has been domesticated and as such has developed a number of variations that are not seen in the wild brown rat. One of the most obvious differences in the domesticated fancy rat is the variation in coloration. Where a wild brown rat is most often solid brown in coloring, domesticated fancy rat’s fur color varies significantly. Fancy rats may be a variation of colors ranging from white to blue. Many fancy rats are made unique by their color markings which can vary from individual to individual; however there is a number of more commonly accepting marking variations. Some of the commonly seen marking variations include:
Berkshire: when a rat has a white stomach with an otherwise colored coat.
Hooded: when coloration covers the whole head and runs down the spine.
Capped: when the rat has a full colored head only.
Variegated: when the rat has a short white strip on the forehead with a colored head and color running down the back.
Irish or English Irish: when the rat has a triangle of white fur that runs from the chest and ends mid way down the rat.
In addition to this coloration that makes the dumbo rat unique from wild brown rats, this rat also has a unique feature which sets it apart from other fancy rats: its ears. The ears of the dumbo rat are set much lower on the head which gives them the appearance of sticking out further, hence why they are named after the Disney character Dumbo. The dumbo rat is a mutation of the original fancy rat and found its beginnings in the United States.
Keeping a Pet Dumbo Rat
Despite the fact that fancy rats are bred as domesticated creatures it is important to understand that these creatures will still be wary of being handled. A captive rat that is not used to being handled will appear timid and fearful and it is crucial to desensitize your rat to these fears in order to ensure that it has a happy life. Desensitizing a timid rat takes a little patience and a number of treats but rats are surprisingly eager to display their sociable nature and once they overcome their initial timidity they will soon adapt to life with a human. Many new rat owners make the mistake of immediately trying to pick up their rat, instead owners should see their new pet much like a strange dog, offering their hand so that their rat can investigate them before being touched. It is also important to remember not to pick up a rat by its tail, to pick up a captive rat gently hold their tail to prevent them from running away and scoop them up by their body.
The Right Cage for a Dumbo Rat
|Living World Deluxe Pet Habitat|
When keeping a dumbo rat it is essential that you provide a comfortable and spacious cage. By nature rats are sociable creatures and it is always best to keep a minimum of a pair of rats which means that you will need a cage that is large enough for both of them to thrive. There are many variations of cages available for rat’s at most commercial pet stores or if you feel confident enough you can build your own cage. Most people recommend utilizing a wire cage to ensure that the rat gets enough air. If you are unsure as to what cage would be appropriate for your dumbo rat talk with a specialist at your local pet store for an idea.
It is important to provide bedding for your rat to create their own nest in addition to providing a designated area where your rat can use the bathroom. Rats can be litter box trained and this can help greatly in teaching your rat to eliminate in a designated area of the cage to make clean up much easier and faster. Your rat will also require entertainment which can come in many varieties. Many people choose to include a wheel for exercise in addition to tunnels and toys for stimulation. Rats are particularly intelligent and without this type of stimulation they will quickly become bored and create their own form of entertainment.
The Diet of the Dumbo Rat
Fancy rats are omnivores and it is important to provide them with a healthy omnivorous diet. Most pet stores that sell rodents will have a specialized food that is fortified for rats to ensure that they receive adequate nutrition. Formulated foods can be supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas, carrots, peas and broccoli. Rats should never be fed specific foods such as chocolate, candy, corn, onions, carbonated or caffeinated drinks, junk foods or sticky foods. It is also crucial to make a constant clean water supply available to your rats at all times. It is also crucial to always provide material that can be gnawed in order to ensure that the captive rats teeth remain filed down since the teeth will continue to grow throughout the life of any rodent.
Cleaning the Dumbo Rat’s Cage
It is important to maintain a clean cage for your rat; this means that the home should be cleaned at least once a week. If you are housing multiple rats then the cage will require much more frequent cleaning. It is particularly important to clean out the cage of any rat because rat urine has high levels of ammonia that can create a buildup of ammonia which is unhealthy both for rats and the people in your home. Cages should be cleaned with pet approved cleaners however, since commercial cleaners can cause a buildup of noxious fumes that can severely affect the health of your pet rat. If you are unable to find a recommended pet cage cleaner that is safe for your pet rat, you can always utilize a mild soap and warm water to clean out your cage.
Why Dumbo Rats Make Great Pets
One of the reasons why fancy rats in general make such great pets is due to the fact that they are such sociable creatures. Rats are inquisitive about their surroundings and will always make an effort to investigate their surroundings and the people that they are exposed to on a daily basis. It is crucial when searching for a pet rat that a rat be purchased or rescued that has been exposed to humans while they were young. A rat that has not experienced regular human handling can become skittish and bite out of fear. As with many pets the best way to choose a dumbo rat is to allow the rat to approach you and pick you rather than the other way around. Allowing a rat to pick you ensures that your rat is comfortable with approaching a human and that they are comfortable with being handled.
A healthy dumbo rat is a great pet choice for children ages eight and up. It is not recommended for younger children to interact with such small creatures simply due to the possibility that they could inadvertently harm the creature. When accidentally harmed or when a fancy rat feels threatened they may defecate or even bite out of fear. With proper care and handling however, the dumbo rat is the perfect pet for individuals ages eight and up and can live as long as three to five years. If you are looking for an intelligent, easily trained pet that can interact both with other animals and with humans in your household then the dumbo rat could be the pet for you! Take a look around at local rat breeders and contact local rescue organizations to find a rat that is healthy, socialized and well suited to you and your household.
Dumbo Rat Video
Want to see the dumbo rat in action? This local news story features an interview with Vet Dr. Jyl who shares a sneak peek at what it’s like to hold and care for these little guys.
So what do you think, would you get a rat as a pet?