If you are new to the world of fancy rats, you might be surprised to find the variety in color and markings that are available resulting from years of deliberate breeding strategies.
But did you know you can also find fancy rats with different body types, eye colors, and ear sizes too?
You won’t really see people referring to “rat breeds” the same way as you would with dogs, instead there are different varieties of rat types.
While a rat’s fur color or particular markings don’t usually determine personality or health, complex differences altering a rat’s size or natural movement could have an impact on your rat’s demeanor and quality of life, so it is crucial that you know what you might be getting into before bringing your new friend home.
Rat Colors: What Color are Rats?
The different colors are one of the most noticeable traits between different types of rats, from solid colors to patterns. Here are the different classifications, and what they look like.
Solid coloring refers to fur that is a uniform color; no flecks of multiple colors. Some common solid colors are:
Black: Jet black
White: Pure white
Blue: Soft blue-grey
Mink: Medium grey-brown
Chocolate: Deep brown
Champagne: Pale cream color
Ticked coloring refers to fur that is a base color ticked with other colors. Some common ticked colors are:
Agouti: The color of rats found in the wild; brown-grey with black guard hairs
Blue Agouti: Medium slate base with yellow-tan band on top and blue guard hairs
Cinnamon: Caramel/tan brown color and dark guard hairs
Fawn: Ranges from rich orange to ginger with slate grey undercoat and grey guard hairs
Argente: Resembles fawn coloring but with a creamy white undercoat and orange guard hairs
Rat Coat Types
The standard coat is the most commonly seen coat on fancy rats around the world. A standard coat will appear straight and smooth to the touch. You will notice a difference in texture and thickness of hair between genders: Male rats have coarse, thick hair and females have softer and finer hair.
Unlike the standard coat, fancy rats with a rex coat have curly hair and whiskers. Females with a rex coat will lose their curly appearance during the aging process but males maintain their curly coat throughout their entire life.
A hairless coat is exactly what it sounds like – a rat with no fur. Otherwise known as the “naked rat”, hairless rats produce their own body heat to stay warm.
To accommodate this function, they have a higher metabolism than rats with hair and will need to be fed more often.
Special precautions need to be made to protect hairless rats from cold temperatures, drafts, and anything that can scratch their delicate skin. Hairless rats have a compromised immune system and can be more difficult to breed successfully.
Here’s how the different colors and patterns are categorized.
Self: A self rat is a one solid color with no distinguishable markings but some have white feet.
Berkshire Rats: A solid-colored rat with a white belly, feet, and on the tip of the tail.
Blazed Rats: A blazed rat’s body can be a solid color or have markings. What makes them unique is the stripe of white between their eyes to their nose.
Capped Rats: Capped rats have a completely white body with color limited to the head and face.
Hooded Rats: Rats with color covering the head, neck, shoulders, and back in a stripe to the tail.
Irish: A solid colored rat with white paws and a spot on the chest or belly.
Masked: As the name implies, masked rats look like they are wearing a mask over their eyes. Masks are usually oval or rectangular and can be any color.
Black eyes are the most common eye color seen on fancy rats. Compared to ruby or albino eyes, rats with black eyes have the best vision. This isn’t saying a lot though because their eye strength is only 20/600 and it is theorized that their vision is limited to a few feet before getting too blurry.
It is easy to mistake ruby eyes for black eyes due to their dark appearance. You might only notice the difference when light reflects “just right” on your rat’s eyes or while taking pictures with the flash on. Ruby eyed rats have worse vision than black eyed rats but they’re not completely blind. If you have a ruby-eyed rat at home, you might observe them swaying their body in a peculiar way – don’t worry! This behavior is normal; it’s how they make sense of their surroundings to determine threats.
Fancy rats with albino eyes have the worst vision of the three. They have serious visual impairments or blindness for the duration of their life. This condition is caused by a lack of pigment in their eyes affecting how they absorb light and increases sensitivity. Luckily, rats rely on more than just their vision and can keep safe by using their whiskers or other senses to guide them.
The standard ear type is what you will find on most fancy rats. They are a normal size and develop on top of the head.
Resulting from a gene mutation, dumbo ears are distinguishable due to their large, round appearance and the fact that they develop on the side of a rat’s head instead of the top.
Rat Body Types
A standard body is what you will find on most readily available fancy rats. The average size of an adult rat is 9 to 11 inches plus an additional 7 to 9 inches for the tail. Males are often bigger than females and can weigh up to 2 pounds.
Manx or “tailless” rats are a rare mutation rising in popularity amongst fancy rat enthusiasts.
As the name implies, these rats are born without a tail or might have a small nub in place of a full-length tail. Manx rats usually have a fun personality and are more outgoing than standard body rats making them appealing pets.
Most problems occur from poor breeding resulting in bladder issues, skeletal complications, and movement impairments.
Dwarf rats are the result of another interesting mutation in the gene pool. Growing to about ⅓ to ½ the size of a standard rat, dwarf rats are tempting for both new and old enthusiasts for their cute appearance and small size.
Their personality is similar, but their energy levels are often higher, so they still need a lot of space to run and play.
Unlike many animals where a dwarf size can indicate health issues, dwarf rats can be healthier than the standard rat with less tumors and longer life expectancy.
As a precaution, you should avoid housing dwarf rats with larger rats due to the chance of injury or accidental death from roughhousing.