Having rats as pets is a joy no matter the colour their fur is, but it can be super fun to find out exactly what types they are, so here’s a short guide to identifying your rat!
All domesticated rats come from one species known as “brown rat”. In the wild, there’s mostly one type of rat with long tail, pointy ears and nose and beady eyes. Even though genetic mutations occur, it’s quite rare to find a wild rat with other features. In the fancy rat world, it’s a completely different ball game and the list of different types of rats is endless!
Fuzzy Or Smooth?
The first step to identifying your rat is the appearance of their coat. The most common types of fur are:
Standard variety has a smooth, shiny coat that consists of straight short hair and long pointy whiskers. When a rat is calm and content, their hair will lay flat against their body. When your rat is feeling unwell or angry, the hair will stand up and puff up.
The feel of female and male rat coats can differ slightly with the ladies having longer and softer fur and boys more stiff and greasy. It’s mainly to do with hormones and grease ducts that are more prominent in male rats, but with the right diet both sexes of standard coat should have a smooth and pleasant to the touch fur.
Rex variety is the opposite to the standard one, featuring a fuzzy and fluffy looking fur with short curly whiskers. Their coat is soft and wool like to the touch, hence their common nickname “sheep rats”.
If your rat has two copies of the genetic code that’s responsible for the rex coat, it’s called “double rex“. Rats with double rex gene often have a patchy fur and bald spots on their body, but that’s nothing to worry about! Their whiskers are usually super curly and short or sometimes missing entirely.
Another type of rex coat is “patchwork“. This type is especially interesting as it grows in distinctive “patches” across rats bodies which then shed and regrow every couple of weeks.
Last but not least, the hairless types of rats are growing more and more popular among pet owners with allergies to fur! Thanks to their completely bald appearance, these rats are perfect companions that won’t make you sneeze and sniffle!
Bald rats usually have thin pink to translucent skin and are smooth to the touch. They can also develop different colours depending on their genetic markings, so even though they don’t have any hair, their skin takes on the pigment anyway.
If you decide to own a hairless rat you should be aware of their predisposition to skin infections, scratches and wounds, as well as being prone to cold and having smaller than regular size bodies.
Even though bald types of ratties have their issues, they still make wonderful pets!
There’s two main varieties of rats when it comes to the ear position on their head: top or dumbo.
Rats with their ears located on each side of the top of their heads are the original domesticated kind. Like their wild cousins, they have ears that are pointing upwards and alert. If you notice your top eared rat with their ears flat against their head, it might mean they are unwell or annoyed!
Dumbo rats are a newer addition to the species, being the source of genetical modification which makes their ears grow larger and positioned lower on the head. Many pet owners prefer dumbo rats types due to their extra cute appearance.
Thanks to extended breading and cross matching different types of rats, the colour choices are endless!
From brown to black to white to grey, each colour variety can develop specific types of coats with their own characteristic markings.
Here’s some of the most popular ones.
- Hooded – mostly white body with the colour being restricted to the head, shoulders and stripe on their backs.
- Capped – white with coloured head
- Blazed – coloured body with white mark on the forehead
- Roan – rats of roan type start off being coloured all over their bodies but their pigmentation fades as time passes, often leaving them nearly all white
- Siamese – mostly white with brown patches on their nose area
- Husky – a mixture of grey and white hairs, just like the dog breed
- White with red or pink eyes – these features are usually attributed to albino rats which lack the pigmentation in their genes, making them often blind or poor sighted
- Berkshire – coloured body with white tummy, socks and sometimes tail end. They can also have white markings on the sides which is called “overmarking”
- Irish – coloured body with white triangle on the chest
Which type of rat is the best?
There’s no easy or simple answer to this question. It mostly depends on your own preference regarding the the way you want your pet to look. Some people dislike brown rats for their similarity to the wild ones, other people don’t like rats with red eyes. It’s purely up to you!If you are a first time rat owner, going for a standard coat is probably the safest option as taking care of this variety is fairly easy. With rex rats you need to look out for the curly hair poking your rats in the eyes and with the hairless variety you need to make sure their skin is clear and undamaged.
Whichever type of rat you go for is entirely up to you, but like with everything, a bit of research beforehand is best to make an educated decision! And if you need some help in picking the right sex of your pet rat, check out our article Male vs Female Pet Rats – Which Make Better Pets?